Alexa Traffic Ranking: How does Alexa rank websites ?

Alexa traffic logo

What is Alexa traffic and how rankings are determined?

Alexa Rank is a measure of your site popularity relative to other sites.
It’s based on global data panel installed as browser extensions or plug-ins. This panel collects data about the browsing behavior from all internet users and uses it to estimates the number of visitors to all Internet sites. because it is relative, your rank depends not only on your traffic but also on traffic changes of other sites.

Below is an example of how data is presented on Alexa site.
There is more information not shown here, like Audience Geography, Top Keywords from Search Engines and Total Sites Linking In.
alexa rank example

The Alexa Traffic Rank is based on the traffic data gathered from users using Alexa’s global data panel over a rolling 3 month period. Traffic Ranks are updated daily and a site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of Unique Visitors and Pageviews.

Unique Visitors are the number of unique users with Alexa toolbar who make a visit to a site on a specific day. Pageviews are defined as the total number of users with Alexa panel that made URL request to a site. Multiple page requests made for specific URL by the same user and on the same day will count as a single Pageview.

Every day, Alexa estimates the average daily visitors and pageviews to every site over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews over the past 3 months is ranked #1. The site with the least is ranked somewhere around 30 million. If no one visited a site, as recorded in the Alexa measurement panel over the past 3 months, there is no rank at all for that site.

Alexa’s Traffic Ranks are used for top level domains only (e.g., domain.com) and it takes 21 days to gather enough data to properly rank your website. Alexa publishes the Top 500 Web sites at TopSites.

What are the Advantages

  • You can use the Alexa measure as a comparative tool to know where you are positioned compared to your competitors.
  • It is used by advertisers to know the marketing potential of your Web site.
    Website with higher Alexa rank will get more offers and higher bids from advertisers that wish to buy advertising and place ads.
  • Personal pages or blogs are treated and ranked in the same manner as regular Web sites.
  • Alexa ranking also gives you information matrix about your Website which can be utilized for better SEO (search engine optimization).

What are the Disadvantages

  • The Alexa traffic can be easily and greatly manipulated. Thus some will claim it is not showing the website real position or value.
  • Not everyone is using the Alexa toolbar. Therefore this rank is not counting for many Web sites that are getting a significant amount of traffic, that is not coming from Alexa users.It can also give low rank (high value) to these web sites which is not reflecting the true value of them.
  • The overall traffic is calculated for the top level domain only and sub domains or sub pages are not ranked separately.

Number of visitors to a site and Alexa Rank

An example of plotting the number of visitors to a site versus the rank is shown below.
Visitors versus Rank showing Alexa rank

The graph’s head gets a huge number of visitors and is ranked #1. There you’ll find websites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc…
On the graph’s tail will be websites with no or very little (Alexa) traffic.
very small change in the number of visitors to a site on the long tail results in a large change in rank.

How accurate is Alexa Traffic Rank?

Because the Alexa ranking is calculated only from users who have Alexa’s data panel, the data may not represent the correct traffic to a website. So, it is possible for a site to have high Alex rank (low value) while having not much traffic compared to other sites with much higher volume and lower Alex rank.
Another thing is related to the ranking value, it is estimated and may not be accurate when it comes to sites with a low number of visitors.
Alexa blog says that sites with fewer than 1,000 monthly users are hard to measure, the closer a site gets to #1, the more reliable its rank will be. for sites ranked below 100,000, the ranking value becomes more accurate and reliable.

Moz checked the Accuracy of 12 Traffic Prediction services and how they are estimating a website’s traffic.
The overall results showed these services are not doing a good job. Alexa came in place 6 for data quality/accuracy, with these Metrics:
• Spearman’s Correlation w/ Actual Traffic: 0.702
• Standard Error: 0.0607
• Data coverage: 100%

Web Traffic quality-accuracy
The Metrics meaning:
• Spearman’s Correlation with Actual Traffic – Spearman’s helps us know the degree to which, as actual traffic rises/falls how well does the corresponding metric get higher/lower.
• Standard Error – This is a standard error on the correlation numbers, which helps to give a sense of variance.
• Data Coverage – Coverage is critical because it shows how frequently the services we looked at actually had real data for the sites in the sample.

It also came out that Moz was in place 7 with similar correlation to Alexa, while Moz is not even trying to measure web traffic.

AlexaRank Vs Page SEO metrics

When you want to know what is a webpage quality, you need to use some SEO metrics. Until recently, it was google page rank (PR) that catch most of the attention. this metric is no longer updated since mid 2013, but still used for website quick filtering, like domain evaluation or buying expired domains names.

