Earlier, we talked about how Alexa is useful for finding potential influencers and super-affiliates. Part 3 in our Alexa series is going to show you exactly how.
It’s pretty easy to check engagement numbers to determine the social power of potential influencers. Site traffic is important in the assessment of both influencers and super-affiliates.
Suppose you have an online business based on mathematics.
And let’s say that you have identified math-only-math.com (an actual SBI! business) as a candidate for a potential joint venture to sell your math courses.
Note that despite having an older design that hasn’t been updated over the years, and other imperfections, this site demonstrates that great content can attract impressive levels of search traffic to power real revenue options. You’ll see why in a moment.
Start at Alexa, where you find a traffic ranking of 33,000. That’s Outstanding (the highest of our 7 ballparks). Few solopreneurs reach that level. You can be confident that it’s a high-traffic site.
Sidebar: “Scatter” is small when the Alexa rank is < 100,000. In our experience, less than 500,000 is reliable. As you reach 1,000,000, “scatter” is increasing — the “real” number might be 800,000, or 1,200,000. Either way, the ballpark is solid — still attractive. For higher scores, see this article from our blog.
However, you’ll be investing some time to develop a relationship. Cold-emailing is low-yield and may even anger your target. The subject of how to develop relationships is beyond the scope of this article — suffice it to say that it takes time, energy and social media.
So you want to be sure of your numbers. The following two extra measurements will nail down a good estimate of site traffic:
1) SEMrush.com: This free tool reveals both paid and organic (free search) traffic.
For example, SEMrush reveals the traffic of this SBI! business (math-only-math.com) at 113,000, huge for a solopreneur. It’s high for a mid-sized company!
A high organic count corroborates the Alexa finding — it was not a fluke. If you had found a high Alexa count but a low SEMrush outcome, you should definitely proceed to the final test…
2) SimilarWeb.com: SW confirms Alexa’s high traffic estimate (ranking of 53,000, with 1M visitors per month). We don’t really care if it’s 33K or 53K — both are outstanding (well within 100,000).
Note and Caveat: SW adds a traffic estimate of over 30,000 visitors per day (1M per month). However, the absolute traffic numbers can be quite inaccurate. When Alexa delivered traffic numbers, the same problem arose. Their methodologies are more useful for relative traffic ranking than absolute traffic numbers. Still, an extra data point is better than nothing!
Checking social media? Even though the Facebook presence is weak (@mathonlymath) and Twitter is private (@ghosh0), this is a solopreneur you would want on your side.
From here, you’d investigate the business, understand the monetization models, and plan how you can fit together.
For example, that right-column Google ad re-targets to whatever the visitor was searching for recently, in my case, “Learn Spanish.” Ugh, re-targeting.
So, if you have a terrific math product that does not compete with this SBIer, there’s a WIN-WIN in the air! Contact the site owner with a great deal — s/he may be delighted to dump bad Google ads and replace with your “site sponsorship.”
Conclusion? Yes, you want to develop an alliance with this powerful solopreneur business. It will be worth the time and energy. Luckily, the poor Facebook page will let you stand out if you engage there. Grow your relationship from that of “liker” to “noticed liker” to “sharing” until you get a personal reaction and ultimately, some conversation.
SW confirms that 92% of the traffic is from search. With 6% of the traffic being direct, very little comes from social media.
Hypothetical: If both Alexa and SW had been high, but SEMrush had been low, you would be seeing a site that has little search traffic. An examination of the site for other traffic-building methods will explain the difference (e.g., links from super-high traffic site(s), or perhaps a dominating social media presence). These three tools can provide many different types of useful information on potential allies (and competitors, too, of course).
But What About Overall Reliability?
You’re still stuck on that? 😉 Let’s summarize and wrap this one up.
You now understand the issues, as well as how myths have been perpetuated.
Sure, the rare site can be an outlier, with a result that’s more “off” than what a reasonable “range of scatter” might predict. For example, you may infrequently see a site with an Alexa rank of 500,000, but with traffic that would only justify a ranking of, say, 1,500,000.
After managing our Results page for more than 10 years, we can tell you that significant outliers are rare. We may get a result of 950,000 at Alexa, which is good enough to qualify for that page. But we also know the actual traffic since we maintain the hosting servers.
If that site only has 20,000 visitors per month, say, it’s cut from the Results page. Scatter is typically what eliminates a site from qualifying for that page.
Some articles state that Alexa can still be manipulated. We believe that this is, yet again, the perpetuation of information that used to be true. Alexa has greatly diversified the sources it uses, and has improved its algorithms to fight fraud.
That said, we can’t claim that it’s impossible. For example, some “outliers” could be explained by manipulation. If so, it’s rare. And it’s futile.
Really, what would the point be, especially since it’s so easy to cross-check with SW and SEMrush. These days, manipulation is a high-risk (to one’s reputation) / low reward game.
Sidebar: Some competitors blithely claim that we manipulate the Results page. No, those sites score well because they have the visitor count to back up their score. It’s just not possible to fake 500 sites like that.
The Alexa scores really do indicate high traffic. While there is some scatter, it’s minimized by our “actual traffic” filter.
Overall, the correlation of “visitor counts” vs. “Alexa ranking” (across thousands of sites) is good. There’s a clear power curve correlation between traffic and Alexa rankings, as the data plotting from this study shows.
We’re confident in that statement, based on our extensive experience of comparing many thousands of sites for Alexa vs. traffic since 2003. Is the correlation perfect? No — we have talked about “scatter” and how it increases as Alexa traffic rankings increase.
At the high end of Alexa (low traffic), small increases of just a few visitors per day can improve your score from 15,000,000 to 5,000,000 (and the reverse for traffic decreases). So what? It’s still “poor” traffic, good enough for what you generally need to know about other sites.
Again, think “ballpark.” A site with an Alexa rank of 1,000,000 is always going to have a great deal more traffic than one with a rank of 5,000,000. And double-checking differences with SW and SEMrush helps you nail down your estimate.
When you get into the habit of checking frequently, you’ll be less impressed about the importance of, for example, having a “stunning website” (a major selling point of companies like Wix). Plain sites (such as math-on-math.com) can have amazing traffic.
Many gorgeous sites have the “lights out” with Alexa rankings of over 30,000,000, aka “not known to Alexa.” That means that throughout Alexa’s massive panel of toolbars, extensions, pixel installs and third-party sources, a site has registered no data.
You’ll find the same when it comes to site speed — there are many sites that load very quickly but have low traffic. Developing the habit of using these tools can lend you some perspective. No Google factor is, on its own, critical to a site’s overall search success (aside, of course, from major factors such as content quality, and the cumulative effect of off-site signals).
We’re not arguing about whether they’re factors or not. We’re saying that way too much attention is paid to them, as opposed to mastering the art of writing to connect, for example. Alexa is also, therefore, a terrific teaching tool. The more you use it, the more you’ll value it.
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