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Thursday, 19 April 2007

Alexa: The Definitive Review

What is Alexa?

Alexa released their Toolbar in 1997 and by using the data, which is constantly being collected from over 10million toolbar users; they have formed the largest and most comprehensive traffic ranking system on the Internet. Alexa also has Websearch which incorporates Toolbar data to give a more varied spread of results than 'normal' search engines like Google. There are many common misconceptions about Alexa that hopefully this review will clear up.

The Toolbar data is divided up into main three categories:

1. Reach is the percentage of all Internet users who visit a given site. For example, “if a site like has a reach of 28%, this means that of all global Internet users measured by Alexa, 28% of them visit”
2. Page Views is the number of pages viewed by Alexa Toolbar users. Multiple page views of the same page made by the same user on the same day are counted only once.
3. Traffic Rank (the main Alexa Rank) is based on the geometric mean of Reach and Page Views averaged over time.

Alexa have revealed some tasty information on their blog about how their ranking system works.

Additional Important Details
- Alexa only provides rankings for sites which Toolbar users have visited in the past 3 months - all other sites will show no data" for their ranking.
- The closer a site is to #1, the more reliable its ranking is. Sites ranked over 100,000 do not have very reliable traffic rankings because Alexa has so little traffic data for them.
- The overall Traffic Rank is updated approximately every week

That’s quite a lot of fiddly information to take onboard! But there are very good reasons for understanding Alexa and getting a higher traffic rank.

Why does Alexa Matter?

1. Many third parties use the Alexa Traffic rank to form a judgement of the advertising value of your site. A higher ranking means they can charge Advertisers more money and you make more money as a result. (I am grouping selling text links, banners and sponsored posts all into this category).
2. A higher Alexa traffic rank means you can charge/negotiate a higher price selling advertising space directly to advertisers.
3. Having a high Alexa traffic rank is a great thing to brag/use to promote your site with. This has many possible uses, for example acquiring more beneficial link exchanges. It was recently announced that blogrolls still matter, namely for ranking highly in the Google Blogsearch. Telling a blogger you have a Alexa rank of say10,000 will defiantly make them think twice before ignoring your link exchange request.
4. Displaing your Alexa rank in a prominent position on your blog/website. Much like displaying the number of subscribers to your blog this should only be done with an impressive enough figure. Displaying this Alexa figure not only shows the popularity of your blog but may also remind your readers to use the Alexa Toolbar when visiting your site, which raises your ranking further.
5. A higher Alexa ranking gives you more authority in your niche. Although most webmasters know about Alexa's 'favour' towards Toolbar users it would defiantly give your voice more weight if you have a higher ranking compared to someone with a ranking in the millions.

Most webmasters don't realise the Toolbar is Alexa's only source of information calculating page views that they are more than 'skewing' the graphs in the Toolbar users favour. The effect, however, is that tech sites or sites aimed at more web savvy users will have an unfairly higher ranking than sites for 'normal people'.

Below is a section from the graph displaying this sites Reach compared to my newer sites’ reach.

Lately there has been a burst of talk about 'gaming the ranking systems'. I have myself have taken part in the Technorati Favourites Train (I would highly recommend you doing the same).

There are plenty of obvious ways to increase Alexa ranking. Most are much the same as increasing Google ranking; for a very good reason. Remember the number of visitors using theAlexa Toolbar determines ranking, therefore a higher ranking in Google (and other search engines) results in more traffic, and more Toolbar users visiting your site.

Is there another way get a higher Alexa ranking?

The answer is probably and you can help us all find out. On Tuesday I started The Ultimate Alexa Redirect Experiment

Using an Alexa redirect is the 'unofficial' ways to game the Alexa system. ‘They say’ people visiting you site through a redirect improves Alexa rank. This experiment aims to discover if it actually works or not. This "" is placed in front of the URL. A redirect for this site is:

An Alexa redirect only counts 'Once per day from an IP address'

How to take part in the Experiment

1. Click this Alexa redirect. (It will take you straight back to this site)

Click me I'm a re-direct!

2. Click in the box that you have clicked the redirect.

Did you take part?
I clicked the re-direct today
I don't believe in blog science free polls

3. Come back tomorrow and repeat. The number of people who click each day determines how accurate and informative this experiment will be, so tell people about it!

EDIT: Please click the link even if you are using the toolbar. This site will be getting roughly the same number of visitors using the Alexa toolbar as it used to and so to make the experiment as fair as possible it is better if everyone clicks the redirect (and marks in the box that they did so). Thanks.

I will post the results on Wednesday unless I think it is necessary to extend the experiment.

You can download the Alexa toolbar here

Related Alexa reading:
20 Quick Ways to Increase Your Alexa Rank
The Alexa blogger blog
The Alexa FAQ (you would be surprised how few people have read it)


Chris said...

I assume I don't need to click it as I'm using the Firefox extension? (On Maki's recommendation!

So hopefully it's already counted it.

matt608 said...

Hi Chris...
this is one of the 'areas of error' that are in the experiment. (i.e. does it still count if the redirect is from an Alexa toolbar user).

It is hard to see how this could be made more fair because visitors visit this site using the toolbar,

To be 'on the safe side' it would be better if you clicked the link and said in the box that you did irrigardless of whether you are using the toolbar or not. Without more participants it is impossible to get perfect results.

The worst case senario would be that Alexa dont count your click (because you are using the toolbar) and so the results would show the redirect as being less effective, however being a toolbar user we can be sure your presence here counts for somthing, which helps balence this out.


Anonymous said...

The ranking in alexa shows the total traffic being generated in your website. There are various steps involved in improving ranking in alexa. First of all it is suggested to download the alexa toolbar. Then the content, which is written, should include write-ups on alexa search engine. But a low ranking on Alexa does not indicate that the traffic is not being generated on Google, Yahoo and MSN search engines. Given the fact that Alexa ranking for a site is calculated on the basis of how many visitors with the Alexa toolbar installed have visited that particular site, the results can be inaccurate most of the time.