What You Should Know About the Alexa Ranking System And Sure-Fire Ways to Boost Your Ranking

In this article, I’ll help you understand what an Alexa ranking is, how the Alexa ranking system works, ways that you can boost your rankings and what you need to do to keep your rankings up. Also, I’ll expose some weaknesses involved in using Alexa as a reliable means to measure your traffic and overall Internet ranking.

I bet that you didn’t know that Alexa Internet Inc. is now a subsidiary of Amazon, the online retail giant. Truthfully, until I did my research for this article, neither did I. Also, I’d throw down a wager that you don’t know why your Alexa rankings jump around, the best ways to boost your rankings on a consistent basis or the importance of an Alexa ranking.

Who Created Alexa?

The Alexa Internet, Inc. company was founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat; the company name was chosen to pay homage to the Library of Alexandria, drawing a parallel between the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world to the potential of the Internet in the modern age.

What Is An Alexa Ranking?

Here is the definition provided by Alexa Internet Inc. “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).”

To put this in much-easier-to-understand terms, the Alexa ranking system bases its ranking schema on the level of traffic each website receives from the number of people who visit a website with the Alexa toolbar installed.

Why Is A Good Alexa Ranking Important?

If your site’s business plan, like many of those on the Internet, is predicated on monetization vis-à-vis selling links, banner space or various other forms of creating revenue streams, you’ll definitely want to increase your Alexa rank. Doing so will increase your pricing leverage when ad buyers come calling.

So What Is The Problem With The Alexa Ranking System?

Let me expose the true weakness of the Alexa ranking system as a whole. Alexa rankings tend to be more heavily weighted towards websites that have large Webmaster or tech-savvy user bases. The “samplees” must be computer-savvy enough to know how to install the toolbar. Not everyone has the Alexa toolbar installed so rankings using this system are somewhat biased. Ask yourself if you have the Alexa toolbar installed or if you know anyone that does? Chances are you don’t. Also, that you don’t know many others who do either. As such, the Alexa ranking system isn’t an accurate method of measuring a website’s reach, traffic and/or true potential.

Alexa rankings and other data would be much better if they represented a truer random sample of all Internet users. However, the fact is that this kind of data only represents, in almost all cases, those who have installed the Alexa toolbar, as I mentioned; the sample is not random at all as you can plainly see.

On April 16, 2008, many users reported dramatic shifts in their Alexa rankings. Alexa confirmed this later that day with an announcement that they had released the new Alexa ranking system, claiming that they now take into account more data sources “beyond Alexa Toolbar users”. On March 31, 2009, Alexa.com underwent a complete redesign with new metrics including page views per user, bounce rate and time on site. In the following weeks they added new features including demographics, clickstream and search traffic stats.

It turns out that the toolbar does provide a few good things about websites, so it can be somewhat useful to people in the Search Engine Optimization industry (SEO), to advertising planners/buyers and some site managers. It is not, however, a complete picture of your actual overall ranking on the Internet even though, sadly, many think that it is. Even some top-notch advertising planners and buyers think that it is, and they rely almost solely on an Alexa ranking to guide them in whether to buy or not to buy on a particular site. This lack of education can actually hurt your chances to reap larger advertising revenues when, let’s say, your site would actually be a great business opportunity site for them to place their ad on…just for example. So, it is critical that you understand how to refute these assumptions and provide more true data about your site’s actual analytics.

Why Does My Alexa Ranking Jump Around So Much?

If you have been monitoring your Alexa ranking, you might have noticed that it can jump around and in some cases the jump can be considerable. Even though your website analytics clearly indicate that your traffic is edging higher, your rankings are dipping at the same time; this seems counterintuitive. However, by digging deeper and understanding more on how your website is ranking by the Alexa ranking system you can make sense of these jumps.

Since websites are ranked relative to each other, even the tiniest change in traffic to a site can result in dramatic changes in the rank of any given site. The “Alexa Traffic Rank” of a given website isn’t determined solely by the traffic to that site, but takes into account the traffic to all sites and ranks sites relative to each other. Another main reason why your rankings can jump around is something called “The Long Tail”…a very complex and detailed theory. The basic understanding of “The Long Tail” is that your site’s data is directly relative to every other site on the Internet. The farther out on the “tail”, the less change it takes from other sites or your own to cause waves in your rankings. If your site is ranking in the millions and very far out on the tail, even a slight change in your traffic can boost your rankings by as much as a seven figure swing in the positive direction. However, the further in on the “tail” you are, it becomes increasingly more difficult to make significant gains even with more robust traffic gains.

Can You Fake An Alexa Score?

The truth is that a low Alexa ranking means, in most cases, that you have low traffic numbers, so “faking” a good ranking is a tough prospect. You can, however, use the techniques I’ve outlined below to increase your Alexa ranking without adding more traffic to your site. It should be noted though, if you employ these techniques and add additional traffic to your site, you can improve your site’s rankings much more quickly and keep that higher ranking too. I believe that there are a few methods that will allow you to easily bring an Alexa ranking in the millions down to say the 100,000 level. Yet, bringing it past the 10,000 or lower is a markedly more difficult process at best.

Top Ways to Increase Your Alexa Ranking!

  1. By encouraging others to use the Alexa toolbar, you can help everyone increase the efficacy of rankings overall. If your pool of influence includes users of your site on a regular basis, the more people who have the toolbar installed will help increase your rankings, as they will be counted.
  2. Make sure to install the Alexa toolbar or the version like in Firefox’s SearchStatus extension onto your computer at work and at home.
  3. Make sure to ask co-workers, colleagues, friends and family to review and rate your Alexa website profile. While it may not have a huge impact on your rankings, it will have an impact on Alexa users who browse your profile. The more positive results your website has the better.
  4. Optimizing your popular posts that consistently receive traffic from the search engines can increase your Alexa rankings. You’d need to include a widget/graph at the bottom of the post and then link to your Alexa post or use Alexa redirection on your internal URLs.
  5. Writing unique and quality content is one proven method to increasing your Alexa ranking in a big way. The more you can add content that is not found elsewhere on the Internet and that is relevant to your website and users of your site, the better.
  6. Stay away from link exchanges. They tend to just nullify your hard work. Having more sites linked to your site can help in a huge way. By linking back, it doesn’t help much. It can lower your rank in some cases if said site has an even worse ranking than your own, so be careful about adding a bunch of links for the sake of having them on your site.
  7. Install an Alexa rank widget on your website today. Although I wasn’t able to confirm this with any source, it has been stated that each click can count as a visit even if the visitor does not use the toolbar.

So, now that you know what an Alexa ranking is all about, the function it serves and how you can increase your sites’ ranking…GET TO WORK!