The most used metrics are:
MozRank, Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA)
Majestic, Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF)
Ahrefs, URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (DR)

Each has its own strength and weakness and all are scaled from 1-100. most of these metrics are calculated from backlinks data, social signals, referring domains, but not much from traffic data. They are different from Alexa rank, that measures only traffic. Personally, I like to use Ahrefs, I think they have a great tool and very quick I can get the whole picture.
When it comes to Page rank or any of the other metrics, it is possible for a website to have high ranking and yet very little traffic.
So, How they have high metrics? most likely by inbound links and not real visitors traffic. You can find even PR5 or PR6 sites with not much traffic coming. In these cases, Alexa is better, because it gives you a signal that traffic is actually coming to a website.
The best would be correlated Alexa traffic to a page rank. if the SEO metrics is high, you should expect a low AlexaRank.
But again, what if most of the traffic is not coming from Alex users? that’s why I like to see a low AlexaRank, but if I see high AlexaRank, I don’t jump to any conclusion about the website traffic.

I have summarized this in the Alexa rank correlation to metrics:
alexa correlation

• High metrics with Low Alexa rank: high correlation for SEO strong site
• High metrics with High Alexa rank: not sure if this is weak seo site or a case of low Alexa traffic
• Low metrics with high Alexa rank: high correlation for SEO weak site
• Low metrics with low Alexa rank: most chances it’s a manipulated site

Are people giving Alexa rank too much weight?

This is a question that rise sometimes, and I think it should be asked. As we seen from data accuracy correlation and also from Alexa itself, it has limitations and data is not correct all times nor reflecting the real website position. But, on the second hand, there are many marketers and professionals that like to use Alexa traffic measure. From my experience, I saw the use of Alexa rank to filter website before sending outreach emails or getting comments. Yes, it is easy that way, but better use Alexa rank with some other metrics as well.

Alexa Certified Metrics

Alexa provides on-site analytics called Certified site Metrics. the data shown is directly measured from your website and not estimated. This something like google analytics’s, but less powerful. This gives a more accurate Alexa Rank, tracking, reports and more control over what you display publicly. but, the service is not free. you’ll also get website research and analysis tools, all depends on your registration plan.

How to use Alexa rank data?

There are few ways to exploit Alexa data (with the accuracy limitation):
1. Find out who are the leaders in your niche. The numbers will tell you who are the leading websites.
2. Estimate the number of visitors for your niche. It is always good to know how much traffic to expect.
3. Get to know your competitors and know your position among others.
4. Marketers and advertisers use Alexa as a traffic measurement tool.

Tips to increase your Alexa rank

How to get more Alexa traffic tips
1. Register your website
Registering (Claiming) your site is for free. it enables keeping your site description and contact information update. It ensures you won’t miss out on any potential business opportunities from the millions of people who visit Alexa every month.
Doing that you’ll be able to edit your site listing information, gather some statistics and track your ranking easily.
This has no effect on your website rank, it still measured even if not registering.

2. Install Alexa Widget
Even so, Alexa writes that this is not effects ranking, some experiments do show great improvement for the rank place after the widget installed. We think Installing the Alexa Widget can help to improve Alexa ranking for a website. Because, every visitor download the widget, just by browsing, and this may count as Alexa visit. You can get the instruction how to add the widget from here Alexa Widget. The widgets do not support https URL. If you use cms like WordPress, there are free plugins available for that, like this one.
There are two types of Alexa Widget you can use: your site’s Alexa rank with Sites Linking In count and without Sites Linking.
Alexa widgets

3. Install Alexa toolbar into your browser
The more Alexa toolbar users visit your website, the better your ranking will be. Download and install Alexa toolbar to your browser and check your website status On that toolbar. Alexa ranking is directly related to traffic which is coming to your website so more traffic means more rank. Get the Official Alexa Toolbar for Internet Explorer or use Alexa free extension for Chrome, this extension includes you in Alexa’s traffic panel.

Alexa chrome extension

FireFox users has the Add On SEO Status PageRank/Alexa Toolbar which displays Google PR and Alexa rank for every web site you visit.
Alexa add on -FireFox

4. Write fresh high quality content
Write quality and update content with some unique information, it will help you to improve website traffic and your Alexa ranking.
Good and fresh content is what all search engines and ranking firms look for and it always strikes high. It’ll improve your SERP ranking and help you to increase the amount of traffic on your site.
learn how to get more traffic leads.

5. Write Original and engaging content
If your write valuable content that is useful and original, people will share it naturally with others. As a result, you will get new visitors that can be converted into customers. this the idea behind engaging content. It gets favorable attention and interest, it helps, solve a problem or gives important information. this is why people feel they want to share it ,so that other people will also benefit from it.

6. Have relevant sites link to your website
Links are a strong signal for search engines, but what is a quality link?
We talked a bit about how to cheek a webpage quality. we use the same SEO metrics to decide if the link is worthy or not. The higher the values, the stronger and more authority the link has. but, the metrics alone is not enough, what matters most is the relevancy (or relation). Suppose you have a fashion website, Google and other search engines will expect to see most links coming from the fashion industry. If you have strong backlink coming from a pharmacy site, it might look suspicious. now you get the point of relevancy, you need to have many high quality links coming from your niche and related industry. these links are sometimes hard to get, but they have the most value.
Need ideas how to build links? here are great ways for white hat link building techniques.

link blueWant to improve your Alexa rank? start building links

7. Use driving traffic keywords
For that, you need to do a keyword research in order to understand what your audiences are searching for. You can also look at your competitor’s keywords and learn from them. Next, is to implement on page optimization, so that your page will be optimized for the words you use. the important thing is to make a professional and in-depth keyword research and to use easy to rank words. it is not wise to try to get traffic from competitive keywords with large volume if you have a new website or stronger competitors.

