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September 22, 2020
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Alexa rank is a ranking system, run by Amazon subsidiary Alexa, which sorts all websites in order of their popularity. The lower a website’s Alexa rank, the more popular that website is.
Similar to search engine rankings, Alexa rank looks at a website’s performance to determine its ranking. Unlike search rankings, which are relative and based on specific search terms, Alexa rank simply lists all eligible websites from #1 up.
Unsurprisingly, Google is currently ranked in first place. The top 50 is filled with familiar names like Wikipedia, Facebook, and even Amazon itself, with roughly 1.5 billion other websites trailing behind.
Knowing your Alexa rank not only allows you to see how well your website is performing against others, but can also act as a guide to what you need to change to improve your site’s popularity.
A ‘good’ Alexa rank is difficult to define, and will depend on factors like your website’s purpose, audience, and competitors. Generally speaking, anywhere in the top 30,000 is considered to be very high.
Alexa calculates the rankings based on two key metrics: a website’s estimated traffic (average unique daily users) and its user engagement (average number of page views) over the previous 3 months.
We say “estimated” because the data used to calculate the ranking is collected from users browsing with the Alexa toolbar installed on their browser. This toolbar collects data about the sites visited and the user’s behavior, then extrapolates that out to calculate an average.
There’s one big problem when it comes to explaining how an Alexa rank is calculated: the algorithm is proprietary and kept private.
What this means is that, to a certain extent, we only know generally what affects the ranking, and have to trust Alexa about the specifics.
Generally, we know that Alexa combines the metrics it collects to generate its ranking, checks for biases and corrects for them, and collects some third party data to improve its accuracy (but exactly which data is hard to say).
In short: not particularly.
Understanding how popular your website is compared to key competitors is always important in business, and having a ranking that lays out every website against all others does give a good indication of how you’re performing.
Moreover, if you access your full Website Traffic Analysis report, you can see how your audience compares and overlaps with competitors. You can show you how similar or different your visitors are, and help guide your audience targeting.
However, we’d argue that Alexa rank should only be used as a very rough guide, and should not be taken too seriously for a number of reasons.
The fact Alexa collects the data it uses for its data from users who have installed the Alexa rank toolbar means that the data collected is skewed towards what webmasters, marketers, and SEO consultants are interested in.
Though some data is also collected form Alexa smart speakers, the picture you’re getting is still limited to Alexa smart speaker users and digital marketing professionals. Not exactly representative.
Since Alexa extrapolates an average from just a select few users, the data set used for the ranking is incredibly limited. Your website could gain thousands of new visitors, but if none of them have the toolbar installed, they won’t count towards your ranks.
Subdomains are another blind spot. Alexa rank does not rank subdomains separately from domains. This means that the data can be skewed and unhelpful if you’re trying to assess the relative popularity of your sub-domains.
Alexa has already admitted that the rankings of websites beyond 100,000 are likely not ‘statistically meaningful’ due to incomplete or unreliable data.
Since the majority of the 1.5 billion sites recorded are not in the top 100,000, the rank for the majority of the sites is not statistically significant.
The Alexa rank algorithm is proprietary and secret. Not being able to see exactly how the ranking calculation is calculated makes it incredibly difficult to assess the accuracy of the ranking.
While Google’s algorithm is also not public, SEO professionals have spent decades analyzing search data to unravel its mysteries. The same work has not been applied to Alexa rank.
We would advise that you can use the Alexa rank as a very rough indication of your website’s popularity and performance. For anything more specific, you’re best to stick with more in-depth and reliable data analytics from tools like Google Analytics.
As far as we are aware, no search engines use the Alexa rank to inform their own search rankings.
That said, there is still a relationship between Alexa rank and SEO.
If you access your website’s Alexa Rank Analysis, you’ll be able to view things like:
More metrics can be unlocked if you’re willing to pay between $79 and $299 a month.
These metrics can be used to inform your SEO activities. It tends to be the case that your Alexa rank will improve over time as you roll out an effective SEO strategy.
Again, we’ll reiterate: given Alexa rank’s shortcomings in terms of data completeness and accuracy, it should only ever be used as a rough guide, and not relied upon for SEO activities.
You can certainly have a goal to climb the Alexa rankings, and this can help structure your SEO activities, but don’t make it a central pillar.
While your Alexa rank should be taken with a pinch of salt, it can be a handy rough measure of your website’s success. If you would like to set about improving your Alexa rank, there are a few key things you can do to achieve this.
Since the keywords searched on search engines will be the main source of your competitors’ new traffic, discovering which keywords are leading people to competitor sites can be a real advantage.
These keywords represent your target audience’s intent. It’s a view inside the mind of your potential customers, telling you exactly what they want.
Optimizing your website or running PPC campaigns for your competitors’ top keywords will help siphon off some of their traffic.
Creating new pages and content dedicated to these search terms is a good first step towards acquiring this traffic.
This is all about more accurately meeting your target audience’s needs and intent.
Improving your Alexa rank is mostly about good SEO practice, and good SEO practices are mostly about making your website more useful and relevant for your readers.
Regularly creating high-quality content that answers your visitor’s questions, informs, and enriches is a great way to keep traffic coming back to your website.
Search engines will recognize your efforts, and reward you with higher rankings too.
To help support your high-quality content, it’s advisable to try and generate as many links to your site from other, well-ranked and relevant websites as possible.
Good backlinking will help search engines better understand your niche and the context for your content. Good links will also improve the authority of your website, showing search engines that your site can be trusted.
If you want your Alexa rank to reflect your site’s metrics more accurately, you can certify your metrics directly with Alexa.
Basically, this involves you sharing your traffic data directly with Alexa, allowing the algorithm access to much more accurate information.
Be careful though: a more accurate rank might not mean a better rank.