Alexa Rank vs Pagerank: The rank races

On 31 March 2020

Since the Internet went global, search engines and web analytics providers have competed for a better ranking tool while everyone else competes for positions in the rankings. This article provides some insight into the differences between PageRank and Alexa Rank and the latter’s meaning regarding your digital performance.

Equals in the rank race

Once you have a mountain of resources, you want a way to sort them, make sense of them and use them. By the mid-90s, the growing number of pages on the Internet made efficient ranking mechanisms vital. And a series of solutions magically appeared.

Alexa Internet was founded in 1996 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were developing PageRank (PR) at Stanford, and Robin Li launched the first link analyzing engine, RankDex.

Alexa’s strategy was community-based from day 1. The company offered a toolbar for browsers that guided users in web surfing based on typical community behavior. Besides counting the actual hits, Alexa introduced web crawling bots to inspect all available web pages and archive them automatically. This made Alexa extremely attractive to Amazon, which acquired it in 1999 to get meaningful insight into their customers’ behavior on the web.

Google revolutionized web analytics by implementing the website ranking algorithm known as PageRank. It was an elegant tool for evaluating each website’s relative importance counting the users’ chances of ending up at each page given they surf the web freely and consider following each link they encounter. We say was because it only applies to the 90’s web reality. Most of the websites were organized and dedicated to a narrow range of topics. Therefore, the number of websites on each topic was small, and the user’s chances were countable. For instance, in the picture below, no matter where you start, you are most likely to find yourself on Page3.

For a better user experience and more search query data, Google introduced its own toolbar for Internet Explorer in 2000, where the PageRank indicator was shown over each page you visited.

Although it was a simple and powerful algorithm, PageRank eventually proved weak as it was detached from the real user’s motivation. It only calculated the probabilities of behavior, not the behavior itself. This weakness became more obvious as web resources multiplied and increased in complexity. As a result, PageRank alone no longer provided insight into the website’s relevance. That’s why Google subsequently introduced many additional algorithms and services to ensure it still delivers the best possible results relevant to the user’s query.

Who killed the PageRank score?

At the dawn of its success, Google actively promoted PageRank among its main advantages compared to AltaVista and Lycos (press Like if you remember them!). The public access to its score was part of this promotion.
Of course, everyone wanted to be top-ranked. So Google Toolbar was the main factor of seduction – and the driver for manipulation. To pump their scores up, web admins were eagerly buying backlinks. This gave rise to a billion-dollar industry. Besides that, everyone’s inboxes were constantly filled with link offers (and requests), and blogs got comments with irrelevant links.
One of Google’s attempts at eliminating the black-market effect was their nofollow attribute, but it never stopped the link madness.
The company eventually had to stop displaying PageRank in the Google Search Console in 2009 and shut down the Google Directory, where the PR was also indicated, in 2010.

Google officially excluded the PageRank score section from its bar for browsers in 2016. Still, hardly anybody had used the bar since 2010 when Google Chrome (that has never had Google bar) gained popularity, leaving IE and Firefox behind.

The post-PageRank SEO

Although it’s not out in the open, PageRank still matters. Google counts PR as part of its huge and completely secret ranking model. SEOs around the globe keep arguing about and seeking ways to hack the system or figure out which link manipulations produce better outcomes.
Plenty of new, transparent metrics have been developed to replace the actual PageRank somehow or even guess how it might rank a given page: URL Rating by Ahrefs.com, SEOmoz Page Authority, Flow Metrics by Majestic, and even the Open PageRank that essentially attempts to reestablish public scores.
However, closing PageRank to the public proved beneficial for the web at large. As a result, web admins gradually overcame their obsession with the link business and paid more attention to the meaningful SEO factors.
There are generally two factors naturally valued by the search engine provider as a business:
Relevance and quality. If you want people to keep using your search engine, make sure you provide them with useful, intuitive search results. Behind the first lines on the SERP, there should be engaging content and good service relevant to the requests.
An incentive to buy ads. As a major web advertising provider, Google is motivated to make businesses pay for ads. So, obviously, it will be introducing all legally acceptable algorithms and policies to diminish the promotion effect of your ads-free SEO efforts. For example, if Google finds a way to answer the user’s question right on the SERP, it will do so without sending the user to the source website. This makes the SERP more practical for the users that Google cares a lot about.
So, it’s obvious that the usefulness of your pages for your target audience matters the most. Your page should be informative, intuitive, fast loading, permanently available, etc. This all dwells in the internal optimization realm as long as you don’t attempt to manage user behavior directly, i.e., telling them what link to open or launching bots to imitate the desired behavior.

