Alexa website statistics regularly get quoted in articles talking about website popularity and website traffic, but not everyone knows about the wealth of traffic and competitor information that anyone can use for free. So what exactly is Alexa and how can it help your business?
What is Alexa?
Alexa Internet, www.alexa.com, has been around since 1996 and was bought by Amazon in 1999. Using the Alexa Toolbar, Alexa gathers information on the Web usage of all Internet users who have installed the toolbar. While the toolbar conflicts with anti-spyware programs, because it collects and transmits data on search habits, exactly this data allows Alexa to compile statistics on website traffic and related information. Less known but also very useful is Alexa’s Wayback Machine, which is a searchable collection of archived web page copies, meaning that you can look at how a website evolved over time and view old screenshots from various dates.
What traffic and competitor information can you get?
If you go to Alexa and type in your website address, you can view traffic reach and traffic rank information over time. With the traffic rank, the lower your ranking, the better. For example, Yahoo has a traffic rank of 1, making it the most visited site on the Internet. MSN comes in second, with Google third. You can get this information for any website you want – so you can use this as a way to estimate how much traffic your competitors’ websites are getting, and how their traffic changed over time. You can even graph a competitor’s traffic rank compared to yours if you go into “Traffic Details”. You can also check out the Internet’s top sites by subject or language – great if you are looking at general trends.
“Related Links” shows you a listing of sites that your visitors also visited. This can assist in identifying competitors to watch or might alert you to sites that you should advertise on.
“Sites Linking in” gives you a detailed listing of sites linking to yours, which is an indication of the number of backlinks to your site and allows you to eyeball what types of sites are linking to you. You can get this information through other sources too, but I like that the Alexa list includes “Site Info” links for each of the sites linking to you, which lets you drill down and find out more about those sites easily.
The “Overview” page includes a high level summary of general site stats like the speed of your website compared to other websites, contact information, and also lists reviews if any have been posted.
To my knowledge, Alexa is the only free tool that offers this depth of traffic and site information for free. The Alexa pages are easy to navigate and are a great resource for monitoring your own site performance and your competitors.
Alexa only collects information from users who have installed the toolbar, so the information you see is based on an (albeit large) sample of data and might not reflect actual performance completely accurately. While this is something you should keep in mind, I think potentially biased information is much better than none at all. The more users use the Alexa toolbar, the more accurate Alexa’s data becomes, and I personally am happy to use the toolbar despite spyware concerns.
The toolbar is also useful in itself – you can see a site’s traffic rank while you are surfing it, and the toolbar also includes four or five related links which are most likely competing sites. This is great for comparison shopping and research purposes.
Another thing that I’ve found is that some of the reviews can be outdated and might not present real-time feedback on a site. It also appears that competitors can manipulate the reviews quite easily, so take this information with a grain of salt.
Overall, Alexa is a great research tool and I highly recommend you check them out!