One of the most frequently used gauges of a blog’s success is the Alexa Rating. It’s something that has been around, seemingly, since the beginning of the web, and there was a point in time when almost every single person on the web had access to, and possibly sent rankings, their system. The reason? It was included in Internet Explorer, and at one point in time, about 5 or 6 years ago, almost 95% of all users were using it.
Now, of course, some people opted to remove the Alexa software, mainly because it got listed as adware. I can’t blame them, since nobody likes to have someone tracking where we go. However, many people still use Alexa as an almost Gold Standard to a site’s success.
I don’t really get why, but it does make some sense when you consider that, aside from raw server data, there really is no way to publicly gauge the popularity of sites. The problem I have isn’t so much with the fact that it’s being done, but that by using Alexa so prominently, you’re saying that a site’s success is based on a small subset of web users, not on all users, or even probably a majority of users.
Most of the reason of the selectivity is that Alexa only count visits by people who use Internet Explorer and the Alexa toolbar. You would think that since the number of users who use IE as their primary browser, combined with the growth of Firefox’s use as the “number 2” browser in the market, Amazon (who own Alexa) would seriously consider creating a toolbar for Firefox.
However, that has not happened. Fortunately, there is an open community for developers to create their own extensions for the browser, which led to someone sitting down, slapping some code together, and coming up with the Smart Toolbar addon. Not only does it let you see a site’s Alexa rating, it supposedly also sends your browsing data to Alexa. Of course, you have to be comfortable with the data being sent to a server, supposedly anonymously, and you have to be willing to allow others to have an inkling of your browsing habits. However, it is a step forward to allowing users who are so inclined to share their data, and increase the (in my opinion) increasingly irrelevant rankings of sites they visit.
Interesting side note – on my old address, I didn’t get an Alexa rating until about a month ago, and that was after quite a few months of blogging. However, I’m confident that this site will pick up some Alexa traffic sooner than the old one did. 😉