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Saturday, December 16th, 2006, 12:06 pm

Alexa Versus Netcraft Ranks

Wikipedia statistics

I will start with a proposition that I repeat rather often: Alexa ranks are flawed. Usually, for most sites, they are utterly meaningless.

It is difficult to argue this when faced with Alexa-happy people, but the figures cannot be trusted. It is a toolbar that acts in a similar way to spyware which drives these ranks. The A9 toolbar for Firefox used to have the same effect. Recently however, Microsoft grabbed A9 by the balls and forced them to drop the toolbar. No more Alexa manipulation on Macs and Linux boxes. So where do we end up?

Alexa aligns with Webmasters’ surfing habits. Netcraft figures, on the other hand, align better with system administrators’ surfing habits. The two can intersect. The shown figures are, by default, calculated from a three-month average of pageviews. One can view daily reach though to see how it goes willy-nilly when a few regular visitors use the toolbar. The exception to this might be the very top sites, although the definition of traffic still matters.

Manipulation gets harder at that stage where top sites get ranked. Many people game Alexa as well. Do not trust Alexa ranks. Ever. Use Netcraft if you want something that’s not just an alternative, but is also better in the sense that fewer people game it. Here are some example statistics from two top site.

  • Netcraft rank for Netscape: 341st
  • Netcraft rank for Digg: 867th
  • Alexa rank for Netscape: 479th
  • Alexa rank for Digg: 79th

See? No alignment between Netcraft and Alexa figures at all. Not even for top sites. These so-called ‘realistic’ figures collide and contradict one another. Alexa has become one these “everybody steals, so I can as well” sort of thing… grossly biased. While people continue to game Alexa it remains a strange animal.

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