Are Alexa.com traffic rankings reliable for Indian Websites?
There is clearly a dearth of information about website traffic data for Indian websites. I have often tried to search for any publicly available sources of information about data for Indian websites (reach, penetration, page views etc) but to no avail. No Indian website publicly gives out its traffic figures and there is just no external database or tracking methodology or agency.
Alexa.com (a subsidiary of Amazon.com) is widely acknowledged as the default choice for estimating website traffic ranks (specifically for US websites). There is no other source that has the credibility that Alexa has and hence their published data serves as a good reference point for webmasters or SEO companies. However, I have noticed a few Indian websites quoting Alexa data to substantiate their claims about Indian website traffic. I think this is NOT JUSTIFIED and here’s why.
Alexa.com has been around since 1996 and their web traffic data gathering/mining is based on samples collected from people using the Alexa toolbar on their computers. The Alexa toolbar has been downloaded by millions of people (this is what Alexa claims and there is no reason to disbelieve that) and the toolbar tracks the websites visited from the computer having the Alexa toolbar and relays it back to Alexa’s server for aggregation and analysis. The figures are then extrapolated for the entire web universe to generate overall website ranks. That’s perfectly reliable from a statistical perspective. And since most of Alexa’s users are likely to be in the US, it would provide reasonably good estimates about web traffic data and traffic ranks for US sites.
Now, how many Alexa toolbar users are there in India? Nobody has any idea and Alexa does not publish country wise penetration figures for their toolbar. I am a fairly heavy Internet user by Indian standards and I don’t have an Alexa toolbar (my browser has a Google toolbar currently and I have downloaded Yahoo & MSN toolbars in the past); also I don’t know or have heard of anybody in India who has an Alexa toolbar on his/her computer. Ask web savvy users around you if they have heard of Alexa. I bet they haven’t. So what does this mean? This means that since the number of Alexa toolbar users in India are negligible, insignificant Indian data is getting captured in the Alexa figures for estimating Indian website traffic. If this is true, are Indian websites justified in using Alexa data for substantiating their claims.
To get a sense of what I am driving at, check out the list of disclaimers on the Alexa website.
I have seen Indian websites use Alexa.com traffic ranks to back their own claims. Check out this banner ad that Naukri.com has on their site. The ad clearly mentions that the figures are based on Alexa data. As per the ad, Naukri.com has a rank of 363 worldwide and is the most frequented Indian job site. That by itself (for Naukri.com) is a great achievement. But this data does not give the correct picture. What the figure indicates beyond reasonable doubt, is that amongst Internet users in the US, Naukri.com is ranked 363rd and is the most popular Indian job portal. This is probably because the Indian community in the US is a sizable portion amongst US Internet users and they are frequently logging onto Naukri.com for their job needs. It is also possible that, with India becoming a big recruiting ground for overseas companies, many overseas companies are using Naukri’s huge database to search out suitable employees.
But this data has practically no relevance to Indian users. What I would be interested in knowing is the following - amongst Indian internet users (and not amongst US internet users), which website has the highest traffic, reach or coverage ? Unfortunately, I think that there is just no data available on this. I am aware of a few surveys that some Indian market research firms have undertaken from time to time to estimate web traffic ranks but those are one-off dip-stick studies and do not involve continuous tracking.
I use the example of Naukri.com to exemplify my assertion though I have no doubt that they are the biggest (and the best) Indian job site. I use Naukri’s recruitment services myself and I think they are the most effective jobsite in India. I also have huge respect for them because they were the first Indian dotcom to have a viable business model. Not for a moment am I contesting any of the claims that they have made in their banner ad, no questions about that.
All I am saying is that simply because of lack of any other reliable data, Alexa figures for Indian websites can at best, be quoted as a passing reference. From a technical perspective, the data does not give the correct picture and any claims made on the basis of that data are unjustified.