Anyone with a website will understand when I say that I love to watch my hits increasing every week/month/year, but did you know that there is another way of monitoring your website traffic AND that of your competitors?
www.alexa.com provides traffic rankings for the majority of websites in the world. It works like this, Alexa has around 10 million users worldwide that have downloaded a free toolbar that integrates with Internet Explorer. This software tracks each website that the user visits and allows Alexa to build up a database of the number of hits a particular site receives over a certain period of time. Alexa then apply a calculation to the information and give the site in question a traffic ranking.
A new website will normally have a ranking of 3,000,000 or thereabouts (or nothing at all if no data is held) and as the traffic to the site increases, so the ranking reduces. The closer to ‘1’ you get, the more hits you are receiving (In case you were wondering, Yahoo holds the top position). You can also use Alexa to view the ranking of any website (your competitors?) at any time and if you download the toolbar yourself, each websites ranking will be displayed as you visit it – no need to go to the Alexa home page to look it up.
There are other benefits too – lets say you are thinking about making an online purchase but have never heard of the website that you are thinking about purchasing from. If you knew what the Alexa ranking was, you would have an idea as to how popular the site was. A ranking of 3,000,000 indicates that this is a fairly new site, or that it doesn’t receive that much traffic. In contrast, a site that has a ranking of less than, say, 250,000 indicates a reasonably high level of traffic. Now, this in itself may not be sufficient to persuade you that it is safe to buy (and I am not suggesting that it should), but knowing that the site is extremely popular may make you a bit more comfortable.
Alexa also maintain an archive of old websites called the ‘Wayback Machine’ – you can actually go and see what sites looked like 2 or 3 years ago! Funnily enough, top sites such as Yahoo and eBay have changed very little over the years – just goes to prove the saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.
One final word, Alexa is not 100% accurate – there are numerous things that can affect their rankings and distort them, but it is probably the most accurate service of this type available and does work well in giving you a general indication (plus it is great to watch your rankings slowly reduce…)