- Streamline collection and analysis of web analytics data on a federal-wide scale using consistent methodology across thousands of U.S. federal executive branch public-facing websites, and
- Make data available to both agencies and the public.
Ten years later, DAP is fulfilling its mission to help agencies improve the public’s experience with online services. DAP is a web analytics staple of the federal executive branch and a requirement of the Office of Management and Budget’s Memorandum M-17-06, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites and Digital Services (PDF, 1.2 MB, 18 pages). DAP is used by more than 4,000 federal agency staff and enables the public to understand traffic across the federal web. DAP collects web analytics data from 6,000+ participating public-facing websites with more than 40 million average daily visitors and more than 8 billion visitors annually.
Oceans of data
Over the course of the last decade, DAP has consistently delivered website metrics and reports—from the usage of web browsers to operating systems and mobile devices, to seasonal trends and real-time analytics. Whether traveling through national parks and viewing the heavens, or flying to the Moon and Pluto, DAP has collected oceans of data helping the U.S. government gauge the public’s immediate response to digital content during national and global events. In fact, the largest traffic surge in DAP’s history was recorded on January 18, 2022, when
CovidTests.gov launched, offering free at-home COVID-19 tests to the public. DAP was able to share CovidTests.gov real-time traffic data with agencies and the public on analytics.usa.gov.
From January 1, 2013 to August 4, 2023, visitors cumulatively spent approximately 7.7 billion days (or 21 million years) on government websites tracked by DAP. In no specific order, some of the most popular and frequently viewed content included:
- Mail and package delivery (USPS)
- National Weather Service forecasts (NOAA)
- Applying for U.S. government jobs (OPM)
- Researching medical information on MedlinePlus and PubMed (NIH)
- Applying for U.S. visas (Department of State)
- Applying for permanent residency and U.S. citizenship (USCIS)
- Looking for all things “outer space” (NASA)
- Applying for social security benefits (SSA)
- Researching tax information and filing taxes (IRS)
DAP reported that there were close to 4 billion pdf downloads across government websites in the last ten years, with the most downloaded documents being the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040 and the Form 1040 Instructions. Other top downloaded pdf documents included the IRS Form W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification), Department of State Form DS-11 (Application for U.S. Passport), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), and Social Security Administration (SSA) Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card).
Mobile traffic had a strong and steady growth from just 13% of all visitors on government websites in 2013 to nearly six out of ten (58%) visitors in 2023. The majority of mobile visitors (56%) used Apple iPhones when on government websites.
In contrast, desktop visitors declined from 80% in 2013 to 40% in 2023. For desktop browsers, 43% of visitors used Chrome, 35% were on Safari, and 7% used Internet Explorer.
Nearly half (47%) of visitors came to government websites using organic search, which has remained the largest acquisition channel of online visitors since 2013.
Some of the most popular search terms were similar to the most popular web content; eight of them are:
national weather service,
Future outlook: Generating useful answers to meaningful questions
Powered by this “oceans of data,” DAP is marching into the next decade with a new set of goals:
- Advance DAP data analysis, and
- Expand DAP services beyond web analytics.
Advancing DAP data analysis is a shift from describing and explaining data to predicting and deriving new insights. Advanced analytics is about progressing from basic questions, such as “How much traffic did my website get?” to more complex questions, like “What’s behind this? Can we predict or anticipate what happens in the future? How can we reduce the guesswork?”
DAP will work with agency experts to help formulate meaningful questions and create customer goals as part of an integrated digital journey. Specific goals will vary between agencies, but services provided by digital government, as a whole, are accessible digital content and content-based transactions (e.g. form submissions, document downloads, video plays, email campaigns, etc.). Knowing specific goals will allow DAP to collect new data, train it, and use applied statistics to identify relationships between variables, tie data to reasons, and automate generation of insights.
Expanding DAP services. As part of the vision to collect more integrated digital journey analytics and answer meaningful questions, DAP is ready to go beyond website analytics and add new services and products. One of those services is customer feedback analytics through Touchpoints.
DAP integration with Touchpoints will enable collecting feedback using online forms and provide qualitative customer insights alongside quantitative DAP data to paint a more complete picture of experiences with government websites.
Authors’ note: We used January 1, 2013 – August 4, 2023, as the date range for all DAP data cited in decade-based analysis.
The data is across all DAP-participating, public-facing government websites. The number of websites participating in DAP increased yearly, so the yearly analysis represents a different sample size of websites.
This directional information should only be used for general insights into online visitor behavior trends.
Contact the DAP team at email@example.com with any questions about the Digital Analytics Program.
Want to learn more? Join the Web Analytics community of practice to connect with other federal analytics professionals who are using data to transform how the government interacts with the public.
All references to specific brands, products, and companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.