If you have never heard of Alexa
ranking before you are not necessarily in the minority.
Alexa is a tool used primarily by techies but is catching
on quickly among the general population using the internet.
Alexa is a very powerful tool of viewing and comparing
web site traffic for one site to the rest of the web.
Basically, Alexa says this is the most visited site
on the Internet. But what is Alexa and how do they rank
Alexa is a company owned by Amazon.com which has as
its main purpose to improve web navigation through participation
from its users. Alexa does a lot more than simple rank
web sites; they also have data services and webmaster
services designed to improve the web. However, the focus
of this article is Alexa’s Ranking system.
First, to even view a ranking on a site you must either
go to www.alexa.com
and type in the site you want information about or do
what the majority of people do: install the Alexa toolbar
onto their browser. When you install the Alexa toolbar
on your browser any site you visit displays its Alexa
ranking on the toolbar. You can simply click on this
ranking (a number) and you will then be directed to
Alexa’s website where you can view more information
about the website including reviews posted by users
and viewing a detailed traffic analysis for the site.
But, the most important aspect of installing the toolbar
is not that you can view the ranking of a site easy,
but that when you install the Alexa toolbar every site
you visit is monitored by Alexa and recorded. Now, Alexa
is not keeping tabs on you, but this is how they rank
When you have the Alexa toolbar installed every site
you visit in a given day is given a vote for that day.
If you visit a site multiple times during the day you
visit is only counted once. Alexa, however, doesn’t
stop there; it watches how many pages you view on that
site and records that as well and will continually count
the number of pages you view throughout the day (however
viewing the same page over and over will only count
once). Alexa calls the counting of each visit “reach”
and the counting of page visits “page views.” Every
day Alexa takes these two figures, and the figures from
the last three months and calculates the traffic rank
for each web site by applying a geometric mean (i.e.,
math) calculation to them. From these calculations Alexa
ranks sites. The ranking is from the number one site
(ranking one) to as many sites as there are. The lower
the Alexa ranking number the more heavily visited the
What is interesting and advantageous in looking at Alexa
rankings is that Alexa rates a site for the traffic
which has visited over a period of months. This gives
a stable realistic view of a site measure of traffic
and how it ranks compared to other sites. By using a
three month period the Alexa rankings are less subject
to manipulation or by a one time spike in page views.
Now, it is not perfect. Alexa only calculates for websites
in their database because in order to get counted a
site has to be visited by someone with a toolbar installed.
And everyone doesn’t have a toolbar installed. So there
may be a site visited every day by thousands of people
not in Alexa rankings. But, it is probably very rare.
Just looking at the top sites you can see that the heavily
used sites on the Internet are ranked very low in Alexa.
Here are some samples: amazon.com (rank 14); weather.com
(rank 64); cnn.com (rank 26); google.com (rank 5); Yahoo.com
(rank 1). These rankings are generally consistent with
the amount of traffic they have.
Now there is quite a bit more to Alexa and Alexa rankings
but this is enough to get you started. But, when someone
mentions they have an Alexa ranking of xyz or they say
they are the most visited site on the web you now know
what is going on.