Alexa’s Rating system, doesn’t really rate much of anything
Op/Ed by Not Luke- First question- Do you have an Alexa toolbar on your computer? No? Do you know what an Alexa tool bar is? No? Well you better keep reading….
I’m a writer. What I know about being a webmaster has come from neccesity and smart friends. When it comes to traffic, and hits, and stats, I’m almost clueless. So when I saw my Alexa rating take these huge nose dives, and then climb back up and then dive again I wondered what the hell I was doing wrong.
I also get information from Google, and it showed my readership slowly and steadily going UP.
Well I asked my super smart friend Techman to explain to me how Alexa worked. When he did, I couldn’t believe that people relied on this totally subjective app to base anything on.
Here’s what he said-
So what the hell is the deal about Alexa anyway?
OP/ED by Techman
Alexa (http://www.alexa.com) is a site that reports on internet usage. Alexa is owned by Amazon, and was originally a company designing a new, alternative method of human powered internet search. Alexa generates its reports on sites by gathering information from people who have either the Alexa toolbar (IE) or the Alexa Sidebar (Firefox and Mac). The Alexa tool gathers information from the sites that the user visits and reports these back to Alexa. Alexa then takes this information and generates reports on individual websites, ranking them by number of visits, reach, and a variety of other metrics.
The problem with this method is two fold.
1) It uses a limited audience that must opt-in to use the tool. Now if the segment of audience generated by this method is enough of a cross-section of internet users, then you could get some accurate numbers as a result, but this is not likely and Alexa is not forthcoming with any of it’s audience makeup to allow an accurate judgment to be made. And since the tool requires an opt-in, it is far too easy to generate out results with a strong statistical bias. While Alexa also maintains that they use “other information” in creating the site rankings, this information too is not readily available, so it’s difficult to determine how accurate that information is.
2) It doesn’t track any further metrics other that the site visit. While this can be helpful in certain circumstances, it does not give any insight into user behaviour once they are in the site. It does not track length of visit, repeat vistis, or any other usage information.
As a rough guideline (emphasis on “rough”) of site popularity Alexa may have some value, but as a singular method of determining site usage, or accurate audience usage, Alexa leaves a great deal to be desired.
As an aside I want to add that several computer security sites list the Alexa Toolbar as trackware and suspicious-
McAfee Site Advisor <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McAfee_Site_Advisor> rates the Alexa website as yellow, with the warning, /”In our tests, we found downloads on this site that some people consider adware, spyware or other potentially unwanted programs,”/.^ <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexa_Internet#cite_note-21> (from wikipedia.org)