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.
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.