Call Me Stupid, but I Pay Attention to Google PageRank and Alexa Rank

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.

google-pagerank-and-alexa-rank

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 Rank

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.

Install this extension for Chrome and this addon to Firefox.

Other indicators

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.

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Comments

  1. says

    Positioning on Google is more dependent on incoming links than page content. The Adobe website is on the top page on Google.com for the keyword ‘website’ although this keyword is not seen on the webpage or the underlying coding. It is at the top because of the anchor text of the incoming links and the authority of the website – best indicated by the HomePage PageRank.
    The authority of a webpage depends on a combination of the HomePage and Page PageRank. There is a hidden factor – Google raises the effective PageRank of the HomePage of a website when the HomePage is competing for a keyword – to about 4.5

    Hope this helps.

    Regards

    David

    • says

      Hi David, I’m confused that sounds like an anchor text Google bomb. One of the things I thought Google are trying to get rid of. I can’t see Google.com, but on UK and India searches Adobe are nowhere near the top for “website”.

      I don’t quite know what Google are doing as our positions are changing almost daily. We had a keyword competitor who gained over us in search. When they closed their site I think they redirected their links to the site that powered them. As a result this other site took their position even though completely wrong for the search term. Suddenly, Google seemed to realise and they disappeared for 6 months. Now they are back again.

      • says

        Hi David Waumsley
        I am in the UK – Search for Google.com and then search on Google.com for ‘website’ – Adobe page in #4
        “I don’t quite know what Google are doing as our positions are changing almost daily. ” They are tweaking the algorithm settings at least twice a day.
        “redirected their links” – this can explain a lot including claims that a new program can have dramatic effects on positioning. The effects were not due to the wonder program but to redirects.

        • David Waumsley says

          Thanks David V
          I’m in India at the moment so I can’t seem to stop it redirect to co.in without setting a proxy.

          I should explain that I did not mean a program when I said “site that powered them” If you type “fine art cards” or “fine art card” you will see magnoliabox (dot)com. They don’t sell cards or use that keyword, but another company who used them for their images did. When they closed, Magonlia box took their position. This, I think, backs your point, but a possible counter point is that they completely disappeared from any card related searches for a long time. I’m sure they will again. This term does not worry us to much as it low traffic.

          I know Google tweak daily and we are unaffected usually. Since they announces that Exact Matching Domain update we have lunged forward and then again backward on most of our key phases. There’s some real anomalies out there at the moment. I’m sure they clear it up though. It’s not changing our volume of traffic as we see to get a boost on images searches, which I think was another thing they have been doing recently.

  2. says

    OK Rob – you’re stupid! Me too as I still look.

    My understanding is that Matt Cutts believes we should not worry about PR any more. A relief to me as my sites (for no logical reason) all dropped one. Possibly they were ranked too high before as one had a PR2 when it was still a “coming soon” page! Go figure!

    Also, I think Alexa can be way off with traffic. When I was doing a lot of daily work on my eCommerce site we soared.

    Still, I think if you take them with a pinch of salt they are useful. I use SEO for Chrome which gives a whole host of other measures including social media ones for extra balance.

    So much fun calling you stupid. I was starting to worry about how much I was always agreeing with you!

    • says

      Call me stupid as much as you like, David. :) I agree, as long as you take into account their shortcomings they are useful to me. I have SEO for Chrome too but I don’t tend to look at it as you have to click. I have all the heavy-weight SEO extensions on Firefox (my “secondary” browser) as it tends to slow it down a lot, leaving Chrome (my “primary” browser) to zoom through daily tasks.

      Yes, Matt Cutts did say that. Right in a way but wrong in another way. This site’s home page went up to PR4 down to PR3 and up to PR4 again. I guess it was on the borderline!

      • says

        Funny, I use Chrome and Firefox exactly as you do.

        The first time my (linked) site got rack it went in at PR4 and held for a second run. Not deserved at all and the domain had no history. Now it has been PR3 for two rounds. If we hit zero we are going to change into an Indian SEO company with 300 employees – I have your email address!

        Anyway, given it’s twice as hard to get to the next rank I think those with a PR of 5 or more probably have not got there by error.

        Enjoyable article Rob and great talking point.

          • says

            No rank for a few months and then straight to PR4. Quite ridiculous really as online UK greeting card giants like Moonpig, Funky Pigeon and Clinton also had PR4 at that time. They have all gone up now.

            Thanks for the link Rob, I forgot about them.

            Do you know whether I should be worried about the hundreds of inbound links from updowner and woorank that are shown on my Google webmaster tools? I’m assuming, even though Google judge us by who links to us, that they know of these folks. Only those lovely re-pinners on Pinterest manage to outnumber them!

            I try not to look at SEO too much – it can send anyone a bit crazy, but certainly what you have achieved is an inspiration.

