Top Extension Stories and Website Trends From 2021

— Written By Mike Vysocka
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We had another strong year on the web in 2021. Collectively, our county and topic sites served 8,555,875 pageviews to 3,381,869 people, which are both record numbers for us and slight increases over 2020 (a year that was a bit of an anomaly in our analytics history because of COVID-19).

Our Plant Toolbox continues to surge in popularity, pulling in 4.5M users this year (up from 2.3M in 2020) and an outstanding 9.2M pageviews (up from 4.9M in 2020).

Our Factsheets and Publications database also brought in record numbers with 2.7M users and 4.1M pageviews (both increases of ~10% from 2020).

Looking for past reports? 2019 / 2018

Email Subscribers Unified to One System

In 2021 we transitioned over to a new fully featured CRM, ActiveCampaign, and as such, our 2021 numbers stand alone. The new system reports unique contacts across all of Extension. Previous years would be hard to compare because our email contacts were spread out amongst individual Constant Contact accounts, our legacy contacts database, and Mailchimp. There was a lot of duplication between the three systems, but after months of meticulous data review and clean-up, we’re in a much better place now.

2021: 180,732 (ActiveCampaign) * combined three systems into one

2020: 38,411 (Mailchimp) * we did some clean-up this year
2019: 55,445 (Mailchimp)
2018: 26,332 (Mailchimp)
2017: 11,000 (Mailchimp)

Our Most Visited Websites of 2021

There are many metrics by which to measure a website’s success; these lists are based solely on the number of pageviews received in 2021. For County sites,  looking at our most popular Topic Portals (and posts) can help you plan and focus your content strategy for 2022.

County Sites Topic Portals
  1. Chatham (286K)
  2. Lee
  3. Henderson
  4. Wilkes
  5. Pender
  6. Wayne
  7. Lenoir
  8. Pitt
  9. Durham
  10. Caldwell
  1. TurfFiles (595K)
  2. Hemp
  3. Entomology
  4. Growing Small Farms
  5. Gardening
  6. NC 4-H
  7. Extension Gardener
  8. Forestry
  9. New Crops & Organics
  10. Equine Husbandry

Most Popular Posts Written in 2021

  1. Update: DELTA-8 THC in North Carolina (Hemp)
  2. An Update on Asian Giant Hornets (Entomology)
  3. Timing of Preemergent (PRE) Herbicide Applications for 2021 – Apply Earlier (TurfFiles)
  4. Soil Testing Schedule (Wake)
  5. Fall Renovation: Seed (Part 1) (TurfFiles)
  6. 2021 State 4-H Livestock Contest Results (Youth Livestock)
  7. Waterlogging Influence on Turfgrasses (TurfFiles)
  8. Central Regional 4-H Shooting Sports Tournament (Alexander)
  9. Despite Record High Lumber Prices, Pine Sawtimber Prices in North Carolina Dropped in the First Quarter, 2021 (Forestry)
  10. Register Now for the Carolina Backyard Naturalist Program (Haywood)

Most Popular Posts Overall in 2021

  1. What Is a Green Tomato? Unripe Red or Its Very Own Variety?? (Lenoir, 2014) – 39K
  2. NC Tree Identification (Gardening, 2020)
  3. What Causes Tiny Mounds of Soil in My Lawn (Pitt, 2015)
  4. Why Are Tomato Seeds Sprouting Inside of My Tomato? (Hoke, 2018)
  5. What Causes Tomatoes to Crack? (Pender, 2020)
  6. Will My Vegetable Seedlings Survive This Weekend’s Cold? (Chatham, 2016)
  7. What is the Best Evergreen for Screening? (Chatham, 2016)
  8. Time to Seed Tall Fescue (Chatham, 2014)
  9. When Is the Best Time to Use Weed and Feed Fertilizers (Wilkes, 2014)
  10. Birth of an Assassin! (Growing Small Farms, 2020)

Home gardening (tomatoes in particular), lawn maintenance, and pest management were the overwhelmingly most popular topics in 2021. You’ll notice that some of our most read pieces of content for 2021, were actually written years ago. A well-written post with good pictures can provide value for years to come.

Most Popular Factsheets in 2021

  1. Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants
  2. 1. Soils and Plant Nutrients
  3. Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
  4. Coccidiosis, the Most Common Cause of Diarrhea in Young Goats 
  5. Home Vegetable Gardening A Quick Reference Guide
  6. Washing and Sanitizing Kitchen Items
  7. Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape
  8. Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs
  9. Extension Gardener Handbook: Propagation
  10. Soil Acidity and Liming: Basic Information for Farmers and Gardeners

Six of the top ten factsheets for 2021 are making a repeat appearance this year, and the top four retain the exact same order from 2019. New to the list this year were #s 5, 6, 9, and 10.

If you’re interested in obtaining the web analytics for a specific WordPress page / post or an Extension factsheet for 2021 (along with data for the past 5 years), you can do so by copying and pasting the link into our Google Analytics By URL tool.

Other Interesting Tidbits

The percentage of our traffic that comes from mobile devices has continued to climb, every single year. For example, back in 2015, only about 33% of our web traffic originated on mobile devices. Fast forward to today, and we finally broke 60% mobile traffic for both our Factsheets and Publications and Plants Toolbox databases. However, our WordPress sites (County and Topic portals) dropped in mobile traffic slightly from 54% in 2020 to 47% in 2021.

What’s behind this decline? Your guess is almost as good as ours here, but we have a hunch! It comes down to a fundamental difference in the content we create (and where we publish it). While both the Plants and Factsheets database are mostly “solutions” focused in their content offering, our WordPress sites can have a lot more breadth in the content they provide and sometimes focus on single events and announcements or an array of topics together. Because of that key difference, our solutions-based content tends to serve mobile users (and consumers) well when they are on the go, out in the field, or a local gardening center. Meanwhile, 2021 was the first full year of mostly remote work for a lot of people, and our WordPress content is more likely to attract folks browsing and looking for updates while at home!