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.

Jennifer Laycock

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