There are two questions about Alexa traffic rankings that come up quite often:
- How can my website’s rank be getting worse when my site analytics clearly indicate that I am getting more traffic?
- Why does the rank of my website jump around?
There are two main reasons why ranks change in ways that might not make sense when you look at them.
First, the Alexa Traffic Rank of a given website isn’t only based on traffic to the given site, but takes into account the traffic to all sites and ranks sites relative to each other. Since your site is ranked relative to other sites, changes in traffic to other sites affect your site’s rank. The second is something called the "long tail".
Every day, Alexa estimates the average daily visitors and pageviews to every site over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews over the past 3 months is ranked #1. If no one in our measurement panel visited a site over the past 3 months there is no rank at all for that site.
If you plot the number of visitors to a site versus the rank it looks something like this:
At the "head" of the graph is Google.com, which gets a huge number of visitors and is ranked #1. The sites at the head end of the plot, like Google.com, get a huge amount of traffic compared to the sites on the “long tail” at the other end.
The closer you get to the head of the graph, the more visitors it takes to move up in rank. For example, there’s a huge difference in traffic to a site ranked 10 versus a site ranked 200.
However the situation changes as you move out towards the tail. The important thing to notice is that because of the shape of the distribution, a very small change in the number of visitors to a site on the long tail results in a large change in rank.
So, sites ranked in the hundreds of thousands or millions are much more sensitive to small increases or decreases in traffic.