Have you ever showed off your Alexa rank? Or looked down at someone because their rank was not high enough from your point of view? Unless you really know what those numbers mean, you might want to think again, especially when you plan on acquiring a blog or a web page.
Recently, I have seen more and more bloggers arguing about their Alexa rank, and through that the value of their page. For those of you who don’t know what it is, just visit the site, enter your domain(s) in the search box, and see what you get.
In the case of Darren’s problogger.net, we get the following result per today:
Traffic Rank for problogger.net 63,821
Reach per million users: 35
Looking at Traffic Rank … the lower the number is, the better. You only get a nice graph if you are below 100 000. The reach per million users gives you an impression, why these numbers are flawed, especially when you look at the problogger Feedburner statistic shown at the lower left on this page. Nearly 500 subscribers from Feedburner, but Alexa only says 35?
How can that be?
People tend to forget, that these are estimated numbers. The basic data for their calculation is only a subset of all data available.
What do I mean by that? Let’s have a look at the information page on how different Alexa ranks are calculated. First of all:
Alexa computes traffic rankings by analyzing the Web usage of millions of Alexa Toolbar users.
Which means, visits are only counted, if the user has the toolbar installed. And even worse: The Alexa Toolbar works only with the Internet Explorer browser and only on Windows systems. So of a special part of the Internet users (using Windows, IE and the toolbar), their visited pages are taken to estimate a rank.
The last one is the most important: perhaps installed. The Alexa page only speaks of ‘millions’ of users, but does not go into more detail of how many. So it absolutely depends on your audience if you have a high Alexa ranking or not.
Just to give you a quick glance on some of my stats: I do have an overall non Internet Explorer usage of about 30-40% and at least 20% non Windows users. My main German blog has 5 times daily visitors than my main English blog, but the Alexa rank is much worse.
Here is my guess why: the more you get outside the English speaking world, the lower the installation rate is, because people tend to use only tools in a language they understand.
Okay, so this is absolutely useless?
No, I would not go that far, you just need to be aware of what limitations these rankings have. You can use it to your advantage, if you keep in mind:
- The figures collected are only collected from a very specific subset of Internet users.
- They are mainly based in the English speaking world.
- The more the net grows, the more websites want to be in the top list – but this list does not grow!
If you use these ranks, remember how they are built, only compare similar projects and try to estimate, which influence the target audience has for this ranking.
Of course, a question at the end of the article: How many of you really use this toolbar and how many do you know about using it?
(I know of one, and that is me from time to time, when I switch browsers to test something on IE.)