Okay, so this is a somewhat odd article for savingtools.com, since we're mostly focused on how to save money and lower your bills. However, to get that message out, we do have to get involved in promoting the website, as well as activities like search engine optimization, website traffic analysis, etc.
Alexa.com is a service from Amazon that aims to collect information about websites, and one of the things they do is rank websites based on traffic. For example, they maintain a Global Top 500 Websites list as well as tracking the numerical ranking of individual websites.
Unfortunately, the way they do these rankings isn't terribly scientific. Alexa provides a toolbar plugin for web browsers...once installed, it tracks the websites you visit and reports that information back to Alexa.
The issue with this is that the people that are likely to download the Alexa toolbar aren't representative of the "average web user". Because Alexa is focused on topics like site rankings, web site information, search engine optimization, etc, the people that install the toolbar tend to be webmasters and other people deeply involved in the technical side of websites.
These people tend to visit websites that are in that particular niche, creating a very skewed view of site rankings. Websites that draw a highly technical audience float to the top of Alexa, websites that address a different audience sink in the ratings. Of course, for highly popular websites that get visited by everyone, the effect isn't as pronounced.
A couple of examples of this are pretty easy to find. This post from bigoakinc.com does a great job of showing why their web site is "overrated" by Alexa, because it is centered around Internet Marketing topics. Since that article was written, the skew has only gotten worse. Bigoakinc.com is currently ranked at 69,475 in Alexa while a really high traffic site, fulltiltpoker.net is ranked at 101,852. Quantcast.com, who use a different method of measurement, have fulltiltpoker.net ranked at 15,980, with 77k+ monthly visitors. Bigoakinc.com calculates that it gets roughly 6-7k visitors a month, or perhaps one tenth of the traffic of the poker website.
This site, savingtools.com, is only mildly popular, with around 3000 visitors a month. Additionally, the demographics of our visitors don't really include the kind of people that would install the alexa toolbar. Hence, our current Alexa one week average ranking, as of 10/31/2008, is relatively low at 672,691.
So why care about Alexa Ranking ?
There are some cases where Alexa ranking does matter. For example, there are some ad placement and affiliate programs that won't accept your website unless it's got some minimum Alexa ranking. Additionally, there are other directories and services like reviewme.com, or payperpost.com that use Alexa rankings to make decisions. It's also a factor if you are trying to sell your website or domain, as most purchasers use factors like Alexa rank or Google Page Rank to decide what your website is worth.
However, for savingtools.com, none of the above really matters. We don't use the services that depend on Alexa ranks, have no plans to sell the website, and don't deal with affiliates that care about things like ranking. Our honest reasons for caring boil down to a bit of pride and ego about the low ranking, and a lot of curiousity about why Alexa ranks us so low.
Alright, so how to increase your Alexa Ranking then?
We did quite a bit of reasearch on this, and didn't really find any suggestions that seemed feasible. Some of the ideas out there:
- Installing one of Alexa's site widgets
- Scripts and services that try to game the system either via redirects, automating a web browser with the alexa toolbar to visit your site or services that cheat the system
- As for the "Alexa Redirects", there wasn't any evidence that it worked, and Alexa appears to have shut it down anyway.
- There is some evidence that automating hits to your website will work and can get you into the 50,000 range or so. However, we do have our ethics, and aren't going to be trying any blackhat or dubious approaches.
So, we're settling for the most obvious solution:
Writing an article that website marketing and SEO folks might care about.
Yep...you guessed it. This is the article.
The idea here is that a decent article about why the usual tricks to increase Alexa rank either don't work, or aren't a good idea, might attract some new and different visitors. And, if those visitors were from the web marketing and SEO community, they might have the Alexa toolbar installed. Since Alexa bases it's rankings solely on visitors with the toolbar, the ranking should go up.
Starting today, the plan is to:
- Finish and publish this article to the website.
- Find a few key places to promote the article.
- Each week, post our current Alexa rating to the bottom of this page so we can track progress
Progress on our Alexa Ranking:
|Date||1 week avg||3 month avg||1 week reach||page view avg||notes|
|10/31/2008||672,691||755,698||0.00013||3||Published article, posted on a few sites and the xml feed|
|11/01/2008||549,964||777,796||0.00017||2.6||Don't want to declare victory too early, but the site has never been in the 500k/1 week average.|
|11/02/2008||362,827||777,796||0.00028||2.3||Over 300,000 up in the rankings. Overall traffic unchanged, just more people with the toolbar visiting.|
|11/04/2008||196,506||696,133||0.00055||2.4||1 week and 3 month avg both improved.|
|11/05/2008||155,073||696,133||0.00073||2.3||the trend continues.|
|11/10/2008||345,378||567,827||0.00032||1.9||Traffic down, but 3 month rating still improving.|
|11/20/2008||393,967||572,953||0.00025||2.7||google.co.uk searches for "increase alexa rank" driving traffic.|
|11/24/2008||278,936||560,413||0.00031||4.7||More long-tail search results hitting this page.|
|12/2/2008||225,022||457,529||0.00031||13||Redid the whole site from a custom perl app to drupal, so probably too many variables in play now. But, rank into the 400k range now.|
|12/13/2008||247,615||371,176||0.00032||8||Into the 300k range now!|
And into the 200k range...
Into the 100k range. Looks like we're going to stay in this general range a while
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