Alexa is Becoming Completely Worthless

Daniel

Alexa is becoming a joke lately. Some people claim that over the previous two years it was already losing reliability, but lately it went completely nuts. Whatever they did on the last algorithm update, it messed up their rankings badly.

I know that many people already ignore Alexa, but most advertisers still consider it when evaluate ad buys on websites, so I think we need to raise the awareness about it, and encourage them to use other available tools to gauge traffic.

The problem emerges when you make comparisons of different websites, and when you bring into the picture other traffic tracking services like Compete.com or Google Trends. I have 5 interesting cases to illustrate this.

Case 1: Daily Blog Tips vs. Daily Writing Tips

This was a natural example since I own both sites and have access to the real traffic figures. Daily Writing Tips (as of today) has an Alexa rank of 91059. Daily Blog Tips has a rank of 112363. The Alexa graph of the reach of both sites tell a similar story:

So if one was to trust Alexa, he would conclude that Daily Writing Tips is getting a lot more traffic than Daily Blog tips right? Wrong!

In fact it is exactly the opposite, Daily Blog Tips generates around 15,000 daily page views, while Daily Writing Tips only 8,000. The proportion of unique visitors is similar.

Now the interesting thing is that both Compete.com and Google Trends show a very similar traffic trend for those two sites, and one that is much closer to the real numbers.

The time frame of the graphs is different, but it should not matter. The Alexa graph is displaying the trend for the past 6 months, while Compete and Google are displaying it for the past 1 year.

Case 2: PhotoshopStar vs. VentureBeat

PhotoshopStar is a photoshop blog created by a friend of mine. It has around 2,500 RSS subscribers and gets some decent traffic. As of today it has an Alexa rank of 30,422. VentureBeat, on the other hand, is one of the most popular technology and web 2.0 blogs on the web, with tens of thousands of RSS subscribers. It is Alexa rank is 31,397. Hmmm. This would mean that PhotoshopStar gets more traffic than VentureBear? Check out the Alexa graph:

Now what would you think if I tell you that PhotoshopStar gets around 300,000 monthly page views (source is my friend), while VentureBeat gets over 1,000,000 (source is Federated Media)? Alexa must be kidding right? Not only that, but again both Compete.com…

and Google Trends managed to display a more realistic situation.

Case 3: JohnChow vs. Techmeme

JohnChow.com is a popular “make money online” blog. According to John himself his blog generates around 300,000 monthly page views, and its current Alexa rank is 58,000. You probably also know Techmeme, a tech news aggregator. Its Alexa rank is 73,938. Again, one would expect that Johnchow.com is receiving a lot more traffic than Techmeme if he was to follow what Alexa says right?

Well this is probably far from the truth. Techmeme must be getting at least twice as much traffic as JohnChow.com. Both compete…

and Google Trends in fact are showing a very similar pattern, where Techmeme has by far more traffic than JohnChow.com.

Case 4: BloggingTips vs. Copyblogger

BloggingTips is a meta blogging site, with around 2,500 RSS subscribers, and its current Alexa rank is 103,872. Copyblogger, on the other hand, is the authority copywriting blog on the web, and counts more than 40,000 RSS subscribers. Oddly enough, Alexa ranks Copyblogger right aside with BloggingTips, with a rank of 102,259.

Over the last month Copyblogger shows a spike on Alexa, but still you can see that was going hand in hand with BloggingTips for a while. Do they really receive a similar traffic? I highly doubt so, and the Compete.com traffic report confirms that.

Google Trends shows a trend to both websites that is very similar to Compete.com (that is, the BloggingTips traffic is so small in comparison to Copyblogger that it is not showing in the graph).

Case 5: PSDTuts vs. DZone

Someone could think that the crazy Alexa rankings covered above were due to websites coming from different niches. Well let’s take two on the same niche then: web design.

PSDTuts is one of the most popular blogs with photoshop tutorials. It is current Alexa rank is an impressive 11,957. DZone.com, on the other hand, is a popular social bookmarking site for web designers and developers. One would expect that the latter would have a higher traffic right? Not for Alexa… which is giving a rank of 23,233 to DZone.

