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A practical guide to your website Alexa ranking. What it is, what are its pitfalls, why it's important and what you can do to increase your Alexa ranking. Written as a result of questions fielded by a web client, concerned that their ranking was substantially lower than those of his competitors.
What are Alexa Rakings & Should I Care?
Alexa is to website owners as Klout is to Twitter or Nielsen ratings are to television. It's a way to see how your website traffic compares to your competitors (or any other website in the world for that matter).
Founded in 1996 by two entrepreneurs, the name Alexa gives props to the Library of Alexandria, drawing a parallel between the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world and the Internet - today's largest body of knowledge (pornography notwithstanding).
In addition to offering a toolbar that gave Internet users suggestions on where to go next, Alexa also offers statistical information for each website one visits. Originally, Alexa archived the websites it crawled and this database served as the basis for the creation of the "Internet Archive", which can now be accessed through the Wayback Machine.
For anyone owning or managing a website, Alexa rankings can offer valuable insight. If you advertise on your website, know that advertisers use Alexa rankings to determine rate-of-pay and other factors - your Alexa ranking becomes very important. For most website owners, Alexa rankings are another one of those "devil-in-the-details" things. You should know about it, how it works (and about its inherent flaws) and the small changes and improvements you can make to your website to increase its Alexa ranking. This article will cover all of this, in a practical way.
A ClustrMap|NASA Mashup
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring - except Scott, who was playing with PhotoShop! Sorry, but "Visits in the Night" isn't about Santa Claus coming down our chimney. It's about creating a "night-time" display using a satellite image from NASA, merged with our worldwide website visitors tracked on ClustrMaps.
Ever since November 2005, we've been tracking the locations of many of our randsco.com visitors by using an application developed by Marc Eisenstadt, called "ClustrMaps". (Hover the globe in "Site Tools" section of the sidebar, for the regular map thumbnail - like the one that also shows here). Since that time, we've logged over 2 million visitors!
When you click the globe in the sidebar (or the thumbnail above) you'll be directed to the ClustrMap website, which shows a much larger visitor map for our website (clicking on country regions shows even greater detail). Since inception, Marc and the ClustrMap team have been continually adding features to their service and they recently won "Best Free Web Tool" in the 2011 Edublog Awards.
Not long ago, when I clicked on the globe and went to the larger, world-wide map, I noticed that the dots showed first and that it took a few seconds for the underlying "map" to reveal itself. I thought, "The dots by themselves, make an interesting display." They reminded me of a NASA image I once saw, showing urban lights across the world at night. (The image below. Click it for an even larger version).
Earth at Night: Lights from urbanized areas show up clearly on this NASA image (a composite of hundreds of images taken by orbiting DMSP satellites).
In 2008, I entered a photo contest at Alberni Outpost, a Vancouver Island outdoor store. We didn't win, but I recently noticed the photo was used as the background for the new Alberni Outpost web site design. Have a look at the new Alberni Outpost design. Amazing!
Rachel's Photo Backdrop for Local (Alberni Outpost) Website
We are were considering purchasing a used tandem kayak from Alberni Outpost, a Vancouver Island Outdoor Adventure Store, with stores in Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Courtney & Nanoose. The fibreglass kayak has been in the Alberni Outpost rental fleet for some number of years and yesterday, we took it on a "test paddle" around Newcastle Island and to Protection Island (where we had dinner at the Dinghy Dock Pub). It was an excellent afternoon and will be the focus of an upcoming article.
In doing research for the article, I made a surprising discovery. A photo we submitted the Alberni Outpost in 2008, for a photo contest, is currently the background image for every page of the Alberni Outpost website!!
Despite the fact that the photo didn't win, Alberni Outpost chose it - over all the other photos submitted over the years and over all past winning submissions - as the backdrop for the new Alberni Outpost web site design.
We suspect the photo didn't win because it was a canoeing picture and not a kayaking picture. No worries! Just a Photoshop nip here and Photoshop tuck there and suddenly, Rachel is paddling a kayak instead of a canoe! Amazing what can be accomplished with digital photos, eh?
So, do you think the owner of Alberni Outpost, Richard Antonchuk, will give us a discount on the used kayak as consideration for using our photo in the new Alberni Outpost web design? (NOPE and neither a "thanks", nor a mention on the Alberni Outpost web site ... nor any consideration. VERY disappointing).
This article was a long time in coming. Over 25 years, to be exact. However, it contains much more than observations on why software fails the users for which it's supposed to be designed. It also demonstrates a method of designing blog posts. Is it "just another post" or a "completely new website"? You decide.
Programmers Cut Off Their Noses
Are users ever truly satisfied with the software they use? The answer is typically "no". We need the software. We use the software. But we often don't like it. Among the reasons: it's buggy, hard to figure out, doesn't do what we want, is overly complex, the navigation sucks, it's got a steep learning curve or it's poorly documented. Take your pick. Why does software fail the very users for whom it's supposed to be designed?
On October 26, 2009, Yahoo pulled the plug on millions of websites hosted on GeoCities web servers. It marks the end of an early Internet Era and one that affects no less than five of our early adventure journals. Restoration efforts are taking place. Learn more (including why the Internet is a house of cards)
26-Oct Yahoo-GeoCities Shut Down
Randsco Adventures Rescued from Ashes
On October 26, 2009, Yahoo-GeoCities shut-down their servers and immediately obliterated 15 years-worth of personal websites, made by millions of people across the world.
We rescued our early adventure journals off of GeoCities, reposting them on the Randsco domain, including: Scott's Big Ride, Rachel's 1999 Big Ride, our Oregon Cycle Tour and Wonderland Trail backpacking trip.
Begun in 1994, GeoCities spawned "neighborhoods" and by 1997, there were over a million "homesteaders" that had created personal websites. In 1999, Yahoo! bought GeoCities for $2.87 billion dollars.
GeoCities floundered under Yahoo's leadership. Terms of service changes, monthly data transfer limits, eliminating FTP access and changing advertising strategies drove users away. (We moved our home page off of GeoCities in 2003, because advertising changes interfered with visitor experience - and shared server costs were becoming affordable).
To learn more about the GeoCities shut-down, what's being done to preserve this bit of Internet history and the pitfalls of 3rd-party servers ... carry on.