Monthly Archives: September 2004

Google Page Rank – important or just another number?

In my last newsletter I wrote about how your websites Alexa rating is not actually that important to the success of your online business.  In this issue, I want to look at another popular statistic – Google Page Rank – and ask a similar question – is it that important?

First a quick overview as to what the Google Page Rank actually is…

Google Page Rank (or PR as it is often referred to as) is simply an indication of the number of websites that link to a specific website.  It also attempts to indicate the quality of those links.  PR ranges from 0 to 10 (with 10 being the ‘best’ PR and 0 being the ‘worst’).  The vast majority of small business websites will usually find they have a PR of between 0 and 5.

To calculate a particular sites PR, Google uses a fairly complicated algorithm based on the number of web links that it is aware of that link to the site in question.  This algorithm will also take into account the PR of the page that is providing the link, thus a link from a web page that has a PR of 7 will be considered more valuable than a link from a page with a PR of 4. 

Because of the way in which links from higher PR-ranked sites are considered more important, many people are choosing to buy links from websites with high PR’s just so that they can increase their own PR.  I have seen sites selling a simple text link on their home page for over $700 a month purely based on the fact that they have a PR of 7 or above.  This may seem like a lot of money but when you consider that the website owners that are buying these links often have websites that are in no way relevant to the content of the site linking to them, it is absolutely ridiculous.

Take this example, let’s say you have a website about health and fitness and you buy a link for $500 a month from a random website because it has a PR of 7.  This random website has no relevance to your health and fitness site so what is going to happen?  Well, your own PR may increase as a result of the link.  You may get a bit of extra traffic but probably not much since people don’t click on links that that they are not interested in.  You will definitely be $500 poorer at the end of the month!

Instead, why not spend the $500 on pay-per-click advertising and benefit from some quality, targeted traffic?

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that and the reason that most people want to increase their PR is because Google takes this statistic into account when determining where a website will be displayed in their search results.  Many people assume that a high PR automatically equals a high search engine placement for their chosen keywords.  Not so…

PR is just one of over 100 different factors that Google takes into account when deciding where your website will feature (and these factors and the main algorithm change on a very regular basis).  It is perfectly possible for a website with a PR of 5 to get a higher ranking than a PR 7 site if it has better content or is more relevant for the search term in question.

Remember that relevance is all important with Google and a link from a website that is not relevant to your own site will be considered far less important than a relevant one (which makes buying links from random sites purely because they have a high PR even more crazy).

I have read several rumours lately that Google haven’t updated PR’s for a couple of months and they are considering phasing PR out or modifying it in some way.  This is pure speculation but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.  PR is easily manipulated (for example by purchasing links as described above) and Google doesn’t like to have their calculations or search results manipulated.  It stands to reason that they will be looking at ways of preventing this.

So, in summary, is Google Page Rank important to your business?

Well, it is a good indicator of how many other sites link to yours and how important Google considers your site to be BUT I personally don’t place too much importance on this statistic and I certainly won’t be paying out for a link from a website just because it has a high PR.

As I said above, Google changes it’s rules on a regular basis and I see little point in chasing a particular PR on the basis that it might get you higher search engine rankings.  If Google do decide to do away with PR, all your work will have been for nothing.

Instead, concentrate on building quality, relevant links from sites that are connected in some way to your own site content.  This will ensure that any traffic you receive via these links will at least have an interest in your site.  Building links on this basis will automatically increase your PR over time (without the need to pay out for overpriced, irrelevant links).  If you do things this way and Google does scrap the PR indicator, it shouldn’t affect you in any way and the links you have in place will continue to benefit you.

Remember, in the same way that a low Alexa rating doesn’t guarantee traffic or sales, neither does a high PR.  Sure a high PR is a ‘nice to have’ but lots of traffic and high sales is even nicer.

Your Alexa rating – is it really that important?

A discussion in my forum has prompted this newsletter as I think it is important for any online entrepreneur to understand how Alexa ratings work in order that they can understand why they may not be that important to the success of their online business.  Too many people make the mistake of concentrating entirely on improving their Alexa ratings but at the end of the day, these rankings are just numbers – they won’t put money in the bank.

Alexa is a company owned by the Amazon group and it aims to rank every single website on the Internet in terms of how much traffic it is receiving.

Quite simply, the lower your Alexa ranking, the more traffic your website gets.  The ideal scenario would be to have an Alexa ranking of ‘1’.  This would mean, in theory, that your website receives more traffic than any other website in the world.  Currently this position is held by Yahoo.com and as you would expect, other top sites include Microsoft, Google and eBay.

It is generally considered that a website with an Alexa rating of 100,000 or less is receiving a reasonable level of traffic but Alexa can be wildly misleading and very easily manipulated.

To understand why the rankings are misleading, you need to understand how Alexa gathers the data that it uses to create the rankings in the first place.  This is really very simple – Alexa has a free toolbar that you can download and install within your Internet browser and this reports back to Alexa with the details of every single website that you visit.

Alexa can then use this information to see how many users are visiting a particular website.  Then, because not every Internet user has the Alexa toolbar installed, Alexa will multiply the number of visitors by a specific margin to estimate the total number of visitors that a site may typically receive.  The important word in the last sentence is ‘estimate’.

Let’s assume that the above multiplication margin is ten – that means that for each Alexa toolbar user that visits a specific web page, Alexa assumes that another nine non-toolbar users will also visit the same page.  This means that if 100 toolbar users visit a specific web page on a given day, Alexa will take this as meaning that a total of 1000 people visited the same page in that 24 hour period.

