Two methods were used to prepare bimetallic Pt 3Cr 1/C nanocatalysts with similar composition but different alloying extent (structure). We investigated how these differences in alloying extent affect the catalytic activity, stability and selectivity in the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). One method, based on slow thermal decomposition of the Cr precursor at a rate that matches that of chemical reduction of the Pt precursor, allows fine control of the composition of the Pt 3Cr 1/C alloy, whereas the second approach, using the ethylene glycol method, results in considerable deviation (>25 %) from the projected composition. Consequently, these two methods lead to variations in the alloying extent that strongly influence the Pt d-band vacancy and the Pt electroactive surface area (Pt ESCA). This relationship was systematically evaluated by transmission electron microscopy, X-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopy, and electrochemical analysis. The ORR activity depends on two effects that nullify each other, namely, the number of active Pt sites and their activity. The Pt-site activity is more dominant in governing the ORR activity. The selectivity of the nanocatalyst towards the ORR and the competitive methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) depend on these two effects acting in cooperation to give enhanced ORR activity with suppressed MOR. The number of active Pt sites is associated with the Pt ESCA value, while Pt-site activity is associated with the alloying extent and Pt d-band vacancy (electronic) effects. The presence of Cr atoms in Pt 3Cr 1/C enhances stability during electrochemical treatment. Overall, the Pt 3Cr 1/C catalyst prepared by controlled-composition synthesis was shown to be superior in ORR activity, selectivity and stability owing to its favorable alloying extent, Pt d-band vacancy, and Pt ESCA.