Alexa rank musings

By | October 15, 2007

Apart from Google’s Page Rank (which might be getting phased out), the other Web metric tool to measure a website’s visitor count is the Alexa rank score. The Alexa rank is a Web traffic measurement system developed by the Alexa Internet company based on usage of their freely downloadable toolbar. In 1999, Amazon bought over Alexa, and has since been using Alexa in many projects, including supplying data to Google, the Wayback Machine, and for their own A9 search engine. Current users of the Alexa toolbar number in the millions.

But the thing of interest to webmasters is the Alexa rank.

In evaluating the traffic of a website, Alexa measures the Web usage of millions of sample alexa-ranking-graph.jpgAlexa toolbar users, and combines page views and unique views (or “reach” as they call it). To “achieve a high Alexa rank,” means to have a lot of users who have the toolbar installed, visiting your website over a continuous period. Till today, Alexa gives a perceived value of popularity; thus it influences the pricing of ad space. The lower the score, the better the ranking.

Alexa rank is easy to manipulate, it’s true.

But, I don’t believe in manipulating Alexa rankings, and so I don’t have the toolbar installed at all. I do believe Tech and Web oriented sites will always get rankings of some kind, because the visitors are those most likely to use the Alexa toolbar. So will Asian oriented sites. For example: Yahoo has been ranked 1st on Alexa for the longest time, probably because of the large traffic it gets from Asia Pacific, even though everyone knows Google gets more traffic than Yahoo…

There are website sellers manipulating Alexa ranking to sell their sites

One of the shady tactics used, is to inflate a site’s Alexa rank for several months before advertising it. There are also expired domains with Alexa of several million; these are worthless as far as real traffic is concerned. If you are buying a domain for its “Alexa rank,” don’t be too surprised if it gets 7 visitors a month.

So what is Alexa actually good for?

Not much. Alexa is basically just a quick advert for outsiders. I’ve heard of sites getting sub 100,000 ranking, just by having around 100 unique visitors a day, due to “gaming” the system, when it should be more like 1000 visitors. The only exceptions are the major sites with Alexa below 5000. I’d be very happy to have an Alexa ranking like that 🙂

Finally, noticed a post on the Alexa blog that seems to dispel the notion that having the Alexa button widget would improve rankings. Quoting Geoffrey Mack of Alexa –

“Then there are the blogs that tell you to put one of our Alexa Widgets on your site. They all claim that your rank will improve dramatically. But, of course, it doesn’t work….”

And I was wondering what was the real benefit of these buttons.

{Update} They’re working now}

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3 thoughts on “Alexa rank musings

  1. DarrinW

    Hi Sean,

    Alexa is interesting in this sense. Your experience corroborates with mine (experienced the same thing as you, too). I’m a bit odd in the sense I don’t install toolbars on my browser, save for StumbleUpon, and a few others.

    I’m a firm believer though, that Alexa favors sites with a lot of Asian traffic, and tech sites. Also, using the toolbar on your browser should definitely help in your Alexa ranking.

    The only way it can be more accurate, is if hundreds of millions of people use the toolbar, not just the millions that do now. A few million is but a drop in the ocean, and inaccurate for more accurate sampling.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. DarrinW

    LOL, Sean, I have never noticed a 10 million Alexa rank before this, so that was one huge jump for your gardening blog. Might have been due to some visitors with the Alexa toolbar on their browser. Congrats on the improvement 🙂

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