Why Alexa Traffic Rank Can Be Useless When Buying Domains and WebsitesPosted: October 1, 2011
When you buy domains or websites with traffic, you inevitably run into sellers with deals that look too good to be true. Unfortunately, it’s very common for traffic to be misrepresented by sellers looking to dump their otherwise worthless site or domain. One of the most common ways this is done is by showing Alexa.com traffic rank instead of actual traffic stats.
Alexa traffic rank is a number that indicates how popular a site is supposed to be online, determined by data gathered from millions of users of the Alexa toolbar. The highest rank is 1 and held by Google, meaning Alexa’s data determines Google to be the most popular website. Facebook is the nest highest at rank 2, YouTube at rank 3 and so on, all the way to 25,000,000. Website and domain owners use it to show what traffic they get even though it doesn’t actually show how many people visit their domain.
Is Alexa ranking accurate?
Not for most domains. Getting closer to the top of the totem pole where Google and Facebook stand, Alexa ranking is somewhat accurate. That’s because there’s a large difference in traffic between the largest sites, so there’s more room for error. Get down into 100,000 and below ranked sites and it’s a different story. The problem is how Alexa gets their data – through the Alexa toolbar.
The Alexa toolbar is used mostly by people who care about Alexa ranking like tech users, internet marketers and domainers. Alexa’s “Hot Pages” constantly includes more tech links, internet marketing product launches and other sites popular with these groups more than things that are popular with everyone else. Because of that, rankings of those sites are overblown.
Can Alexa ranking be manipulated?
Since the toolbar isn’t used by a large percentage of internet users, it’s very easy to manipulate. I’ve witnessed sites with rankings as high as 20,000 that were clearly not actual high traffic sites. Those clearly indicate someone pumping the ranking to dump the name onto an unsuspecting buyer.
Other domains can also be redirected to pump traffic stats. You might see the “Where Visitors Go” section list completely different sites showing a high percentage of visitors, which means those domains are redirecting the traffic. Unless you’re getting those domains in the deal, that traffic will be vanishing quickly.
Can you still evaluate traffic by Alexa ranking?
Yes, but not by Alexa ranking alone. Compete and Quantcast are two other traffic ranking sites to look at to give a more complete picture. You can also look at backlinks to the domain and how consistent the domain’s traffic appears by its history on all 3 ranking sites. Ultimately, if a domain seller says their domain has traffic, they should be able to back it up with actual server or analytics stats. If not, there’s a good chance they’re lying about the traffic it gets.
You should always make sure to at least get screenshots of the actual traffic stats from the seller. For larger acquisitions, getting access to the site logs or analytics is always a good idea since screenshots can be manipulated.