"Of the 133 Million blogs that are currently on the web 80% are abandoned within a month. The average rate of updating is 2-3 times per week. 85% use tags, just beating the 82% that use images to make blog posts look more appealing. Even though 61% use blogging to supplement their income, 70% say that personal satisfaction is how they measure their blogging success."
I have a confession… I didn't know anything about Alexa — a blog rating system — until I came across a post by Jared Moore called The Top 250 Christian Blogs. I vaguely remember a commenter mentioning something about Alexa several months ago when he first came onto our blog, but I never took the time to investigate. Dee and I were way too busy covering topics that we believe must be addressed in Christendom.
To justify his blog ranking method, Moore explains:
"My list is solely based on Alexa's 3 month traffic rankings checked on March 21, 22, and 23 in 2013. Why only use Alexa? In blogdom, the only thing that matters concerning rankings is traffic. Traffic is currency in blogdom. Alexa is one of the best sources for estimating website traffic (depending on who you ask)."
What triggered Jared Moore's post? It was the bi-annual ranking of the TOP 200 MINISTRY BLOGS (as of March 5, 2013) by a group called Church Relevance, also unfamiliar to me. But I am a quick learner. 🙂
Here is what I discovered about this website. Church Relevance was founded in 2006 by Kent Schaffer in order to help ministries become 'relevant' and 'effective'. The caption at the top of the Church Relevance website states:
"True relevance is understanding culture and responding to hurts and needs with the gospel, sacrifical love, and selfless ministering."
At some point we may try to analyze the 'bottom line' for Church Relevance, but that's not the purpose of this post. Our focus for now is their ranking of 'ministry blogs'. What is a ministry blog? The Church Relevance website defines it this way:
"A ministry blog nurtures or challenges the way ministers think about the gospel, the Great commission, ministry methodology, and the cultures they are called to reach. It is a bit more than just a faith blog or one that explores how to live a good Christian life. The six most-popular subjects are:
methodology: how can we better reach and disciple people?
theology: how can we grow more Christlike and be Spirit led?
journalism: what current events might influence how ministry is done?
academics: what research, discoveries, and intellectual insights might reshape how we approach ministry and theology?
culture: how is culture shifting?
humor: what is laughable about ministry and Christian culture?
To qualify, each ministry blog must also have published sometime within the last 3 months, be considered a blog, have an Alexa rank of <5,000,000, and be classified as Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox."
Here is what Church Relevance measures:
Traffic – Alexa Rank (AR)
Traffic – Compete Visitors (CV)
Google’s Opinion – Google PageRank (PR)
Loyal Readers – Google Reader Subscribers (GR)
Buzz Depth – Open Site Explorer Homepage Authority (HA)
Buzz Scope – Open Site Explorer Linking Root Domains (RD)
The top 10 'ministry blogs' on the Church Relevance list as of March 5, 2013 are:
1. Between Two Worlds – (Justin Taylor)
2. Desiring God – (Various)
3. DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed – (Kevin DeYoung)
4. Dr. Albert Mohler – (Albert Mohler)
5. Tim Challies – (Tim Challies)
6. The Gospel Coalition Blog – (Various)
7. The Resurgence – (Various)
8. Fr. Z's Blog – (John Zuhlsdorf)
8. Jesus Creed – (Scot McKnight)
10. Kingdom People – (Trevin Wax)
Getting back to Jared Moore's list of the top blogs, he explains how he arrived at the ranking as follows:
"Alexa does not provide traffic rankings for subdomains. Since The Gospel Coalition's and Patheos's blogs are on subdomains, no accurate traffic rating was provided. Thus, I gave the top 10 spots on my list to blogs from The Gospel Coalition and Patheos. They're the two largest…. The list provided…was compiled by examining Church Relevance's Top 200 Ministry Blogs list (which they came to by examining over 1,000 blogs), various high-ranked Christian blogs listed on Technorati, and blogs listed on various Christian blogrolls across blogdom. I examined over 400 Christian Blogs."
If you take a look at Moore's list, The Gospel Coalition occupies the first five spots and Patheos occupies the next five spots. It certainly appears that Jared Moore is skewing the numbers to elevate The Gospel Coalition blogs over Patheos blogs. Our question is WHY? Is he trying to boost the ratings to impress sponsors? Any thoughts?
