I’ve noticed that more and more clients, and colleagues keep referring to Alexa. They’ve been around for years but apparently they’re everybody’s new favorite benchmark for success. We look at Alexa, but only as one little clue, and understand that their figures must be taken with a grain of salt, or really a bucket of salt haha. For most small to medium sized businesses i.e the majority of our clients, Alexa is a very bad way to measure, even for big sites it’s usefulness is limited because the quality of their data is very poor, the way they collect data has major problems.
If you’ve never heard of Alexa before, Alexa i.e alexa.com is a site owned by Amazon which gives web site statistical data to web users and developers. Alexa is well known for their toolbar that gives a you search, site stats, and a handy dandy pop up blocker. (if you want the best ad blocker get the “Ad Blocker Plus” firefox extension)
The way Alexa gathers data is by their toolbar, but who installs the toolbar? Mostly online marketers, web workers, etc. people that want to know the Alexa rankings of sites they visit, or the unlucky few that have this useless toolbar pre-installed in their web browser, which few do. Most of your real site visitors won’t have the toolbar installed and those that do are mostly competitors etc and people that don’t represent the majority of your site visitors. When compared to actual site traffic you’ll see that Alexa is WAY off. I’ve had clients that get thousands of visitors per day and Alexa didn’t have any data for them lol, that’s ridiculous, then I’ve had clients that are in a niche and only get a couple hundred visits per day yet have full Alexa data. Just goes to show you how far off Alexa rank is and now meaningless it is. Maybe for a high tech related site that is very popular Alexa means something but for most of our client’s sites it means very little and is just a distraction.
We’ve also done tests in the past where we installed Alexa toolbar on a couple machines and would visit a site everyday and then saw our Alexa ranking rise from no where to a half decent ahha, I’m sure with a little programming “magic” I could make any site look like an Alexa super star.
We look at Alexa, but hardly take it serious, unless it’s a site targeted towards an audience that would likely have Alexa toolbar installed like a web design related news site etc, we just use it as one of many signals to look at when reviewing sites, because Alexa ranking by itself means very little.