Everyone wants to know how their site is performing on the web. Not everyone can look through server logs, place code on every page of their site, or sign up for statistical services that give you enough graphs to choke a mathematician. But almost everyone can visit a web page. For information about your site, or your competitors, try Alexa. Simple as that.
The first thing you need to know about the Alexa rating is that the statistics come from the users of the Alexa toolbar. (Be prepared for me to say this again because it’s easy to forget.) If you don’t have it installed in your browser, you aren’t participating in the ranking system for Alexa. I think this is a good thing. This means that we are seeing results for people that were savvy enough to know what a toolbar is and install one for their browser, which hopefully means they are capable of finding decent sites. So this is why you have to agree to the fact that they do send information about the sites you’ve visited to Alexa when you install it. Seems like terms and agreements are becoming increasingly commonplace these days, but that’s another blog post. Second, and most importantly, you are striving to see your number go down, not up. You are trying to be number one, not number 3,785,561 among your competitors. Poor sites fall into the 3-4 million category. If you are getting into the top 100,000, your site is performing great!
So Alexa takes the top level domains you have visited, plus how many unique pages you visited for a three month period, chews them a little and spits them out. You end up with a traffic ranking called Reach: how many unique global visitors. You get a Pageviews score: how many pages were uniquely requested from a given domain. (If someone hit the same page twice, it would still count as once.)
The more pages you are viewing form a domain, the more interesting or useful it must be, right? Then it takes those two and performs its magic and gives you your Traffic Rank.
The asterisk, should it appear on any statistics for your domain, means that Alexa has identified it as a personal blog or personal page. Everything else is the same.
Now remember – this is not all users – these numbers come from only Alexa toolbar users. So you are only looking at a particular slice of your overall visitors.