While catching up on my RSS feeds today, I came across a post at Matt McGee's Small Business SEM that's a few days old, but well worth mentioning. The post dives into the issue of Alexa rankings and explains why they should not be used as a gauge of how successful a web site is.

While most everyone who has been involved in online marketing for any length of time knows this, Matt's article serves as a great little reality check to those who are a little newer to the game. Alexa rankings are pretty much meaningless. The problem with Alexa is that it draws data only from people who have the Alexa toolbar installed on their web browser. Since it's mostly marketers and tech types who have even heard of Alexa (and not your mom, aunt Sylvia or your best friend Joe), the results tend to skew toward the types of sites marketers and tech types enjoy.

In other words, relying on Alexa to give you an accurate picture of what's popular online is akin to asking the local sorority or fraternity what the best movie is. The results simply will not reflect the overall population.

Matt demonstrates this brilliantly on his blog by showing the Alexa stats AND the traffic stats for his Small Business SEM blog and his U2 hobby blog.

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.

If you are one of the folks who finds yourself thinking about how high or low your Alexa ranking is, take a moment to ask yourself if you really want to worry about what the guys down at the local frat think of you. If they're your target audience, you might. If not, you'd be better off working on ways to increase your feed subscribers, your actual traffic numbers and your conversions.

March 27, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Thank you Jennifer, that was a helpful comment seeing how I just saw their url address on my Google keyword analytics. I traced it back to them and almost got drawn into their web

That's a message that bears repeating every 6 months or so. Most social phenomena have a life cycle. I wonder where the Alexa toolbar is on that. It must surely be on the down-slope by now with all the other competing toolbars. Any browser window only has so much space.

Jennifer, your logic is indisputable. I use the Google toolbar; why would I want to add the Alexa toolbar? It doesn't make sense for the average surfer either. I just had the best three traffic months in the history of my site and my Alexa ranking barely moved--obviously because my visitors didn't have their toolbar installed. Thanks for giving us some solid reasons not to bother with it.

Does the Alexa toolbar not have any redeeming features? If not, why does it exist?

Well, it gives you quick access to Alexa rankings data on any site you visit. ;) Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy on that though...eh?

It also gives you access to web search the way a Google toolbar or Yahoo toolbar does. But mostly, the folks who have it installed are the ones who want to see what their rankings are. Thus, it's not even just skewed by techies, it's skewed by techies obsessed with Alexa rankings. :)

Hi Jennifer,

I recently made a post on SEJ about Alexa and their updates. You can read it from the link on my name. I'd love to read what's your opinion about the latest update and whether things would be the same for Alexa or not.

It is said Meta tags are important but how keywords are used is much more important. Keywords are a very important part of site optimization. They can be used in different ways. They can be included in the title, descriptions, text, alt text, images, folders can be named, titles of articles, anchor text while linking to other blogs etc. Keywords are still very important as they help us to identify what the entire website is all about. They should be properly scattered in the text keeping in mind the text to keyword ratio, keyword prominence, density, relativeness and position. Optimize pages with single or two or three keywords they will yield greater results.

It was time to upgrade Alexa, I pass from 1877345 to 1398445 very good result, I gradually improved but I think the owner is changing the Alexa aglorimito why has pulled about three weeks to update.

Good luck to all in the next update.


Thanks Jennifer - I feel much better now *phew*

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > A Simple Reminder of Why Alexa is Useless