Alexa is on their minds.
Notably, it all comes back to the actual user behavior analysis and comparison across the web. And in this field, Alexa is a pioneer.
Alexa Rank is considered by online magazines, bloggers, and highly competitive businesses. It even helps webmasters to evaluate their technical optimization efforts.
But for Alexa itself, the main focus is larger businesses. Since its Amazon story started, Alexa has been developing practices to aid the digital performance of the major players on the web.
Alexa’s most valued customers are websites with massive traffic. Being high on the chart, they don’t pay that much attention to the rank itself but instead actively analyze competitors, audience, and mass user behavior on their pages to improve their marketing KPIs.
Does my Alexa Rank matter for my SEO?
Let’s say it matters for your marketing performance in general.
It is empirically accepted that Alexa Rank correlates with Google search results. Thus, being in Alexa Rank’s top 100,000 significantly increases your chances to find your website in Google’s top 10. Moreover, you can see for yourself that Google’s top websites are virtually always ranked high by Alexa Rank, too.
The difference is that the Google rankings you see in the search results are based on search query relevance. Another difference Alexa is often criticized for is its relatively smaller coverage as Alexa only relies on its Toolbar users. But given its actual correlation with Google, it definitely makes sense to take care of your Alexa rank.
It is certainly possible to manipulate Alexa Rank using designated scripts and even manually imitating page views through different browser pages. Still, the best way to boost your Alexa Rank – promoted by Alexa itself – is high-quality content.
Focused on the number of page views, Alexa Rank is really straightforward. Attracting more quality traffic to your website increases your chances of improving your position on Google. However, as its ranking algorithms are concealed, there is no way to be sure besides giving it a try.

Alexa Rank explained

Competition is embedded in human nature. We madly compare our wins: numbers of subscribers, likes, conversions, etc. But some ratings make no sense, and there are things really worth comparing. Alexa is among the latter if you run a website for your business.
Alexa.com is web analytics and optimization service by Amazon. Webmasters value their effective instruments to research keywords, analyze competitors, and improve their website content and code. Alexa Traffic Rank is a free tool available on their home page. It ranks websites by authority on the web.
Individual website ranking is assigned based on its traffic performance compared with that of other websites. The comparison is based on the domain’s traffic over a three-month period. The smaller your number on the rating, the better your performance. Sites that get abysmal traffic may get 8-digit positions and even lower. The best-performing websites struggle for the first lines on the rating. The current top is represented by Google, YouTube, Facebook, Baidu, and Wikipedia.
All about figures
Alexa’s analytics tools have no means to check every visit to your website. Instead, its data is collected through a network of users who have the Alexa toolbar and Alexa’s partners’ tracking extensions installed on their browsers. At installation, users allow the trackers to submit data on their web surfing. In addition, Alexa’s partner network covers many users globally, ensuring the accuracy of aggregated evaluations Alexa performs.
Alexa calculates weighted indicators considering that the demographic parameters of the tracking extension users vary from the overall parameters of Internet users. For example, let’s say, if the share of Indian users who have one of the extensions installed was small compared to the average, even the most popular Indian sites would show poor performance according to the raw sample data, which would be misleading. That is why the statistical figures are adjusted to show an adequate representation of the global traffic, meaning the sample bias effect on the websites’ visibility is eliminated.
Then the Alexa ranking is formed based on the normalized data. The algorithm considers such parameters as Reach, i.e., how many users have been on the website on a specific date, and Page Views, the average number of pages users click through. The ranking is updated daily (for the top 100,000 lines while others are slightly reviewed).
What if my rank is inaccurately calculated?
As the sample of users, Alexa counts are not equal to the number of people connected to the Internet. As a result, Alexa Rank is often suspected of inaccuracy, especially by webmasters who are not in the top 100,000. More popular websites actually tend to be tracked with more precision.
To overcome this problem, Alexa introduced the Certified Alexa Ranking service. Each web admin can install a code on a website to make sure all its visitors are counted. This special service starts at $19.99 monthly.
Checking Alexa Rank
You can check a domain’s current position on the rank at any time by typing its URL in the box on Alexa.com/siteinfo. Alexa will immediately return the report containing your global and local Alexa traffic rank. The report also features a diagram that shows the dynamics of your rank shifts and a heat map to describe your audience.
Below the data, you can also check behavioral parameters: bounce rate, pageviews per visitor per day, browsing time, and a list of websites that contain backlinks to yours. For Alexa’s free users, this data is normally available in part.
Check your position now, as nothing ensures your progress as strongly as awareness.
3 reasons to take care of your Alexa Rank
There are too many figures in our modern life to keep track of them all. You have to choose something. We suggest that Alexa Rank should loom large on your to-do list.

There are at least three reasons for that.

  1. Alexa Rank correlates with Google Page Rank and others.
    The better your Alexa rank, the better your performance in Google search results. The difference is that the latter is based on relevance to the search query. Thus, getting in the top 100,000 of the Alexa Rank significantly increases your chances to find your website in Google’s top 10. But keep in mind that Google algorithms are concealed, so there is no way you can be sure (besides giving it a try).
  2. Advertisers consider a website’s Alexa Rank before making decisions
    Although Google Analytics is the main traffic data source and decision-making tool for marketers and advertisers, smart experts take other rankings into account for consistency and deeper insights. Alexa Rank has been popular as an important instrument to estimate a website’s quality, popularity, and authority among advertisers for years now.
  3. Competitive spirit
    You don’t have to be greater than Google. But you can – and should! – outperform your competitors. Improving your Alexa Rank is a giant step toward to that accomplishment.

