Thoughts about Alexa

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. 😉

9 thoughts on “Thoughts about Alexa

  1. Have you used the alexa redirect? I have used it with some success.. currently my alexa ranking is like 589,000.. not bad for a blog that’s less than a month old. Oh I see… Cybercelt already added that thought.. lol… I say go for it!

  2. People certainly shouldn’t use Alexa as a gold standard. It does give at least some data and without others providing something better for the millions of web site owners to compare themselves to others I can see why people pay some attention to it.

    Compete is trying to compete. And the claim they make is they get traffic figures from some ISPs (so they get traffic figures in addition to those using a toolbar – they have a toolbar as Alexa does also).

  3. Most of the geysers are really small like the ones I most recently posted that you commented on. I’ll post some of Old Faithful tomorrow.

  4. cybercelt – Interesting concept; I might just do that, though I’d think it’ll throw the referrer info off for my logs, changing it to alexa instead of the actual site they came from. I’ll give it a go tomorrow and see how it goes 🙂

    AG – Hehe; I’ve had that happen to me a few times 😉

    Curiouscat – It’s good for comparison, but not for sole representation. I also checked out compete – it seems alright, but it looks like there are some kinks, such as this categorization for blogger.com – Category: Behavioral Segment >> Teenager, Blogging >> Blog

    Nycindividual – Cool! I’ll make sure to check it out 🙂

    Thanks y’all for the comments 😉

  5. I still use IE 😉

    I installed Alexa last night – and uninstalled the toolbar within an hour. It sent my Norton’s INSANE. So annoying. I can live without it. I have a widget on my sidebar, it will have to do.

  6. There is so much written ’bout the pros and cons of Alexa. I never bothered with it until recently when I read a comment on Blog Bloke’s site, so I decided to experiment and added the toolbar and widget to Blog-Blond.

  7. Misc Mum – It’s too bad that Alexa don’t take note of people who have similar experiences to yours. I think that your solution, combined with the use of the redirect might be the most efficient solution.

    kuanyin – Alexa’s site doesn’t really say if the widgets count towards your stats, but maybe they do…

    Snos – It must be pretty hard considering they haven’t done it yet…though I do suspect they are just a bunch of slackers.

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