Alexa Rank is a relative measurement on how popular a web site among the Internet community. Alexa is relative because it depends on the data of Alexa Toolbar users. And also Alexa Toolbar is only for Internet Explore which means it doesn’t count growing group of Firefox fans or any other browser users. But there are over 10 million Alexa Toolbar users who make it a recognized measurement.

Alexa orders web sites according to Alexa Traffic they get. That means a site with a rank of 1000 gets more traffic than a site with rank of 1001 according to Alexa, of course.

How Alexa Rank Is Calculated

Alexa Rank is calculated considering how many Alexa Toolbar users visited a certain web site and how many distinct pages they viewed in that site over a period of 3 months. Below is the Definition from Alexa itself,

Alexa’s traffic rankings are based on the usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users over a rolling 3 month period. A site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of reach and pageviews. Reach is 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 users and pageviews is ranked #1.

Alexa’s traffic rankings are for top level domains only (e.g. domain.com). We do not provide separate rankings for subpages within a domain (e.g. www.domain.com/subpage.html) or subdomains (e.g. subdomain.domain.com) unless we are able to automatically identify them as personal home pages or blogs, like those hosted on Geocities and Tripod. If a site is identified as a personal home page or blog, its traffic ranking will have an asterisk (*) next to it: Personal Page Avg. Traffic Rank: 3,456*. Personal pages are ranked on the same scale as a regular domain, so a personal page ranked 3,456* is the 3,456th most popular page among Alexa users.

Important points from the definition,

  • Alexa’s traffic rankings are based on the usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users over a rolling 3 month period.This means rankings are not accumulated. If a web site got lots of Alexa Visitors last 3 months but not get any of them next 3 months, it’s Alexa Rank goes down. Its previous rank is not going to help which is a good point because a web site has to keep a continued interest in its visitors. And also any boosting gimmick will not work continually.
  • A site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of reach and pageviews.This means if Site A got 10 Alexa Visitors and each of them viewed only the home page and Site B got only one Alexa Visitor and he viewed 20 different pages, Site B gets 20 Alexa Credits while Site A gets only 10.This reminds you to think about the quality of your content and your site navigation.
  • multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are counted as a single pageview.This means if your site has 10 pages and you visit each page 10 times each day thinking you will get 100 Alexa Credits daily, then you only get fed up. Here you get only 10 Alexa Credits daily. (URL - Uniform Resource Locator means the address of a web page). This also ensures that any auto refreshing software doesn’t help much.
  • Alexa’s traffic rankings are for top level domains only. This means if your site has separate sections (sub domains or sub directories) like www.your-site-name.com and mail.your-site-name.com, you don’t get two different Alexa Ranks for them. Instead Alexa calculates overall traffic to your-site-name.com using all the sections in your site.Does this mean that if you start a blog in Blogger where you will get an address like your-name.blogspot.com you won’t have your own Alexa Rank? Reread the sentence unless we are able to automatically identify them as personal home pages or blogs.This means you will hopefully get your own Alexa Rank (Little bit controversial, isn’t it?).It means that Alexa has some kind of Algorithm to determine sub domain (or sub directory incases like Geocities) traffic in sites like Blogger.com. But it seems that it takes time. That’s why you see Alexa Rank as 18 in new Blogger blogs which is the Alexa Rank of main domain, Blogger .com.

Why Alexa Rank Is Important

Do a search in Google on Alexa Rank and you will get lots of discussions and posts saying Alexa Rank is not important because its relative and so and so. But it is still considered in major advertising networks like AdBrite and Text Link Ads (That means if you have a higher rank you will get higher rates for publishing their ads) and also despite the argument any web master will feel higher respect when you have higher Alexa Rank. Yes, it’s human nature :-)

Remember that even though Alexa is relative it has over 10 million users which is a good number for any kind of research and also it says Yahoo! is number 1, MSN is 2, Google is 3 and eBay, Amazon, MySpace are always in top 20 which is true according to any other research or in our own experience.

How to Improve Alexa Rank

Improving Alexa Rank can be really tedious if you consider it as a project and try to do it mechanically. I suspect most of the people in the discussion are the people who tried it hard way and got fed up. However there are some simple ways to improve it.

  • Still if you haven’t done, install Alexa Toolbar in Internet Explorer and view couple of web pages (or more) of your own everyday. You may be a Fireox fan (So do I) but do this at least as testing on how well your pages perform in IE.
  • Think about ways to get geeks to your site. They may not buy or click on your ads but most of them have Alexa Toolbar installed and will surely improve your Alexa Rank, for one case or another, some people still like IE.Marketing forums can be a good starting point. Your subject may not be Marketing but you will surely get benefited from these forums on matters on marketing your web site online. Think about a handy signature. Preferably this can be led to a useful tool in your site which will make repeated visits. Some other places are social networking sites like Digg and Delicious.
  • Distribute Alexa Tool bar in your site. To make it a concern, Alexa allows Customized Alexa Toolbars where you can put your logo (which directly link to your site) and Amazon Associate ID (which can make you money if users buy from Amazon going through your Alexa Toolbar. FYI: Alexa is an Amazon company).
  • And other web commandments remain. Quality content, constant improvement and being patient are always winning solutions.

What Else in Alexa

Alexa Rank is not the only thing Alexa provides. It has some other good information like Related Sites and User Reviews. To find all the Alexa Information of a site, just replace its domain name in following address format, insert it into your browser address bar and hit enter.

http://www.alexa.com/data/details/main?q=&url=yahoo.com

You will find four links at top to the right saying, Overview (where you are now), Traffic Details, Related Links, Sites Linking in. Explore these links and you will get lots of useful information. Begin your research with Yahoo! because it contains data for all the sections which may not be the case for a new site.

Then try your site. If it has nothing in the Contact Info section, it will provide you a link to enter that information (You will need an email address in your domain name for this. Email aliases also work). There you will also have a link to update the Thumbnail of your site. Once your details are there, you can edit them following the same procedure.

In addition to these, Alexa provide some Webmaster Services and Data Services which can be useful in various aspects.

Alexa Widgets

Alexa Toolbar alone provides some good information like Site Info and Related Sites. But the toolbar is only for IE users. This is a problem for Firefox users and has been a considerable issue to Alexa too. Alexa describes it in Alexa and Fireofx and recommends some widgets to get same information.

Knowing Alexa Rank at a glance can be really useful. SearchStatus provides this facility for Firefox. It shows both Alexa Rank and Google Page Rank in Firefox status bar which is a good combination to measure the quality of a site. Once installed, right click on it and choose Show as Text to see ranks in numbers. Defaults are graphical bars which only show numbers when you mouse over them.

Remember that these widgets only query Alexa Data and provide you results. They do not send back data like number of page views to Alexa which is a major aspect of Alexa Toolbar.