Insight#4: Of Alexa, Dmoz & Technorati

11 Mar 2007 (Sun)

ALEXA RANKINGS ARE BIASED, reported Loren Baker in Search Engine Journal last week. Apparently, Google’s Director of Research Peter Norvig recently compared his site’s Alexa score with those of Matt Cutts, Paul Graham, Jeremy Zawodny and Greg Linden and found a definite reporting difference for sites that are search or web marketing related and those which are not. Norvig wrote:

“… I get about twice the pageviews of, but his Alexa pageview ranking is about 25 times more than mine (I got this by looking at the 1 year, most highly smoothed graph, and then squinting to guess at the mean).

“What that means is that people with the Alexa toolbar installed are 25 times more likely to view a page on Matt’s site versus mine, but overall, all users view twice as many pages on my site.

“That’s a 50 to 1 difference introduced by the selection bias of Alexa. Presumably this is because Matt’s site is really appealing to a core group of SEO enthusiasts, many of whom also like the Alexa toolbar.”

IN A SIMILAR VEIN, John Chow wrote:

“Alexa is a tool that many webmasters and advertisers used to gauge the size of a website. The Alexa ranking is based on a three month running average. The number shown is where a site ranks on the internet… The main problem with Alexa is its rankings are based on users who have installed the Alexa toolbar onto their browser. If you do not have the toolbar running, you do not affect the rankings of the sites you visit. The next big problem with Alexa is it is very easy to cheat the system. Just get a few friends to install the toolbar and have them surf your site everyday. It does not take many people to break into the top 100,000. You can even do it all by yourself by refreshing your site over and over again. Get a dozen friends to do it and you’re break into top 20,000 easily.”

Alexa, by the way, works only on Internet Explorer. Now, perhaps all these explain why this blog’s Alexa ranking is 6,588,931? However, why two particularly trivial links which have nothing to do with this blog are listed in Alexa — they are totally different from the many links recognized by Technorati and 10,500 found via a Google search? Also, how is it that an empty blog such as one that’s created by default in an Elgg community blog and my Elgg profile could be ranked 64,954? Hmmm… just because both are on (also ranked 64,954)? Sheeeshh… no wonder! My test blog at has a rank of 15, just like Blogger itself!

When I scrolled to the bottom of an Alexa page, I found this statement, “Alexa’s directory listings are provided by Open Directory and enhanced by Alexa”. At the Open Directory (a.k.a. Dmoz) site, I read that it apparently has 75,151 editors and 4,830,584 sites listed in over 590,000 categories. According to one of its Help pages, “Depending on the activity level of the editors in your area, it may take up to 2 weeks or more for your site to be reviewed.”

However, I’ve tried for months and my blog is still not listed on this Open Directory. The oft-repeated reason given on support forum had been along this line: There has been a huge backlog and the editors couldn’t find enough time to clear that yet.

Likewise, I’ve tried for months to claim my blog on Technorati, but to no avail. The reason (given by Admin) looks familiar: My blog (along with many others) apparently could have been flagged for review, the support staff are facing a huge backlog and couldn’t find enough time to clear that yet.

I wonder. When I cannot claim my blog on Technorati, is my blog considered non-existent to Technorati? A search among the blog posts in Technorati yields 11 links, but a search in the blog directory yields this error message:


There are blogs, and then there’s whatever you just typed in. If it’s a blog, we don’t know about it. Maybe you made a typo. Or maybe it’s a blog that doesn’t exist. Maybe you don’t exist. (In which case, please ignore this.)”

While I truly appreciate the invaluable services that Alexa, Dmoz and Technorati provide, I also truly don’t understand what is meant by “flagged for review”. Who flags a bona-fide blog for review by Technorati and thereby stop it from being claimed even by its legitimate owner? In any case, is there a way to open up this listing of blogs that have been flagged for review, Digg-style perhaps, so that more people can comment on them and thus help the editors/admin guys speed up and clear this site-listing backlog?

Afternote on 2007-03-16: Please HELP ME claim my blog on Technorati. Add me as a Fave on Technortiat by clicking this -» Add to Technorati Favorites and then feel free to delete it later.

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Posted by J.K. in *Insights, Design, Possibilities, Problems, Search Engines, Technology, Web Traffic | View Comments |

  • Lucas McDonnell

    While I’ve never had much of a problem with my sites on Technorati, I have found Alexa’s rankings to fluctuate greatly and be generally misleading. Alexa’s ‘random sample’ of web users is really a sample of people who would either willingly install the Alexa toolbar, or didn’t know what it was when they installed it.

