Why you should never quote Alexa, Quantcast, Compete numbers to me and why those services are uselessI do frequently receive emails about people wishing to buy advertising on the website, often wishing to obtain prime real estate on specific posts/pages. In one particular incident a prospective advertiser felt suitably empowered to tell me what my pages were worth based on these false metrics. As such, I lost my temper slightly.
This particular individual wished to purchase advertising on a specific post of mine - which is fine. I understand the need for contextual advertising and indeed the SEO implications of doing so. I always retain editorial control of the wording to keep the website in line with my vision.
So this chap requests an advert on one of my most popular posts ever - the 70 coolest free applications in existence. Without a fixed pricing model I enquire what budget he had in mind. He replies with $50 per year.
Perplexed with how he arrived at this amount for such a well cited piece of content I reject the offer outright. He then responds with:
"Are you serious? Tell me what you're selling it for on your prime PR4 site with PR3 page with less than 10 visitors a day."
At which point I was raging. Anyone with any credibility or understanding of the Internet should know that purchasing backlinks based entirely on the validity of sites such as Alexa, Compete, Quantcast is ridiculous. They are estimated metrics based on users of their respective toolbars/etc and cannot be relied on.
I then had to explain that, at the time of enquiry, that particular post alone was receiving around 4,000 - 4,300 visits per month. So his margin of error was around 400x.There's plenty of material on the Internet about why Alexa is such a poor metric to use and the other sites are similar to this. They aren't an accurate reflection of any website, let alone the smaller ones whose traffic is a lot harder to estimate than places like Twitter or Facebook.
What triggered this was a post on John Chow's site entitled 35 quick fixes to improve your blog right now - and while I think this is a really poor piece of content (filled with obvious points and irrelevant commentary), the reference to Quantcast devalues the point entirely. Pandering to false metrics is a waste of time for any writer and exposes a lack of understanding.
Ultimately the point I'm making is that they're such false metrics (certainly in terms of traffic) that citing them is as useful as making some stats up.So what should I do instead?
How many times has the piece of content been on stumbleupon? How many comments does it have? How many times has it been tweeted? How many times has it been bookmarked on delicious? What's the pagerank of that page? Has it been on Digg/Reddit? How many backlinks does it have?
Use those valid metrics instead of bogus ones. Coming to me with a report generated by Alexa shows that you not only don't understand the Internet, but you're too lazy to do your own research.
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