Friends, we need to have a chat.
For all of the bloggers out there who spend hours and hours working to improve your Alexa ranking, who join “Alexa blog shares” where you spend your precious time clicking on other people’s sites in order to get your Alexa ranking up…. listen up.
I’m going to speak some love to your heart, that will hopefully allow you to break free of things that suck your time, and don’t offer any REAL or MEASURABLE impact on your business.
Looking at your Alexa stats is a 100% waste of time.
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine who gets a good amount of traffic and “real people” engagement on her site, messaged me to ask why her number one Alexa referrer country, was India (when 99% of her regular blog readers are not in India).
I started laughing and thought “of course it is!” I haven’t looked at Alexa in years, but I knew exactly why.
I’ll share that with you in a second, but lets talk about how these types of tools work.
First, consider Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is pretty much the industry standard for tracking real traffic to your site, finding out how your visitors discover your site, how they interact with it, and navigate through the pages.
Google Analytics doesn’t work by itself. It requires you to install a bit of code into the header or footer of your website, that will allow it to track what’s happening on the site, and how every single user who visits your site, engages with it.
Because there has to be something on or within your site that “talks” to Google, and gives them the information about what people are doing on your pages.
Scripts like Alexa, that claim to be able to track what is happening on your site, have the exact same technical restrictions.
The only way that 3rd party applications (like Alexa or GA or anything else) can find out how users browse through your site, is
- If you provide them access via a script or plugin that you install into the code of your website
- If an individual web surfer puts something onto their browser that tracks THEIR personal activity within your site.
With Alexa – there is no website script.
They rely on their browser toolbar to send them the information about how each individual person navigates through the web.
Its called the Alexa toolbar.
This means that Alexa can ONLY track hits from people who have this toolbar installed into their web browser.
Now here are the million dollar questions….
Do YOU have the Alexa toolbar installed on your web browser???
Do you think any of your loyal readers have the Alexa toolbar installed on their web browser???
Of course they don’t. No average user has the Alexa toolbar installed.
Because its not a toolbar that is designed for regular people – it offers ZERO benefit to a non-online marketing individual.
The sole purpose of the toolbar is to track usage, and report back to Alexa so that they can update their rankings.
The only people who have it installed, are online marketing people or seo/link building people or Alexa-blog-trade-groupies. People whose jobs require that they market websites, and “grow” traffic. People who are hired, to grow the Alexa rank for other websites by sitting around clicking a link with the toolbar installed (ahem).
Many of those people are located in India, because of their inexpensive labor force for that type of work (aka cheap outsourcing). Hence why its very likely, that India is your #1 Alexa referrer country.
Seriously, go poll your REAL readers (not other bloggers that you might interact with and cooperate with to inflate each others Alexa numbers, but your true, real, natural readers), and ask if they even know what Alexa is, let alone have taken the time to install the toolbar.
I bet its less than .1% of your real traffic.
Do you really want to spend your precious, valuable time – inflating a meaningless number that is based upon a statistically insignificant percentage of your real readership, your real users.
Alexa is all about perception. Their business is built around taking a minuscual amount of your traffic, and attempting to creating a public perception about your site, compared to others.
And we all know, public perception is SUPER easy to fake.
With enough photoshop, I could make anyone look like a supermodel – just like if I paid someone to install the Alexa toolbar and sit there clicking my site – I could make my Alexa rank look amazing.
But we all hate when magazines photoshop their cover models and give us a fake sense of what beauty is.
In the same way, we should hate how Alexa is STILL being used in our industry to publicly rate a website’s value – despite the fact that it uses completely inaccurate data for its traffic popularity contest.
Alexa is basically photoshopping everyone’s traffic stats – to create an arbitrary list of who is popular, and who is not.
I feel like we are in high school all over again!
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time growing my REAL, ACTUAL traffic and reader base – than inflating fake stats that give an inaccurate perception of my traffic.
So, if you have been spending time doing “Alexa shares” or anything along those lines – STOP… PLEASE. There are so many better uses for your time.
And if someone is offering a sponsored post or partnership opportunity, and wants to know what your Alexa ranking is before they’ll give you the job – feel free to share this link with them, and educate them on what they are basing their assessments on.
Google Analytics or any other analytics site with back-end tracking (which means, you install a script within the code of your website that tracks EVERY SINGLE hit to your website not just those people who have a special “toolbar” installed) – is the ONLY tool that you, or anyone who wants to work with you, should ever be using to assess your traffic statistics.
Thank you for listening, and for opening your mind to the truth. Now lets go focus on building some REAL traffic!
Do you agree or disagree with my stance on Alexa? Have you ever found your efforts to improve your rating, to be worthwhile and fruitful?
I'd be grateful if you would share it with others who may find it valuable. Thank you!
Awesome post. Thank you for the heads up. I had been suspicious of this very thing all along. While my websites do better each year, the Alexa ranks stays the same or even goes higher.
Exactly! Its 100% unreliable data, and yet so many partners use it as the basis for judging whether a website is worthy of their ad dollars or sponsorship opportunities, or whatever it might be – which makes bloggers focus on improving it, and its just a big bad cycle. We wear so many hats with our businesses, the last thing we need to be doing is spinning our wheels and spending time on something that won’t impact our business. 🙂
I love reading rants. Rant away! I do agree with you that it’s probably meaningless. However, I have a question: how is it that when I post a popular blog post and notice three days later my Alexa rank goes up? I have Google Analytics installed on my website and the majority of my traffic is not from India, or Malaysia, or wherever else the “big boys” are faking it. The hits to my website are real hits.
I’m not doubting the conclusions of your article—not at all. I’m simply trying to figure out how it is Alexa is “seeing” my actual hits. Do they have access to my traffic perhaps through some other way?
By the way, my ranking is in the 1.5 million mark for my dinky little blog, so it can’t be that accurate to begin with. But when I’ve talked with other bloggers at about the same level, their data seems to corroborate the amount of traffic that I’m getting according to Alexa. Thank you for your time and the information! I really appreciate it!!
Thank you for the useful information you provided. I just started blogging 4 months ago, still in the process of building my alexa rank up.
Did you read the article??
alexa indeed is very unreliable, but toolbar is not all they have, they use other tools as well. They have a google analytics like code, so they use it indirectly to track websites. For example, when I come to your blog from google and you have alexa code installed, it not only tells alexa that you had a page view but it also tells alexa that google also had a page view. So, alexa might be 80% waste of time, but there’s no other tool like that in the market. for example if my advertising client wants to see how my website is performing, he can’t get any info from google analytics. So alexa is his option, or if I send him an analytics screenshot!