Why you can stick your stupid Alexa rankings…

Alexa rankings are completely and utterly useless.

When I started this blog a year ago I was obsessed with my Alexa ranking – I was super-pleased when those magic numbers were getting smaller and I’d be utterly devastated when they went the other way.

Now, I don’t give a flying crap what they do – and I recommend you stop caring, too.

I hate Alexa rankingsWhat are Alexa rankings?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Alexa, where your website will be ranked on the basis of the amount of traffic it gets as well as its number of page views.

How does it measure traffic to your website? Primarily through the number of visitors to your website that have Alexa toolbars installed on their web browser. Who has these toolbars? At a guess, I’d say mostly bloggers and other people who run websites – probably not your average web surfer.

Alexa says itself on its help page:

“The traffic data are based on the set of toolbars that use Alexa data, which may not be a representative sample of the global Internet population. To the extent that our sample of users differs from the set of all Internet users, our traffic estimates may over- or under-estimate the actual traffic to any particular site.”

It goes on to say that a traffic ranking of 100,000 and above should be regarded as a rough estimate and the closer a website gets to number one, the more accurate its Alexa traffic ranking becomes.

So what’s the point in an Alexa ranking if it’s not accurate? Why does anyone care at all if their Alexa ranking goes up or down? A nice, small Alexa ranking would certainly be great to have, but at the end of the day surely it’s not going to mean that much.

Blogging with a beer in Hoi An, Vietnam

My experience with Alexa rankings

Admittedly, it wasn’t until my Alexa ranking started to crash that I properly looked into this web information company and realised how bad its product really is.

For a long time my blog’s Alexa ranking was just getting better and better – and then one day it exploded. I wrote about the 30 nicest travellers to follow on Twitter in September 2012, which saw my ranking plummet from, say, 350,000 to roughly 199,000.

At that time I was getting roughly 100 visitors per day; that particular blog post received more than 300 visitors on its first day – along with more than 30 comments from my fellow travel bloggers, most of which probably have Alexa toolbars.

Fortunately, my blog has continued to grow since then – each month continues to be even better than the last (see my first year of travel blogging). I now get anywhere between 200 and 300 unique visits every day.

And yet my Alexa ranking is currently twice what it was at its best point, sitting around the 410,000 mark.

Daily visits to Man vs World

It seems that the most likely reason for the high Alexa number is that less travel bloggers are reading my blog than they did in September – but, at the same time, I’m getting much more traffic from people without Alexa toolbars installed on their browsers.

So let me ask you this: do you blog because you want your blogging colleagues and contemporaries to read your work? Or do you do it because you’re trying to reach as many people as possible?

I know which I’d rather. And that’s why I’m going to delete my Alexa toolbar right now.

For more blogging inspiration check out the many trials of being an aspiring travel blogger as well as the 10 great resources for travel bloggers.

About Simon Petersen 313 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

26 Comments

  1. Oh, and yes, I left one thing out here. I didn’t include in the categories of things that will not rank well, travel blogs, although that is kind of a given right? Who reading a travel blog cares about your Alexa rank? Except maybe a advertiser and if your popular enough anyhow, they will look deeper. This would only effect travel blogger’s that are not at serious level of popularity.

    So, you shouldn’t care, but if you did, you could spend the 9.99 a month to certify the site. Your Alexa rank will probably drop doing it. It would never be anywhere equal to a SEO blog, visitor to visitor getting hit like crazy with those Alexa toolbars, because Alexa is tossing another factor on there. The average number of visitors to all site types. If your way over on Toolbar hits, you look even that much better when they toss the bonus on top of it which amounts to if you have this many with toolbars, you have this many more they don’t really know about at all.

    But yah, what you write about dramatically effects this rank. This post hitting number 1 on Alexa is crap on a search is effecting your Alexa rank for the better.

    I may make this a part of my blogging mission. Can one blogger become such a authority on Alexa, on the truth of it to light a fire that will end up making this multi billion dollar company straighten up and earn that number 3 spot on how websites and blogs get viewed? I don’t know. I am not going to write just about them, but I am going to do my best to kick their ass over it.

  2. Your article is right on. And it even ranks number one under a search on Google, Alexa is crap.

    Websites and blogs you can almost split into two primary demographics. Writing to topics all about what webmasters would care about, SEO, Hosting companies, WordPress, Pluggins, Blogging about being a blogger and so on. These are the ones that heavily load the Alexa toolbar. If their sites are about these same things, they do very well, way and above the reality of their traffic, whatever it is, on their Alexa rank. Since they do very well, they tend to praise Alexa.

    Then you have the other side of this coin, sites about celebrities, fashion, cars, sports, boats, dogs, cats, horses, photography. Okay, the list is so long, lets just say everything not about the first demographic. Most of these readers, visitors couldn’t care less about a Alexa rank, and are not loading toolbars over something they don’t care about.

    Advertisers though, do care. They may be savvy enough to know Alexa is crap, but have a hard time seeing past that big number. They will probably dig deeper after seeing a superficially, respectably decent superficial number, but blow right past you if its high, when what you really deserve is low.