            • says

              You’re right that if you’re looking at SEO too much you’ll go crazy. You’d also be doing it wrong if you’re looking at it too much, in my opinion. I wouldn’t be too worried by those links from stats sites. If the organic traffic is constant or moving in the right direction then you should be alright.

  3. says

    Hi Rob

    My home page recently dropped from a PR3 to PR2 and my Alexa rank is now over the four hundred thousand mark. ( It use to be under three hundred thousand) I put these changes down to a 2 month break, that I had during June and July and of course the Panda and Penguin updates from Google.

    • says

      Hello Paul. Nothing to worry about. Although the best thing you can do – and the least you should do – with a blog is to add to it regularly.

      I’m not sure if Panda or Penguin effect PageRank. You may have been on the border between PR3 and PR2 and then a load of PR2 sites got more links and pushed you down. But I don’t know for sure. Thanks for your comment.

  4. says

    I’m certainly no SEO expert, but I do my bit to get higher rankings / traffic / sales etc. I do track the Alexa rankings of about 5 sites I have involvement in, and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in ranking over literally the last month, and I haven’t got a clue why!

    As an example, in the last two weeks a new site, which has very little content yet, and hasn’t really been publicly launched, went from over 12.2 M to 3.9M. (I know that’s still really high, but there’s literally nothing on the site, just a maintenance page!

    On all of these sites, there has been a small jump in traffic, according to my analytics, but with the exception of one, which has had some publicity recently, nothing earth-shattering.

    Anyone have an idea what might be happening?

    Richard

    • says

      Hi Richard, I wonder if you are experiencing a Alexa traffic boost like I did due to working on the site.

      We’ve been on a long break in India so it was a give away when Alex said this .co.uk site was most popular in India.

      More interestingly, I had not blocked my new IP from Google Analytics which said I was 10% of the front-end traffic. Can it be that Alexa is able to track back-end activity or does just take a few samples – so can be off ( like Google’s site speed measurement) .?

      There has been a lot of updates over a few weeks. Panda3 , Exact Matching Domains and another penalising those with too many ads “above the fold” (presumably Google will be slapping themselves for the last one!)

      Rob – I could not resist mentioning India again – lovely and sunny day today. Pool was warm. Went a bit crazy on the spending – nearly £5 gone! ;-)

      • says

        Blocking your IP from Google Analytics is a really good idea and something I should do. I don’t know if you can do the same thing with Alexa but if you have an Alexa bar on your browser this means you are contributing to (and therefore skewing) the stats.

        Thanks for your update on India. Meanwhile there’s a very definite chill in the air in London and I just spent £10 on a couple of non-alcoholic drinks! But keep mentioning it, it’ll inspire me to get myself travelling again.

    • says

      Hi Richard, the Alexa rank is an average over 4 months so if your traffic is slowly rising you’ll have to wait before your Alexa start slowly falling. And this might explain the jump with the new site. Alexa ranks in the millions don’t tend to mean much but they are more and more accurate in the thousands and hundreds.

  5. says

    Hi Rob,

    First thanks for nice article.

    I am not agree with the PageRank and Alexa Rank logic. From my own personal experiments it resulted that Alexa Rank dont have anything related with traffic of website and PageRank for ranking (Indirectly traffic).

    Let me tell you my own example. I have a website with PR:2 and Alexa is more than 500K (500000) . This website is 1 year old and getting daily traffic of almost 3k to 5k. My friend have his website with PR:4 and Alexa rank 45K. But he is receiving only 500-750 daily traffic since last 4 months.

    Then how such a big difference? I cant understnd why all SEO companies mostly reals on Alexa and PR?

    Thanks

    • says

      Fair comment, Tushar. As for the Alexa rank has the website had 3k to 5k daily traffic consistently. Remember Alexa is spread over the last few months. I agree your friend’s website’s Alexa is hard to explain – unless their has been a sudden drop in traffic.

      PR, as you know, doesn’t have anything directly to do with traffic, just authority. The two can go together most of the time but not all the time.

      I pay attention to Alexa and PR simply because there’s nothing else better.

      • says

        Yes Rob,

        But the main failure of these both parameter is they can be manipulated by using few techniques. So low authority website can be consider as high.

        Otherwise nothing else.

        • says

          It’s true but if you take a broad view of them they can be helpful pointers (especially for the bigger sites). Not always, though, I take that point.

  6. says

    i have learn a lot from this post i have a freind of mine who got raking in alexa in few month but he refuse to tell me his secret pleas any one help me

  7. says

    I check my page rank, but I need to do something about it as it is low. I wonder, you mentioned we should try to guest post on sites that have good page rank and Alexa rankings. Is there a way to find these sites other than just surfing and looking?

  8. says

    Rob,

    I agree with you.I insist every blogger should rely on both alexa & page rank to guage the visitors & to track the authority among search engines

  9. says

    Hello David (comment above – we went over the nested comment maximum and I can’t reply to you up there!) Well, your experience with PR shows that it’s not that reliable and a bit weird at times. !