So how do I improve it?
Alexa Rank measures your website’s authority based on the page views it gets. So, to put it bluntly, to improve your Alexa Rank, you should grow your traffic.
Now check the methods below. Which of them do you already use, and which do you want to take advantage of?

Distribute your energy and resources wisely, use effective tools that save your time and money, and your business will grow beyond your expectations!
Geo specific Alexa Rank to help you save on traffic
Most businesses operate locally. If you’re running a power tool store in downtown Mumbai, you’re interested in getting traffic from the city or maybe India in general. Getting traffic from Brazil and Germany would increase your global ranking and improve your positions in Google search in general, but at a greater expense than if you select your specific region and only pay for traffic from there. Your website visibility will gallop to the top of Google search in India, and the rest of the world doesn’t really matter.
At the same time, there are now many online and international businesses that operate in two or three specific countries. Our service allows such businesses to apply their custom geo-targeting to the packages they purchase.
To manage the country selection, click on the country list on the left to add new countries or on the list on the right to remove countries from your project.

The visits we deliver to your website will be randomly and evenly distributed among the countries you have included. However, some differences in the actual number of hits by country can be produced by physical parameters such as the distance to the country and the Internet connection quality.

Why not go global?
The idea that any traffic is acceptable seems to be a matter of fact. However, as we noted above, volume matters above anything else to increasing your Alexa ranking.
But in fact, geography matters too. See the four reasons why below.

  1. Country Traffic Rank
    Alexa calculates both global and country ranks. Your country rank depends on which country you get most of your visitors from. Naturally, your visibility with Google, as well as your clients’ and advertisers’ expectations, will grow primarily in the country where you are most popular.
  2. Relevance to market
    Even if you set no geographical limits to your audience (say, you sell software globally), your website still fits one region better than the rest of the world. This is defined not only by default language and currency accepted, its design also fits a certain customer category and mentality better than others. Buying traffic from a specific region, you cause traction in that region and get higher positions in local search results. Your visibility grows first and foremost around that area. So, you are interested in purchasing traffic from the geographical area that is relevant to your real market.
  3. Search engine relevance
    Just like people, search engines have geographical coordinates. Google.com and Google.es are essentially separate engines, and your advancement in one of them will not reflect on your performance in the other. So, make sure you target your purchased traffic in accordance with your target region to be seen by real people in your region of operation.
  4. Regional specialization and algorithms
    It is empirically shown that search engine algorithms are more likely to consider the website as useful and authoritative if it has a visible regional specialization, i.e. is visited mainly by users from specific areas, and not abstractly from around the globe.
    To sum up, geo targeting is essential to get a champion Alexa ranking in your region of interest.
    Luckily, we offer all the needed tools for you to adjust the geo targeting for your project, quickly and easily. No matter what package you purchase, it features geo targeting options. We can send you traffic from any set of locations and countries you specify, e.g. Spain, India, the US, and Argentina.
    To make it even easier for you to geo target your traffic independently of where you’re from and where you want your website to become popular, we offer you plenty of payment options in your local currency.
    We appreciate your comments, especially if you have questions or ideas!
    Alexa Rank at work – and how to manage it
    Alexa.com, SimilarWeb.com, and other tracking systems allow anyone on the web to gain insight on your website’s authority and impact. Clients and advertisers may use it to check how serious you are and whether dealing with you makes sense. Their trust in your website directly correlates with its rank.
    Let’s say you position yourself as an influencer. You need your potential partners to believe your homepage is influential, i.e. many people visit it and read its content. This means you need a high Alexa rank. It is equally so if you run an online store, a service website, or many other types of businesses.

Alexa cannot tell exactly how many visitors your website gets – that data is private. It only estimates the amount of traffic with the help of a wide range of publicly accessible metrics. The estimate it derives is essentially a guess on the traffic you might have.
Alexa algorithms are growing more complicated, as are Google’s and other ranking systems. We can assume that Alexa considers backlinks, banners, paid advertisements, and even the website’s position in Google search results for certain queries despite their secrecy. Due to the immensity of the data, it takes Alexa months to update its rankings completely.
You can learn more about Alexa’s approach to website performance estimation from their blog article How are Alexa’s traffic rankings determined?
Many Internet users worldwide have the Alexa bar and other similar extensions (which Alexa partners with) installed on their browsers, constantly tracking their surfing activity. Of course, this extension network would have to cover all the users to measure all the websites accurately, which is impossible. But in any case, your website rank might benefit by simply installing the Alexa bar on your browser.

Can Alexa tell paid traffic from organic?
No. This data is concealed from Alexa by privacy restrictions.
But you can benefit even more if you open your traffic data to Alexa.com by applying for their Certified Alexa Rank service. Again, we refer you to their blog post Top 5 Benefits of Alexa Certified Metrics to learn more on this.
When your website is certified with Alexa (pricing starts at $19.99 a month) and all the pages are enhanced with their traffic counter, Alexa starts tracking your traffic. In most cases, the website’s rank soars.