It’s Okay PDN, We Still Love You

Andy Goetze took a shot at PDN Online today based on its declining Alexa ranking:

With all their resources, with all their money, with all their reputation … I don´t how they do it, but PDN yesterday became the nightmare of the advertising community, crossing Alexa´s styx: 100,482.

That number, for the uninitiated, represents PDN Online’s traffic ranking, per Alexa.

While dipping below 100,000 in Alexa’s rankings might seem like a terrible fate, it’s not nearly as bad — or as meaningful — as Alexa would have you believe. Alexa’s ranking method is so spotty, in fact, that once you get past the top few thousand Web sites, it’s pretty much useless.

I’ll use one of my own sites as an example. Media Orchard, my blog, hit a peak traffic ranking of 45,000 on Alexa. For fun, I posted an Alexa chart on Media Orchard comparing my blog’s traffic to traffic at PR Week, the leading industry trade pub. For most of a year, I killed PR Week in traffic — at least if you believe Alexa.

You know, PR Week — with all their resources, with all their money, with all their reputation.

So how come PR Week’s advertisers didn’t come knocking on my door? Because Alexa can only measure the Web usage of people who download its spyware-happy toolbar, which is a very tiny fraction of users — and also those who tend to be on the geeky side and/or desperate to increase their Google juice. It’s a small and highly unrepresentative sample.

How small? Well, it’s large enough to pretty accurately tell you that Yahoo! is No. 1 and Google is No. 3 and MySpace is No. 5. But once you get into the tens of thousands, you’re facing some serious diminishing returns in the accuracy department.

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this experiment, but I’d wager that if you

— owned an online business with 500 employees,
— required them all to download the Alexa toolbar, and
— made your Web site their default homepage

you’d land in the top 10,000 sites on Alexa within six months.

In fact, if PDN Online has all the staff resources that Andy implies, all it needs to do is ask them to download the toolbar. They’ll be back across the Styx and heading toward Alexa heaven in a matter of weeks.

But frankly, I’d rather stay on the dark side of the Styx than download the toolbar. It slowed down my surfing and sometimes inexplicably shut down my laptop altogether. Coincidentally, once my wife, friends and I decided to banish it from our computers, Media Orchard dropped from 45,000 to the other side of the Styx in about two months.

[tags]Andy Goetze, Alexa, PDN Online[/tags]

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