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Introducing B-COP: A Methodology to Benchmark Competitive Online Performance - page 7 / 21





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Disadvantages of Alexa

Although there are several advantages to Alexa’s toolbar, it is also accompanied with

certain constraints. It is important to note that, in our view, the toolbar’s advantages outweigh its

disadvantages and hence makes B-COP a practical model that many managers can use.

First, Alexa has some technical limitations since it uses toolbar technology. It only works

with Internet Explorer and Windows operating systems. Notably, the Alexa toolbar does not

work for those who might use the AOL browser or any of the Netscape browsers (including

Mozilla Firefox). Second, since Amazon owns Alexa.com, the data may over-represent the

prominence of Amazon.com. Third, Alexa is not able to distinguish between sub-domains and

sub-pages from its parent domains, it only provides rankings for top-level rankings. For

example, Alexa is not able to distinguish between traffic to http:/www.apple.com/support and

http://www.apple.com/retail/. All information is reported at the web property level- i.e., at the

www.apple.com level. Therefore, we are unable to track some important sites (e.g.

news.google.com is a competitor of NYTimes.com, but does not show up as one due to this

problem). Fourth, the data excludes “secure” sites (i.e., the sites whose URLs begin with https).

Fifth, some privacy advocates have criticized Alexa.com for being too intrusive and some have

even called it spyware. This may have led to some self-selection effects with those who are

paranoid about their privacy not adopting the toolbar.

In order to judge the relative size of these limitations, we compared the rankings for the

top 10 sites as identified by Nielsen//Net Ratings in August 2005 (home+work usage) and those

identified by Alexa.com. The results are summarized in Table 1. Six out of the top 10 Web sites

identified by Nielsen//Net Ratings were in the top 10 Alexa.com rankings. AOL.com was ranked

at 11- surely a sign of the acknowledged limitation above. As a comparison, if the median rank


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