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Why Alexa Is Worthless

written by John Chow on September 28, 2006

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Alexa is a tool that many webmasters and advertisers used to gauge the size of a website. The Alexa ranking is based on a three month running average. The number shown is where a site ranks on the internet. For example, The TechZone has a ranking of 23,005. This mean the site is the 23,005th biggest on the Internet. Out of the billions of the sites on the net, being in the top 23,000 is pretty good, right? The only problem with the Alexa ranking is it is worthless.

The main problem with Alexa is its rankings are based on users who have installed the Alexa toolbar onto their browser. 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’re break into top 20,000 easily.

When requesting review samples for The TechZone, I have never had a hardware vendor asked me for the site’s Alexa ranking but I have heard from many smaller tech sites that have. I get the feeling that is the vendor’s way of denying a hardware request. They would look at the site’s Alexa ranking (say it’s 60,000) and then reply “Sorry we can only send review samples to sites with a 50,000 Alexa ranking or better.” At least I hope this is the true reason they use Alexa – as an excuse. I would hate to think a PR rep would base his/her decision to send a product on a site’s Alexa ranking.

The biggest users of the Alexa ranking are ad sales networks. They use the ranking to get a higher price from advertisers. For example, Text Link Ads (TLA) base part of its link pricing on a site’s Alexa ranking – the better your rank, the more money you can command. Adbrite does the same thing. If this is the case, then John Chow dot Com should command a lot of money for a link in the next few weeks. Why you ask? Take a look at its Alexa ranking.

alexarank.jpg

Today, my blog is the 1,421st biggest site on the internet, with a reach of 1,200! According to Alexa, my blog now get more traffic and has a greater reach than the biggest computer hardware review site on the Internet, AnandTech.

alexarank2.jpg

Now I realize I received a ton of visitors in the past few days, but I know for a fact that it did not came remotely close to the traffic level of AnandTech. Yet, there you have it – a traffic graph showing I blew right past them.

I guess I should use this to my advantage. Text links for sales! Get linked by a top 1000 Alexa ranked blog! Only $1,000 a month! Anyone still think the Alexa ranking is worth anything?

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