First Steps With Alexa Ranking and Google Page Rank

The popularity of your blog or web site will be of great interest to you and no doubt you will be monitoring your site via a statistics package of some description. If you make sales on your site, you will know if you’re doing well or need to improve by how many sales you make. To gauge yours and competitor site’s popularity, it is useful to use and understand a couple of tools that are freely available.

The two main ways of doing this are to regularly check both your Alexa Rating and Your Google Page Rank and to be aware of those of your competitors.

Use Firefox as Your Browser of Choice

It makes it a bit easier to check these measurements if you install the appropriate tools bars on your browser so that the values of each, show up for every web site you visit. And it just makes life a bit easier if you use Firefox rather than Internet Explorer, if this is at all possible.

Get FirefoxIf you want to check your web site out in the first instance, this is the place to start. The reasons to start browsing with Firefox are,

  • It is less forgiving than Internet Explorer and so any errors will show up more readily. This means you can fix them because you’ll know they are there.
  • Lots of tools are available for Firefox and you can therefore customise it to suit your needs

I’ll only talk about Alexa Ratings and Google Page Rank now in relation to the Firefox browser for ease.

Set Up The Toolbar with Search Status Tools

Install the http://www.quirk.biz/searchstatus addon into Firefox so that you can automatically read off the Alexa Rating and Google Page Rank values for each site you visit whilst using the Firefox browser.

Once you have done that you’ll see the Alexa Rating and Google Page Rank of any site you visit in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. See picture below where the red arrows show the Alexa Rating of the site and the Google Page Rank of the page, you are currently on.

The display is a graphical one, but you can run your cursor over the little graphic images and the actual values will display, or you can right-click the graphic and set it to display text (numbers), rather than the little graphs.

Now browse the internet checking on the popularity of each page or site, according to what the toolbar indicates.

Alexa Rating

Alexa is not an accurate tool and much has already been written about this. For the purposes of this post we’ll assume we understand its limitations. For now let’s suspend our disbelief, and assume that Alexa does measure real site popularity (practically as I have indicated, it doesn’t, but that is the topic of another discussion). So, based on this assumption, a site with an Alexa rating of 2,600,000 is less popular than a site with a rating of 60,000. In other words, the smaller the number the more popular the site.

The Alexa rating applies to a whole site and will usually fall somewhere between 1 and several millions. A site with an Alexa Rating of 163,000 for example, means that Alexa believes this site (over the previous 3 months), to be the 163,000th most popular site on the internet. I.e there are only 162,999 sites that are more popular.

Google Page Rank

Google Page Rank measures the importance of a single page on the internet according to Google’s proprietary ranking algorithm. How they calculate this is not altogether known, but it has to do with how many other pages on the internet link back to pages on your site, the Google Page rank of the those incoming links, and other unspecified criteria. Google explains here. However, the PR or Page Rank of a page is better the higher it is, (the opposite to Alexa ranking).

The Google Page Rank will usually fall somewhere between unspecified (i.e. no Page Rank whatsover), through to zero all the way up to 10 and applies to a single page. (I.e a single site may comprise many pages and each will have its own page rank).

Usually then, a page with a PR of 0 on a site with an Alexa Rating of 1,000,000+ should mean that the site is not visited very often and is not rated by other sites. In other words it is not doing very well.

Alternatively a page with PR 6 and an Alexa rating of say 80,000, is doing pretty well in terms of visits and Google kudos.

A site with an Alexa Rating of say 6 and a Google Page Rank of 8, can be said to be resident in internet heaven. (As of today for example, myspace.com has those ratings)

Paula’s Question

My friend Paula asked on a previous post comment,

when I look at some sites/blogs they seem to have excellent alexa rankings but no page ranking – why?

I asked Paula to give me examples of sites she had seen that fitted this description. Here are a representative sample of the links she gave me with rankings at the time of writing:

