Is Alexa Relevant Again?
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Mar 21, 2009
Earlier this evening, while doing some research, I discovered that my primary business is listed at number one on Alexa for business training site against racism. I was feeling pretty good until one of my friends wrote and burst the bubble, saying I’m the only person she ever hears talking about Alexa anymore.
After kind of a snarky response on my part, I decided it was time to investigate Alexa again. Sure, in the world of SEO, Alexa ratings took a major hit years ago, and has been pretty much maligned ever since because they placed so much emphasis on people downloading the Alexa toolbar, which many people really didn’t want to do. Even Firefox came up with a plugin that supposedly could help your sites with it, but I know I wasn’t interested. I’ve talked about Alexa before, once when I was pretty much trashing Compete Rank, but at other times saying that even if people beat up on Alexa, it’s better to have some kind of ranking than nothing at all, and of course the better the ranking, especially without the toolbar, the better your site is performing.
First, a quick “what is Alexa” moment. Alexa is a system that ranks traffic, plain and simple. Traffic equates mainly to visits from others to your site, but it’s really about hits to anything that your site offers elsewhere. This means that if someone is searching for something and your site comes up, it might be counted as a hit, even if they didn’t make it to your page. Also, search engine bots are considered hits, even though a person didn’t actually come to your site. However, since bots only keep going to sites that have new content, it means if your site is ranked low on Alexa that you probably haven’t done anything new to get more traffic coming.
Anyway, it seems that even Alexa realized finally that waiting for people to download their toolbar to try to get accurate stats wasn’t getting it done, and they were falling way out of favor with people who they hoped they could do other business with at some point. So, they changed up how they were going to come up with their ratings by adding multiple other sources for tracking the traffic of all websites. They didn’t tell us who they’re tracking, but it seems that, for the most part, they’ve regained at least a little bit more respect than they had in the past. What resulted was interesting, in that many people with the Alexa toolbar suddenly noticed their rankings dropped, and along with those people were many people who were using the Entrecard program, which supposedly gave false ratings of traffic that Alexa somehow learned how to filter out. Some folks jumped nicely, while others dropped even further.
Two other things also happened. One, Alexa started ranking way more websites than they had been ranking before, so many websites whose sites used to show nothing were suddenly showing up with 8-digit rankings, which was unheard of in the past. Two, many overseas sites suddenly dropped dramatically because now they had to compete with the rest of the world on a more equal footing, and unfortunately there are still more sites in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
I decided to take a quick look at this site on Alexa, and I have to say that the traffic numbers pretty closely mirror what Google Analytics and my own ISP stats are telling me. I’m not sure how it’s done, but I’m believing it’s close to how Cool Blog Links and Winning The Web and other sites like them are tracking numbers of websites, only on a much larger scale.
Finally, I went looking for any new posts or articles on Alexa, to see if anyone was saying that Alexa wasn’t relevant anymore. Seems the last time anyone said something like what was last July, at least from what I could find, and anyone else who’s written on the topic has gone in a totally different direction than the constant derision Alexa has been getting for awhile.
Still, let’s have a little bit of common sense to all of this. As with all the other rating services, don’t go crazy in trying to make more out of the numbers than what they are. Right now this blog is sitting at 127,242, and that’s a fairly nice number. Unless you’re sitting in the top 50,000, it really means little, except you’re probably doing pretty well in optimizing your site. For me, I’m hoping that this new experiment with the robots.txt file works wonders over the next month or so; when does Google do their next little number anyway? No matter; it’s all fun and games overall, except for one thing,… I’m number one! 😀