Exploring beyond the toolbar, Alexa overhauls rankings

Until now, Alexa statistics were coming only from users who had manually installed the Alexa toolbar. In 2008, that practice just doesn't float.

Did your site's Alexa ranking change overnight? That's because on Thursday, the chart-friendly Web analytics company announced an overhaul of its rankings system.

Alexa, according to a company announcement, now "aggregate(s) data from multiple sources" rather than just the surfing habits of those who'd installed its browser toolbar.

"Alexa toolbar users' interests and surfing habits could differ from those of the general population in a number of ways, and we described some of those possible differences on our Web site," the announcement explained.

TechCrunch's Duncan Riley, for example, pointed out that the "old Alexa" statistics had TechCrunch's "reach" comparable to the news powerhouse Drudge Report, which has now taken a considerable lead.

Because of the new method of tabulating analytics, Alexa data now goes back only nine months. The company says it is "recalculating historic traffic data and will continue to add it over the coming weeks."

It might have been fine back in 1998 for Alexa, bought shortly thereafter by Amazon.com, to track traffic only from users who manually installed a piece of software. But a decade later, it's led to punchline status and a reputation for unreliability--and more competition.

Rivals such as Compete.com, as well as more formal analytics firms (read: ones where you can't just type in a few URLs and get a pretty graph) like Hitwise and ComScore, have tightened the market.

Even with the new rankings system, Alexa would not allow me to rank Alexa.com alongside other sites, specifically Compete.com. But Compete.com would: It shows that a year ago, Compete was far behind Alexa in traffic, but now the two are neck and neck.

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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