Alexa Rankings are Useless (But You Already Know That)

Filed in Miscellaneous by Matt McGee on March 26, 2008 6 Comments

Quick story: My wife e-mailed me last night with a simple question:

“Do you know what an Alexa rating is?”

I told her I did, then found out why she was asking. Turns out that a real estate writer recently suggested in an otherwise excellent article on the Bloodhound Realty Blog (which is about the best real estate marketing blog you’ll find, despite what I’m pointing out here) that one question a real estate agent should ask when grading his/her own marketing plan is:

What is your Alexa traffic ranking?

For realz! In other words, the suggestion is that you, as a homebuyer, should ask potential listing agents what their Alexa ranking is when deciding on an agent to list your home. Can you imagine? I think this is a case of someone knowing just enough to be dangerous. I can’t link to it, but the author explains down in the comments why Alexa ranking is important to a real estate agent:

“…if a part of your package would be to tell the Seller that you have a great blog and many readers come to it and that you intend on featuring their property on your blog, as many successful realtors do, then one in turn would want, and should be entitled to know if anyone is actually reading your blog.

Now, if you’re in the search marketing industry, you can probably skip out now because I know you know these two immutable facts:

1.) an Alexa traffic ranking has nothing to do with a real estate agent’s ability to sell a home
2.) an Alexa traffic ranking offers no meaningful measure of traffic to a web site, blog, etc.

If you’re a real estate agent or other small business owner, let me compare this blog (Small Business SEM) with my U2 web site (@U2).

Small Business SEM vs. @U2

Here are the three primary traffic charts Alexa provides, each with a comparison of SBS and @U2. Note that SBS is in RED and @U2 is in BLUE.

Alexa compare 1

Alexa compare 2

Alexa compare 3

According to the top two charts — Daily Reach and Daily Traffic Rank — Small Business SEM is basically kicking @U2′s arse. When SBS traffic spikes, it’s like night and day. And then even the third chart — Pageviews — has SBS ahead more often than not.

So, it’s not even close, is it? Small Business SEM gets way more traffic, pageviews, attention, etc., than my U2 site. Well, try telling that to an actual analytics program. Here’s what Google Analytics has to say about Pageviews on the two sites:

Small Business SEM pageviews

@U2 pageviews

Quite a different story when you use an actual analytics program, isn’t it? Even though Alexa shows Small Business SEM as kicking @U2′s arse, the truth is that @U2 gets about 30X more page views. If you’re in search marketing, you know why: Because Alexa’s stats come from people who install the Alexa toolbar, and the only people who do that are webmasters and online marketers who have a vested interest in trying to manipulate their Alexa ranking into something that matters.

My bet: If you stand outside your local shopping mall and ask 100 people if they know what Alexa is, or if they have the Alexa toolbar installed, you’ll be lucky if one person says “yes.”

And for the record … when it comes to blogs, whether it’s an SEO blog like this, or a real estate agent’s blog, I’m a big believer that feed subscriptions are a much better measure of success than on-site traffic. I don’t sell on-page advertising here, so I don’t care how many page views I get. I offer a full RSS feed so that you don’t have to visit the blog unless you want to comment. And I’m much happier with having about 2300 subscribers right now than I am about anything Alexa tells me.

So, real estate agents, small business owners, etc., please do yourselves a favor and ignore your Alexa ranking. It means nothing.

Comments (6)

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  1. Marshall says:

    Alexa? I was in there about a week ago and had to remember the lower your reach the better your site according to the Alexa toolbar users. Or some such non-sense.

    Alexa is an example of a site that needs to figure out how it’s going to sustain it’s relevance into the future. Clearly it’s not relevant to me as some one in the SEM/SEO space, and why should it be?

  2. oli says:

    My comment about is that your are totaly right about alexa.com and i think most people think like you.

    what I want to know is what your are thinking about the pagerank at Google

    thanks

  3. CWD says:

    I totally agree with this post. My pageviews are a lot bettre then what is shown on Alexa.

    Unortunately a lot of advertisers go to alexa to measure sites. And I dont know what to do abouit that. I have stppoed caring about Alexa now anyways.

  4. Even if the Alexa figures are skewed to those who have downloaded the toolbar at least if the figures are improving this most have some significance

  5. I have the Alexa toolbar which I find useful for getting an idea of how well my competitors are doing. However the downside is that my ratings get over inflated as my site is the first one I view when I open my browser. This makes it impossible for me to gain any real data from my alexa rating.

  6. Paul Brown says:

    Alexa ranking may be of some small significance when buying aged domains for example, but I would still base my choice on Google PR. I admit that you can outrank a website with a higher PR, but it is still the best measure of authority.

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