8. Improve your overall website SEO
link building and keyword research are just part of you need to do. Here are few more things to do: getting to know your competitors and their marketing techniques, improving your website speed, using markup and rich snippets, B2B (business to business) marketing, blogging and better user experience. these are all things you should work on. The user experience is an important aspect and Google takes it very seriously, it means few things, like easy to navigate site, been able to answer to the user question clearly, fast and responsive website, mobile Friendly design. All aspect of layout, content, and speed should be answered. Read this on how to get more organic traffic using SEO.

9. Buy Alexa Traffic
All the above things may take time to implement. If you wish to improve your ranking fast, you can buy special Alexa Traffic coming from users with Alexa’s data panel. This is very fast and effective way but has one main draw, once you stopped it, your ranking can plunge down.
Still, it can be good option to use for maintaining your ranking. The truth is, I know about some companies that are buying Alexa traffic from time to time, to keep their ranking below a certain level. A common question from clients is, How much traffic is roughly for Alexa 100,000 rank? read next to find out.

How much Alexa traffic I need?

how much traffic i need?
This is hard to answer the question. This is not like when you buy website traffic, It depends on few factors and there is no magic formula. All the efforts trying to formulate this looks worthless to me. A better approach is by trial and error, closely check Alexa ranking and adjust your traffic accordingly.
For new websites, you can get quickly to the few millions zone within 1-2 months with a daily amount of 200-300 visitors per day.
For ranked websites, to get below the 1 Million you’ll need more daily traffic. What I suggest, is to buy a package of at least 20K and to split
it equally for 30 days. each 5-10 days check the results and re-evaluate and your traffic. continue to do that in the 2’nd and 3’rd month.
If your targeting numbers are low, like 100k level, you’ll need much more daily traffic, It can be few thousands per day.

How to convert Alexa Traffic Rank into Unique Visitors

While there is no formula for getting the number of unique visitors from Alexa rank,  one site suggests such graph.
The information was gathered using real  Alexa Rank data and was interpolated into average daily visitors.
The best approximation is found where the line cross in the middle of the points.
Using the graph can give rough estimation about the unique daily visitors from  Alexa rank of a site.
For example, 100,000 rank is nearly 1100 visitors per day.

How to Turn Alexa Traffic Rank into Unique Visitors

I wouldn’t use this as a magic graph and I don’t think it’s very accurate, but some may find it useful.
Other uses for how to find leading sites are going to Alexa website and to browse by category.
Find the one category that interest you most, dig into the sub categories and click on a few to see their Alexa rank.

browse by category alexa

You can use the conversation from rank to visitors as above or look for sites with Alexa that is under 100k.
Some people are using this method to find guest blogs options and/or good sites to leave comments on.

Using the Alexa API

Alexa provides an API called Alexa Web Information Service , based on XML format, which gives information about the traffic and structure of websites. This is similar to what you see at Alexa.com. developers can use it to display information about other websites, providing traffic information such as Traffic Rank, Related Links, Contact Info, Site Stats, etc.
You need to register first in order to use it. Up to 1,000 requests per month are Free and the charge is per request. You only pay for what you use.

Terms used in Web Analytics
Some concepts you need to know when using Alexa API and web traffic in general.
Web Analytics is a study of users behavior on a website. it includes measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of web data. All in order to understand and optimize web usage.

Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors to a particular page who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.
A high Bounce rate can indicate people leave your website too soon. you want your Bounce rate to be low.

Impression: Number of times that users have been exposed to a piece of content, view it. it can be an ad, advertisement, search engine result, any part of your webpage.

Conversion rate: This is the percentage of users who takes a desired action (call to action). for example, if you have people landing on your newsletter page, you want to convert them into subscribers. if you havea product, you want them to buy. the higher the Conversion rate, the better success you have with your desired action.

Page Hit: A request to a web server for a file. like: web page, image, JavaScript, cssfile.

Visitor: User who visit a website during a period of time.

Unique visitor: The number of Unique individuals who request pages from a website during a specific period, no matter how many times they visit the page.

Visits: The number of times a site is visited, this includes all sessions, Unique and not Unique visitors.

Pageviews: Number of users visiting a particular page on a site.

Pageviews per visit: The average number of pageviews per visit over a given time period.


Understanding what is Alexa traffic can be confusing at the start. the measurement is merely for traffic, but sometimes it gets more weight than it should.
Use these tips together with our Alexa traffic to improve your Alexa rank.
How much Alexa website ranking traffic you need ? this is not easy to know, better to experiment and start with slow exposure.
Do you have others tips to share with us ? write it down.

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