Alexa and the Power 150: What are They Thinking?

by | Dec 1, 2007

Ad Age announced they’re adding Alexa as a ranking factor in their Power 150 Index. Find out why relying on Alexa as a metric is problematic when evaluating websites’ authority or influence.

Alexa rankings are now being factored into the Ad Age Power 150 rankings of marketing and media blogs. Let’s hear it for yet another goof in blog ranking metrics folks! I commented on Todd’s post directly, but wanted to share that comment here for you as well. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on the Power 150 or blog rankings in general.

This sounds like it’s a band-aid to a bigger problem of not being able to adequately measure blog popularity and/or influence, which is something a lot of companies are struggling with.

While it’s nice to see some blogs recognized that I hadn’t noticed here before, it’s still extremely far from accurate.

The problem with Alexa isn’t that there’s a “tech bias.” It’s that there’s a “webmaster bias” – the group most likely to have the Alexa toolbar installed as they often use it to check their own sites’ rankings. So if a blog has a heavy webmaster readership (Shoemoney and even Copyblogger for instance, which is cited all over webmaster communities), it’s going to rank higher than a blog targeting more traditional marketing and media folks.

You’re also neglecting the fact that Alexa rankings are one of the most manipulated rankings in existence. I’m hoping that’s due to former ignorance on the subject and not a blatant disregard for it, as it’s been a known fact for quite some time. Then again, Technorati is being manipulated quite a bit with sold and traded favorites. You’re trying to make a judgment call on a blog’s importance, using factors that are either still subjective or based on things able to be manipulated fairly easily.

Long story short, the Power150 won’t ever be a truly accurate representation of the top blogs in marketing and media. No blog ranking ever will be. We see list after list surface attempting to rank blogs using faulty metrics, and unfortunately manipulation is just the name of the game when it comes to the Web and webmasters / bloggers trying to increase rankings, visitors, and profits.

Well kudos for trying, but at least for now the Power 150 is another nice piece of link bait, and not a whole lot more. As much as I’d be interested to see a truly useful blog ranking in any industry, I just don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. But in the meantime, it does get kind of dry seeing newer quality blogs neglected over factors determined predominantly by age. Maybe we need a ranking of the best blogs from the last year… completely subjective of course.

7 Comments

  1. I can appreciate your opinion on this, Jennifer, but I really don’t think we goofed at all.

    Just as a smart investor would diversify his/her portfolio to enhance returns and reduce risk, the Power 150 uses multiple metrics to help provide a more accurate return. We’re definitely not claiming it is perfect. The Power 150 is the aggregate score of rankings from Google, Technorati, Bloglines, Alexa and me. Sure, each individual metric can be questioned and its accuracy debated, but collectively they provide a more balanced perspective and ranking.

    Look at your local business journal (i.e., the Philadelphia Business Journal) that ranks area companies in specific sectors. The publication usually uses one metric and often that metric is revenue. Is revenue the best measurement of success? No. There are dozens of other financial indicators (net income, operating costs, ROI, asset performance) and strategic indicators (# of locations, # of employees, percent growth, market share) that may provide a much more accurate ranking. Combined, it would be even more accurate.

    Bottom line, we’re making the most of what the web gives us.

    And I couldn’t disagree with you more when you say “it’s another nice piece of link bait and not a whole lot more.” Wow, that was harsh. In my perspective and the perspective of MANY others (see some shared at the end of this post), it’s an extremely comprehensive directory and invaluable resource for those interested in discovering marketing blogs. And while no ranking is perfectly accurate, it does help differentiate. Plus, the scores for each metric are openly shared on the Power 150 so visitors can quickly compare blogs and determine which metric means the most to them before picking one to browse.

    Again, no metric is perfect, but I strongly believe the Power 150 is strengthened by the addition of Alexa and the further diversification of its metrics.

  2. You’re spot on. The problem is not being able to accurately measure influence. That’s why I pulled the Buzz Bin and Now Is Gone blogs from the 150 last September.

    The good thing is this adds one more point to counterbalance some of the other measures, including the subjective measure and Bloglines. It’s still not a complete picture.

  3. @ Geoff – I actually don’t look at the subjective measure as a positive… not when it’s coming from one person. If there were some subjective element based on continual votes from actual readers of these blogs specifically through Ad Age, that would be one thing… although it really wouldn’t be much better than the “votes” accumulated through the limited number of metrics already being looked at.

    @ Todd – I certainly wouldn’t expect you to agree with most of my thoughts on the issue.

    But if you want to use “multiple metrics” as a supporting factor behind the Power150, you would need to be using far more than just a handful of subjective and easily-manipulated ones. It’s not as though you’re the only index doing this… I’ve yet to see a single one using more than a handful. Edelman proposed the most metrics that I’d seen, but even then, the idea was a complete joke with the faults in every single one of them.

