Alexa data is poo. Junk. Garbage. Completely detached from reality.
That’s the consensus among most bloggers and tech-oriented webmasters. The common claims are that Alexa is flawed because:
- It’s easily manipulated (perhaps not as easily as some think)
- It’s skewed towards Internet Explorer users (although there’s now a FireFox version of the toolbar)
- It’s skewed towards Webmasters
- It’s skewed towards Chinese users
- It blows off secure websites (the toolbar turns itself off)
I won’t debate these points. They’re all mostly true. Just do a quick Google on “Alexa sucks” or “Alexa flaws”, and you’ll have all the evidence you need to confirm that Alexa has its share of shortfalls. All of Alexa’s data is based on a selective sampling of all Internet users…and Alexa freely admits that it’s an imperfect sampling at that (see the important disclaimers and known biases posted on Alexa’s website). Unfortunately, because of Alexa’s flaws, many people completely discount Alexa as a useful tool.
What I’m here to tell you is that it doesn’t matter how flawed Alexa is—it’s still incredibly useful!
ALEXA DATA IS POO, BUT IT’S GOLDEN POO!
To maximize the effectiveness of any tool, you have to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff..to discard the useless in favor of the useful. Alexa data may be near worthless for some applications, but it’s hard to beat for others. That’s especially true when you consider the cost (free!).
What Alexa Data Is NOT Good For:
- Comparing relative traffic among blogs or websites with different target audiences
- Drawing accurate conclusions about the actual traffic, number of visitors, or “reach” of any website
What Alexa IS Good For:
- Identifying “events of interest” in blog or website’s history for further research. A spike in traffic = they did something right. A steep decline = they did something wrong!
- Looking at macro trends in a particular website’s traffic growth (or decline)…independent of other sites. Although Alexa data is skewed, at least it’s pretty consistently skewed.
- If you’re interested in advertising revenue, a good Alexa ranking is highly valued by some advertisers. So it can pay to figure out what others have done that has helped them increase their Alexa ranking.
The bottom line is that, despite all the shortcomings, Alexa data is a fantastic research tool. If you are a blogger or webmaster that’s interested in increasing traffic to your website, what better way than to learn from the successes and mistakes of those who’ve gone before you? Alexa data can lead you to the secrets of blogging success. It’s freely available and easy to access. Set your expectations appropriately and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.