As website owners we have many ways to “measure” our sites. We can measure visitor numbers, sales, subscriptions, etc. We can measure engagement: time on site and pages per view, etc. Some of us attach great importance in the comments we receive or how many contacts we get through the website.
But it’s easy with our sites. We have all the stats. How do we “measure” other sites?
When I’m sizing up any company, maybe a hosting company, an SEO company, a site to send a guest post to, there are two numbers I look at other than the quality of their website. And they are the Google toolbar PageRank and the Alexa Rank.
Google toolbar PageRank
PageRank goes to the very heart of Google’s founding as a company. Prior to PageRank, search engines would display pages according to their keyword density which was easy to game. Google, however, started using PageRank which measures the number and quality of links pointing to a web page to rate the importance of pages.
I say “toolbar” PageRank because it was displayed on the Google Toolbar but now is available on several browser addons. The PageRank value for a webpage goes from 0 to 10 with 10 being the highest indication of authority. It is not the “real” PageRank and is seldom updated, but it is an indication of the page’s importance and the quantity and quality of links to it.
Note here that PageRank is the measurement of a page not a site. However, many people look at the PageRank (or PR) of a home page and then refer to the site as a “PR4 site”, for example.
At this point I can imagine hords of SEO professionals getting agitated decrying the importance of PageRank. PageRank, it should be stressed, is only one of several ranking factors that Google uses to determine what goes where on the results pages.
Google toolbar PageRank is certainly not the be-all and end-all, but it is the best and most quickly attained indication of a page’s authority on the internet.
Alexa, which is a subsidiary of Amazon, produces another Toolbar which collates information and produces traffic rankings. The Alexa Rank of a site shows its popularity. Facebook, Google and YouTube, the three most popular sites on the internet, have Alexa Ranks for 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Sites with higher numbers have, therefore, lower visitor numbers.
Only a few million web surfers have the Alexa Toolbar installed and therefore the rankings are not entirely representative. They are also calculated over a period of a few months so they are slow to react to changes. They are more reliable with the highly trafficked sites.
Having said that, you can instantly tell whether a site is popular or not by looking at its Alexa Rank.
How you can see these indicators
You can easily and quickly add lightweight extensions to browsers to view the Google PageRank and the Alexa Rank. They won’t slow down your browsing experience.
I have pointed to the many shortcomings of Google toolbar PageRank and the Alexa Rank. Some people may argue that Open Site Explorer‘s Domain Authority, MozTrust or MozRank are more reliable indicators. For me, they take longer to look up whereas Google PageRank and Alexa Rank can be seen with a quick glance to the browser address bar.
When to use these indicators
As discussed, neither of these rankings are perfect. However, if there are large differences (PR2 and Alexa 1,000,000 vs. PR4 and Alexa 50,000, for example) between two sites you can clearly see which is more authoritative and more popular. And the two usually go together.
The most important use of these indicators is to judge a company that you’re thinking of doing business with.
I would not use a webhost, for example, with a PageRank of less than 5 and an Alexa Rank of more than 100,000. (There are webhosts that I wouldn’t use with those figures as well, GoDaddy shared hosting for example.)
I also use these figures to determine which sites I offer guest posts to. When guest posting, you want your article to appear on a relevant site with the highest authority (Google PageRank) and highest popularity (Alexa Rank) possible.
What do you think?
I’ve seen so many articles decrying the importance of these indicators there must be a few of you out there who disagree with me! I’m interested to hear what you think about the attention I pay to PageRank and Alexa Rank.