What happened to Yahoo's traffic after it revealed it was hit by hackers?

(Image: file photo)

It’s been almost a month since Yahoo announced that it was hit by “nation state” attackers, leading to the theft of over 500 million user accounts.

As reported in its third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, the company said that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, more people visited Yahoo’s sites than in the four weeks prior.

A graph in the earnings slides shows that page views to Yahoo properties went up marginally in the week after the breach announcement on September 22, before leveling off slightly, but still higher than the previous period.

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(Image: Yahoo)

Exactly why remains a bit of a mystery.

In a press release, Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer didn’t say specifically why engagement is up, only that the company is “working hard to retain their trust and are heartened by their continued loyalty as seen in our user engagement trends.”

A Yahoo spokesperson would not comment on the record.

Reading between the lines in the meantime, there are a couple of reasons to draw from the small spike in user engagement.

Yahoo is more prevalent in our lives today than you might think. It may not be as hip as Gmail, but hundreds of millions of customers still use their legacy email accounts. (Also, don’t forget that it’s fantasy football season, and Yahoo has a major stake in the space. Ask any media company and they’ll tell you that sports drives traffic probably more so than news.)

The other is factor is inertia. Do you really see a mass exodus from a service when they announce a hack? More often than not, the clear-up after a hack is a mitigation exercise. Given the impending deal that will see Yahoo sold off to Verizon for $4.8 billion, the web giant will bend over backwards to appease its customers. Mayer probably isn’t far wrong: it’s not so much loyalty as it is an apathy towards yet another data breach.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that the other and entirely opposite explanation is that people logged on to try to delete their accounts.

Yahoo’s profits topped Wall Street’s expectations, with shares rising slightly in after hours trading.

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