I’m Really Tired of Alexa

Om Malik has a great post up titled Alexa can be injurious to your wealth that describes a number of flaws with Alexa as a ranking of a web-based service.  I have never taken Alexa data very seriously – while Om points out some flaws there are lots of others that anyone with a basic understanding of web analytics will be able to determine quickly.  While it’s potentially useful for either long term trends or very rapid variance effects (e.g. The First 25,000 Users Are Irrelevant problem or – as Josh Kopelman more succinctly put it – 53,651) I’m always very careful about how I interpret the data (and I usually don’t give it much weight.)

Om’s parting comment is “In closing, if you are a startup that brings up your Alexa ranking in a meeting with us and tout that as your shining achievement, it would be time for my smoke break!”  I couldn’t agree more (even though I don’t smoke – how about “it’s time for my treadputer break.”) I don’t want to hear about your Alexa ranking – I want to hear about what your users are really doing, how much they are actually using things, and what drives increased adoption.

  • I wrote a post on the same lines 4 days ago…

    “…if you use Alexa over a large period of time, it is trustworthy enough to measure if a company traffic is going up or down and what is the order of magnitude of that growth/decline. But that is it. …”

  • I’ve often wished that someone would buy alexa out of Amazon and crank out a much better service.

    It’s such a great concept, but I seldom use it. It just doesn’t make much sense to me. ie the metrics are weird, no one I know uses their toolbar, etc.

    It would be nice if some company that has a very widely-used toolbar would buy it and then use their toolbar for gathering the info.

  • At Revenue Science (which is an online ad company), we use Alexa but take the numbers with a grain of salt. You really have to compare it against comScore and Nielsen to see how off things can be.

    Anyway, here’s some more detail on the issue:

    The summary is that:
    – Alexa doesn’t give concrete metrics like pageviews or uniques, just “rank”
    – Alexa has a biased sample (which can be too small)
    – Alexa gives false certainty

    Check out the article above for more details.

  • There is, it’s called Compete.com.