    Even collectively these rankings don’t say a whole lot, as is evidenced by the changes that adding a single metric played in the rankings. If one metric can change the results significantly, then you don’t really have a collective judgement, do you? Just look at the better-ranked webmaster-oriented blogs the minute you implemented a metric biased in favor of that group. Again, the issue is that you’re using far too few metrics. I do understand that your options are limited because of your process, and that’s understandable. But it also means that it won’t ever really be an accurate representation. No ranking system will be, including the local example… I wouldn’t argue that they have a better system, nor would I say the inaccuracies of one index speak to the quality of another.

    I can give you credit for trying, and for creating something that does in fact have it’s own marketing value. Whether designed for that reason or not, I doubt you can really deny the linkbait aspect of the index… take a look at the backlinks to the main Power150 page alone. It’s linkbait no matter what the intention was, and there’s nothing wrong with that aspect from a marketing standpoint. What’s wrong is pretending it doesn’t exist, and ignorance not on your end, but that of visitors who don’t see the company / publication’s benefit in creating such a list. Again, nothing wrong with that benefit… I’m just pointing it out.

    You’re right in that the index serves as a good directory of marketing-related blogs. I can’t argue with that. If I thought it had no value whatsoever, I wouldn’t have submitted this blog not too long ago. My issue with the Power150 (and more with blog rankings in general) is the ego-bolstering effect with the bigger bloggers, and the lack of exposure for often better-quality blogs that happen to be new (especially when basing on things like Google PR, which doesn’t update live and only does at their whim – recently leaving newer blogs with no rankings for over five months I believe). Frankly, I’m tired of seeing bloggers worry about popularity contests that are springing up left and right, especially in the marketing / PR arena, putting the focus on themselves and rankings rather than necessarily what their readers want. They don’t always go hand in hand.

  4. I hear you, Jenn. So, while our attempt at adding multiple metrics was in good faith, Alexa might not be the best answer. I’ve shared your blog post with the Ad Age team. Again, as background, the Ad Age folks and I were receiving complaints about Bloglines and suggestions for adding Alexa. We thought we were responding favorably to the community by reducing the Bloglines weight and adding Alexa. It seems like Alexa is not welcomed, so let me ask a couple questions…

    1) In your opinion, should Alexa even be a metric on the Power 150? If so, how would you weight it in proportion to Technorati, Google PR and Bloglines?

    2) Are there any other metrics that you recommend for ranking blogs that offer an open API?

    3) We know there is no such thing as a perfectly accurate ranking, but is there anything else you suggest to make the Power 150 stronger – keeping in mind that it is fully automated and requires third-party metrics to have open APIs?

    Thanks,
    Todd

  5. Readership figures and the profiles of those readers should be main criteria for judging any blog, and not on links and Google Page Rank.

    And what has Technorati got to do with ranking marketing blogs is something I don’t understand? It is at best a provider of the State of the Blogopshere report and a blog directory. If my readers who are all marketing professionals and journalists who don’t have blogs of their own and don’t care less of Technorati and similar stuff, it doesn’t mean that the blog is less influential as vis-a-vis another blog with content aimed towards online marketers, webmasters, and the like and have lots of links coming from them. We cannot just start comparing all the blogs by taking a single weighing scale.

  6. Palin,

    While I agree with you, we’ll never really see readership figures and the profiles of those readers being used as the main criteria, because the information simply isn’t available publicly (at least not completely). Alexa was an attempt at that, but a shoddy attempt because it’s so easily manipulated and so dominated by sites that are either massive in size (the search engines for example) or that cater to the webmaster audience – not things that most niche blogs fall under, meaning it’s not a good metric as far as marketing / PR / advertising blogs go.

    Frankly, I look at influence this way: What’s actually resulting from your blog posts within your niche? Did some company change a major policy or practice because of something you brought to light? Did your blog actually start some remarkable trend? Did your blog doing something that seriously altered opinions of a large number of people on an important issue?

    If your blog is making things happen, you’re influential. If not, well, it doesn’t really matter how many readers or links you have (as long as you’re really measuring influence and not mere popularity).

  7. Be careful if you are using Alexa toolbar.

    I was using Alexa toolbar before, and the other day I found out that all pages that I visited, including the search queries that I made (which is included in URL), became part of archive.org database (they are affiliated with alexa) as well as Alexa.

    Surprisingly, the search queries that did not have actual “hit” is archived by Alexa and archive.org

    As one of them contained my name (watch out that Alexa privacy policy only says “we do not INTEND to” violate privacy), I asked Alexa to remove it, but for a week, I have not received any reply.

    If you care about these stuff, better not to use Alexa. The company has been suied before for privacy violation (and lost the case), and I don’t think their basis attitude to privacy has not changed.

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