Since the start of 2016, webmasters across the web have experienced a massive drop in their Alexa Ranks. The drop in Alexa's traffic ranking drastically increased during February, March and April (2016). Websites around the globe have lost Alexa Rank within a month despite the same traffic, unique hits and pageviews. Alexa rank of websites which are under 100,000 (100K) is still dropping fast. Their seems to be a wave of extreme anger among bloggers who worked day and night, trying their best to improve the monetary value of their sites but all their efforts went in vain. Despite knowing the fact that SEO agencies and web marketers rarely consider Alexa as a reliable or trustworthy metric to measure a website's traffic but sadly Alexa ranking is still hugely popular and some sponsors still regard it as the magic-stick for judging a site's popularity.
Webmasters are giving different reasons for this latest Alexa rank drop which effected global traffic rank data, however our private research has lead us towards one such factor that could answer all our questions. I hope you will find this comprehensive case study useful and meaningful.
Websites Which Saw a Drop in Alexa Rank
Before I could give a reason lets look at some of the most significant drops in Alexa Ranks of corporate sites and blogs.
If you observe carefully you will notice that mashable blog's Alexa started declining from March 2016 onwards, with slight ups and downs in-between but the overall trend is downwards. Mashable lost its rank by 46 points difference. Which is surely a bigger dent for a site of such traffic volume.
TechCrunch's Alexa Rank started declining from the start of 2016 and it got worst during Feb-April. It went down by a rank of 178 points. Currently holding a rank of 738 and still continue to see a drop.
Facebook has seen a steep fall in its Alexa Ranking. Surprisingly Facebook lost its second position in Alexa Traffic Rank data and is pushed down to number 3 by YouTube.com. Google being number#1 at present.
Do you really think people have started visiting YouTube more than Facebook?
LifeHacker lost their Alexa rank during March and April by a total of 36 points.
Google's Blogging platform, blogspot has seen a bigger dent of 8 points compared to WordPress.com (not self hosted wordpress) which lost its position by only 2 points. Blogger's current Alexa rank is 78. So blogger users are not alone in this painful situation!
Self hosted WordPress has seen a massive drop in ranking. Going down from a rank of 200 to 285 during February and April (3 months cycle). Wordpress lost its position by a total of 47 points and still dropping.
ehow saw a massive fall in rank of about 204 points, landing it at an Alexa Rank of 1,186 which continues to drop till this date.
Bad luck started for ebay since the start of 2016. It climbed down from an Alexa Rank of 16 during January to a Rank of 25 in May. A lose of 9 points in total.
Twitter saw a massive dip in its Alexa Rank on February 22, which indicates that the fall in Alexa traffic data actually started from Feb onwards as opposed to the official statement that marks April. Twitter is currently the 10th most visited website as per the doubtful Alexa Traffic Rank data.
Alibaba lost its Alexa Rank by a total of 10 points.
Alexa was at least slightly unbiased in not favoring its official site. Alexa's site itself lost its rank during March and April as indicated by the chart below. Although strangely Amazon.com's alexa rank is unchanged. Ebay and Alibaba suffered so badly but strangely Amazon is untouched! This raises questions on the accountability of Alexa team.
Websites Which Saw a Rise in Alexa Rank
When you are loosing on one side, someone else is winning on another side. This is law of nature as long as the results are not artificially manipulated. I could share a long list of websites which experienced a rise in their Alexa traffic ranking but for simplicity lets discuss the giant ones only.
Microsoft has really benefited from the current Alexa panel update since the start of 2016. It went from number#23 in global traffic ranking to number#13. A rise of 10 points in total. Which means a lot for a corporate site.
YouTube has been fortunate enough to have pushed down Facebook from its position and attained position#2 on Alexa's Global Traffic rank data. All this happening during April. What caused it, we will it discuss shortly.
I was honestly not believing this change in YouTube's ranking unless I researched to see if YouTube has really started receiving more traffic than facebook. To my amazement these were the results from SEMRush. Indeed SEMrush's show estimated reports but they are almost close to accurate when comparing corporate sites.
Facebook's current estimated organic search traffic is 631 Millions per month while YouTube is receiving a crazy traffic of over 804 Millions per month as per SEMRush's analysis.
But wait! That was organic traffic from Google.com to each of these sites, it does not include direct traffic or referral traffic! Of course Google being more inclined towards YouTube (Since Youtube is a Google product) will display it more in search results compared to any other social media network for search queries. I have seen this biased approach of Google and they certainly favor YouTube more in search results, compared to Facebook videos.
With that being said, how can one ignore the direct traffic and referral traffic to Facebook? Which is certainly beyond anyone's expectation. Most internet users certainly have a Facebook account if not a YouTube account. I am leaving that on you to decide whether Alexa's new ranking is correct or not.
Instagram saw a big jump of 2 points.
Though Facebook went down in ranking but its product 'whatsapp" enjoyed a rise in alexa ranking of 24 points.
Why Is Alexa Rank Dropping So Fast For All Sites Globally?
On April 4, 2016, Alexa team published a blog post informing about the increase in the size of Alexa's Global Traffic Panel. They mentioned that one of the ways they calculate the metrics is by using a data panel, which is a sample of global Internet traffic, made up of millions of people worldwide. The bigger the sample, the better the estimate. This is where everything got worst!
A more robust panel with greater global coverage means we can offer you more accurate rankings, estimated traffic metrics, and actionable recommendations.
What surprised me was the word "Increases Again" in the blog title, which means this is not the first time Alexa has expanded their data panel, it must have happened before too. But none of us have experienced such a worst drop ever in the history of internet! I mean literally how can you expect your Alexa rank to drop by 10,000 points over a month despite the same organic traffic and frequency of updates?
