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Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Jun23

Written by:
2009/06/23 05:09 PM RssIcon

image Alexa is a very powerful tool used to rank web site traffic. Alexa ranks websites based solely on the amount of traffic to the website. The Alexa rank works in descending order towards 0, where the most highly visited website on the Internet is given a rank of 0. At the time of this writing the top five ranked websites (most visitors) on Alexa are, 1- Google, 2 – Yahoo, 3 – YouTube, 4- Facebook, 5 – Windows Live. These stats tell us, that according to Alexa, these are the top five sites on the internet with regards to the amount of traffic they

A lower Alexa number means a greater level of traffic, and the traffic drops off logarithmically. You can fake a good Alexa score using various techniques. If  Alexa shows your rankings in the millions then your site most likely has little or no traffic.

So the question then is, is Alexa traffic rank worth anything? Is it something you should consider? If you look at the top 1000 sites on the internet, it definitely seems that the Alexa Ranking is reasonably accurate. But what about your site, the average Joe, or the Average SME? Should you worry about your Alexa Ranking?

Problems with Alexa Ranking

The main problem with Alexa is it’s rankings are based on users who have installed the Alexa toolbar onto their browsers. If you do not have the toolbar running, you do not affect the rankings of the sites you visit.

The next big problem with Alexa is it is very easy to cheat the system. Just get a few friends to install the toolbar and have them surf your site everyday. It does not take many people to break into the top 100,000. You can even do it all by yourself by refreshing your site over and over again. Get a dozen friends to do it and you can break into the top 20,000  with little effort.

Another problem with Alexa is that a large number of its toolbar users are in the online marketing, SEO, web publishing, or IT business. This means that sites in those particular niche markets, and who attract users in that market will have higher rankings.

Although, Alexa does say that their stats are not solely based on it’s toolbar users, but also collected from various sources. Generally, traffic rankings of 100,000 and above should be regarded as not reliable. Conversely, the closer a site gets to #1, the more reliable its traffic ranking becomes.

Alexa tool widely used

Alexa is a tool that is widely used and promoted by SEO and Marketing gurus. The problems with Alexa are:

  • Alexa does not get much direct traffic and has a limited reach with its toolbar
  • A small change in site visitors can represent a huge change in Alexa rating
  • Alexa is biased toward webmaster traffic
  • Many times new webmasters are only tracking themselves visiting their own site

image Yet despite this many marketing gurus promote Alexa heavily. There are lots of customers and advertisers who take Alexa rankings seriously. If you want to sell ad space on your website you need a better Alexa Ranking and Google PR. There are also many online shoppers who are still very sceptical of where they’re going to shop on the internet. So they usually follow other sites and use ratings like Alexa, Google Pagerank or other traffic rankers to perceive the value of your site.

Why then are Webmasters and SEO gurus so fixated by Alexa Rank. Here are some possible reasons:

  • Ignorance. They actually don’t know better or they are new in the market.
  • If you install the Alexa toolbar and you surf your own site it is easy to see good Alexa results. Then it can be easy to sell to customers that you are the best in the business.
  • If many people who visit my site are in marketing, SEO, IT, web development and/or install the Alexa toolbar,  then my Alexa rating would go exceptionally high
  • You think that your rise in Alexa Ranking is a measure of your success.

Alexa not completely useless

Having said all this, Alexa is not completely useless. Think of Alexa in the same way as you do of surveys and statistical data. We all know that when it comes to stats, you cannot survey the entire population. So a small sample is selected randomly and then extrapolated to give a projected, and hopefully meaningful score.

But as everyone knows, most stats can be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet there are many, many surveys going on every day. Is it because even with the inaccuracy of these stats people still find them useful?

These stats are not accurate, but can be a tool, amongst many other tools, to help in decision making and understanding trending, as well as being able to use the results to better your business.

Think of Alexa traffic rank, as those stats. Statistical data, that is a sample and randomly selected. As random as how many unknown users have the Alexa toolbar installed.

Alexa by itself does not mean that much, but it simply provides a rough snapshot of what is going on. It can be spammed, but if a site has a ranking in the millions then it likely has little traffic. If it has a lower Alexa Rank, then it is most likely receiving good traffic.

Trying to compare your site with other sites across different industry can prove difficult if relying solely on Alexa traffic. Best to compare you Alexa traffic rank with other ranking tools such as Google Analytics, Quantcast, etc, in order to get a more accurate assumption of your sites traffic and rank.

Conclusion

In short, the Alexa ranking system is obviously flawed and can be easily manipulated. Although the better you rank in Alexa, the more business you might get. Why? Because users will trust your website and feel confident in dealing with you as your site ranks up with other respectable sites.  So it is definitely worth going for or displaying a higher ranking in Alexa.

Do you follow your Alexa traffic rank? What is it? How does it compare with your actual measured traffic? Do you have any thoughts on Alexa? Leave us a comment in the box below.

Related Reading:

Should you believe your SEO stats.

Faking your website or blog traffic

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6 comment(s) so far...


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Re: Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Thanks, Robert! I've always been confused about Alexa and what it does. Your article explains it perfectly! Now I can share with my clients so they can understand what it means when it shows a percentage increase or decrease.

By Bonnie the Web Design on  2009/06/23 07:40 PM
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Re: Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Bonnie,

You're most welcome. Glad it made sense and can be of help to you and your clients. Big thing to learn, is not be scared or ignorant of it, nor discard it, but make it work for you and your clients.

By Robert Bravery on  2009/06/23 09:15 PM
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Re: Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Great explanation Robert!

But it seems like it's a necessary evil. Do you think so?
Is there anything better out there?

--Aslam

By Aslam Khan on  2009/06/23 11:13 PM
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Re: Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Aslam,

Yeah I think it is a necessary Evil. There are other traffic ranking sites out there, but they all have their own fair share of problems. Which one do you choose. Well thats more personal and what you want to achieve.

As far as I am concerned. Alexa has been around for a long time. They are not half bad. Although Alexa traffic rank may be flawed, if used correctly it can work in your favour. Just don't make their ranking of your site a fact of life, especially if your site is outside the golden 100000 mark. Inside that you might have a reasonable expectation of accuracy.

By Robert Bravery on  2009/06/23 11:25 PM
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Re: Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Nice one again Rob, well explained indeed. Well I track my site's ranking, and I can confirm that while it may have it's own flaws like everything else, when it comes to traffic it's pretty accurate, when I launched my blog in February, it ranked 9million, and my blog has been growing as far as traffic is concerned and now it's ranked 70k + , this justifies my traffic numbers of late.

By Calvin on  2009/06/24 12:52 AM
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Re: Alexa Traffic Rank. Is it useful or useless?

Thanks Calvin,
Its good to read that there are some who find it useful and accurate. I have read that any thing below 100k is probably accurate.
Well done on your traffic. But then again a soccer blog in soccer mad country, close to 2010, at time of Confed cup, You chose the right time

By Robert Bravery on  2009/06/24 09:02 AM
 
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