Compete.com is telling a whole different story though…

And so is Google Trends. Yet another time both of those traffic tracking services are agreeing with each other, and completely disagreeing with Alexa.

Conclusion

As you can see, on all those 5 cases Alexa was reporting very strange traffic trends. Sometimes it reported the opposite of the real situation. I am pretty sure it would be easy to find 10 or 100 more similar cases.

Compete.com and Google Trends, on the other hand, are behaving very similarly, and judging by the numbers that I know, they appear to be far closer to the real situation.

In my opinion the only factor that makes people still consider Alexa is its ranking system. People like rankings. They like to compare A with B and C. Compete.com and Google Trends still need to develop such a continual ranking system (right now you can only do on-spot comparisons).

Should they come up with such a ranking system, though, I am not sure how many people would still look at the Alexa numbers.

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85 Responses to “Alexa is Becoming Completely Worthless”

  • UKSBD

    Something nobody appears to have mentioned is the fact that the Alexa toolbar is still not available on Vista.

    Here in the UK vista is becoming more and more popular which means sites that attract UK visitors will drop in the Alexa rankings.
    Other countries, where vista isn’t as popular may still have the toolbar installed which will mean their rankings are not effected.

    A perfect example of this is a popular UK Business Forum. it’s Alexa rankings are in a steady decline, and yet everything else says it is as busy as ever, another thing Alexa highlights is the growing percentage in overseas visitors.

    This could be caused by 2 things;
    1. It is getting more overseas visitors
    2. UK visitors have Vista, oversees visitors don’t

    I’m more inclined to think 2 is more accurate.

  • Katy Castro

    I started watching this trend some time ago. My blog, which is in a similar niche as DBT has a significantly better Alexa rank sitting at 66,417. Sure, I get good traffic but I’m not in the same league as DBT.

    Go figure. Good post Daniel.

  • BANGAMBIKI

    Well researched post Daniel, I think this will give for thought for the Alexa people

  • SEO Adsense Wordpress Themes

    The only time I remember Alexa being useful was when some of my friends did PayPerPost sponsored blogging. PayPerPost use Alexa as a measure and you are assigned sponsored posts to write based on your Alexa ranking. Apart from that, I can’t remember Alexa ever being useful for anything else. Its funny something as a big as Alexa is so irrelevant to web users.

  • Douglas Karr

    While I agree that Alexa’s rankings are widely inaccurate, Alexa still produces rankings that many advertising systems pay attention to. As a result, we still need to play the game!

  • yaph

    The Alexa numbers are completely useless for getting solid estimates and there is no justification for using Alexa data to evaluate websites.

    Compete shows more realistic data than Alexa, but is also useless if you are interested in non-English or maybe even non US based sites.

    I guess Google trends for websites will be the authority in the near future when it comes to traffic evaluations. With Google Analytics, Google Toolbar, Google Search and other services they have so many data sources that they should be able to draw a realistic picture.

  • Kyle James

    Thanks for finally confirming what all of us felt was going on. I track a few sites and compare them to a range of competition and have been definitely noticing similar trends.

  • Melvin

    hey daniel it was the same old story for alexa…

  • Pranjal

    Hi Dane.

    Same shit is on my blog, my friend blog gets less then half then traffic of mine but he is like in 40k in alexa and me still crapping in the 80k. I think the new restructuring of the ranking algorithm is totally worthless.

    The old one used to give better results.

  • Jake

    I think that there is a downward spiral on most sites according to Alexa is because less people are using the Alexa toolbar.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Daniel your just now noticing this, lol. Alexa has been garbage to me for years.

  • Luis Gross

    If I’m not mistaken Alexa ranks are based on its tool-bar. The only traffic counted by Alexa is the traffic coming from individuals with their tool-bar.

    So a simple explanation for the lack of rank compared to other sites would be the other sites get more traffic from individuals that have Alexa’s tool-bar installed.

    It is a terrible ranking system, but I believe that’s the explanation for it. It definitely needs to improve.

  • th13rteen

    Alexa was never accurate. Don’t count on it. You can fake Alexa ranks easily by installing their toolbar and going to your site a few times a day.