http://watertrough.blogspot.com
  • PR=4 AR=9.9m+ (quite good page rank, very poor alexa rating)
  • This has a decent Page Rank and a poor Alexa rating.
  • A page rank of 4 suggests that the home page of the site has a fair number of links coming into it, with moderately good PRs of their own.
  • The Alexa Rank means two things : hardly a soul with the Alexa Toolbar installed is visiting the site, and the owner of the site probably doesn’t have it installed either.
  • There are 1,172 incoming links (from other sites) to this url. That’s a good number of incoming links, but in the case of many blogs, most incoming links are down to the effort of the authors who leave comments on other people’s blogs and thus essentially create most incoming links for themselves. (Not quite the same as thousands of other sites voluntarily linking to you). However, this would support the fairly good PR the page has.
  • Because the Alexa rating is so poor, we can assume it is the Alexa rating of the actual blog, rather than that of the main domain, blogspot.com (or blogger.com).
  • Either very few visitors who use this blog know and/or care about the Alexa toolbar or the blog has few visitors. I suggest it is the former as the commenting efforts put in by the author are being rewarded by a fairly good Page Rank which means the visits to the blog are probably at the very least, reciprocated by the people who own the blogs that this blog owner comments on.
  • See the evidence that Alexa is rating the blog itself rather than than the main domain below. But also note that the value of 80,298 sites linking is not true as this statistic pertains to blogger.com (blogspot) not the individual blog.

http://welshhillsagain.blogspot.com
  • PR=1 AR=12. (poor page rank and outstanding alexa rating)
  • This has a poor Page Rank and an outstanding Alexa Ranking (suggesting there are only 11 other sites more popular than this one). These two results seem at odds. The reason is that Alexa have not managed (I don’t know why exactly) to provide true rankings for all individual blogs at this point in time. So for the blog in the previous example above, the Alexa rating was the true one for the actual blog site, but in this case, the Alexa rating is that of the parent domain blogspot.com, which of course is why it is extremely good. You can verify this by looking each url up in Alexa itself and you will see that they are in this case counting the rating of blogspot.com but in the previous case, looking only at the subdomain at watertrough.blogspot.com. Hence the disparity. By the way, you right-click on the little Alexa graph an select show overview to see this for yourself (see image below).
  • The poor PR is understood when you examine the number of incoming links. There are only 36 to this home page. This probably means this blog author does not realise the important of generating links for him/herself by leaving hundreds of comments all over other people’s blogs, (unlike the author of the previous blog).

Paula – I hope that answers your question. If it does not, I am about to write this up again on a different blog aimed at explaining things in a better way.

Comments

  1. Liz Jamieson says:

    Hi Tony. You have pages in the Google index but they’re coming up for me in a variety of languages. There are a number of things you’ll need to do but you could start by geo-targeting some of your content appropriately and adding more pages. Plus your meta descriptions are poor. Your Alexa rating may be low because too few of your target market uses the Alexa toolbar.

  2. Interesting article – I am now just starting to investigate why we have Google PR3 and rising and execllent organic returns with many high page 1 positions for all our desired key words, yet Alexa rankings and details suggest we don’t even exist?? No rating for UK ranking either?

  3. Very helpful, thanks. Have installed the plugin.

  4. google pr and alexa rank is totally 2 different beast.

    google pr measure backlinks. the more backlinks you got, the higher your website pr. especially, backlink from other high rank website will quickly raise your pr.

    alexa, otoh, measure traffic. how many visitor come to your website. and mostly they only measure access from msie users or other browser With alexa toolbar installed.

    so…
    it’s very natural some sites have high traffic (which could come from advertising, etc) and other site have high pr (could mean s/he got a lot of friends link to her/his site)

  5. Lizzie – just wanted to say thanks for the excellent and comprehensive reply to my comment. Thank you for taking the time and putting the effort in.

    I think that I’m even more of an ignorant than don’t be sad as she’s managed some interesting page layouts on her blog.

    Though with your guidance I’m beginning to see all kinds of things I was oblivious to before.

  6. Liz Jamieson says:

    Hi Don’t Be Sad

    No – didn’t. I have a technical background and started writing web sites for paying clients sone years ago when I had to leave my job, move to Devon and find something to do that could be done from home.

    Hosting yourself is all about control. If you don’t care about control then free wordpress.com is OK. It’s personal I guess and my responses are based on my feelings about it.

    Also at the moment you can’t use certain ads on free wordpress blogs. Check this page from WordPress.com’s FAQ : http://faq.wordpress.com/2005/12/08/adsense/

    Liz

  7. Hey Liz,

    Good of you to take the time to respond to me (so promptly).

    Certainly food for thought. Did you start with a sub-domain, and what was your experience of it? Just curious.

    Dont be sad

  8. Liz Jamieson says:

    Don’t Be Sad – Sorry about the sub-prime terminology, but it was so apt, I could not resist.

    Having a WordPress subdomain account does not matter unless your blog is very very important to you, or if you one day want to make a living from it, or use it as a seed to start something that makes a living. If that is the case you are probabaly better being in control as you’ll need to be able to use the full gamut of resources available to promote and hone it with any effect.

    Having your own site is only complicated if you want to do it for free. If you pay someone to help you (there are some excellent wordpress hosting companies out there), you can get a lot more for relatively little.

