Two things are scheduled to happen on April 15, 2014. First, for those who want to see a total lunar eclipse, one will arrive at 1:20 a.m. on the East Coast on April 15. Second, for those who are living in the United States, Tax Day will fall on April 15 as it typically has since 1955. Now, there’s not much that I can do to help internet marketers and video content producers prepare for a so-called Blood Moon. It is one of the few astronomical events that can easily be enjoyed with the naked eye, although a pair of binoculars brings it into even greater focus.
However, there’s a lot that I can do to help you prepare for the changing way that your customers pay taxes in today’s digital world. Taxpayers are now turning to the web at every step, from preparing their returns to spending their refunds. This also means big changes for internet marketers and video content producers who are looking to reach them. As Tax Day draws near, let’s take a look at some consumer trends across search, video and mobile to see how one brand is responding.
More People Searching Online for Tax Advice
Stacks of paperwork have given way to simpler online software and tools that ease the burden of filing taxes. According to the IRS, 85% of all returns were filed electronically in 2013. A Google Consumer Survey from December 2013 through March 2014 showed that only 30% of people preferred to work with a tax prep professional.
So it makes sense that people are not only filing their taxes online but also looking for how-to information online throughout the prep process. How-to searches related to tax preparation are up 37% since 2012 and started trending earlier in the season than last year, suggesting that people are starting their taxes sooner and doing more of the work themselves. Searches for tools such as “calculators” and “estimators” are strong in January and February, whereas the terms “extension” and “refund” terms peak later in the season.
Searches for “How” Questions Related to Taxes
Google Data, 2004–2014, United States. Data is indexed.
Searches for “how-to” tax videos on YouTube have risen sharply over the past three years—up 254% since 2011. This is a huge opportunity for brands to chime in with helpful answers through video content, driving consideration and brand love.
Tax Tips on YouTube
TurboTax is doing just that on its YouTube brand channel with a playlist of videos devoted to tax tips. Topics include common deductions, explanations of tax law and advice for small business owners, a top how-to tax query on YouTube.
By monitoring search trends throughout the season, brands like this can make sure they are hitting on the most popular and pertinent topics, and surfacing their content to those who are most interested.
Top 10 How-To Tax Queries on YouTube
Google Data, 2014, United States.
Mobile Searches for Tax Information on the Rise
Not only are people searching more online, but they’re also searching across devices, with the mobile share of tax-related searches up 80% since 2012. With more consumers looking for tax information on their mobile devices, it’s incredibly important for brands to ensure their sites are mobile optimized. If a mobile site doesn’t meet expectations, consumers will typically leave. In fact, according to a Google study, people are five times more likely to abandon a task if the website isn’t optimized for mobile use.
Mobile Share of Search Interest in the Tax Category
Google Data, Jan. 2011–Jan. 2014, United States. Data is indexed.
Trending Searches Across Geographic Locations
Not all taxpayers have the same interests and concerns, and it’s striking to look at regional differences when looking at top rising queries around tax season this year. For example, searches for “refund” are more prominent in the south, whereas searches for “extension” pop out on the coasts. In Florida, people are searching most for tax-related “identity theft,” an issue that’s become more prominent in recent years.
Regional Interest in Tax “Refund”
Regional Interest in Tax “Extension”
Google Data, 2004–Present, United States. Data is indexed.
Another search trend this tax season involves joint filing for same sex couples. Now that same-sex couples can file federal returns jointly for the first time, searches are up 70% compared with last year. Searches were highest in California, followed by New York, Texas, Illinois and Massachusetts.
Planning to Spend Refunds on the Coasts
Tax refunds can be an unexpected pay day, but will consumers spend or save this year? Search trends can’t give us all the answers, but they can provide some hints. In 2008, people searching for tax refunds were also searching for televisions more than investments. In 2013, however, the reverse was true. Investments took the lion’s share of search interest at 31%, as compared with 19% in 2008.
Search Interest Share among Tax Refund Searchers: 2008 vs. 2013
Google Data, 2008 and 2013, United States. Data is indexed.
However, this was not true on the coasts. In New York and California, the top five searches related to tax refunds were for purchases, with “television” and “vacation” coming out on top. This is another fascinating example of geographical differences coming into play. For marketers in auto, tech, retail and travel, this might suggest where to invest media dollars come Tax Day.
Search Interest Share among Tax Refund Searchers in 2013: New York and California
Google Data, 2013, New York and California. Data is indexed.
This tax season, consumers went online to file and searched more on their mobile devices than ever before. They turned to the web throughout the tax prep process, seeking out instructional content and watching “how-to” videos on YouTube. Google saw that not all taxpayers search alike, though. Geographic differences point to how brands can adjust their marketing strategies by region. As Tax Day draws near, financial institutions have an opportunity to reach refund investors across the country, while retailers should keep their eyes on the coasts.
That’s what I would focus on, if I were you. Besides, the total lunar eclipse that arrives just after midnight on April 15 will be the first of four so-called blood moons that are expected over the next two years. So, if you miss the first one, you can always catch one of the others on Oct. 8 of this year or April 8 and Sept. 28 of 2015.