From time to time people ask me about their Alexa rank. Or if we’re doing positioning research for a client we may bring up their Alexa rank. If you’re not familiar with the term, an Alexa rank, is a relative ranking of the “popularity” of a website compared to all other websites, based on the traffic a website receives.
Alexa cannot access web server usage logs so the data is collected from users of Alexa Toolbar and from other diverse sources. The data is accumulated over a rolling three month period.
If you take a look at the Alexa rankings, the top of the list is most statistically accurate. There is enough collected usage on those sites to be statistically meaningful. But that means that sites with lower measured traffic cannot truly be accurately ranked. According to Alexa, rankings with numbers greater than 100,000 (ranking 1 is the highest, 2 is second and so on) don’t have enough data to really be ranked properly.
So what does this mean for your business if you like to check your Alexa rating from time to time? Maybe your rating is going down and that concerns you.
In that case, keep in mind that Alexa is a relative rank impacted by visitors to a site, but also to visitors to every other site on the internet. If other sites are growing faster in popularity than yours, it would be natural for your Alexa rank to go down. But keep in mind that Alexa doesn’t know about every visit to your site, so it’s only a guideline for you anyway.
What is an Alexa rank good for then? It can be useful to look up your competition. Relative position gives an idea of how popular your site is to theirs. If you have a rank of 487,212 and they have a rank of 974,511 it means that Alexa believes your site to be more trafficked, based on the information they have collected. It does not mean anything more than that. Now, if over time, your site is moves down and theirs does too, then perhaps your industry is not keeping up to other industries. Likewise if your and theirs are both going up, then perhaps your industry is making moves.
Now, if your Alexa ranking is going down and theirs is going up, you might have something to worry about. Perhaps they’re doing better search engine optimization or online or offline marketing. Somehow they are making progress that you are not. This gives you a chance to take a look at the market and make some corrections.
But an Alexa ranking, and its movement, compared to your own Alexa rank at other times, has no meaning whatsoever. Moving up may seem like a good thing, but there is so much else to consider than just the rank. Of course if you’ve broken into the top 100,000 then it’s time to start paying attention!