Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gaming Alexa: What Do People Know for Certain?

Yes, I've seen the zillions of articles on the web about how easy it is to game Alexa numbers, and it's one of the reasons I prefer to use data from multiple sources.
Then, yesterday, I had one of the more unnerving experiences I've had on the web. I watched three comics sites change rank in a short time, jumping from the hinterlands to the top 100,000.
I'd name names, but I don't know what's going on. Data that was identical twice in a row yesterday is suddenly wildly different, and observed, at least in part, by multiple people.
My experience investigating gaming techniques is that the public ones get all the discussion and the ones that work are known to a few dozen people. Nonetheless, I'm trying to figure out things that make webcomics grow, and if Alexa is vulnerable, I'd like to know about it. This is a huge topic that I don't particularly want to pursue, but I can't proceed with webcomic studies if comics are jumping in rank before my eyes. I'd like to hear what you know about Alexa, and any other analytics. Post or write me privately; I don't care.
The easiest answer -- that I made a mistake -- is undermined by the fact that it was repeated twice, hours apart, while showing information to someone; that I know my way around the site; that I understand analytics; and that I have a radar for blunders. It's possible, but I'd like to be convinced. There's no sense building a library of comics knowledge on a foundation of faulty data.