    I think its about time advertisers smarten up and stop checking the Alexa rank. Or maybe its just good for people with low traffic. 😉

  • Rajaie AlKorani

    Even with proof like this, advertisers still tend to consider the Alexa ranking before purchasing ads on a website

  • Michael

    We’ve all known Alexa to be worthless for some time now but evidence like this really puts a nail in the coffin.

  • Rob

    I get the same kind of results. I think their problem will continue to get worse unless they think of a really great reason for people to download their toolbar. They probably have more people uninstalling it than installing it these days.

  • SEO Genius

    Alexa is definitely becoming more and more worthless, especially since they last changed the algorithm many people i know just do not take it in to consideration any more.

    Now my rankings have improved since the change, however i know for sure that i do not get anywhere near as much traffic as this site does so why should my site have just over double the rank of yours.

    It seems very silly and inaccurate, i am not sure how they even measure or calculate the results anymore.

    To be honest they would probably get more accuracy by picking sites from a hat.

  • Mike Brogan

    Good post. I agree that something is definitely off.

    FYI, you’ve got a typo in your title—it’s “becoming,” not “becomeing.”

  • Kevin

    I think this is a temporary problem. They are obviously changing the way they are monitoring sites.

    The thing is, scores are based on 3 month averages.

    Whilst Bloggingtips has a score of 103 thousand just now, it’s 1 week average is about 600,000. Compare this with CopyBlogger’s 1 week average of 137,183.

    Likewise, DailyBlogTips has a score of 112 thousand just now however your 1 week average is 265 thousand.

    All these scores should head towards the 1 week average in time, Alexa is just slow in changing their main score because thats based on a 3 month score.

    I don’t think much of Alexas ranking system but I do think it’s getting a little better.

    The above doesn’t explain why bloggingtips is currently higher than dailyblogtips as I don’t believe that traffic has been higher at BT for any length of time (perhaps maybe a day at most). This suggests that previously scores were wrong but perhaps the 1 week scores we are seeing now is more accurate. Maybe they were messing with the algorythm. All of these are guesses but since Alexa hasn’t released any news releases since their announcement in April that’s all we have to go by.

  • Life is Colourful

    Daniel, you know what! My blog has got traffic in 100s which is on an average 1000 uniques per day but my Alexa is better than yours – 63000.

    This is simply messed up Alexa algorithm I would say!!

  • JohnCow

    Thanks for not being the only one looking at this, my traffic and subscribers have tripled in the past 4 months and yet Alexa is showing a constant downward spiral. The funny thing is look at sites like paypal (which are owned by amazon.. aka alexa) and they are on a sharp turn up.

    What is frustrating about this is so many people have put merit into this system and it is still looked at by advertisers. I wish they would either fix it or terminate it.

  • BlogSavvy

    From the beginning, I thought there was something wrong with Alexa, ans as you so throughly showed in your post that there is something to be concerned about. Great Post, thanks.

  • pearl

    This is very interesting Daniel. Just looking at my Alexa rank of 119,454 compared to dailyblogtips is 112,365 – doesn’t make sense since my traffic is very low in comparison to your site.

    For a while we also heard that placing Alexa’s widget on your site helped your rank. It might sound funny that when I had the widget, my alexa rank was lower and when I removed it with the new blog design, the rank is higher! So Alexa is a real joke..

  • Writer Dad

    Wow. That’s way too erratic to be worth much.

  • SJL

    Wouldn’t that showup as huge boost for every1?

    But anyway, thats great. (if it works)

  • Daniel Scocco

    @SJL, they launched “Google Trends for Websites” a while ago, which is supposed to track website traffic also.

  • SJL

    Alexa also gets traffic data from AdBrite now, so if you are an AdBrite publisher, you get a huge alexa boost.

    Just s quick follow up question…
    Doesn’t Google Trends only track Google SE traffic?

  • Winning Startups

    Interesting. Thanks for bringing awareness to this. I haven’t ever looked at compete.com before.

  • esvl

    Mine as well. Alexa ranking strangely drops but i get way more traffic.

    And if someone had some doubts, i guess they wont anymore after this post.

  • Steven Snell

    I agree. I don’t pay any attention to Alexa. My traffic doubled and the Alexa rank went down and the graph showed a drop in traffic.

Comments are closed.