Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Alexa, the Top 25, and what the hell's the deal anyway?

This is what happens when you assume. A big reason why I wanted to do the Top 25 ranking for Marketing blogs here (and Advertising blogs at BMA), is because I assumed that most bloggers were familiar with Alexa, and their traffic rankings according to Alexa.

Seems that's not the case.

So for anyone that I have tee-totally confused with this Top 25 rankings, let me back up and give a poor-man's primer on how Alexa determines your traffic-ranking.

First, Alexa uses your 'actual traffic', as well as your page views in some secret formula to determine your traffic ranking. This is different, and IMO more accurate, than link aggregators such as Technorati, because it does attempt to measure actual traffic. All Technorati does is count links, and anyone can pass around links.

Now for the 'bad' news. Alexa only tracks the traffic of your blog's visitors that have the 'Alexa toolbar' installed, and this toolbar only works currently with Internet Explorer. So if someone visits your blog and doesn't have the toolbar, then they aren't counted. Likewise, if you add the toolbar, every visit you make to every blog/website is now counted.

Disclaimer: I do have the Alexa Toolbar installed on IE, but I use Firefox for my browsing. I do use the toolbar when I want to see what a blog's Alexa rankings are, because it instantly gives you that ranking when you visit the site. The Firefox extension I have that gives the Alexa ranking sometimes lags.

So in the end, Alexa isn't perfect, but I do think it's more reliable than Technorati. If there's something else you don't understand about Alexa, leave a comment here.


Anonymous said...

To be honest, I only looked at Alexa again (I'd say first time since 1999) when I saw you based your rankings on it :)

Now I'm totally hooked, and do indeed use it to establish some more info about a site I'm looking at. Normally using Firefox, I fire up Explorer every now and then specifically for this purpose.

As for the installed base - an interesting observation is that the audience looking at these blogs must have an uncharacteristically high installed base of Alexa.
The 'reach per million users' is not in line with the actual pageviews we're getting.
Today, we're at a reach per million of 30. Only looking at the USA (which will represent the majority of Alexa users) with its internet users of about 200MM (?) this would still mean about 6000 visitors per day.
We're very happy with our visitor numbers thank you very much - but 6k they arent :)

And the same goes with most of the blogs listed here I guess.

Mind you, this is not criticism - just an observation. As it stands, Alexa is the best we have, and its a level playing field.

On this matter, also see:



Mack Collier said...

FutureLab I noticed the same inconsistencies with Alexa months ago when I was tracking BMA's traffic. I remember one day BMA had 1200 visitors, and Alexa said our RPM was 5.

Gaping Void had 1450 visitors that same day, and Alexa said Hugh's RPM was 120! That's when I knew something was up.

One thing I have noticed is that the higher your ranking, the more accurate the results tend to be. I really wish Alexa would roll out the toolbar for Firefox, that would go a long way toward giving much more accurate results.

J.D. said...

I don't use the Alexa toolbar mainly because all my spyware programs fuss at me when it's on there. Plus, I'm a devoted Firefox user, so...

How do you think Site Meter compares to Alexa in terms of accuracy? I've been satisfied with my Site Meter reports. What do you think?

J.D. said...

Oh, and as for Technorati, it keeps saying 32 links from 13 sites for me, but I know that has changed. Technorati isn't even that good at knowing when links to you are established.

Mack Collier said...

JD SiteMeter should be counting all your visitors, so you have to go with that.

But even with counters, they have different criteria. I've heard of bloggers using StatCounter and SiteMeter at the same time, and getting totals that were 15-20% different.

The thing about Alexa is that it's using the same criteria to track everyone. So it might be a bit off, but it should be 'off' for everyone equally....more or less ;)

Mack Collier said...

BTW JD Technorati constantly misses links for both BMA and here. There are still blogs that linked to BMA back in December that TRati has never caught.


Mack, I, for one, am glad you are doing the tracking and I consider Alexa stats to be incredibly useful. Even if it’s only Alexa Toolbar users who are surveyed, that still must be a sizeable sample.

Mack Collier said...

Thanks again Jack. I think it's useful, not so much on a weekly basis, but to track how you are doing over time. And it's a great way to compare how your blog is performing relative to other similar blogs.