More than 81 million Americans visited government Websites in July, representing 42 percent of the U.S. Internet audience, according to data released by comScore Sept. 8. While that represented only a 3 percent increase over July 2008, several sites -- the White House, the Senate, the House and NASA -- scored impressive gains from a year ago.
Overall, the Department of Commerce (which also generates substantial traffic at its Weather.gov and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sites) led all government sites in July with 7.1 million visitors, followed closely by the Department of Education (ED.gov) with 7 million visitors, the National Institute of Health (NIH.gov) with 6.9 million visitors.
Rounding out the top five sites were the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov) with 4.2 million visitors and the Social Security Administration (SSA.gov) with 3.3 million visitors. NASA finished sixth 2.9 million visitors but scored an impressive 81 percent gain over last July. While finishing well out of the top ten with 1.1 million visitors, the White House enjoyed an 88 percent gain in traffic since last year.
Both the U.S. Senate (1.6 million visitors, 93 percent gain) and House of Representatives (1.2 million visitors, 73 percent gain) also saw big jumps in traffic, likely driven by the raging debate over health care as opposed to July 2008 when lawmakers were more focused on the national elections than legislation.
"Federal and state agencies and departments are now investing more heavily in their Web presence, making their sites more citizen-centric and easier to interact with. They are rapidly adopting and adapting best practices from the commercial sector and applying them to their own initiatives," Dan Lackner, comScore senior vice president, said in a statement.
Visitors to government sites generally give good marks on their experience, according to the comScore numbers. Customer satisfaction ratings on government sites ranged from the low 70s to a satisfaction rating of 81 percent for the Department of Education site. As reported by Tim O'Reilly at the eGov Conference in Washington Sept. 8, the overall average satisfaction rating was 76 percent, 5-10 percentage points behind the top e-commerce sites.
"Government Website managers have made strides to improve the content and overall experience of visitors to their Websites," Lackner said. "71 percent of those surveyed indicated they would recommend a government site to a friend. As Website managers embrace the best practices of their commercial counterparts, we can expect to see this gap close."