Alexa metrics and small business

Everybody wants to be the best. If there’s a way to show that you are better than someone else, most people will do it. While they may not gloat or rub it in, they will make sure that everyone is well aware that they are the best, and here’s the proof. When it comes to the web world, there are a lot of different ways to prove this, awards, users, page views, and the like. If only there was a service that could easily and simply say “You are #1, you are #2″… Enter Alexa.

Alexa has an obvious appeal. Without needing to really understand anything about analytics, you can go to their site and it gives you a number. That number is supposed to explain how your site ranks based on all kinds of metrics, but mostly traffic. If you want to pay them, there are also some good tools to see what that number means and how it was generated. At this point, everything seems great. A tool that will easily and quickly allow you to compare your site to your competitors and see how well you’re doing? Awesome! Not quite.

For those of you familiar with analytics suites, you know you have to install tracking code on your website or server to get it to work. This is because it’s basically impossible to determine how many people have visited a website without having access to everyone in the world’s computer, ISP records, or the website itself. Think about it. When you open a browser and type in www.google.com, how would Alexa know that you did that? Google certainly isn’t going to tell them, the ISP wouldn’t tell them because that would be an invasion of your privacy, and you most likely aren’t telling Alexa all the websites you visit. So, how does Alexa know how many people visited Google? They don’t.

To Alexa’s credit, they also don’t pretend to. They state they aren’t tracking all traffic on the internet, they are only tracking the traffic of people who have installed one of their toolbars. This means that it’s more accurate to say that your Alexa score doesn’t measure the popularity of your website to the world, but rather the popularity of your website among people who care about Alexa rank. There are a lot of toolbars out there that include the Alexa code, so it’s not terrible by any means, and for very high traffic sites, Alexa can be relatively accurate. The larger the sample audience, the more accurate the score becomes.

However, most businesses don’t get the kind of traffic you would need for these numbers to be accurate. According to Alexa:

“We do not receive enough data from our sources to make rankings beyond 100,000 statistically meaningful.” – alexa.zendesk.com

Go ahead and check your top 10 clients ranks. How many of them have a global rank under 100,000?

In summation, if a client, or anyone else, wants to use Alexa as a source for site metrics. Let them know you’ll be happy to do so as soon as the site gets close to a 100,000 Alexa rank.

  • kerryrego

    Thanks, Kyle. I never thought much about the way Alexa works and this is helpful. For a minute there, I thought you were telling the story of Klout. Funny parallels.

    • Kyle Breckenridge

      Thanks for my first comment ever Kerry!
      Klout is a bit more “accurate” in that at least you have to opt into their service for it to track what you’re doing. That being said, they have the same numbers go in a black box and who knows what happens next set up that Alexa does. I’m sure you’ve seen this page, but for anyone else looking for some info, here’s the klout score breakdown on their website: http://klout.com/corp/score

      • kerryrego

        That is a vast improvement over what they used to share. Thanks for that as well! Aren’t you full of useful information? ;)

      • kerryrego

        And I’m glad to have been first here. Makes me feel like a hipster. “I knew Kyle before he went mainstream.”