Today, in one of my rare technology themed posts, I’m going to share some thoughts and tips on how you can improve your site’s Alexa rank.
First though: what is Alexa rank, and why is it important?
Why is Alexa rank important?
Alexa rank is one of the metrics that is visible to the outside world as a measure of how popular your site is. It is but one of many metrics, alongside ranking data such as Google’s Page Rank, which measures how important Google thinks your page is, and Compete, a US only measuring standard.
Alexa is important because it demonstrates to others what your site is worth in a relative sense, which is particularly useful when you want to negotiate a deal with advertisers, or if you are trying to demonstrate your value to a third party in exchange for a product or service.
How does Alexa rank work?
The Alexa score for a website is calculated over a three month rolling average, with a numerical score given. You can also visit the Alexa website for a one month average, however this is more liable to fluctuate. The score is updated usually daily, although this is not always the case.
Alexa rank is calculated in a number of ways, although accuracy becomes much reduced outside of the top 100,000 sites.
The main way that Alexa rank is calculated is via users of the Alexa toolbar. This is a software addon to a users browser that tracks all the sites a user visits. This data is then aggregated and a site score is allocated based on visits.
Obviously, this toolbar scheme contains a number of flaws. Only users with the toolbar installed will provide traffic data to Alexa, which will skew the results towards the browsing habits of a certain segment of the population. That segment of the population is the one which has an interest in Alexa rank – there is no other good reason to have the toolbar installed. Luckily, this means that the system can be gamed – to a point of course.
As well as the toolbar Alexa state on their website that they obtain traffic data from ISP’s and other sources. This is less relevant to the article as it is not something you entirely have direct control over.
How do I increase my site’s Alexa score?
Enough, already, with the description of what Alexa is, and how it works. Clearly, you want to know how to get your sites score from it’s current rating up into the top 100,000.
There are a number of ways to improve your Alexa score, and they work by attracting people with the toolbar to your site. Obviously, it would be nice to attract more people to your site anyway, because hard traffic numbers are the most important statistic, but as Alexa rank is externally visible, that is what we will focus on improving, and the easiest way to do that is by registering hits on your site from people with the toolbar installed.
As a web site owner, there are two major tactics you can use to improve your rank.
Tactic One – Use the toolbar
The first thing you should do if you want to improve your Alexa rank is install the Alexa toolbar. If you are using Google Chrome, this comes as an extension which is only a button wide, so hardly takes up any space. Obviously there are privacy implications to installing a toolbar which tracks your usage across the whole web, but that would appear to be a concession you will have to make.
Once the toolbar is installed, browse your site as you would normally do, attempting to visit it at least once a day, and visiting more than just the home page in the process. This will keep the page views and bounce rate statistics looking good.
By just employing this tactic, and not even engaging with the rest of the Alexa using world, you will be able to easily get your site into the top million – 750,000. Clearly, this is not a system without flaws.
Tactic Two – Attract other toolbar users
After installing the Alexa toolbar, you will find that however frantically you click around your site, you still won’t be edging much higher than 500,000 in the scores. Presumably Alexa corrects for one toolbar user being obsessed by a site and normalises the score. In order for your rank to keep ascending therefore, you will need to attract other Alexa toolbar users.
To do this, you need to work out who the other Alexa toolbar users are. The answer is, fairly obviously: other website owners who are interested in their Alexa rank. Your average internet user who doesn’t run a website has no real reason to have the Alexa toolbar installed.
You need therefore to provide content which is interesting to other website owners. In an ideal world of course, all your content will shine, and visitors will flock to your site like magpies to tinfoil, toolbar users and not alike.
In a less than ideal world, this may not be the case. More targeted posting is likely to be required.
In my case, I am a part of the wider travel blogging community. I am aware that Alexa rank is something that travel bloggers are pretty interested in, so I am fairly certain that most other travel bloggers will have the toolbar installed. As I already write about travel, this is the segment that I would most likely be interested in engaging with on my site, as we are already in the same niche.
To improve the Alexa rank of this site therefore, I need to engage with the wider travel blogging community, and give them a good reason to visit the site. Here are some ideas for how I could do that, which you should be able to apply to your niche as well.
Provide information on subject matter that is highly valuable to travel bloggers
This is probably the best way to attract toolbar using readers. If I were, for example, to run an article with information on how to make a guaranteed return on travel blogging, I suspect I would be fairly inundated with interested travel bloggers. Sadly, I haven’t worked that one out yet. But you get the idea.
