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The Alexa Toolbar

The Alexa Toolbar

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The Alexa Toolbar is a downloadable browser component that installs into your Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or greater.

The toolbar serves two purposes, providing information to Alexa and for the user.

Information about the sites that you are visiting is recorded to Alexa's database and used to provide rankings for all the domains on the web. These rankings can be seen at their website in the Global Top 500 list, Top English Language sites, and their enhanced version of the DMOZ directory.

The Alexa toolbar also provides the user with the popularity rank for each site that they visit as they surf the net. Note that this is a per domain ranking, unlike Google Page Rank which is a per page ranking.

The value of the Alexa toolbar to the webmaster is the ability to roughly gauge the traffic for a particular site of interest. For example, perhaps you are considering whether to participate in a link exchange with a site, for the purpose of getting more traffic to your website. If the site under consideration has no traffic, then the program isn't likely to be worth the time. Using the Alexa ranking, a webmaster may be able to make a more accurate determination of the relative amount of traffic. The larger the ranking number, the lower the traffic is likely to be, so if the ranking was something like 1,392,459, then no matter how slick the website looks, or how high the Google Page Rank is, that site doesn't have a huge amount of traffic.

The downside of using the Alexa toolbar to gauge traffic is that the Alexa ranking is subject to a relatively small sampling (people who use the toolbar), and the ranking can be artificially manipulated to some degree. The small sampling pool tends to provide better Alexa rankings to those types of websites that are likely to be frequented by webmasters (or more specifically, users of the toolbar).

Alexa Rankings by Order of Magnitude

TierAlexa Ranking   Example Sites

11-9   Yahoo, Google
210-99   CNN, NBA
3100-999   WSJ, Drudge, WebmasterWorld
41,000-9,999   Time, American Idol
510,000-99,999   Money Talk, Luxor Hotel
If you mentally group Alexa rankings into tiers by order of magnitude, it smoothes out some of the factors that lead to inaccuracies. (See chart)

For the very largest sites the Alexa rankings have good degree of accuracy. Any ranking within tier 1, 2, 3 or 4 is fairly accurate, and not subject to manipulation attempts by a single webmaster. However, a site like WebmasterWorld, where many visitors are likely to have the toolbar installed, is certainly overranked compared to a site in the same tier like the Drudge Report. Of course, if you were wanting to gauge the popularity of a site with webmasters, as opposed to the general public, then WebmasterWorld probably isn't overranked by Alexa.

Rankings in tier 5 or below, should be treated a bit more suspiciously as they tend to be less accurate. But, obviously, a tier 7 website is not too popular.

Finally, one of the nice features of the toolbar is the Related Links section. From their database of surfing, Alexa displays related websites for many sites you visit. This can be quite useful to quickly find similar sites that might not be found as easily through the search engines and is a good resource when researching possible link partners and more.

If you are interested in trying the Alexa toolbar, you can download it at Alexa's Toolbar Page

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