How Does AlexaRank Work And Should You Pay It Any Attention?

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AlexaRankI have a confession to make. Ever since I installed the SearchStatus extension into my FireFox browser I have discovered a new addiction to go right along with my healthy love for PageRank – it’s close cousin, AlexaRank. In this case the bar is blue, and unlike PageRank the statistic AlexaRank represents has more to do with traffic and reach than search engine ranking authority or incoming links, but like PageRank is probably best interpreted as a “fun tool” rather than a definitive way to evaluate a website.

Alexa Rank Image

The image above is a snapshot taken from the bottom right of my browser. Those bars change for each site I visit. PageRank (green) changes on a per page basis while AlexaRank (blue) is fixed for the entire domain. As much as I try not too give much weighting to those two metrics, I find myself looking at the bars every time I visit a site to help me determine whether the site is worth watching, how well it ranks and how popular it is. If both bars are high I tend to care more – I want to assess why a particular site is doing well.

Before I continue, if you have no idea what PageRank is read this article – PageRank Explained – Keeping SEO Simple. If you have no idea what AlexaRank is, then read on…

What Is AlexaRank?

Alexa.com offers a search engine, a directory and a toolbar (among other services). It also has a resource called Alexa Traffic Rankings (click the traffic rankings tab at the top when you get to Alexa.com), which is what we are focusing on when we study AlexaRank. You can input any domain name into the traffic rankings form and Alexa will spit out the current ranking data for that site.

The AlexaRank blue bar is a snapshot representation of the full Alexa traffic rankings, which include graphs that track the history of practically every website online, or at least every site Alexa “touches” or is exposed to via it’s toolbar. Each site has ranking number, the lower the number the better, which is an aggregate of the last three months of traffic data.

Here is how Alexa describes their service -

What is Traffic Rank?

The traffic rank is based on three months of aggregated historical traffic data from millions of Alexa Toolbar users and is a combined measure of page views and users (reach). As a first step, Alexa computes the reach and number of page views for all sites on the Web on a daily basis. The main Alexa traffic rank is based on the geometric mean of these two quantities averaged over time (so that the rank of a site reflects both the number of users who visit that site as well as the number of pages on the site viewed by those users). The three-month change is determined by comparing the site’s current rank with its rank from three months ago. For example, on July 1, the three-month change would show the difference between the rank based on traffic during the first quarter of the year and the rank based on traffic during the second quarter.

Source: About the Alexa Traffic Rankings

You can see the traffic rank for my blog here – Entrepreneurs-Journey.com Traffic Rank.

I won’t go into detail about all the statistics Alexa provides – there are some pretty cool details available – what I want to focus on is how much attention we should give to the AlexaRank as an authority on traffic. If you want to see all the stats in action click the link above to review my blog stats and you will see the data is quite interesting, if not comprehensive (just the way I like it!).

The Alexa Toolbar

As mentioned in the description above, Alexa uses data provided by it’s toolbar users to generate the stats for each site. If you read the disclaimers on the Alexa traffic rankings help page, you will see that Alexa notes for popular sites (lower ranking number) the data is more accurate given the greater sample source, but for lower ranking sites of 100,000+ the accuracy can be dubious. Don’t get confused – remember the lower the AlexaRank number the higher the popularity of the site and the longer the blue bar will be.

Personally I have never used the Alexa Toolbar and I would doubt that the average toolbar user represents the average Web user. Hence I would not trust AlexaRank as an authority on traffic. However as a traffic trend watching tool, I think AlexaRank is valuable and certainly helpful for researching other sites, since the data is public.

AlexaRank Vs PageRank

One thing that I don’t like about Google’s PageRank is that often a site can enjoy a particularly high ranking, as high as a PageRank 6, and yet seem to have very little traffic. As I have postulated previously, I believe PageRank can often be raised to a high level thanks to a handful of links from very high PageRank sites. So for example if you own a PageRank 7 or 8 site, you can point a few links to your other sites and give them a PageRank 5 or 6. Hence PageRank doesn’t necessarily indicate traffic popularity, nor is it intended to, but if like me you want to evaluate a site (possibly to buy it), you really need to know the traffic numbers.

AlexaRank on the other hand is relevant when it comes to actual traffic numbers. While it won’t tell you anything about the quality of that traffic, or the source, you at least know there is traffic. If I come across a site with a high PageRank but I see a low AlexaRank I’m more inclined to think the site is “linking well” rather than generating traffic, although certainly both variables are interlinked. If both AlexaRank and PageRank are high then I’m more confident the site is popular and authoritative.