    It also effects SEO, since it is webmasters primary domain referring other webmasters as authority references, a really good Alexa number can give the impression your a popular authority and a really bad Alexa number that your no good.

    Alexa is mostly crap, but it is unfortunately crap with a very real positive or negative effect. They do not deserve to be praised on this product at all, but they get it allot from those it works very well for, which are the very same writers that could do something to get them to do a whole lot better on making it a real trusted metric. It doesn’t get done though mainly out of the fact, turn it into a trusted metric by being called out by the people it works the best for as it is, requires real honesty and serious professionalism.

  3. Alexa rankings are not entirely stupid or as arbitrary as you think, just not entirely useful at your traffic levels. Alexa ranks are of no use if your site averages less than several thousands of visitors a day. Think of it this way, with the number of sites out there, in any given day hundreds of thousands of sites could get one more unique visitor than you, or vice versa one less. The rank is bound to fluctuate wildly at those visit rates.

    As for the pageviews doubling but the rank getting cut in half, it is worth noting that the number of websites out there is constantly increasing, and the same is true for the number of internet users, especially in developing countries like China and India. You are competing with more and more websites for more and more eyeballs. Since by comparison, users in western countries are not increasing at such a rapid pace, and you’re obviously unlikely to gain a lot of the new developing country traffic, simply maintaining your traffic levels is unlikely to guarantee that your rank will stay the same, and doubling it will not guarantee increasing your rank either.

    Alexa is still a decent tool for watching rough website trends for the world’s top sites. For independent bloggers though, don’t sweat your rankings, write for the sake of writing!

  4. I had no idea what an Alexa rating was but then I’m a dinosaur. Nice insight though. Being an old fart I’m still trying to work out how to increase my profile. Social networking 2013 seems to be something of an oxy-moron compared with my definition but I have prostituted myself and have taken on the Facebook and twitter demons, even if I don’t navigate around the sites too well. Shit, I’m rambling. Good luck with the blog.

    • Haha, well at least you shouldn’t bother with Alexa now that you know what it’s about! Don’t be put off by the social media – Twitter in particular was essential in getting my blog any traffic at all in the early days. Good luck!

  5. I really don’t understand why people talk about alexa. Alexa is totally crap. According to Alexa my website’s most of the traffics come from South Korea but Google Analytics shows totally different data. I saw alexa has pro plan. I wonder which idiots purchase their pro plan and for what :/

  6. I have an alexa toolbar, and am obsessed as you probably were.

    I gotta agree with you though, useless is as useless does… And alexa is USELESS lol!

    Keep up the good blogging

    BTW

    Your current Alexa is 469,333!

    Not that it means anything, but impressive nonetheless 😉

  7. Hi there! I blog first and foremost for myself because I enjoy it and writing helps me work out some of my own expat issues and get feedback. Therapy of sorts 😉 Second, I write for my readers and people who are or will be in my same shoes. Alexa is a big mystery so glad you’re not paying too much attention to it. Interesting that the toolbar is a major factor on where you rank. I think I had it but deleted it? Good info to know

    • Another reader who isn’t helping me rank higher in Alexa because they don’t have the toolbar 😉 I’m just joking! I love that your blog is so personal. Thanks for reading mine.

  8. I had no idea that it only measures views by people with a toolbar. Thanks for pointing that out. Why does anybody (incl advertisers) care about rankings then? I don’t see why a high alexa ranking is of any benefit really.

    • That’s my big question, too. Why do they care? Unless you’re number one in the Alexa rankings they’re never going to be accurate enough to base an advertising campaign around. Thanks for the great comment!

  9. I blog, but I don’t have an Alexa toolbar, and don’t intend to have one. I enjoy writing,. I think I’ll keep my head in the sand and remain blissfully ignorant to all the blogger-hoopla!

    Keep the stories coming, Simon!

    • You do that, Kate! It won’t make you any happier and it certainly won’t make your blog any better. Happy travels!

  10. I’ll check my blog ranking occasionally out of curiosity but have never ever cared about the rankings. I do look at the page views just to get an idea what my target audience likes although that too doesn’t make much difference because I’ve been blogging for myself first and then others.

    I think it’s good not to care about the rankings too much unless blogging is your only bread earner.

    Cheers

    • You said it, Raghav – I’m not blogging for arbitrary rankings. What started as a hobby, something to do while I was travelling in Asia to keep my writing up to a reasonable level, has now become something that I do to help, inform and, hopefully, entertain others.

  11. You go boy!
    I haven’t been blogging that long yet, but in doing research on all the tricks and tools, I also learned about Alexa. I checked my ranking and the kind of visitors I got, but when I read about the toolbar I quit.
    I’m not going to add a toolbar to get or deliver some stats that aren’t reliable.

    • Wicked! I’m in good company. It may look like sour grapes but it was only when my Alexa ranking stopping getting better that I looked in to ways to improve it – that’s when I finally realised how crap it is!

  12. I haven’t got an Alexa toolbar, don’t even understand it, and I read your blog. So there you go! That’s some great traffic Simon, well done!

    • Thanks, Alyson – just trying to be open and honest about my adventures in blogging and hopefully help out some new bloggers!

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