Excited to bring you an exclusive interview with Andy Ramm, President and CEO of Alexa.com, an Amazon Company. If you haven’t used it, Alexa.com is a really useful tool for looking at how your website is performing.
What’s your background?
Alexa was founded in 1996 as a pioneer in the field of analytical insight. The etymology of the name is a tribute to the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, which was once the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world. The company imagined the potential of the Internet to become this same kind of repository. The company was acquired by Amazon in 1999, and has grown as a web analytics and traffic-reporting provider over the subsequent 19 years.
Are you mostly US focused, what are your plans for Europe? And Ireland?
Alexa has a very wide customer base, with a strong international following. This extends to our data panel too, which is internationally diverse. This is why we can offer global ranks and country specific rankings. While we are headquartered in the U.S., and expect to grow our market share here, we certainly have a global mindset.
How was 2014, what big wins?
Until last year, Alexa had been relatively quiet in the market, but in 2014 we focused, almost monomaniacally, on the customer. Everything we did was centered on them. We refreshed our website, making it more engaging and mobile friendly. We increased the size of our data panel, making our metrics more accurate and more reliable than ever before. And we started engaging with our customers on a large scale through our blog and social media channels. To drive all these initiatives, we also hired some amazing new team members. It’s been a monumental year for Alexa, and our momentum is only beginning to surge.
Anything you would have done differently?
The only thing I can think of is that we should have done even more customer outreach. Engaging in even more dialog with them, spending more time teasing out the nuances of their jobs, their goals, how they’re measured, and the challenges they face. No matter how much of this you do, it’s never enough.
What are Alexa’s plans for 2015? Any tweaks planned?
In 2015, our focus will still be our customer. We want to know their pain points, about their greatest wins, and what makes them heroes in their organizations. We will continue to deliver new and better ways for them to drive traffic, engagement, share of voice, and more. We want to give our customers the ultimate insight into increasing the value of their sites on the web.
Your favourite tech tools to get the job done?
I’m endlessly using our internal systems to understand adoption, retention and customer churn. I’m obsessive about understanding the dynamics of how customers interact with our business and the nature of their commitment to us. I pay very close attention to why people may leave the service and how we can add more value for them in the future. I look at all of those factors daily. I think there’s no better way to know how much value customers truly perceive than to live in these numbers constantly. Of course, I use the Alexa Pro service as well to see how we’re faring against our competitors and to see what dynamics might be changing in the marketplace.
What’s Alexa’s strategy on corporate philanthropy?
We’re extremely environmentally focused and do a lot to emphasize sustainability. We try to have as low an impact on the environment as we can. As testament to that, for the second year in a row, Alexa won first place in the Team Bike Challenge, San Francisco Small Company category. Since we have the good fortune to be headquartered in the heart of the beautiful Presidio in San Francisco, CA, biking to work and being active is part of our company culture. During this bike challenge alone, our team saved over 1,200 lbs of CO2 and burned over 55,000 calories.
How do you deal/try to spot websites using spam and or bots to inflate their Alexa ranking?
Unfortunately, cheating is a real and tactless part of web analytics. Our data scientists constantly review the traffic data we receive from our users and remove any attempts at artificial manipulation. We also update our algorithms as Internet usage behaviors change for added security. Our methods evolve as cheating does, and on the whole, our methods are successful.
Further, in the last year we’ve vastly diversified the sources of data we use, and are using sources that are nearly impossible to use as a means to cheat your Alexa rank. We also crack down on certified sites that attempt to artificially boost their traffic for the sake of a better Alexa rank, which is usually easy to detect.
It would be great if there was a feature light/free version for website owners, other than browser extensions or toolbars, that is installed server side. That way Alexa could have a larger user base, more accurate figures and a better hook to get people to pay if they like what they saw. Question: what do you think of this suggestion from our chief editor?
Awesome suggestion, so good that we actually do have this! This is a link to a great blog post called Five Cool Things You Can Do on Alexa For Free.
You can get site overviews, create basic site comparisons, browse the top sites globally, by country and by category, claim your site and edit your site information, and of course, we offer free trials of Alexa Pro Basic, Insight and Advanced.
What are your plans for smartphone and tablet traffic tracking?
For our certified sites, we already track mobile and tablet traffic. For instance, visits, device type, and platform. But there is certainly room to grow, particularly since mobile is accounting for an ever-increasing amount of searches, shares, and purchases. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Our smartphones are with us constantly, maybe more than anything else during a single day. Consumers are multi-screening more than ever before, so there’s no excuse for experiences not to be unified across all platforms.
Did you play ultimate frisbee or any other sport that helped you in your later tech career?
Great question! I’ve played team sports my entire life, starting with football (soccer here in the US), and basketball as a youngster, then American football in high school. In college and after college I played club football (soccer) and today, still play organized 7v7 and pickup matches every week. I’d say the big thing I’ve taken away is the need to perform your best, to keep pushing to improve your individual skills AND to make sure that the team concept always comes first.
Work life balance – your tips, strategy?
We work with some great people, some of which have been with the company since the very first years. You can never underestimate the power of working with some of the best and brightest people in the business.
For team building, we do brown bag lunches where we talk about various happenings in the company and in the industry. We also do Beer Bust events where employees get to throw questions to me to learn about the state of the company and future plans.
For me personally, in spite of the hours, I make sure I get enough time with my kids every single day, play as much guitar as I possibly can, and of course, football is a tremendous physical and mental release outside the office.
Anything you’d like to add/or that we should have asked you?
Don’t think so. Thanks for this opportunity!
Any plans to visit Ireland? What’s your impression of it from over stateside?
No plans at the moment, but I do have a stellar view of Ireland based on the many Irish people I’ve worked with over the years. At Avid I was hired by a guy who is from Ireland and he was a fantastic manager and mentor, and a really incredible person. So, I have to say my impression largely stems from those interactions.