Of course all this is relative. What is considered “high traffic” by Alexa’s status may be nothing to you. Take BlogTrafficSchool.com for example. As I type this it has an AlexaRank of 43,837, a very respectable ranking. I know from my server stats that the actual traffic to the site is somewhere in the vicinity of 200-400 visitors per day – which isn’t amazing.

Is AlexaRank Important?

I’m glad to have the benefit of AlexaRank and I openly admit I pay it too much attention, just like PageRank. It’s a handy tool for evaluating a website and calculating a VERY rough estimation of it’s traffic. It should be consider a “trend” statistic as opposed to anything concrete and works well in that role because it aggregates data over a rolling three month period.

I encourage search engine optimizers and webmasters to install the SearchStatus extension into FireFox so you become actively aware of the AlexaRank of a site, but beware giving it too much weight in any important decision making.

Yaro Starak
Blog Search Engine Optimizer

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69 Comments

  • Awesome 1-year graph Yaro – it looks like a nice steady increase in traffic. I have to agree it’s a fun metric to monitor every now and then :) Here’s the alexa graph for our site Menuism.

  • I wrote a less detailed, yet similar article here:

    http://www.redflymarketing.com/blog

    Just wanted to make a point that a relative high Alexa Rank is quite important in some cases.

  • Sorry, I cannot edit that. If you want to trim it down….

  • Yaro,

    Another thing that you really need to note is that Alexa ranking is very easy to game. In fact, the fact that you use that extension (which I have also had installed for the past few months) is more likely to raise your ranking in Alexa. This is because you will spend a lot of time on your own websites (admin/posting screens etc) and each visit is recorded by Alexa. They track any hit to their service, whether through their own toolbar or through their services that return what the current rank is.

  • Dave – I edited it for you :)

    Blaine – Yes quite right, and in fact that’s the topic of my next blog post – but not particularly about the extension.

    Justin – yes, I’m enjoying watching my Alexa ranking even if it isn’t that important.

  • Hi Yaro

    Great blog, I too am a fellow Australian. Re: Alexa, I have had this installed for years, I believe it gives the repeated visits to the same sites (your own) to much weight.

    I have noticed in the early days that my old business (I sold recently) went from 2mill down to 90,000 or so in under a year again with 3-400 uniques a day. When I left it has gone up to 1.5m again, but Alexa is important, I think its as good as a DMOZ link, so its worth filling out their form.
    Thanks Mike

  • Seems the best way is to go with both AlexaRank and Google’s page rank…if there is yet another third service, it’d be perfect…. compare the three and get the average rank ;)

    Mystery

    http://mystic-pandemonium.blogspot.com/

  • I had the alexa installed for a while but started to get virus warning so took it off,seems as though they have improved lately so will have to get it installed again, great blog you have here.

  • Hi Yaro,
    Alexa’s good as a rough gauge of traffic to your site and some advertisers use it as one of the analystics tools in their evaluation of publisher sites.

    i guess the advertisers make the market (just as they determine certain domain names are valued in the millions…)

    i dont think alexa’s that easy to spam or abuse.
    check out Jason from yfs1.com’s post: http://www.yfs1.com/2006/manipulating-alexa-isnt-what-it-used-to-be.html

    they’ve also done an upgrade in recent months.
    i blogged abt it here:
    http://www.whoisandrewwee.com/172/alexa-upgrade/

  • I wouldn’t worry about alexa or pr IMHO.

  • Yaro,
    Great tool, gave me a bit of trouble at first, but do all of my Firefox installations, I must be cursed.
    Alexa rank has always been more telling of the real traffic we receive on PlateWire.
    Thanks for the tip!

  • [...] In my previous post I introduced and discussed the importance of the website traffic monitor AlexaRank. Whether you value your Alexa traffic ranking or not there are definite advantages to having a high AlexRank. Many webmasters and business folk look at the AlexaRank as a reasonable representation of a site’s traffic. If you are selling advertising from your site the more “proof” you can demonstrate of your traffic – and in AlexaRank’s case it is an independent valuation of your traffic, which adds credibility – the more likely advertisers will come knocking at your door willing to give you some of their ad budget. [...]

  • Jon

    The other thing to keep in mind about Alexa rankings is the they are heavily skewed towards sites that are of intest to Internet savvy – since, like others mentioned it only counts visits from people using the toolbar, which is more likely to be us stats addicted Internet workers.
    So it is really only a valid comparison between two sites in “like” categories. A site about dogs, for example would have to have 100 times as much traffic as Yaro’s BlogTrafficSchool to get a number in the 40k range, since there are 100 times more of Yaro’s visitors using the Alexa toolbar (or now the Search Status plugin).

