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Are Alexa's Traffic Rankings Accurate?

SEO / traffic-building questions and answers


Are Alexa's traffic rankings accurate? I'm hearing conflicting stories on this. I use a site's Alexa ranking to decide whether to advertise or exchange links with them.

Submitted by George L.


That depends on your definition of accurate. If you mean "does a site's Alexa ranking indicate the actual amount of traffic flow to the site?", then the answer is no, not even close.

Why? Because the Alexa ranking is based entirely on the number of people who visit a given site with the Alexa Toolbar installed on their web browser.

Now consider the fact that Internet Explorer is currently the only browser that you can use the Alexa Toolbar with. This means that all the people who visit the site with Netscape, Opera, or any other "alternative" web browser won't be counted in the Alexa traffic rankings.

Also consider that a large percentage of the site's visitors who use IE won't have the Alexa Toolbar installed either. In fact, the typical web surfer won't have any 3rd party toolbar installed.

So does this mean that Alexa rankings are useless as a means to help judge the potential benefits of an advertising campaign or link exchange?

No, not at all. I use Alexa rankings all the time to help me with those decisions.

While the Alexa ranking isn't a true indicator of a site's traffic, it's a very good indicator of the site's traffic when compared to other sites of the same type. Traffic will vary from site to site, and the Alexa rankings will show those differences.

So if you have a choice between advertising on Site A (with an Alexa ranking of 130,000) or Site B (Alexa ranking of 45,000), you can easily see that Site B has the potential to send you more traffic because their own traffic level is much higher than Site A's.

As an aside, webmasters comprise the demographic group of web surfers who are most likely to be using the Alexa Toolbar. This means that sites that are visited mainly by webmasters will tend to have the most accurate Alexa rankings.
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