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article imageAlexa: Useful, or not?

By Paul Wallis     Jun 8, 2007 in Internet
Alexa is one of Amazon’s kids. Some might say enfant terrible, others might say just plain terrible. It operates a web ranking system which some would say is irritating, others would say is fascinating.
Digital Journal rated 41,788, down 18,080. (See grouped previous article last year “DJ on Alexa”) Out of millions of web sites, that’s still up near the top of the largest heap in media history. What intrigued me was that it was the old web site on the image. No date for ratings information, either, so the data is a bit open to interpretation. No reviews, either, nudge, nudge.
I was thinking of writing one… but you have to buy something on Amazon to write a review, then wait 24 hours… sounds like a form of pathology, doesn’t it? Even so, if to write is to commit mayhem… I could live with that. I could get my “Swine” badge, too, by writing something objective, and perhaps even meaningful.
Alexa has claimed the role of the Net Nielsen. This may or may not be an impossible role, and nobody needs to be told that Nielsen itself isn’t exactly considered too omniscient. Sampling is a pretty dour methodology, and most statisticians simply refuse to qualify any sample with anything less than a 5% variable. Quite rightly so, because it really is a lousy method, used more for simplicity than accuracy. During the previous Federal election in Australia, it predicted a landslide victory for the side that lost by a landslide.
On a more positive note, the Top Sites By Country feature on Alexa paints a very interesting picture of the net. It’s almost entirely different from the image of the net as some sort of madman’s paradise. Usage seems to be pretty utilitarian. Very unglamorous sites abound. The top sites list for Australia and the US has all the exotic dynamism of a Yellow Pages. The boutique type sites, fads of someone’s blog, don’t rate any sort of mention. They don’t exist, as far as ratings go.
So how credible is Alexa? It’s not yet hated, which is probably a sign of either ignorance or apathy. Maybe people don’t yet know enough about it to have opinions. I was born in an advertising agency, and I smell “position”. If there are no authorities, and no competition, be an authority. There’s a very strong whiff of market image sales here. Commercially, ratings make a difference. If nobody can argue with them, so much the better.
DJ current rating on Alexa
More about Alexa, Digital Journal, Internet rankings