Another day and another somebody referring to an Alexa rank for one of my sites. Now this is a question that really gets me all warm and fuzzy inside (stopped getting irritated a long time ago).
If you have a blog / site or recently started one, you have at some point stopped by alexa.com to check your site ranking. It’s sort of one of those things all of us do, especially when you first start out.
My first experience with Alexa came around 2011 when one of my first website ventures, had me glued to SEO guides, constantly refreshing Analytics and spending my time on search queries such as “how much is my site worth” “page rank checker” and “keywords on Google rank checker”… You get the picture.
You may be sitting there with a little smile on your dial, but truly you and I both know the above albeit at my expense; is true for the both of us.
Going down like a pork pie on a Kibbutz!
After a while, I downloaded the Alexa toolbar (real noob) and used it to check other site’s rankings. This practice stayed with me for a few years until I noticed that I could somehow manipulate my site’s Alexa rankings. I used to hit our site about 50 times a day, everyday, with Alexa Toolbar installed.
Our stats (Alexa) were going down like a pork pie on a Kibbutz! Then I was away for a good week and bit, our Alexa ranking came straight back up again. All along, obviously our Analytics visitor stats were no where to be seen. It did not take me long to realise that our top 500 websites ranking in New Zealand and placed well under top 500k websites on the WWW was in fact a load of donkey bullocks. All along it was me, or rather my Alexa Toolbar; doing all the work.
Good question, I certainly don’t (I mean, I did just write over 750 words about it)…
However, when you get someone referring to Alexa rankings to boast their amazing success; I have to be honest, I cringe… In an “my god, what an idiot” kinda way…
Not that they can do it any better than preying on noobies out there whom; as mentioned above, may or may be swayed into paying for premium stats of other users whom have the toolbar installed, when they can get the WHOLE picture from the likes of Google Analytics, or heck, even from WordPress Jetpack Stats!!
Why it does not work
In order for Alexa to work and have accurate stats, it needs to have some sort of tracking pixel or cookie installed on as many websites as possible (the toolbar). This, in order to track visitor behaviours and provide data back for analysing.
Once this data has been collected, run through some cool calculators add a few algorithms for their secret formula to combat not having too many installs of their toolbar, and viola you have Alexa.
This is not the case, and here’s why;
a. Alexa is a tool that only webmasters would know about. This includes you reading this and anyone else remotely interested in how their or that of their competitor; is performing.
b. Your cooking website or World of Warcraft tips and tricks blog, albeit popular; in theory will not rank “high”, as your target audience don’t have a need to even know about Alexa in the first place.
c. A small tech blog, or those like me who figured it out that one could manipulate the results without almost no real traffic; rank particularly high.
Alexa is not Google Analytics. The key difference is Google Analytics is installed by almost ever site owner who takes traffic a little seriously. This means the majority of the web have Analytics installed. Accurate stats.
Drop it, it’s ok…
This is why you should stop caring and stop allowing folk to reference an Alexa ranking when referring to site traffic.
a. The chances are the top 100k websites most likely only represent the top 5k sites (exaggerated? Maybe… Only Alexa knows… or do they really?) with the rest either being niche enough where visitors could have the toolbar installed, or manipulated.
b. It makes you look “sneaky” to folk that have the slightest knowledge. Even if the person you told about Alexa does not know, you know. Just as bad. Not cool.
c. By continuing to use it, refer to it, or even the fact you are here, gives it all the more power.
d. The fact Im writing this, means Ill now drop it too.