Alexa's Irrelevance

Matt is complaining about Alexa turning off their API, for all intents and purposes, and turning itself into a walled garden. My question is does it really matter? Does Alexa really matter?

I love going to industry events and listening to PR people jibjab about Alexa rankings and using it as a metric of popularity and the fact of the matter is that it is a bogus metric meant for a tiny cross-section of people who have Alexa’s spyware. Unless someone has Alexa’s toolbar (which by the way is still only supported officially for Internet Explorer), then visitors are never documented.

If you eliminate non-IE users (which figures tell us is approaching 50% of the user base), and you eliminate non-Windows users (IE isn’t on Mac or Linux!), then what kind of realistic sampling of data do you have to speak with any kind of authority to the rank of a blog.

That would be like folks claiming Technorati rank was based on how many people have favorited a blog. Mine has only been favorited by 16 people (but you can remedy that!).

Worse, it would be like saying that since the pygmies in Eastern Congo like to eat Cassava root, that the rest of the world likes to eat Cassava root too. Have you ever had Cassava root? It’s made into this pasty lumpy “thing” that is totally bland and has awful texture while eating and is sure to test your gag reflex.

The ludicrous idea that Alexa is actually relevant when they have ignored the populous for years, and then claim relevance (and PR folks buy into the lie!) is the thing that makes Alexa irrelevant. I guess 90% of the worlds prison inmates are innocent too completely based on their say so.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

11 thoughts on “Alexa's Irrelevance”

  1. Once again you cut through the BS to get to the heart of the issue. This is why I love reading Technosailor!! As much as I really liked the old design, the new one is growing on me.

  2. I think people realize that it’s not a trusted source of information, but it does tend to give people an idea of where they stand in comparison to others in their field.

    Sure it can be gamed, but what other technologies have been giving people a general idea of the *entire* web whenever we choose to look it up? Granted, competitors are now popping up, but for the longest time, they were *the* source. I think I’m pulling for Compete to come out on top :P

    I understand what you’re saying, but I also see why Alexa was loved(not any more). :)

  3. National Geographic goes on site in the Ituri mountains to a pygmy village. After being among the Pygmy nation for 3 months, living their lifestyle, participating in their culture and rituals, eating their food, the reporter comes home and writes a long article for the magazine. In that article he states that “foo foo” as it’s called, the root of the cassava plant, has a wonderfully nutritious makeup, goes with any food particularly the zesty yet tangy “Chicken Mwamba” and that he is on a quest to find the same food wherever he goes.

    Do we take his word for it?

  4. I wish that this Alexa BS was more well known to others – especially those that think it is so important. You laid it out so clearly, that I may just have to reference your post next time I am asked what my Alexa ranking is.

    I hate the fact that many advertisers have asked me what my Alexa rank was, and I have always flat out told them that Alexa is very inaccurate and their rankings simply don’t matter to me. I obviously lost most of them as advertisers, but I won’t sell myself on rankings that are just not correct. If they choose not to believe our own page counts, so be it.

    I wonder how Neilsen is doing with their web ratings/ranking and I have always wondered about Com Score and how that works.

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