Where Do Companies Like Alexa and Compete Get Their Data?
March 24, 2016
Alexa is one of the best known Web analytics companies, and it’s the number one best known analytics company that isn’t known for its analytics. The Amazon-operated company grew famous for their website rankings, which dominated the lower echelons of Internet marketers for years. Even today, you find people who care more about that ranking than they should.
Compete, meanwhile, is an amazing source of website information, showing you a lot of data about users, traffic, and ranking for various queries throughout the web. It’s not the most robust site analytics suite out there, but it has some data that can’t be found anywhere else, except perhaps Alexa itself.
The reason is the unique way both of these sites harvest their data.
Unique data sources
Both Alexa and Compete get a lot of their data from the same type of source, though the exact source differs between them. That source is a browser toolbar. Alexa’s data comes primarily from their Firefox toolbar , where Compete gets theirs from their own toolbar, as well as a handful of other sources.
There are two major drawbacks to this practice, and they tend to put the entire business into question if you look too closely.
The first drawback is user awareness. How many users of the Alexa toolbar, for example, understand that their browsing habits and site data is being sent to the Alexa servers? How many Compete users are aware that their data is being monitored? Sure, there’s disclosure here and there, in the fine print, but that’s always a shady practice isn’t it? Companies — not just Alexa and Compete — have long had a history of doing the bare minimum for disclosure, leaving many people simply unaware of what’s going on behind the scenes. Just look at every medication commercial with tiny fine print and a low, monotonous, sped-up voice over.
The second drawback is data accuracy. Alexa was somewhat notorious for this with their Web rankings. When all of their data comes from users of a toolbar, they’re getting data from a biased set of users; toolbar users.
Think about it.;