  • Alexa is reported to be very inaccurate. Many people advise not to rely much on it. I still take a look on alexa ranking when reviewing a site, I have read some ebook that alexa ranking above 20 000 may be 250 unique visitors a day, but I believe this info is highly inaccurate and can vary from website to website..

  • AlexaRank – ¿Es un Medidor de Tráfico Fiable?…

    Yaro de Entrepreneur’s journey posteó una interesante visión sobre el Alexa Rank, un indicador de tráfico provisto por Alexa que yo vengo observando desde hace un tiempo pero todavía no puedo sacar buenas conclusiones.
    Básicamente, Alexa rec……

  • [...] Zoals je kunt zien wordt de waarde niet alleen bepaalt door de PR en de Alexa ranking. Maar zoals Yaro Starak van Entrepreneur’s Journey schrijft Alexa is niet alleen belangrijk voor adverteerders. Stel je wilt kijken of een site waardevol voor jou is. Dan zegt de PageRank van Google alleen niet genoeg. Waardevol voor jou? Bijvoorbeeld wanneer je er over denkt om een site te kopen, of je wilt een link uitwisselen met een bepaalde site…. Als je zelf een website hebt met een PR van 7 of 8 en je linkt met andere sites naar deze hoge PR site dan stijgt de PR waarde van deze andere sites aanzienlijk terwijl er misschien nauwelijks verkeer is. De PageRank (PR) wordt sterk bepaald door links van andere sites. Als je een link hebt met een aantal sites met een hoge PR dan stijgt de PR van jouw site, ook al heb je een laag aantal bezoekers. [...]

  • [...] How Does AlexaRank Work And Should You Pay It Any Attention? [...]

  • [...] Text-Link-Ads acts as a brokering service between website owners, in particular blogs, and advertisers wishing to increase traffic by purchasing text links from other sites. Text-Link-Ads accepts blogs through an online application form, categorizes and ranks each site accepted into the program and based on things like traffic, PageRank, AlexaRank, RSS subscribers and other variables, determines how much a link costs. [...]

  • Good Blog. It took nearly 5 months to get a PR ranking on our ID card site, but it was really nice to be able to watch the Alexa ranking since it changes nearly daily. Wish Google’s PR rank was as quick to move as Alexa.

  • [...] may recall I wrote a couple of posts about Alexa – How Does AlexaRank Work And Should You Pay It Any Attention? and How To Boost Your Alexa Ranking In One Easy Step. If you haven’t checked your AlexaRank [...]

  • a good pagerank doesn’t mean that the page is good too…

  • [...] site itself has already broken the 50,000 AlexaRank, which demonstrates how much traffic is coming to the [...]

  • Google PageRank and Alexa Traffic Rank are both questionable.

    The Alexa traffic rank is based on three months of aggregated historical traffic data from millions of Alexa Toolbar users?
    But why should that be the basis?
    Why should Alexa Toolbar users determine the traffic of a website?
    What of the millions who are not using Alexa Toolbar?

    Alexa also offer services selling traffic ranks.
    So, if you can pay the price, you can rank higher.

    An independent traffic tool would be more accountaable and reliable.

    Cheers and God bless.

  • [...] In recent times with the advent of services to make money from blogs like Text Link Ads and when selling advertising directly to sponsors, a site’s PageRank plays an important part (along with AlexaRank). [...]

  • [...] how much traffic your membership site gets, including unique visitors, page impressions, Pagerank, Alexarank, how much bandwidth the site consumes and various other website [...]

  • Personally, I know in most cases Alexa rank is not a fair estimation of one’s traffic. It’s really damaging too because I am trying to sell my site and people think I’m lying when I tell them how much traffic I get.

    For some reason, my Alexa rank is awful, never gets below 200,000 even though I know my site receives almost 200,000 uniques monthly.

    This is a little off topic, but I did an analysis of StatCounter stats, and they will miss 20-30% of my hits (its a long story, but its true) and even they say I get 150,000k uniques every month. Awstats tell me I get much more, 195k to be exact. Split the difference and that’s a rough estimate of my traffic. So how on earth can Alexa tell me a site like Mensium or northxeast.com deserves a much higher rank than my blog/site that gets a hit every 30 seconds from google? The answer is, its Fux0red big time and most people foolishly use it as a major indication of a site’s traffic because of the pretty graphs. Compete.com’s Ranking system is closely related to Alexa’s I think, and sure enough, they display for the whole world to see that I get 37,000 monthly visitors; another ridiculously low estimate based on god know’s what that makes me look like a liar.

