Like so many of your newsletter recipients, I'm a big fan!
Can you tell me a little about the Alexa toolbar and whether the "traffic ranking" has any real bearing on the popularity (traffic) to the website? My understanding is that it can only track site visitors who have the toolbar installed.
Specifically, I'm puzzled about a site that I just came across. The Alexa ranking is 151,351 which is not too shabby, all things considered. (Of course it doesn't compare with your site!)
This site has a single link on the front page that takes you to a Flash intro. The site is done in frames. It seems to me that it should not be drawing that kind of traffic. I couldn't find them on Google or Yahoo in the natural or paid listings. Where is this traffic coming from?
It seems they are doing everything that you warn against and are still able to draw significant amounts of traffic. Please enlighten me?
You are correct that Alexa gets its rankings data from browsers that have the Alexa toolbar installed. That's a fairly small sampling, as well as a skewed one, as many Web-savvy individuals feel that having the toolbar is akin to having spyware on your system. Because of this, any info you get from Alexa needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
It definitely doesn't measure the true popularity of a site, but can give you some idea if people with the Alexa toolbar installed are visiting your site. I have to admit that I like the comparison feature at the Alexa site where you can stack up a few different URLs in related markets and compare their traffic. I don't put much stock in the actual numbers, but it is very interesting to see how much higher or lower sites are on the chart in comparison to one another. Every now and then when I'm bored, I'll use this feature to compare my forum site to some of the other forum sites in the SEO industry, and it's pretty enlightening!
As to the site you were wondering about, it should be noted that frames, Flash, and being optimized or not optimized don't necessarily have anything to do with traffic to a site. It's true that those things may affect search engine rankings; however, there are many sites that couldn't care less about search engine traffic, as they get the bulk of their traffic through other means. Does Google need to be optimized for high rankings? Should a site like HomestarRunner.com stop using Flash because it might hurt their rankings? For already popular sites, and those with big marketing/advertising budgets, the answer is no.
Traditional advertising, television, Yellow Pages ads, newspaper, and other print advertising are still alive and well. All of these methods allow people the opportunity to get their Website URL out into the world. Many sites receive most of their traffic through methods that have nothing to do with search engines. As long as these sites show up for their brand name, the site owners are often pleased as punch. Plus, just because they may not be very search-engine-friendly doesn't mean they may not be ranking highly in the search engines. They may still show up for a number of keyword phrases by virtue of their link popularity. Word of mouth alone can often bring blog posts and other online press, which can serve to drive traffic as well as build links.
Hopefully this helps explain the phenomenon you noticed with the site you were looking at in Alexa. In general, I would encourage you not to pay too much attention to the Alexa numbers as a way of judging the true popularity of a site, and also keep in mind that there are many advertising methods that bring traffic besides the search engines.
December 9, 2004
CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.
High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.
Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.
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