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Archive for December 15th, 2007

How Downloading The Alexa Toolbar Will Boost Your Alexa Rank

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Alexa is a company that tries to accurately measure web traffic to as many sites as possible. Their method is to watch user activity on browsers with the Alexa toolbar installed. So if someone visits your site without using the toolbar, Alexa doesn't know about it. But if someone else shows up, and they are using Alexa, your site will benefit. Here's how:

All websites start out with a crazy rank in the millions. A while ago it was around 5, now its closer to 10, and probably even higher. So if your site is brand new, it might rank at 11,000,000. That's the bottom tier, but it's better than "No Rank," which will happen if Alexa isn't aware of your site yet. What we want to do is improve our Alexa rank, because sites that rank higher are considered better, and more valuable in the eyes of potential advertisers.

There has been a great deal of debate about Alexa. Most people used to not care about the ranking system. It didn't really matter. Once advertisers started using it to judge sites, things changed, and many people began to complain because they believe your Alexa rank can be gamed. It is thought by some that there are definite ways to improve your rank. And that is true. One way is to download the toolbar. Another is to run a site geared toward webmasters.

On an episode of, "Family Guy," TV executives at a board meeting were discussing a recent problem on their network. Many people had phoned in to voice their protest. One executive summed things up: "We have received 20 phone calls from offended viewers. As you all know, each phone call represents a billion people, which means 20 billion people were offended!"

The issue with Alexa is it works in a similar way. Since Alexa only knows how many toolbar users visit your site, they use that number to guess how many total visitors your site has. That's right, guess. Can you see where this could be a problem?

If you ran a site that specifically catered to webmasters, many of your visitors, maybe even the widespread majority, would probably already be running the toolbar. So Alexa says, "Your site got 20 toolbar visits, so let's do a little math, and… OK, you must have received 20 billion total visits! Congratulations, and welcome to the top tier! Enjoy your flashy high rank."

What if you don't run a site for webmasters? Doesn't this tip the playing field against you? Absolutely. The system is flawed. But Alexa has acknowledged that the ranks aren't that accurate until you reach the top: "Generally, Traffic Rankings of 100,000+ should be regarded as not reliable because the amount of data we receive is not statistically significant. Conversely, the more traffic a site receives (the closer it gets to the number 1 position), the more reliable its Traffic Ranking becomes."

So how can you improve your Alexa rank in an honest way? By installing the Alexa toolbar on the browser you most use to visit your own web site(s). The toolbar could be considered a scorekeeper for the net. On your browser, it pays careful attention to the sites you visit, and essentially gives each site a vote on your behalf. So if you spend a lot of time tweaking your own sites, it will make sure to give them votes, too. But Alexa makes it clear that to keep things fair, a site will only get one vote per IP address per day.

People have learned that this tends to add up over time. If you consistently visit your site(s) with the Alexa toolbar, you'll likely see results.

However, some have also noted that the higher your Alexa rank is already, the less noticeable a change like this will be. If your rank is still in the millions, then you should probably see some improvement. However, if you're already in the hundreds of thousands, you might not get as big a benefit (if any). But my guess is that if you're doing that well, you've probably already got the toolbar installed!

People have tried to come up with other tricks to improve their Alexa ranks, but some are considered underhanded and risky. There have been stories about companies being banned from Alexa for trying to game the system. I view installing the toolbar so it can see your web site to be upright and honorable because it's a simple, non-deceptive one-step procedure, and because Alexa encourages people to download the toolbar.