There is growing news on the internet that the Alexa Traffic
Rankings are not accurate and cannot be used to boast traffic rankings for the average site owner. The main flaw that I have found with Alexa, is their main method of collecting user traffic data, which is mainly through an Alexa Toolbar that collects data from users’ browsers that have the toolbars installed.
Personally, I prefer to conduct my own tests on particular scenarios before publishing what I hear, so I decided to do a small experiment to see for myself how Alexa would report traffic data on a couple of sites that I have built for my web design clients. I chose 2 websites to compare over a 2 week period to see how their traffic would be reflected on Alexa based on different traffic generating techniques to the sites.
At the beginning of the experiment, Site A had an Alexa rank of approximately 2,500,000 and Site B had a very similar ranking. Site A’s website belongs to a pharmaceutical company and Site B was a new technology blog.
At the start of the 2 week period Site A placed a couple of print advertisements in the local newspaper for a few job vacancies within the company and stated that it was accepting applications. Before the advert was placed, this company’s website was receiving an average of 6 visitors per day. The day after the ad was placed, the day’s performance jumped to 62 visitors the first day, then 99 the following day and then 100 visitors on the third day. Throughout the course of the 2 week experiment Site A had an average daily unique visitor count of 43 per day.
Site B started promoting its blog through guest posting and commenting on other sites, submitting to web directories, writing reviews and basically promoting the blog by word of mouth. Over the 2 week period, Site B had an average daily unique visitor count of 14 per day.
The Final Alexa Ranking
At the end of my experiment I thought the alexa rankings of the two sites would be fairly predictable. To my surprise I was completely wrong. Here are the rankings displayed by Alexa after my experiment:
Site A’s Alexa Rank: 1,767,341
Total Number of Visitors: 688 (Google Analytics)
Site B’s Alexa Rank: 570,834
Total Number of Visitors: 224 (Google Analytics)
The site with less visitors had a better ranking. O_0 How is that possible. Then I remembered how Alexa receives its data. Alexa states that it could not exist without the participation of the Alexa Toolbar community, i.e. web users who have the Alexa toolbar installed. So, hypothetically speaking, if the entire web community is 2 Billion users and only 100 Million users actually have the toolbar installed, how will the other users’ traffic be calculated? It would be impossible to calculate. So this means that if I launch a website that is mainly being viewed by non-alexa toolbar users, regardless of the fact that my website may be getting millions of viewers, alexa will not see that traffic and would report that my website receives no traffic or just does not exist.
So, in the case of my experiment, I assume that most of the viewers for Site A just did not have an alexa toolbar installed, thus alexa’s inability to report on their traffic. I’m not stereotyping here, but based on the types of vacancies that were posted in the print ad for Site A, I would think that most of the readers there are not very tech savvy and would not see the need of having an alexa toolbar installed with their browsers, so their generated traffic would not be reported.
This leads me to ask the question; why are major internet marketers boasting their Alexa traffic rank as though it is a 100% accurate authority in web traffic reporting, when they know that just by visiting your own site hundreds of times per day will greatly reduce your ranking and thus will not give a true impression of site traffic.
More accurate means of reporting need to be developed to give a more precise view of web traffic statistics than what alexa is using. There are lots of genius’ out there who have Billions of dollars behind them, I’m just calling on them to help stop the madness. Or maybe I’ll come up with something.
In any case, I know that Alexa is here to stay because it gives a VERY rough overview of what’s happening with web traffic. I think Google Analytics is the best bet when it comes to traffic reporting so far, but google’s site reports are not viewable by the general public.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Should we be boasting about our Alexa ranks or not.