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How To Objectively Assess Your Website Power and Influence

Category: Analytics  Tags: ,

You are a small business owner who has been trying to optimize your website for a while now. You want to know whether you’re making progress. Rather than just trust your gut, are there any objective measures you can use to assess your website power and influence?

a lion is symbol of power and influence

By Cojharries (Own work) (CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons

The answer is yes, there are options available. I recommend two, your Alexa score and domain authority (DA). Both are widely accepted, readily available and free.

This post will explain the metrics, tell you where you can find them, and suggest how to best use them.

Alexa Score

An Alexa score is a simple 1 to 30 million numerical ranking of the top websites on the Internet. It’s  based on a rolling 3-month aggregation of unique visitor and page view data derived from millions of volunteer users of the free Alexa toolbar or browser extension. Rankings are updated daily.

Alexa scores are produced by Alexa, a California-based subsidiary of Amazon. Alexa assigns traffic rank to the top 30,000,000 websites and produces a continuously updated list of the top 500. The lower your score the better.

Snapshot showing the top 500 ranked websites on the Internet by Alexa, an Amazon company.

The Alexa Top 500

As you can see above, the current top-ranking websites on the Internet are search engines and social media channels.

There are some limitations to Alexa scores. They should be used comparatively as a very rough gauge of your website’s power and influence.

  • Only the top 30 million websites on the Internet are ranked. We know there’s about 1 billion websites on the Internet (as of September 2014), so your website might not rank high enough to be assigned a ranking or score.
  • Toolbar and extension users that share their browsing data with Alexa tend to be tech-savy marketing types who are less concerned about privacy. It’s a reasonable sample size, but biased.
  • The toolbar and extensions only work with Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. That leaves out Opera, Android, Safari, Blackberry and Lynx, up to 20% of Internet users, and mobile, 30-60% of all Internet traffic.
  • The rolling 3 month sample of data used to derive Alexa scores also doesn’t account for seasonal fluctuations in traffic and page views.
  • Some SEOs poo-poo Alexa scores. Say they’re not meaningful. Our purpose here is to provide you with a free and objective score you can use to tell whether your DIY SEO efforts are paying off. The Alexa score is good enough to do that.

You can contribute to Alexa’s data collection efforts and/or view your own website’s ranking using browser add-ons or the Alexa website.

To find a browser extension or add-on, go to your browser’s library and search for “Alexa”. To use the Alexa website, go to alexa.com, enter your domain name in the top right-hand corner window, and press “Find”.

snapshot showing where to enter your website on Alexa

If Alexa has a score for your site, it will tell you. Otherwise it will issue a warning with the message “We don’t have enough data to rank this website”.

If you want to see Alexa’s rank-ordered list of the top 500 websites on the Internet, click on the “Browse Top Sites” link just to the left of the “Find” window shown above, top-right.

Domain Authority

Domain authority (DA) is a metric produced by Moz, a search engine optimization (SEO) tool maker and thought leader. Domain Authority is a score based on a 100-point logarithmic scale that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. The higher your score the better.

A logarithmic scale means that every time your score improves, it’s exponentially harder to achieve that same progress again. In other words, it’s a whole lot harder to bump your score from 60 to 61 than it is to go from 0 to 1 or 1 to 10.

domain authority mountain

Domain Authority, adapted from the 2008 Elliance Page Rank Explained infographic

Domain Authority is calculated using data from 300-400 million websites every 4 to 8 weeks. Scores fluctuate because the sites and data sampled each update vary and sample sizes are relatively small, meaning a lot of sites simply get skipped. As you might expect, the amount of fluctuation is higher with newer sites and sites with few backlinks.

There are a couple of different ways you can find your website’s domain authority. The easiest is to use the Moz Open Site Explorer tool. The other is to download and use the Moz toolbar, available for Chrome and Firefox.

open site explorer tool by Moz

The example above shows where you can enter your domain name when using the Open Site Explorer tool. Note the update stats in the red box on the bottom left under “Mozscape Index”. That’s how you can tell whether scores have been updated since you last checked.

Enter your website’s domain name (URL) in the top left window shown above and press enter.

Here’s a sample result for www.google.com. Its domain authority is 100. (No surprise there!) Domain authority is for your whole site. Page authority is for a single page. In this example, the page authority (97/100) is for Google’s home page.

example domain authority for Google

Your other option is to use the Moz toolbar. After you install the toolbar, website domain (and page) authority will be displayed below search results and at the top or bottom of pages displayed with your browser.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see in search results.

moz toolbar search resultsHigh level website metrics like page authority (PA), domain authority (DA) and the number of incoming links and linking root domains (RDs) is shown below individual search results. You have to subscribe to Moz to see the actual link and root domain counts. If you’re not a subscriber, it will display “PRO ONLY” instead.

This is what you see when you have the toolbar installed and visit a web page. This example is for the Moz toolbar page itself.

snapshot showing the moz toolbar in use on a website

You’re shown the exact same scores you saw in search results, with the exact same caveat, just at the top or bottom of the page depending on how you’ve configured the toolbar.

Sample Scores

To give you a flavor for Alexa and Domain Authority scores, I sampled some popular blog, information, news, search engine, social media and shopping sites. Here are the results.

Remember, DA – between 0 and 100, the higher the better. Alexa – between 0 and 30,000,000, the lower the better.

Sample Alexa and Domain Authority Scores For Popular Sites

Sample Alexa and Domain Authority Scores For Popular Sites

How To Use Scores

So now you have the scores, how should you use them?

First off, I recommend you baseline your, and your competitors’, website scores before you begin optimization. It’s your starting point, your line in the sand from which you can measure improvement over time.

a line in the sand on Warton Beach, Australia. Symbolizes establishing a baseline before you assess your website's power and influence.

Copyright Karl and Ali and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Be realistic. If you’re a small retail website, for example, don’t benchmark yourself against Amazon. Be realistic. Pick a small niche player like yourself and note both your starting metrics and the date on which you captured them. These are the numbers you want to beat. They are your yardstick for measuring improvement.

Because both scores have their shortcomings and tend to fluctuate over time, it’s best to look for trends and not obsess over short-term fluctuations. If you’re doing what you need to, you should see a slow and gradual improvement in your site’s Alexa and Domain Authority scores over time.

Look for relative differences. If your score drops or jumps significantly one update, do competitor scores show a similar pattern? If yes, that could signal the change is a result of Google algorithm changes or score sample sizes and targets rather than anything you, the competition, or the market may have (or not have) done.

Keep perspective. Remember these metrics are just one measure, a snapshot in time reflection of your website performance. Ultimately, achieving your company’s goals and objectives are going to be your best measure of success. None of these metrics mean squat if site visitors aren’t converting.

So what do you think? Will these scores be able to help you? Do they make sense? Do you prefer others? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll get right back to you.

Author: Donna Duncan (33 Posts)

I help small to mid-sized businesses & web design firms leverage SEO and content marketing to achieve their Internet goals. I offer self-service coaching, advice, and services.


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