Alexa ranking is a toolbar that, after installation, collects the browsing behavior of web users which are transmitted to the website for storage and analysis. This also forms a platform wherein the company reports the behavioral traits of web traffic. The Alexa Internet system was established in 1996 by Brewster Kahli and Bruce Gilliat. The company provided the toolbar that offered Internet users the guidance to navigate the website based on traffic pattern of the user community. The Alexa also provided an in-depth knowledge about each site, its registration, its number of pages, link popularity and frequency of update. The Alexa archive the web pages as they crawl the site.
In 1999 this company was purchased by Amazon.com and with the company’s merger its vision changed from its original “intelligent search engine” operation. In 2002, Alexa initiated a partnership with Google and in the following year with Open Directory Project. However, in May-2006 Google was replaced by Amazon Live Search which became the provider of search results. By December-2006, “Alexa Image Search” was released which is the first in-built major web application platform
Alexa ranked sites on the basis of tracking information received from users on the basis of its Alexa toolbar. It also ranked the sites from integrated side bars in Mozilla and Netscape. Controversy exists over the manner in which Alexa ranks websites based on typical Internet behavior. However in April-2008, Alexa reported dramatic changes in their ranking system. A new ranking system was introduced which took into account more data sources beyond “Alexa toolbar users”. By 2009, Alexa.com underwent a complete redesign as it included new metrics like page-views-per-user, bounce rate and time-spent-on-a-website. This was followed by additional features like demographics, click stream and search traffic sites.
Website owners should be aware of the Alexa ranking system for the following reasons :
- Those who are interested in selling their website to obtain optimum revenue from its sale,
- Those who are interested in supplementing their website’s income by selling advertisements on web pages,
- Those who want to get a feel of website search engine optimization.
This system is the most frequently used evaluation method to determine a site’s popularity and traffic flow. Unlike Google Page Rank, which specifically evaluates particular web page, Alexa traffic ranking can be applied to the entire website. This ranking system also is the combined function of “reach” and “page views”. The statistics that are available for both the medium comes from the date supplied by users who have installed the Alexa toolbar. The “reach” is calculated on the percentage of users accessing the site while “page views” include the number of unique pages accessed by a user per day. On the basis of their calculation, Alexa traffic ranking is evaluated. This creates Alexa’s list of most popular websites with the website achieving the highest rank is listed as #1.
There is much criticism regarding the Alexa ranking system. This bias is founded on the fact that data only comes from the users of toolbar existing in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Netscape browsers while other browsers like AOL is not included.