The internet still wants to know how important Alexa is, and after reading various poor responses I decided to offer my own.
First the basics:
- Alexa measures how much traffic a given website receives
- It estimates using the data from those with the Alexa toolbar installed
- It estimates based on the most recent three (3) months
- If you certify your site (using a code snippet), Alexa will use your actual traffic instead of an estimate
- Alexa is owned by Amazon
Ok, but why do people care?
People care because Alexa serves as a proxy for website importance.
This determines many things, such as the price advertisers are willing to pay you to put adds on your site, or whether you can get into a conference for free as a member of media (that’s worked for me a few times).
So it’s not just theoretical; people use it constantly as a primary success metric for websites.
Great, but is it accurate?
Well, first off, it doesn’t even claim to be that accurate. What it claims to be is the most accurate, and those are very different things.
True accuracy requires seeing the traffic for every website, which just isn’t possible unless everyone signs up with Alexa and embeds their code snippet (not going to happen).
The most important thing to take away from this is that Alexa’s accuracy is based on usage of the Alexa toolbar. The more people use it, and the more representative those people are of internet users as a whole, the more accurate the results are. And as one of those two things declines, so does Alexa accuracy.
But does it matter?
That’s like asking if having a college degree matters. Or what type of men women find attractive. It all depends on who’s asking, and what the context is. As a rule, things are worth the value that people give them. But to give a less slippery answer:
There are many people, such as marketers, reporters, etc. who still need something to use for rating a website’s popularity by traffic flow, and Alexa remains our best option for doing that.
So in that sense, yes, it matters.
You just have to remember what it’s not measuring. It’s not (99.9% of the time) looking at actual traffic. It’s not looking at the quality of your content. It’s not looking at the trustworthiness of the site. It’s simply taking the best guess it can based on monitoring usage from one particular plugin.
Just as with college, or certifications, or any other metric, my best advice is to understand what it is and use it or discard it accordingly.
- Many are concerned that Alexa, and sites like it, will steadily decline in usefulness because plugin and toolbar use is becoming less popular.
- Another option for site ranking is Moz. It rates domain and page authority, and updates its ratings monthly.