    I see all of you become giddy over your Alexa rank, but I bet you my traffic stats blow yours out of the water (not that it’s important or a good thing), I just wish more people didn’t treat Alexa as an authority on tracking a fair cross section of web activity.

    • Mike – you are very right when you say Alexa is not a fair authority on rating. The numbers can be manipulated easily. Not to mention that if someone visits a site and they don’t have the toolbar installed- it skews the rating. Add to that, I’ve heard Mac PC’s don’t even register with Alexa – not sure how true that is, but regardless – that would mean the scores are not accurate.

  • I had a post that was made popular at Digg.com.
    My Alexa ranking shot from 1,3Mil to 300K!

  • [...] Entrepreneurs-Journey does a great job of explaining AlexaRank. [...]

  • First the Page Rank article now this…great! Thanks for the explanation and the link for the Tool!

  • This is notable remark that would be of great benefit to a blogger.com

  • This is a wonderful post. Since i’m considering the Alexa traffic details while doing SEO but i don’t know how Alexa works and on what basis the Alexa is assigning the rank to the websites. Now i’m clear. Thanks for this great article.

    Rathna

  • Wow. This is really cool. I just installed on my firefox. I was just using the Google toolbar before. Now so much more data for SEO purposes.

    Thanks for providing the link to this great tool. This made my day.

  • Sap

    Alexa ranking is only works if your website is about technology especially IT because the people who installs and uses alexatoolbar is just webmasters and techno guys. I haven’t experienced too much alexa ranking in a non-technology related website except the major sites.

  • Hi yaro, i have been watching your alexa rank and seems it always goes up.By the way i have searchstatus myself and it’s really usefull

  • Vic

    Hi Yaro,

    I got your article when I searched “advantage of high alexa rank” in Google. Though an old post. This is still true and have given me enough information why Alexa rank counts for a blog or a website.

  • An older post, but nonetheless useful. I have recently become more interested in Alex ranking. Simply becasue I checked once and then on subsequent checks the ranking moved wildly. Like you say above 100,000 (which my log sadly is at the moment) the results are not particularly accurate… I think Alexa gives a quick indication, rather than any meaningful metric

  • I am such a victim of Alexa Rank. UUGGH I wish i never knew about it. I know its fun but jeez…whenever i go to a site i look at their alexarank. For instance, its hard for me to choose an affiliate to promote on my site if their alexa rank sucks and i know thats soooo bad but i do it. I just cant get past those numbers in the millionth place…lololol…well, at least its funny to me:) I am an alexa rank junkie

  • by the way Yaro….kudos to you. You know you are doing something right if you wrote this article in 2006 and google is still indexing it, and people are still reading it AND most of all…..ITS STILL RELEVANT. Your work,my man, is timeless. I want to be like you when i grow up:P

  • Alexa.com is full of BS! Totally unreliable page ranking system and traffic stats! Easily manipulate your page rank by downloading and installing the Alexa Toolbar then browse the pages of your own website and see your page rank improve by 50,000 or more. Unless the website is in the Top 1000, all data from Alexa is a bunch of crap! Not recommended for use as a basis for website performance whatsoever!

  • I recently changed to the Chrome browser where I don’t have the Alexa toolbar installed and my rankings have nosedived because my visits to wp-admin etc disappeared. Too much weight given to own visits in Alexa and therefore irrelevant except when trying to sell a site where good numbers always help. Meanwhile trafic has doubled in the past month so to say there is a relationship between Alexa rankings and traffic is totally wrong. It all depends on having their toolbar installed

  • Hi Yaro,

    Your site is ranking very well on Alexa and getting good amount of traffic. Keep up the good work in providing valuable information and helping others.

  • Yaro, thanks for your advice about Alexa. In my own findings – yes, they’re not exact when it comes to ratings. But I do believe that if you want to have a blog that you must be featured in at least the Alexa top 100,000. People who want to advertise on your blog would want to see that.

  • i quite like the alexa toolbar but i think i do pay it to mutch attention it does kinda give you a sign that your site is doing ok but it not 100%

  • Hi Yaro. Now I know why people who want to buy a site always look at the Alexa rank. I wonder what is the best way to increase Alexa rank? My Alexa rank sucks that’s why I want to know. Hope you don’t mind sharing.

