First, let me start by saying services like Alexa and Compete are awful. That said, it can be kind of fun to see your web sites rank go up and down. Unfortunately, a lot of people a lot of stock in Alexa and Compete rankings. People judge web sites by what their ranking is even though it lacks any type of scientific merit. Specifically, they do not work because it does not have access to the web sites web logs. Alexa and Compete are a lot like Cleo the astrologer from television commercials. By counting the few people who actually install their toolbar they use a mathematical algorithm to try and determine what type of traffic that web site gets. In addition they buy information from a number of other sources (these sources are not controlled and any nerd at any of these sources could tweak these data sources before they go out to places like Alexa and Compete for processing).
So by now you’re asking why don’t people launch a class action? Alexa, compete dot com, another web sites like them all have these clever little statements at the bottom of their page that say that they are not accurate. Just like the Cleo commercials that say for entertainment purposes only, these disclaimers are all that is necessary to protect them and allowed them to keep making money and acting like a experts. *Note they never really give you the source of where they are getting their data, or if they do it is vague. The reason why is it’s garbage and they know it. The only accurate data (speaking as a network engineer) comes from the webservers that serve the pages. You need to count the connections that come into the website and pages served. You can at that point run a script to remove IP addresses of known spiders, spammers, etc… and then you will have an accurate accounting of traffic. I repeat, this is the only way to measure traffic going to a website accurately. Now… I’m not talking about 10 – 20% here like these companies will have you believe, to give you an idea Compete.com is so aweful they actually state that Reviewboard Magazine (Reviewboard.com) gets 7000-8000 unique visitors a month. They say their traffic estimates are +/- 10-30%. 30% puts us at 10k unique visitors a month. That would be slick if it were true, but we get about 150,000 unique visitors a month so they are off by a lot more than 10-30%. If they were painting cars they would be doing it in the dark with a broom and a mop bucket. The end result is hideous.
So how do you fight this? How do you tweak your Alexa ranking, to more accurately reflect your traffic?
There are several tricks you will want to employ to make this work. Now, I’ve talked about a website that is run by one of our interns. (Http://www.whethermen.com). It’s a great website, and it gets about 2,000 page views a day. As of the posting of this article, they actually have a better ranking than Reviewboard.com even though we get about 75,000 page views a day at the moment. So how does this work?
Well Whethermen is run by about 10 college kids. They are also very aware of Alexa. They each have the Alexa toolbar installed and go to the website several times a day. They talk about it with their friends, who may also have the Alexa toolbar installed. This small amount of toolbar installations has had an incredible effect on their website rankings. So this is the first part of the tweak…
INSTALL ALEXA TOOLBAR ON EVERY COMPUTER YOU HAVE. Make sure the start page to your website is set for the site you are trying to tweak. While you are at it, if you would add a second start page (www.reviewboard.com) we would appreciate it! We will also benefit from it and that would be wonderful and a great way to thank us for sharing this information with you. To set a second start page all you have to do is put http://www.reviewboard.com on a seperate line in Internet Explorer. If you use Mozilla you set it up like this: http://www.yoursite.com|http://www.reviewboard.com it is seperated with a PIPE (Shift Backslash).
The next step would be to get as many friends or family members you have to do the same thing. REMEMBER just 5 - 10 toolbar installs and that small change can make a DRAMATIC difference on Alexa. HUGE.
The final step is get a DMOZ listing for your website. If you are listed in DMOZ you can go to DMOZ and click on your website. I don’t know why, but that really does help with the Alexa ranking. I think they must buy some data from the DMOZ project or something (because they say they get their information from several sources).
Anyway those small changes will help you boost your rankings and get into the mid hundred thosuands. From there it is all about the toolbar installs and how many people you can get to put you in their start page with Alexa installed. Good luck and thanks for putting us in your start page list!