Be smart: Take Alexa website rankings with a pinch of salt

The beginning of a new year is typically a time for lists. Naturally, there are a number of lists and rankings of top websites for 2013 flying around based on information from Alexa. Alexa is an online web analytics service owned by Amazon. You should take such rankings based on Alexa with a pinch of salt. Why? Come with me.

Alexa data is from toolbar users only

Alexa collects their data though a toolbar installed on some PC browsers by users. This means that it never provides an accurate view of the traffic of any site. It provides traffic info of people who use browsers supported by the toolbar and who have the toolbar installed. In several years of ICT work, I have met very few non-techie people who have Alexa toolbar installed.

So, Suppose your website daily gets 50,000 visitors daily, and say 5% of your visitors have the toolbar installed, you end up with only 2,500 of your visits counted. Another site with less actual traffic of 30,000 visitors daily may have 10% of its visitors using Alexa toolbar by nature of what it sells or talks about. That site has 3,000 visits counted and is ranked higher than yours. Only by Alexa.

Alexa is skewed against mobile users

Because Alexa requires a toolbar installed on a PC browser, its results exclude mobile users. So, if your site has a high traffic of mobile users, Alexa works against you. Very retrogressive. Mobile is the present and the future. The title of a 2012 article that I wrote on the subject is apt: Why Alexa is irrelevant to this age – and unreliable.

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Alexa results can be faked

I know webmasters who have done it. Just get acquaintances, friends and family to visit the same site over and over, and your website Alexa ranking goes up. Easy pie.

Don’t Believe The Hype

What would be far more accurate and reliable is to have sites compared by their Google Analytics and StatCounter results. Both of these services are similar in workings and output, have none of Alexa’s weaknesses and also provide far more reliable metrics for the comparison of site traffic. How different the website lists and rankings would look might come as a surprise.

The people who push these Alexa rankings and lists know. Don’t believe the hype.

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

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