Alexa Rank – A Thorough Examination

Updated May 04, 2013

What is Alexa Rank?

Alexa Rank shows how popular the site is in comparison with other sites. The most popular site has Alexa Rank equals 1. If the site has Alexa Rank equals 100,000, then it is in TOP 100,000 popular sites in the world. Usually mentioning Alexa, people mean Global Rank but there is also Alexa Rank for each country.

How can I get Alexa Rank for a specific site?

You can install browser extension (official or many others for Chrome or Firefox). Then, you will see estimated Alexa Rank for all the sites that you visit and get details when needed.

How Alexa Rank is calculated?

Like mentioned above, many people install browser toolbars or extensions that send information to alexa.com about what sites they are visiting. You will be surprised, but there are millions of people doing this. Alexa tracks what sites these people have visited during the last 3 months and ranks sites using this data.

Who is behind Alexa data?

Two guys created the company called Alexa Internet Inc. back in 1996. The name idea was taken from the famous Library of Alexandria. They have developed a toolbar with suggestions for “where to go next” based on other users data. Their dream was to create an intelligent search engine, but they were really far from it making $370,000 revenue in the year 1998. Luckily, Amazon bought them for $250,000,000 in 1999. Luckily, Amazon still supports this reliable service for us.

How can Alexa data be used?

  1. Compare site visitors of YourSite.com and YourCompetitor1.com, YourCompetitor2.com, etc. You can get leaders in your niche and understand who has more visitors than you do and who has less.
  2. Estimate visitors count of YourPotentialCompetitor.com even before starting your business in some niche. We will talk about the formula later.
  3. Spy on your competitors - because there is much more than just Alexa Rank. There will be an example later.

How precise is Alexa Rank data?

It depends on your goal and the type of an analyzed site.

It is clear that the more data Alexa has the more precise the data is. That is why data will be more accurate for popular sites. Alexa claims that they have good data for the TOP 100,000. According to my experience, you can trust them for far more – up to TOP 500,000.

Thus, you can count on their data if your goals are:

Still, before coming up with conclusions, make sure that the analyzed site is very popular. Otherwise, the data will be way too approximate. Therefore, if the ordering party will get the real numbers from the offline channels, you might be ashamed of making 10-100 wrong estimations.

At the same time, when you see the website claiming to have 1,000,000 users at the main page, and its Alexa Rank is 10,000,000 – you can be sure they are not being truthful.

Comparing Alexa Ranks can be a very good idea if you need to compare your site with a close competitor’s site. If your target audience is similar (age, sex, location, interests), then the share of users that have Alexa toolbars will be almost the same. Therefore, you will not know how many visitors they have but will be sure if they are doing better or worse than you are.

How to convert Alexa rank to Monthly Visitors?

We have selected about 5,000 random sites from Alexa TOP 1,000,000 and re-checked their Alexa Rank and daily reach. Daily reach shows how many people from the whole Internet visit this particular site.

As you can notice, there is a clear correlation between Alexa Rank and Daily Reach. That is not a surprise because Alexa calculates their ranking based on these daily reach values.

What about monthly visitors? There is open data about some sites real monthly visitors. Based upon 35 very large sites traffic statistics and their Alexa Daily Reach, I have calculated that there should be about 2,900,000,000 Internet users in the world. That is almost the same as statistics by Internet World Stats. In the middle of 2012, they claimed that there are about 2,400,000,000 Internet users.

I think Internet World Stats has better statistics than I do so let's go with their count of Internet users. Now when we know the value of 100%, it is easy to calculate monthly visitors.

Alexa claims that one can be pretty sure about their data for sites in TOP 100,000. I have decided to check about 150 sites that I know exactly how many monthly visitors they have, and which have an Alexa Rank from 1,000,000 to 10,000,000.

We see that there is no clear dependence between Alexa Rank and real monthly visitors to these sites. Please note that vertical axis is logarithmic so one tick means 10 times difference in monthly visitors.

I have tried to calculate predicted traffic using the formula above. The difference between calculated and real monthly users count differed from 2 to 100 times.

So, do not use this formula for sites far from the TOP 100,000 expecting precise values.

You can use this calculator to convert Alexa Rank to monthly visitors.

Alexa Rank       monthly visitors

How to use other data from Alexa?

Let us make an analysis of pinterest.com

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/pinterest.com

Their traffic increased rapidly in the beginning of 2012, but then remained stable.

They received 7.3% of traffic from search engines, other people are coming from other sites or just by typing pinterest.com in their browsers. At least 20% people coming from search engines with brand searches "pinterest" sometimes make typos.

This site is more for women aged 25-40.

There are several sources of traffic. TOP10 sources provide only 30% of traffic.  That is good because if Google penalizes the site, they will loose only 10% of traffic from other sites.

Conclusion:

Alexa Rank is a good tool to analyze competitors and make some estimates, but it becomes very unpredictable for the sites with Alexa Rank more than 1,000,000.

Alexa also provides another data source that can be used to understand the demographic and sources for your target audience.


written by Vladimir Luchaninov, CTO at Netberry


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