Alexa Rank vs Google PageRank

Equals in the rank race

Once you have a mountain of resources, you want a way to sort them, make sense of them and use them. By the mid-90s, the growing number of pages on the Internet made efficient ranking mechanisms vital. And a series of solutions magically appeared.

Alexa Internet was founded in 1996, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were developing PageRank (PR) at Stanford, and Robin Li launched the first link analyzing engine, RankDex.

Alexa’s strategy was community-based from day 1. The company offered its toolbar for browsers that guided users in their web surfing based on typical community behavior. Besides counting the actual hits, Alexa introduced web crawling bots to automatically inspect all available web pages and archive them. This made Alexa extremely attractive to Amazon who acquired it in 1999 to get meaningful insight into their customers’ behavior on the web.

Although it was a simple and powerful algorithm, PageRank eventually proved weak as it was detached from the real user’s motivation. It only calculated the probabilities of behavior, not the behavior itself. This weakness became more obvious as web resources multiplied and increased in complexity. PageRank alone no longer provided insight into the website’s relevance. That’s why Google subsequently introduced lots of additional algorithms and services to ensure it still delivers the best possible results relevant to the user’s query.

Who killed the PageRank score?

At the dawn of its success, Google was actively promoting PageRank among its main advantages compared to AltaVista and Lycos (press Like if you remember them!), and the public access to its score was part of this promotion.

Of course, everyone wanted to be top ranked. Google Toolbar was the main factor of seduction – and the driver for manipulation. To pump their scores up, webmasters were eagerly buying backlinks. This gave rise to a billion-dollar industry. Besides that, everyone’s inboxes were constantly filled with link offers (and requests) and blogs got comments with irrelevant links.

One of Google’s attempts at eliminating the black-market effect was their nofollow attribute, but it never stopped the link madness.

The company eventually had to stop displaying PageRank in the Google Search Console in 2009, and shut down the Google Directory, where the PR was also indicated, in 2010.

Google officially excluded the PageRank score section from its bar for browsers in 2016, but in fact hardly anybody had used the bar since 2010 when Google Chrome (that has never had Google bar) gained popularity leaving IE and Firefox behind.

The post-PageRank SEO

Although it’s not out in the open, PageRank still matters. Google counts PR as part of its huge and completely secret ranking model. SEOs around the globe keep arguing about and seeking ways to hack the system or figure out which link manipulations produce better outcomes.

Plenty of new, transparent metrics have been developed to somehow replace the actual PageRank or even guess how it might rank a given page: URL Rating by Ahrefs.com, SEOmoz Page Authority, Flow Metrics by Majestic, and even the Open PageRank that essentially attempts to reestablish public scores.

However, closing PageRank to the public proved beneficial for the web at large. Webmasters gradually overcame their obsession with the link business and paid more attention to the meaningful SEO factors.

There are generally two factors naturally valued by the search engine provider as a business:

  • Relevance and quality. If you want people to keep using your search engine, make sure you provide them with useful, intuitive search results. Behind the first lines on the SERP, there should be engaging content and good service relevant to the requests.
  • Incentive to buy ads.As a major web advertising provider, Google is motivated to make businesses pay for ads. Obviously, it will be introducing all legally acceptable algorithms and policies to diminish the promotion effect of your ads-free SEO efforts. If Google finds a way to answer the user’s question right on the SERP, it will do so without sending the user to the source website. This makes the SERP more practical for the users that Google cares a lot about.

As a major web advertising provider, Google is motivated to make businesses pay for ads. Obviously, it will be introducing all legally acceptable algorithms and policies to diminish the promotion effect of your ads-free SEO efforts. If Google finds a way to answer the user’s question right on the SERP, it will do so without sending the user to the source website. This makes the SERP more practical for the users that Google cares a lot about.

Alexa is on their minds

Notably, it all comes back to the actual user behavior analysis and comparison across the web. And in this field, Alexa is a pioneer.

Alexa Rank is considered by online magazines, bloggers, and highly competitive businesses. It even helps webmasters to evaluate their technical optimization efforts.

But for Alexa itself, the main focus is larger businesses. Since its Amazon story started, Alexa has been developing practices to aid the digital performance of the major players on the web.

Alexa’s most valued customers are websites with massive traffic. Being high on the chart, they don’t pay that much attention to the rank itself, but instead actively analyze competitors, audience, and mass user behavior on their pages in order to improve their marketing KPIs.

Does my Alexa Rank matter for my SEO?

Let’s say it matters for your marketing performance in general.

It is empirically accepted that Alexa Rank correlates with Google search results. Thus, being in Alexa Rank’s top 100,000 significantly increases your chances to find your website in Google’s top 10. You can see for yourself that Google’s top websites are virtually always ranked high by Alexa Rank, too.

The difference is that Google rankings you see in the search results are based on search query relevance. Another difference Alexa is often criticized for is its relatively smaller coverage as Alexa only relies on its Toolbar users. But given its actual correlation with Google, it definitely makes sense to take care of your Alexa rank.

It is certainly possible to manipulate Alexa Rank using designated scripts and even manually imitating page views through different browser pages, but the best way to boost your Alexa Rank – promoted by Alexa itself – is high quality content.

Focused on the number of page views, Alexa Rank is really straightforward. Attracting more quality traffic to your website, you increase your chances of improving your position on Google. However, as its ranking algorithms are concealed, there is no way to be sure besides giving it a try.