  • Thanks, Its very good and informative, I like it very much and appriciate you due to your good work, Once again thanks

  • You should try a service called Alexage from http://www.alexage.com to improve the Alexa rank for your site.

    I’ve been using them for the past couple of months and now my blog’s rank is 85K on Alexa… it’s cheap but it really works.

  • I’m glad I’ve found your post. I’ve never really understood the value of Alexa rank. Thanks for clarifying :)

  • Kev

    Cracking article, there is too much to learn for new SEO practitioners and your articles really help. Thanks.

  • And tell me – Is SEO and Alexa rank related in anyway?

  • Hi Yaro,

    Cheers for the article, problem with both counters Page Rank and Alexa Rank is that they can be fudged. As we all know there are many sites offering back links to improve your PR and there are equallly as many offering live traffic to your site for AR. The only true winner is the so called SEO’s offering these services.

  • Very useful information; thanks. I do have a question: does Alexa ranking in any influence PageRank directly? It wouldn’t seem so, but I have no idea really…

  • I hate to say it, but I’m also a sucker for Google PR and Alexa. I’ve been totally obsessing about it over the past few weeks and have actually moved up nearly 1 million spots since the start of the year. I’m now hoping to move up another million by the time of my first renewal (may)

    I find it very difficult to get my page rank up without spending oodles of money on PR5+ sites (backlinks) but I’m slowly working on it. :D

  • Thanks for the great info. I noticed that alexa rank for new sites increases this is because they often update regularly, alexa might be calculating the rank by the bandwidth a website’s server uses.

  • Great article, I am new to the whole site ranking thing. So I am trying to learn as much as possible. I had no ranking yesterday and have a ranking today so I am excited about that.

  • Great article, really interesting. I never really paid too much attention the the Alexa ranking but not any more. I’ve heard of Alexa redirects – what happened to these?

    I’m actively chasing a decent Alexa ranking for my site: http://www.thehobbitmovie.co.uk – I’ll let you know how I get on.

  • I often wondered what Alexa Rank is all about. Thanks for your informative article. I might go and install their toolbar now to see what it does.

  • I am using stumble upon and reddit to drive traffic on my site … and made 1000 visitors daily .. 7 days before my website rank is 998,869 and now my website rank is 474,612 .. thanks for sharing ..

  • I’ve just gotten certified through Alexa myself, and I find that I check it too much.
    Hopefully Channel Zero, (http://thezerolevel.com), benefits from this without driving me nuts stat checking everyday.

    Great article, thanks for the information!

    Chozo

  • I don’t like PR too, now I think it not important. I think a website with alexa rank over 50 000 is not important and we don’t need to care that website, just websites rank below 50 000 have so many traffic.

    But I does someone think Alexa and SEO have a relationship?

  • Hi,
    You are so right about how easy it is to manipulate AlexaRank. In the past one week alone, I was able to lower my rank from 5,001,680 to 4,992,046 by just building a few backlinks. Hardly 10 minutes of work each day. Some really interesting points you have put up AlexaRank vs Pagerank.

    Regards,
    Anirudh Bahadur

  • Ok, so a:
    Low Alexa PR = Good
    High Google PR = Good
    High Domain Rank = Good… just found this out!! Thanks :)

  • It’s pretty rediculous how much authority alexa rank has relative to the way that they measure performance. Many sites with low to no pr rank have higher alexa rank than sites with higher pr rank. High quality backlinks is still the name of the game and keep in mind that good seo is specific keywords targetted traffic which usually means higher conversions but less traffic then sites that focus on 1 keyword based traffic…

  • Over the last couple months I have gone from being rank 22 million to 1.3 million. It is fun to check and see my progress. I look forward to breaking into the top 1 million websites in a few months. It is helpful for me to see what similar sites are ranked so I can decide if they are worth cross posting articles. I probably would only consider sites that are ranked in the top 2.5 million.

  • So is it back to the old page ranking is vanity vs income is sanity?

  • Upon reading your article, I have a better understanding of how Alexa ranking works. I have also installed the toolbar and have been paying attention on rankings from various sites.

  • Hi Yaro, Do I need to install the very original Alexa tool bar? I’m using Chrome PageRank Status Extension. It gives real time Alexa rank info too. Will it benefit my Alexa ranking?
    Thanks and have a nice day!

    • I wrote this article about 7 years ago Roger so I’m not too clued up about Alexa anymore.

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