On a popular forum a few weeks ago, the owner of a blog came round to get answers to why his Alexa traffic rankings were not doing too well. According to him, his numbers were fluctuating in ways he found disturbing.
Basically, the fluctuations were more of down than up. The bottom line was, the Alexa traffic rankings for his website indicated his website was not getting as much traffic as before.
That was a surprise to me and a few others on the forum. Though, the reasons for the surprised differ. I was shocked and surprised because, I thought by now people, especially so-called webmasters, knew how Alexa worked and the importance that should be attached to it.
Before we get into that, let’s get a few things out of the way.
What is ‘Alexa traffic rankings’
The Alexa traffic rankings is a toolbar or a software from Alexa.com that tells a simple but powerful story.
The story is summarized thus: the software tells users the popularity of a website in terms of the number of people who visit the site daily. A very popular website with thousands of traffic each day would have a higher Alexa rank (lower number) than a website with just a few hundred daily.
For instance, if the traffic to website A is in the millions, it’s Alexa ranking number would be lower than website B with a traffic of just a few thousand.
In real world terms, Google (the search engine) is the number one website on Alexa followed by another Google-owned website, YouTube. Facebook is third on the list, while the Chinese based search engine Baidu.com is the fourth most visited site in the world.
All these sites count traffic in their millions and that is why they are ranked at the top.
How the Alexa traffic rankings work
To understand how Alexa traffic rankings work, you need to understand how Alexa gathers the data it uses to tabulate the results.
It is all down to a toolbar added to your browser the way you would install a plugin. The toolbar is free. After installation on your browser, the toolbar sends information about the sites you visit back to Alexa.
In an ideal world, everybody would install the toolbar in their browsers for Alexa to get an accurate picture of the world’s Internet habit. But this is not an ideal world. Not many people actually have or bother with plugins like Alexa.
When all the people with the toolbar installed visit any website, the information is sent right back to Alexa. Obviously, the more visits a particular website get would be reflected in the results.
Here is how Alexa described the process on their website:
Alexa’s traffic estimates and ranks are based on the browsing behavior of people in our global data panel which is a sample of all internet users.
A site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of Unique Visitors and Pageviews.
Unique Visitors are determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day. Pageviews are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site.
However, multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are counted as a single Pageview. The site with the highest combination of unique visitors and pageviews is ranked #1.
Additionally, we employ data normalization to correct for biases that may occur in our data.’
Head over there if you need more details.
The downside of the Alexa toolbar
The fact that not everybody has Alexa installed means the Alexa traffic rankings is far from accurate. However, Alexa tries to make up for that by multiplying the figures from the toolbar by an agreed number to account for those who don’t use the toolbar.
This makes the entire traffic figure an estimate.
Here is the thing though, Internet marketers or people who have specific things to sell actually bother about Alexa rankings and the toolbar. Most of them do have Alexa and other softwares installed to help them know how their website is faring.
But this group mostly visit websites related to their own business or niche. Mostly, other marketing websites or places where they can get resources to help their businesses.
So imagine a group of Internet marketers; all having the toolbar installed; all of them visiting a particular website because it is important to them; this would mean that the website would rank very high on Alexa. Remember, the number of actual visitors is normally multiplied by a variable to make up for those who don’t have Alexa installed.
And that can be very misleading. People who don’t have Alexa don’t need it and don’t even visit these sites frequented by marketers.
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The importance of Alexa traffic rankings
As stated earlier, Internet marketers use Alexa to see how healthy their sites is. Though the figures are hugely misleading, they generally give a fair idea about the traffic situation on the website.
Also, the Alexa ranking is used by Internet marketers to compare how the competition is doing in relationship to their own website. It could be the tonic to spice up their own website to make it attract more visitors.
Why you shouldn’t bother about Alexa or other ranking techniques
Focusing on your Alexa ranking can really be a distraction on your primary goal.
The point here is, since the figures are just an estimate, ignoring them won’t make any jot of difference to you. The question to ask yourself are these:
- Why did you establish the website?
- What can you do to make your website better?
- Are visitors getting value for their time when they visit your website?
All the questions above can be solved at once by what you publish on your website. It is not for nothing that the phrase, ‘Content is king‘ was coined.
If you concentrate on creating quality content consistently, your core visitors would continue to visit your website regularly. And studies have shown that a base of loyal core users has a way of attracting more users.
These are the people that would share your posts on their social media accounts. They are the ones who would recommend your website to people they meet.
Many ignorant website owners in a bid to improve traffic, buy the services of the so-called SEO experts. Any webmaster worth their salt would inform them good SEO is part and parcel of good, quality content.
Back to the discussion in that forum. Many website owners told the worried man he should not put too much store in Alexa traffic rankings. Some even wondered if he understands how to grow traffic to his website organically.
And of course, many tried to take advantage of him. They offered him their services for a fee. These so-called experts claimed they would tweak his SEO to get him to the first page of any search engine.
I won’t be surprised if the poor guy fell for that scam and contacted them offline. Seriously, if I had a magic formula to tweak my website to rank on Google’s search engine front page, offering SEO services would be peanuts to the millions I would be making from my own website