Indeed I am aware that the Alexa Traffic Rank is not only based on traffic of a website, but it takes into account the traffic to all sites and ranks sites relative to each other. Which means that our site is ranked relative to other sites, changes in traffic to other sites will certainly affect our site’s rank.
But have your competitors increased so much in competition compared to you that you were pushed down by 5K-10K points within a month?? Never has this happened before. Traffic relativity was never above 1000 points or 500 points for a month. Websites which were not updated frequently would lose their rank slightly on daily basis with a difference of 10-100 points, but the moment you would update your site, Alexa rank would improve back the other day with a significant rise. I saw no such behavior during the last 3 months. Alexa kept on dropping despite updating our websites and working hard on organic traffic.
I left a comment on their blog, to which I did not receive any reply so I tried contacting the Alexa team via Twitter and this is what they had to say:
Their tweet linked to a page which made it clear that all our doubts were correct: Source:
In April 2016 we had a significant increase in the size of our data panel, which is why you might see changes in your site's ranks around that time.
I have shown you enough screenshots to prove that websites were effected since the start of 2016 and that the actual drop occurred between Feb, March and April.
With that being said, it has now become clear that Alexa is still experimenting with its traffic data and has not matured enough to keep consistency in its analysis reports. It takes a lot of efforts to improve your social rankings and traffic ranking and as a blogger I truly sympathize with people who have lost their hard earned traffic rank.
Alexa Is Not Reliable and Is Easily Cheated
After this terrible update, I personally will no longer consider Alexa as a reliable and consistent source for traffic monitoring.
Who can give a guarantee that if you improve your Alexa rank again after months of hard efforts, you wont have to face this massive drop if Alexa decides to increase the size of their data panel AGAIN!
Previously the steep fall in Alexa rankings was often caused due to Safari, Chrome or Firefox browsers not supporting the Alexa toolbar. Alexa's browser plugins or extensions were often incompatible with latest browser versions. Webmasters were the only ones to suffer, never Alexa!
SEO agencies rarely place trust in Alexa rank due to the fact that it can be easily manipulated manually. Due to the simplicity of cheating Alexa, and the availability of the software to do it, people are beginning to doubt Alexa’s purpose and reliability.
Using web-based or standalone software programs like RankBoostup, one can easily induce thousands or tens of thousands of fake hits per day. This is done through thousands of proxies to generate fake hits for a particular website. It has become a running business for some where some agencies even offer premium packages to help you improve your Alexa rank within a month through fake hits.
Unlike Google PageRank which keeps in mind 100's of metrics while deciding the popularity rank, Alexa estimates rank of sites based on the data it collects from its official Alexa toolbar or from manual submission of sites to their directory. All traffic to a site where the user is not using Alexa toolbar is not considered while ranking the site. Suppose if you receive a million hits daily but if your users have not installed Alexa toolbar on their browsers, then all this 'M' hits will go wasted! Which is one reason why Alexa rank is bogus, waste of time and can not be trusted while checking a site's traffic rank.
Some of my clients have 10x more traffic than mbt, but they are still ranked at 200K while MBT was ranked at 10K+. This is because since we often write about web development tutorials, SEO and blogging so our targeted audience is often web marketers, webmasters or content writers who are techy and have Alexa toolbar installed on their browsers. But since my clients write on lifestyle and fashion, their targeted audience does not need to have Alexa Toolbar installed. Indeed Alexa gives wrong traffic estimates by not including the users into account who do not use the alexa toolbar.
Alexa’s simple, traffic counting system has suffered badly from an insurgence of clever programmers who have succeeded in artificially manipulating the rankings and thus left the Alexa ranking system suffering from a potential authority crisis.
Alexa confirms that it can be cheated and that they try hard to remove any attempts of artificial manipulation.
Why is Alexa Rank Still so Popular?
The simplest reason is the ugly reality that Alexa was surely considered as a trustworthy source for judging a site's popularity back in 1996-2010. Alexa was the leading provider of free, global web metrics. You could search Alexa to discover the most successful sites on the web by keyword, category, or country. All this happened because it was the pioneer in this field and had no major competitors as it has now. Now people have more reliable sources and alternatives to Alexa to estimate a website's popularity like Follow.net, Compete, QuantCast, SEMRush tools, ahrefs, moz tools, similarweb and so on.
Alexa is in the web market since 1996, therefore the web is saturated with its info and since it is backed by Amazon.com, it always remained in limelight. Alexa had no competitors before 2005 like its has now, as a result of which people wrote millions of articles in its favor and build several SEO plugins where they included Alexa API to display site rank. This has kept Alexa still alive online.
Web marketers have also stopped considering Alexa which can be evident when BuySellAds stopped displaying Alexa Rank in their market listing. BSA being the biggest banner advertisement network.
Alexa still matters for some bloggers and publishers today due to the fact that some sponsors who are not very tech-savvy still check a site's Alexa rank while placing direct ads or while requesting a product review. Due to this monetary value of Alexa, bloggers have no choice but to make sure their Alexa rank keeps rising.
Alexa is already dead for people with common sense and understanding of traffic metrics but it will remain alive online for those who just happened to discover the world of SEO.
Did you lose Alexa Rank in 2016?
Have you lost Alexa Rank despite getting more traffic? If yes then please share your insights with us and tell us how many points did you lost within a month?
What are your views on the case study above and how has this steep fall in Alexa rankings effected your blogging career and online business. Would love to learn from your experiences.
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