A few months ago I came across Alexa Web Search for the very first time. Alexa not only offers the usual search engine features, but also additional site statistics dealing with traffic ranking. Naturally, I entered my own site into the rankings to see what I could find. Considering my site has been around for only six months I was impressed that I had a traffic rank under 300,000.
Considering that there are nearly 50 million sites presently on the Internet, a site ranking under half a million is pretty good in my book. I had heard that sites using the Drupal content management system ranked well with the various search engines so I was pleased I chose Drupal for my site. All and all, those first few moments visiting Alexa were spent patting myself on the back for a job well done.
Then to my surprise I noticed that although I had typed in cmsreport.com, Alexa displayed uly.net. Uly.net was a domain I had never heard of before visiting Alexa.com. Worse, it appears that uly.net may have been benefiting from the traffic my site receives.
Traffic Rank for uly.net: 218,200
Where do people go on uly.net?
- cmsreport.com - 98%
Now some of you might be asking yourself, why do I really care how my site is ranked? I'd like to say, it really doesn't matter to me either since I do run this site for "fun". But, I have an ego. I do get a sense of pride for finally having a site where people actually show up and visit. Put it this way, when you host sites that rank above 2 million you feel somewhat rewarded to finally have a site with only six digits in its rank. More importantly, there is benefit to understanding how traffic rankings from sites such as Alexa, Google, and Technorati are being utilized.
Statistics collected by the various search engines are being collected in hopes of generating revenue for them and their clients. You didn't think they were providing the rankings just for "fun", did you? In many ways, companies use traffic rankings to help determine the value of a site in much the same way credit rankings on individuals are used to determine risk. Text Link Ads is an example of a site that uses Alexa to determine how much they'll pay you to put ads on your site:
We use our own pricing algorithm that factors in: the traffic of your website, theme of your website, and link popularity of your website.
Now how did all this confusion for my site at Alexa happen in the first place? Luckily Alexa has this answer readily available in their FAQ:
When Alexa crawls the Web, it merges together sites which we think have the same content. When we merge two or more sites, we combine their traffic to form one ranking and list them under the domain with the most traffic. With tens of millions of domains on the Internet, our automated procedures for determining which hosts are serving the same content may be incorrect and/or out-of-date.
Luckily, for me, Alexa allows you to contact them and let them know they have incorrectly merged your site with another site. Within a few days after I sent my message, Alexa pleasantly replied back:
We will separate the sites during our next update of the service. After
we have separated the sites in 1-2 weeks, you can submit contact
information for your site.
So in a couple weeks, my site should no longer be improperly merged with another site. Ironically, my site may initially be worse off in Alexa's traffic ranks by separating it as its own site. Once my site is separated from the other sites I'm not so sure the 98% of the traffic I've contributed in the past to uly.net's ranking will travel to cmsreport.com.
The fact is that by separating my site from the other domains, the stats for my site may be reset. In that case, I may see my site drop from a traffic rank of around 200,000 to above 2 million. Am I worried? No, remember I'm doing this for fun. Plus, I'll have a chance to get my pride back again.