    That said having your own site that you host all by yourself isn’t that complicated. It’s completely achievable if you want to, but of course time can be an issue.

  9. Hey,

    Thank for sharing this post- for someone blogging for the first time it was somehow quite daunting but well written. And above comment was also very useful to day- I must admit quite disheartening regarding having a wordpress.com blog– but I think for the first time its a great place to learn. Isn’t it?

    Somehow, having ones own site seems to be a whole lot complicated- is it really worth it? In many ways, it feels having restrictions and finding ways to overcome these helps my creativity. At least this is my approach. I’m not sure what other “sub-prime” tenants think…

    Kind regards,

    Dont be sad

  10. Liz Jamieson says:

    Hi Paula

    Oh yes. People who write low quality comments are desperately trying to get links in to their sites by virtue of leaving a comment on yours (to increase visitors and Google PR), or they just hope you’ll want some of the stuff they are selling. Hence the long lists of drug and porn sites that sometimes get left in comments. If you see them in comments on sites you visit, then I suggest the people who run those sites don’t understand what they are dealing with.

    You are so right about quality. If you solely concentrate on quality and by that I mean don’t write a comment unless you really mean it, etc etc, it will initially slow down your blog’s popularity growth potentially, but that growth will be a more solid one that should stand the test of time.

    On your blog you write frequently and with useful and interesting content. This is the number one way to increase your blog’s popularity, but actually Paula it is a bit of a waste of time until you move to your own domain as I have mentioned before.

    There are other steps you can take, (like the example I tried to show you today), but what is the point of wasting them on a subdomain of WordPress? You must ask yourself what am I building here, who is in control, and who is it for? Practically, also you are are limited to the steps you can take to grow your popularity with the tools available to you on a hosted wordpress blog. They are but a tiny subset of those available when you take responsibility for your ownership of your blog’s prime real estate, as opposed to the sub-prime rental you currently have. (Sorry – just being topical).

    Blogging is part of what is called the Web 2.0 phenomenon. That means blogging is part of this whole social media web explosion that has happened in the last few years and continues to happen. One characteristic of Web 2.0 (pronounced Web 2 point Oh, by the way), is that it is largely self-policing. If enough people in the blogosphere or any of the other social networking sites get annoyed with self-promoting low quality sales pitches, they tell everyone else eventually, and then the offender’s business is damaged.

    It may be tempting for some to use these techniques but ultimately the only way to succeed is to give stuff away, provide value, build trust and then and only then charge for products that you design specifically to satisfy a need you have identified.

    A gigantic blogroll is not self-promotion at all. If you have a blogroll on your site, you are promoting other people’s sites. It is only if they decide to reciprocate that you get the benefit, and of course they do not have to. Comments and blogrolls are different. A blogroll is you linking to someone else. A comment enables anyone to leave a link on your site, back to their site. That is why commenting is open to abuse. I don’t know about the free hosted wordpress accounts (like the one you have), but certainly in a self hosted wordpress blog I can change the way comments are displayed to prevent links being formed back to the commenter’s site. But I won’t do that as I want the people who leave good comments on my site to get the link back. Its only fair.

    On the contrary – thank you for asking. If you continue to ask me questions, clearly they will be of use to others too. That is what Web 2.0 is all about.

  11. Thanks so much Lizzie – this is very helpful and easy to follow for a novice like me. I know I’ll get better understanding the more times I read it.

    I also see the importance of commenting on other sites, and now understand why I sometimes have inappropriate comments on my site and see them on other sites I visit. One question – isn’t quality something one should be looking to as well as just quantity? i.e. so the information or whatever is reaching the people that would, could benefit from it, are interested in it etc. etc.? Is having a gigantic blogroll part of self promotion too?

    Look forward to more and thank you for taking the time to explain.

  12. Liz Jamieson says:

    Hi Dwayne and Dan

    Thank you both very much for taking the time to comment. I will be placing more helpful tutorials here so hope to see you again.

  13. I found your article very interesting. I’ve been using the internet since the you could get aol in dos format. Never checked on the page ranking system. I used stumble Upon to find this site. I just put up “http://www.whatinthedamnhell.com” I hope to get its ranking on a list.

    be good,
    dan hux

  14. I just found your site whilst stumbling with Stumble Upon. I really enjoyed this article and I never heard about that Firefox Addon until now. So I can check my Pagerank and Alexa Rank whenever now.

    I bookmarked your site and will definitely be returning.

    – Dwayne Charrington.
    http://www.dwaynecharrington.com/

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