Why Worrying About Your Own Alexa Ranking Is A Waste Of Time

Why Worrying About Your Alexa Ranking Is A Waste Of Time

Updated: 4th May 2017

You’ve heard people talking about the importance of their Alexa ranking.

Some use it to justify the cost of ad sales or to help sell their websites.

Others use it as a benchmark for which websites they want to get featured on.

Now, here’s the big question:

Is the Alexa ranking of your own website worth worrying about? Or would you be better focusing your efforts elsewhere?

In this post, you’ll learn how Alexa collects ranking data, why you shouldn’t worry about your ranking and an alternative tool you can use for insights on your competitors.

Let’s dive in!

The truth about the Alexa ranking

On the surface, Alexa’s traffic statistics tool is a global ranking system that records traffic data and then displays it in an organized list.

Audience demographics and other statistics are pulled in, along with bounce rate, page views per visitor and time on site. As well as a few other data points.

That all sounds great, but where does the data come from?

Alexa have a toolbar/browser extension that shows Alexa Traffic Rank, related links and a few other pieces of data.

It used to be that this toolbar was the only way Alexa collected data which lead to serious issues with accuracy. But it now uses a combination of 25,000 different browser extensions to collect data.

That’s a big improvement from how things used to be.

And while most people think of Alexa purely as a traffic ranking tool, it does a lot more.

They offer a fully-fledged SEO & competitive research toolset. I haven’t tried it personally but it appears to have some useful tools such as:

  • Audience overlap tool
  • Competitor keyword matrix
  • Keyword difficulty tool
  • SEO audit tool
  • And more

Obsessed with your Alexa Traffic Rank? Read this

I see a lot of bloggers and website owners asking how to move their site up Alexa’s list.

But this is the wrong question.

Your site’s ranking – in Alexa’s tool and others – is determined by the amount of traffic you get.

It stands to reason that if you focus on driving more traffic to your site, that your ranking will improve. Although it won’t improve on the same day your traffic jumps. Alexa uses the last 3 months of traffic to calculate rankings.

I’ve seen friends put so much time and attention into improving their ranking that they’ve stopped focusing on what matters – their business.

Please don’t fall into the same trap. Stay focused on growing your business.

Here’s the bottom line:

If you want metrics on your own website – don’t use estimated metrics from a tool like Alexa.

Use a fully fledged analytics platform such as Google Analytics or Clicky.

Note: Alexa has a post on some popular myths about the platform, well worth a read.

An alternative to Alexa

One of the most popular alternatives right now is SimilarWeb.com.

SimilarWeb has its own ranking solution.

So how does SimilarWeb collect data?

According to their website, they use a combination of data:

  • A panel of monitored devices
  • Local internet service providers (ISPs)
  • Their own web crawlers
  • Direct measurement of a vast number of websites/apps that are connected to them directly

Using a combination of data sources seems like a great idea.

Yes a lot of the data is estimated, but it can still provide some helpful insights for websites you don’t own. Particularly when it comes to competitor research.

Conclusion

The Alexa ranking of your own website isn’t worth fretting over. It’ll naturally improve as your traffic increases.

Now, because you are in control of your website, you should get a dedicated analytics tool setup. This means you have access to more complete data (that isn’t estimated).

Google Analytics is a great option and it’s completely free. Clicky is another option which has less of a learning curve.

If you want to get some insights on your competitors – Alexa and SimilarWeb can give you some useful insights. It makes sense to use them, especially because you won’t have access to their analytics.

Just remember that the data they provide is estimated in most cases. Sites can claim listings to get more accurate data, but each tool usually mentions which sites have estimated data.

And, whatever you do – don’t use tools that provide estimated data to inform big decisions.

For example, if you’re considering the purchase of a website you should definitely request access to their analytics.

 

Note: I’d like to say a personal thanks to Ken from SiteSell who pointed out some serious issues with my original post, and provided some great food for thought. Read his post here.

Adam Connell

Adam used to manage the content marketing efforts for brands earning well over 8 figures in annual revenue. Now he teaches entrepreneurs how to create a blog that thrives in a noisy online world over at BloggingWizard.com and here on his personal blog. Fun fact: Adam can 'split the atom' on a yo-yo.

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  • Adam, I think Google analytics are much more accurate than Alexa ranking. I used to use Alexa ranking but no more. There are too many gray areas with them now. Thanks for pointing them out Adam.

    • Hi Lisa, definitely!

      Google Analytics has had some spam issues in the past, that skew data but there are a few good tutorials on the web that show how to fix it.

      Sure thing. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa!

  • Hi Adam, I’m glad you touched on Alexa. I never understood why they work in reverse. The higher the traffic, the lower is Alexa’s ranking and vice-versa. For now I rely on GA for my stats. I also noticed that SimilarWeb boosts the traffic volumes. However, I find it a good tool to get rough traffic estimates for other websites. If it shows 2M visits, it gives me a cue that the site is popular.

    • Hi Steve, glad this was helpful for you. GA is great – even after using it for years, I’m still discovering new ways to use it.

      Same here. SimilarWeb definitely seems to inflate visits. Still, like you mentioned – it can still show whether a site is popular.

      How much higher does it show traffic for your site? For my sites it’s around 4-6 times higher.

      • Hi Adam, in my case SimilarWeb is 5 times higher, very close to your stats.

        -steve

        • Hi Steve,

          Thanks! Looks like 5x could be the magic number to improve those estimates.
          – Adam

  • [ Smiles ] The Alexa system is heavily flawed and one shouldn’t depend on it to figure out if their website is doing well.

    Splendid post, Adam!

  • Hey Adeel!

    I’ve seen that a lot too!

    In time, I’m sure we’ll be able to educate people so they don’t make any big mistakes relying on the data.

    Sure thing – thanks for commenting.

    – Adam

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Kata! Crazy that some ad programs still require Alexa stats when they’re so in-accurate.

    That’s it – keep growing your biz. When you increase your traffic, your Alexa ranking will naturally improve anyway (just in case there’s an ad program that requires it and you’d really like to get approved for).

    Glad this was helpful for you 🙂

  • Jaswinder Kaur

    Adam Connell Thanks for detailed information.

    I don’t like Alex Ranking system anymore, because despite of having good traffic and generating good sales, my site’s Rank is going down each day.

    • No worries.

      Yep, if traffic & sales are good, that’s what matters 🙂

  • I used to rely on Alexa ranking before actually. And as I have been reading a lot of SEO blogs, I discovered that there are lots of other metrics that are more accurate and important. Thank Adam! I was wondering, what metrics do you base your blogs now?

    • Sure thing, Emmerey!

      It depends on exactly what my goals are at the time.

      But in general for my own sites, my focus is more on unique visitors. And converting those visitors into subscribers. I use either Google Analytics or Clicky, with goal tracking setup for conversions.

      Pageviews aren’t that important to me because none of my sites rely on ad revenue. I completely ignore bounce rate and take little notice of time on page – those are two metrics that look bad even if people are finding what they want.

      Instead, I like to focus on engagement metrics like comments, scroll depth (I only track scroll depth on certain posts) and backlinks earned.

      I also track my organic search rankings for popular posts. But, it’s very difficult to know which keywords traffic is coming from, so I combine this with data from Google’s Search Console.

      – Adam

  • I was obsessed with Alexa but now I am shifting my focus away to improving blog’s traffic and Alexa boost comes naturally.

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