This is where the figures can get distorted.  If you have a website that attracts a higher than average number of Alexa toolbar users, then you are going to gain a lower Alexa rating because Alexa doesn’t make any allowance for the fact that their toolbar users visit certain types of site more often.  A typical example of this is Internet marketing sites.  Most Internet entrepreneurs will have the Alexa toolbar installed because they like to see the Alexa rankings for sites as they visit them (the toolbar shows you this information as soon as you visit a site).  But this means that if your website attracts a lot of Internet marketing-type visitors, then your Alexa rating will be inflated above what it should be.

Here is a true-life example:

There was a popular Internet marketing site for sale last year and it had an Alexa rating of about 19,000. I figured it must be getting heavy traffic but when I discussed the matter with the owner/seller, I found that it was only receiving 6000 unique visitors a month! The reason that the Alexa rating was so low was because the majority of these visitors had the Alexa toolbar installed and therefore the calculations were being thrown out massively.

It is also possible to purchase software that will generate false hits to your site using the Alexa technology so that Alexa is fooled into believing that more people are visiting your site.  This pushes your Alexa ranking down.

At the end of the day though, what is the point of having a low Alexa rating if you are not making any sales?  Sure it is nice to be able to say that your site is in the top 20,000 websites in the world but if the site isn’t earning you an income, this ranking means very little (assuming that it was your intention for the site to earn you an income of course).  Personally, I would much rather have a high Alexa ranking but a good income than a low ranking and minimal income.

Of course, there are benefits to the Alexa service and it can be worthwhile installing their toolbar.  The toolbar will give you an indication of how busy a particular site is and in turn, how popular it is.  This can be helpful when making a decision as to whether to make an online purchase for example.  It is also handy for checking out your competitors.

Just don’t get too hung up on Alexa as a measure of how well your business is doing.  The real statistics that you should be watching are actual traffic numbers, conversion rates (ie. how many visitors actually buy something) and overall sales.  These are the figures that will help you put cash in the bank and improve and grow your business.

If you are interested in finding out more about Alexa and if you wish to install their toolbar, you can do so at http://www.alexa.com

Another piece of information that is often relied upon too greatly is the Google Page Rank.  I will be giving you my opinion on this statistic in the next newsletter.

Viral marketing revisited

If you have spent any time at all studying Internet marketing, then you are bound to have come across the term ‘viral marketing’.  In fact, it is one of the first things that most people learn about when starting their Internet journey and very often it is a subject that is quickly forgotten or discarded as being an unrealistic way of generating traffic.  However, I did something this week which made me look at viral marketing in a new light and proved to me that it is incredibly effective.

For those that don’t know, viral marketing is used to generate traffic and it works by getting other people to spread the word about your website.  Because of the fact that you are using other people, your ‘message’ can spread across the Internet very quickly – just like a virus, hence the name.

One of the most common ways of using viral marketing is by writing an eBook that contains links back to your website and allowing other people to give the eBook away or resell it to their own customers.  If you manage this process correctly, you can end up with hundreds or even thousands of people distributing your eBook.  Because of the fact that every eBook has a note of your website link in it, a fair proportion of the ultimate readers can be expected to click through to your site (and hopefully a few of these will buy something from you).

Of course, viral marketing doesn’t have to be based around an eBook – another way of using this technique is to create a site that is very unique or amusing.  The sort of site that you look at and ‘just have to tell your friends about’.  These sites can generate huge levels of traffic in a very short space of time as each person emails their friends to pass on the website URL.

Now, the reason that I say that people often give up on viral marketing as being unrealistic is because it can seem like an incredible task to write or design something that is going to have mass appeal AND then get the word out to enough people and persuade them to start passing your eBook/link/whatever on to even more people.  Also, viral marketing doesn’t always happen quickly – it can take several months or even longer for the traffic to start flowing at a reasonable level.  To be honest, I am pretty much an ‘I want it now’ kinda guy and for this reason, I haven’t really relied on viral marketing that much for my own businesses (or so I thought!)

So what happened this week?

Well, nothing super-exciting really – I simply did a search on Google for the following term:  ‘UK-Trader’s UK Wholesale Guide’.  As many of you will know, this was the first eBook I ever published back in 2001.  I also issued resale rights on the first version of the eBook (again in 2001) but quickly stopped selling the rights as I was spending too much time policing those that chose to sell it in breach of the resale rights conditions. 

Anyway, my Google search revealed over 2,000 search results for the above term!  Now, whilst some of these results related to my own websites and those of my affiliates, a massive number were in respect of sites that were selling the ‘resale rights’ version of the eBook or that were acting as an affiliate for someone else that had the resale rights.

Considering that I had only issued resale rights in limited numbers, during a period of just a few months and over three years ago, I found the number of search results quite incredible.  Just imagine what sort of numbers I could have generated if I hadn’t stopped selling the resale rights and had allowed my viral marketing to continue.

Even if each of the above references/links generates only one visitor to my websites each month, that is still over 2000 free visitors every single month.  In addition, not only do these visitors not cost me anything but I don’t have to do anything to get them.

I was so surprised at the above results that I am planning on releasing resale rights to the latest version of my wholesale guide in the near future and if you have a product to which you can apply a viral marketing technique, I strongly recommend that you give it a try.  What have you got to lose?  More importantly, what have you got to gain? 

One other thing to bear in mind is that once the word is out ‘virally’, it is quite literally impossible to stop the traffic that your marketing virus will create.  So to sum it up, if you get it right and create the perfect viral marketing campaign, you will end up with FREE traffic every month that you don’t need to DO ANYTHING to receive and that would be IMPOSSIBLE to stop, even if you wanted to!  Sounds great to me.