The important thing with this approach is to be sure that your information is solid and valuable. Snagging people with a snappy headline and then failing to deliver the goods is a sure fire way to rile people up. Also, you don’t want to be straying too far from your regular posting theme, or your every day readers may start to wonder what the hell you are going on about.
Run posts that encourage discussion, to pull people in from the RSS Feed
Another number that website owners like to keep an eye on is the subscriber count to the site’s RSS feed. Subscribers are people who have committed to receiving every article via their RSS reader or e-mail client, which means that in many cases they don’t actually visit your site.
Whilst it is obviously brilliant that folk are willing to read your content regularly, from an Alexa perspective this means that you are not getting hits. And I would suggest, with roughly zero evidence to back me up, that a lot of travel bloggers consume content in this way, because it is a lot easier than clicking around hundreds of sites. Certainly I do.
To pull people in to your site therefore, you need to give them a reason to actually come by and visit your site. A good way to do this is to run a post that encourages discussion, that makes people want to drop by and share their opinion. Additionally, you could implement a comment system like CommentLuv, which rewards people for commenting on your site by linking to their most recent article.
There is a balance to achieve here – you don’t want people commenting just for the sake of it, but you do want people to swing by. Try it out with an open ended post to foster discussion, and see what happens.
Publish a round up of top travel posts from around the web on a regular basis.
There are a myriad of great travel bloggers out there, producing great content. It may be that my readers don’t spend quite the same amount of time that I do wandering around the travel blogging sphere, but it may also be that they enjoy reading the same sort of thing that I enjoy reading.
Doing a regular round up of my favourite content from like minded travel bloggers is a great way to drive toolbar touting traffic, and it has the added bonus of bringing content to my readers attention that they might not have otherwise seen. This is a win-win scenario – other bloggers will drop on in to see what sites you have chosen, those sites will gain an increase in traffic and recognition, and your readers will have more content to read.
Again, this is an area you need to approach with care and consideration. You really do need to put some work in to picking your favourite reads, as picking a random selection of articles is going to be doing a disservice to your readers, and in the long term, no-one will care about your selection. A list is only as good as it’s curator and content.
Run interviews with fellow travel bloggers
This is a bit like the list idea, only of a more focused nature. Interviews are a wonderful way to reach out to a wider audience, exchange links, and build connections. Again, this works positively both ways, the interviewee gets to spread the word about their blog, the interviewer gets some great content and potential traffic from the interviewee.
Interviews are an interesting way to provide additional content to your blog, and with the right questions, you can pull out information that is really useful to your audience. I’ve had great success with my series on travel blogging tips for example, where I’ve been interviewing successful travel bloggers for their tips on running a great site.
Run competitions with relevant prizes
Competitions are always a fun way to engage with your audience. But before you start to panic about not being able to afford the prizes, consider what is of value to other travel bloggers. Sure, offering an all expenses paid round the world trip is going to get folk interested, but it may be a touch out of your price bracket.
One form of currency that is bound to be of interest is traffic and publicity. Offering the simple prize of a re-tweet and a stumble to the winner of your competition, or even to all the participants, is the sort of thing that will really interest your target audience. Again, this works two ways – you get toolbar traffic, and your toolbar traffic gets recognition and visitors. The more successful and influential you are, the more valuable this will be.
The downside to this sort of competition is that regular readers who don’t run their own site may not find the prize too desirable. Achieving a balance is key.
Well those are my thoughts on improving your Alexa rank. This is a fairly long term strategy, and isn’t something that will happen overnight. Additionally, the system can only be gamed to a certain point, beyond which you are likely to want to focus on actually building traffic!
A key thing to realise with all of these tips is that no-one likes to feel used. If folk feel that you are just using them to increase your Alexa rank, you run the risk of the reverse happening.
The positive thing about my suggestions is that they are a two way street. You get a little kick back in terms of Alexa rank increase, and the community around you gets the pleasing glow of recognition, as well as valuable information that they can go out and use.
My final words of advice – increasing your Alexa score should always be the secondary goal to any piece you do. First and foremost you should be producing good content, engaging with and promoting others in your niche, and interacting with your readership. If you do these things, then your traffic and associated rank will grow naturally, over time. The primary goal of your website is probably not (well, hopefully anyway) to have a high Alexa rank, so try not to lose sight of that.