Alexa Rank is a third party marketing tool that estimates website traffic and page rank. Often in use by online businesses for competitive analysis. Rankings are a composite between how many people are estimated to have visited the site and how many pages have been viewed. Alexa is most accurate for websites with an Alexa Rank between 1 and 100,000.

It starts in 1996, Alexa in California subsidiary company of Amazon (acquired by Amazon in 1999) that specializes in providing commercial web traffic data gathered via various toolbars and web browser extensions.

Some of Alexa’s most notable previous activities include providing a database that served as the basis for the creation of the Wayback Machine and the creation of various search facilities (now largely discontinued). The feature’s probably best known for is, of course, ‘Alexa Rank’. A metric that ranks websites in order of popularity. Moreover, how well they’ve been doing over the previous three months.

How Alexa Rank Is Works?

Alexa Rank Explanation and Usage Guide

According to the official Alexa website’s Our Data page. The rank math using a ‘combination’ of the average daily unique visitors to the site. In addition to the number of pageviews on the site over the past three months. The site with the highest combination of unique visitors and pageviews rank as #1.

The data is collected from a subset of internet users using one of 25,000 browser extensions for either Google Chrome, Firefox and/or Internet Explorer. An algorithm then ‘corrects’ for various potential biases and attempts to compensate for visitors. Who may not be in Alexa’s measurement panel. A factor it hasn’t always tried to accommodate for and normalizes the data based on the geographical location of visitors.

Alexa refers to the data retrieved from browsers as it’s Global Traffic Panel‘, pulling data from millions of internet users in this way. However, Alexa also sources data directly from third parties to improve the accuracy of the tracking.

Finally, note that Alexa doesn’t provide separate rankings for sub-domains and sub-pages. It does make an exception to this rule for large blog networks, such as WordPress.com.

How Can I Check a Website Alexa Rank?

At least this part is straightforward: Simply go to the official Alexa website, type in your full domain name and hit return! Alexa refers to this report as ‘Website Traffic Analysis’.

The report displays interesting metrics such as bounce rate, daily pageviews per visitor, daily time on site and the percentage of visits from search. It also highlights various demographics, a list of sites that link and even page speed/load times (all of which should probably be taken with a pinch of salt). You can also view the Alexa Rank of any website you’re visiting by installing the Alexa Toolbar on your browser.

In addition to the global Alexa Rank. It also highlights the USA Alexa Rank for the website, the number of websites linking in. The time it takes to load the page, similar websites, and links to the full report and the Wayback Machine archive for the website.

What Does the Alexa Rank Mean?

The general consensus seems to be a reluctant admittance by most (certainly not all). That there does indeed appear to be a rough correlation (seemingly with a LOT of outlying data points). Between a site’s Alexa Rank and traffic for well-established websites that receive over and above a certain level of traffic.

In the article ‘How are Alexa’s traffic rankings set?’ Alexa notes that it doesn’t receive enough data from its sources to make rankings beyond 100,000 statistically meaningful. It also notes that the closer a site gets to #1, the more reliable its rank. Any website that has a rank higher than this 100,000 waypoint can almost be completely left. Because the figure isn’t reliable.

Is Alex’s Ranking System Reliable?

It seems that a lot of people who have access to reliable web analytics data, such as Google Analytics of course), often report seeing web-traffic trends and statistics that appear to be completely out of line with the corresponding Alexa Rank for each site.

A quick Google search for ‘Is Alexa Rank Accurate?’ will indicate that many website owners do not trust Alexa’s ranking system. Although, in all fairness, many of these reports reference websites with high Alexa Ranks. So, the ones that are in excess of the 100,000 marks.

At the heart of the problem, though, there seem to be two issues:

  1. Firstly, Alexa isn’t able to gather its data from everybody. It obviously doesn’t have access to everybody’s browsing habits. As a result, it can only gather data from a subset of a few million users via certain browser extensions. A little common sense suggests this will almost certainly skew the data right from the get-go. Since the average user presumably isn’t likely to have installed any such browser extensions.
  2. Secondly, rather than address such concerns head-on and be completely open about exactly how this particular problem is accounted for, and show exactly how the underlying data is collected and used to calculate the rank, Alexa seems to be less than 100% transparent on the matter, simply stating that Alexa Rank ‘is calculated using a combination of the estimated average daily unique visitors to the site and the estimated number of pageviews on the site over the past three months’.

The Importance Of This Page Rank

For most site owners, knowing how their website is doing against the competition is important. However, when assessing your own website my advice would be to simply stick with the data from Google Analytics. Because it will be more reliable. Do not attribute any significant meaning to your site’s Alexa Page rank.

When looking at competing sites. However, by all means, take a quick peek at their Alexa Rank. For a very rough idea of how popular their website is relative to yours. In the full Website Traffic Analysis report, Alexa shows you how your audience overlaps with competitors by examining the keywords. In both websites and looking at audience demographics. This will help you to see how closely related your visitors are.

Please remember that Alexa Rank is just a rough guide on how websites rank in relation to each other. Therefore, it’s possible for your Alexa Rank to decrease, despite your website gaining thousands of new daily visitors. In addition, if your website’s Alexa page rank is above the 100,000 marks. It’s probably best not to go attributing any significant meaning to comparing Alexa Ranks at all.



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