Thursday, July 26, 2007

Alexa Ranking Easily Manipulated

We've been working on a redesign of - a medical illustration web site. Part of the process is setting up a test site where the client can view what we're working on and we can test things to see if they're working.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the testing site was showing up as a place people go in Alexa:

Testing site showing up in Alexa

I realized one of my clients must have the Alexa Toolbar installed on their browser and I was surprised that one or two people could make a noticeable impact on a stats for a site with a half way decent Alexa ranking (around 70,000).

In the process of examining the issue, I noticed that Alexa now has a toolbar for Firefox, which I installed. I figured I might as well contribute positively to the Alexa rankings of our clients' sites...

Now the percentage for the testing site is up to 8%. There's no way that a few people could legitimately account for nearly 10% of the traffic for a site with an Alexa rank of under 70,000. Which just shows how easy it is to manipulate Alexa rankings. Either that or Alexa over-weights traffic on low volume subdomains.

We all know that the web ranking business is tough. And Alexa does a half way decent job, considering (and for most sites I trust Alexa more than its competitors like Nielsen NetRatings), but as you drill down things can get pretty inaccurate. I just wish someone like Google would jump into the game - they've got a lot more data than the other players and would be a lot more accurate.

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