    According to Wikipedia, Alexa’s actual sample size is probably around 180 000. Personally, as I’ve seen my unique visitors slowly climb on my site, I’ve also seen my Alexa rating drop dramatically. Not to mention the fact that Alexa is borderline spyware that often gets redistributed with other gray-area software.

  • J.K.

    Actually, I’ve managed to claim two blogs without any hitch on Technorati. One was created for someone else. The other was a pretty casual one — basically a video blog and curiously started to appear in Technorati only a few days ago when I did a search on “clappingtrees”. So, I simply claimed it. With this serious blog however, claiming has become an uphill job! I truly don’t understand why.

    Regarding Alexa, yes, I’ve suspected that its sample size must be relatively small. Thanks for confirming this with statistics.

  • J.K.

    Update: Alexa Traffic Rank for is now: 4,034,014.

    The “People who visit this page also visit” item now lists The Search Engine Journal and Blog Her.

    It’s truly tempting to do what John Chow said would work: “Just get a few friends to install the toolbar and have them surf your site everyday. It does not take many people to break into the top 100,000. You can even do it all by yourself by refreshing your site over and over again. Get a dozen friends to do it and you’re break into top 20,000 easily.”

    Hmmm… maybe I can do this in a training workshop just to illustrate how Alexa works?

  • J.K.

    Update: Alexa Traffic Rank for is now: 2,684,317.

    I’ve yet to install the Alexa toolbar on my browser. So, what has happened? Someone doing me a favor? Thanks to some visiting web strategists?

    As for Technorati: The problem remains while the number of inbound links to my blog increases (thanks to my new online friends). For some background information on this problem, please check out the I cannot claim my blog thread on one of the Technorati support forums.

  • Robert Irizarry

    I wonder if your Technorati issue has something to do with the following:

    1. Subscribed to your RSS feed by clicking on the RSS button that appears in Firefox at the end of your site URL.

    When I review the feed url it reads as

    Trying this URL in Feed Validator ( results in a not supported message.

    However, enter at Feed Validator and it responds with a different feed url – with a message that the feed is valid.

    Could the problem be that Technorati is seeing the first feed url vs. the second feed url and not understanding it?

  • J.K.

    Robert, my Technorati issue has been around for months while I stopped using FeedBurner and started adding an Atom only recently (one or two weeks perhaps). Still, I just tried adding a feed by clicking on the RSS button. Managed to subscribe to Google Reader without a hitch.

    Strange. Now, I cannot remember or find where exactly did I make the feed change. Could you tell me? TIA.

  • Robert Irizarry

    Hi JK – Unfortunately, I’m on Blogger not Wordpress so my familiarity is rather limited. However, I was checking out the Wordpress help and found this page which discusses changing the feed format –

    Given the circumstances you report and the Feed Validator complaint about the Atom feed, I would suggest trying just the RSS feed on your site.

    BTW – Why did you stop using Feedburner?

  • J.K.

    Yes, I found it too. Now looking at it. Not quite sure what I did. From what I remember — merely filled up a field on form and clicked Submit.

    Regarding FeedBurner, I read somewhere that it’s not advisable to give a third-party control over our subscribers and that in the long run, we could get overly dependent on FeedBurner (even at its mercy).

  • Robert Irizarry

    I was wondering how the feed issue was coming. Any luck with reconfiguring it? There must be some Wordpress folks here who could lend some assistance…

  • J.K.

    Update: Weird. Alexa Traffic Rank for is now: 1,205,997. This is closer to the ranking I last saw on Technorati when my blog was claimed halfway. However, apparently, not a single post from this blog has been picked up by Technorati.

    Also found this article on more Alexa errors: Alexa error triggers crisis of confidence.

    Afternote 2007-03-28: “…Technorati is no longer presenting the most complete and accurate picture of behavior in the blogosphere–and hasn’t been for a while…” wrote digital media analyst Susan Mernit on 10th March in a post entitled “What’s popular in the blogosphere–at this very second–and why those stats are just plain wrong” (scroll down to find the post).

    Afternote 2007-05-16: Alexa Traffic Rank for is now: 493,400.

  • Mark Putnam

    Technorati’s customer support is nil they flagged my blog Lame News over a week ago, they are ever inactive in their forums.

  • halter

    Given the circumstances you report and the Feed Validator complaint about the Atom feed, I would suggest trying just the RSS feed on your site.

    BTW – Why did you stop using Feedburner

  • john

    Thanks so very much for taking your time to create this very useful and informative site. I have learned a lot from your site. Thanks!!

  • Timon Weller

    Dmoz hardly ever excepts nowadays… Its like the lottery.. it does not even matter if you website is top alexa rankings… helps to be an editor or know one…

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