I did a little checking, and Tim Dalrymple, a blogger featured on Patheos, wrote a post last fall called Ranking the Top Christian Blogs. While he is most complementary of Kent Shaffer and the Church Relevance website, he does raise some concerns, specifically:
"There are, however, serious limitations to the list that are not well explained, and that everyone should understand. Kent leaves out many of the largest Christian blogs, especially Catholic ones, and he is (through no fault of his own) forced to base his ranking on publicly available information. There is not here — as there are with college rankings, for instance — internal data on number of pageviews or unique users. Since I happen to know the traffic for a lot of the top blogs, both at Patheos and beyond (through ad networks and, well, asking people), I can point out some interesting limitations and omissions…
WHY IT’S LIMITED: The main limitations — and I’m not being critical of Kent Shaffer here, I suspect he would agree — have to do with who is included and who is excluded, and the limitations of the rankings tools themselves. A ranking is only as good as the tools at its disposal…
Alexa: Alexa rankings are arguably the best way for an external observer to assess the size of a website. If you are ranked 5000 in the US (for instance), then Alexa estimates that you are the 5000th largest website in the United States. The problem here is that blogs on a platform (like Patheos, TGC, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Beliefnet or HuffPo) will not have individual rankings; they will only show the ranking of the site as a whole. This leaves Kent unable to use Alexa rankings meaningfully. Still, one can compare blogs that are not on platforms — but then one sees that Tim Challies, whose blog is in the 80,000s worldwide, is ranked #9, while Al Mohler is #8 with an Alexa ranking above 260,000. I would estimate that Tim Challies has at least ten times the traffic that Al Mohler does, yet Al Mohler is mysteriously ranked higher."
Paul Wilkinson chimed in with this fascinating comment in response to Dalrymple's post:
"A couple of the blogs listed haven’t had a fresh post in nearly 90 days. Personally, I think that ought to be a criteria as well."
And these are the top 200 ministry blogs? If you have limited knowledge about blog rankings, we highly recommend Tim Dalrymple's post – it is extremely insightful.
With regard to the Church Relevance list, we had pondered the following question: "Why are so many of the top blogs Reformed theology?" which is included on the FAQ list. Here is the response:
We aren’t sure exactly but a few ideas are:
Reformed theology has grown increasingly popular in recent years.
As the ministry blogosphere grew, Reformed bloggers tended to network, collaborate, and help each other more than other church subcultures.
Many top Reformed bloggers write on larger websites like The Gospel Coalition, which favorably affects their metrics.
Reformed bloggers may write more often about the gospel and the Great Commission than other theological niches, which consequently may give them a higher percentage of blogs that qualify by our definition of a ministry blog.
When we looked at this list, we saw some obvious flaws. For example, we believe SGM Survivors belongs on the top 200 list of ministry blogs. Kris and Guy, along with their commenters, have ministered to so many who have been hurt. Do the Alexa numbers demonstrate that they should have been ranked? Well, let's take a look…
By consulting the Alexa website, we obtained SGM Survivors' worldwide and U.S. ranking in the blogosphere. Here are their numbers (as of today):
Global Rank: 422,990 U.S. Rank: 87,084
"Sgmsurvivors.com is ranked #422,990 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. The site's visitors view 2.7 unique pages each day on average. Approximately 13% of visits to it are bounces (one pageview only). The time spent in a typical visit to Sgmsurvivors.com is about five minutes, with 50 seconds spent on each pageview. The site is relatively popular among users in the cities of Washington (DC) (where it is ranked #6,151) and Baltimore (#10,639)."
For comparison, let's take a look at the Alexa rating for Sovereign Grace Ministries' website. As of today, here are the traffic numbers:
Global Rank: 727,090 U.S. Rank: 148,575
Now let's look at the Alexa numbers for Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin's website:
Global Rank: 860,163 U.S. Rank: 273,088
Each website has a 'reputation' number on the Alexa website, and currently the Worship Matters number is 666. We're not sure what that number means.
In case you're wondering whether Worship Matters was ranked in the TOP 200 Ministry blogs by Church Relevance, indeed it was! It came in at 39. Jared Moore also ranked Worship Matters at 104. Let's compare the Alexa numbers for SGM Survivors and Worship Matters. Something does not compute…
Not only that, we are acquainted with at least one website that actually has a worship service on its blog, along with a Bible reading program, and the ability to take prayer requests. How many of these "ministry blogs" in the top 200 have those features?
If you want to do your own research, just plug various blogs into the Alexa website and see if they are ranked. We'd love to know what you discover!
Hopefully, you now understand that there appears to be a lot of tweaking of numbers when compiling these blog rankings. What a joke! There are so many ways to manipulate the numbers.
We leave you with a humorous video featuring some very unusual number crunching.
Lydia's Corner: Judges 9:22-10:18 Luke 24:13-53 Psalm 100:1-5 Proverbs 14:11-12