James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Last year, Rooster introduced an independent review of agricultural company websites. Using the same tools and measurements, this is an “apples-to-apples” approach that companies can use to see where they rank, and advertisers can use to compare publishers. It is presented as quality directional data accessible by most in the industry through a respected toolset. The analysis/assumptions provided are my own. We provide this report first to our clients, along with more context and sophisticated metrics, before providing this free to the public.

Here’s the Q3 report and some takeaways (based on SEMrush data):

Fewer visits across the board. The year-over-year trend line in nearly every category is declining from September 2020. In some cases, such as dairy and seed sites, the drop-off is significant; in others, such as machinery and hog sites, the numbers look better initially in a line graph but are still lower than they were last year. Granted, the number of visits is traditionally lower during harvest, but the comparison to last year is telling. Is it possible that we hit a high-water mark last September with “pandemic surfing?” We’ll keep an eye on year-over-year stats to see how the first quarter responds.

Demand for Ag news softens. Talk about a year-over-year decline. Last September, AgWeb.com held a dominant lead over all contenders, with 2 million monthly visits. After dropping to fewer than 1 million visits last spring – and losing the top spot to Agriculture.com – the site rebounded to recapture the lead, albeit from a significantly smaller pool of visitors. Overall, the number of visits dropped 16 percent from last quarter, and more than 30 percent year over year.

What’s going on at Pioneer.com? We’ve been tracking the site’s free-fall in 2021, from more than 800,000 monthly visits last September to fewer than 200,000 to date. What appeared to be a statistical anomaly may instead be a new normal. Competitors in the category have also seen year-over-year declines, although nothing like the precipitous drop Pioneer.com experienced.

What’s going on at DairyHerd.com? This site, like Pioneer, held a commanding lead last year with a 2-to-1 advantage in traffic compared to Hoards.com. By July, its number of visitors had declined by more than 80 percent and it was in danger of falling into third place. A late rally helped them recapture the top spot in a very close race, although numbers are still significantly lower year-over-year. Will they continue to rise? Or is this another case of a new normal for a previously dominant website?

Equipment brand traffic is on the rise. One of the few bright spots in this quarter’s recap, the equipment category grew 20 percent year-over-year, which could portend higher equipment sales closing out 2021. Category leaders Deere.com and Kubota drove the increase.

What’s next? We’ll keep tracking these websites; look for another report on Q4 activity in late January. And we understand that a report like this raises as many questions as it answers. That’s why we provide our clients with a smorgasbord of options, from a one-time web audit to a comprehensive, ongoing analysis. If you’re ready to dive deeper, I’d love to have a conversation.