Alexa is a subsidiary company of Amazon.com typically known for its rankings of websites. The Alexa Toolbar collects data on the web browsing behavior of those who have it installed. That data is then used for its rankings of the top 500 websites and showing traffic details of sites like mine.
It is important to note that it has been widely rumored over the years that the Alexa rankings can be manipulated fairly easily. The Alexa Rankings, however, are different than the Alexa Hot URLs, which isn’t as easily manipulated and therefore I would assume is more accurate. The Alexa Hot URLs is a list of the hottest web pages on the internet right now according to the Alexa Toolbar; and the list is updated every five minutes.
There are several ways to use the Alexa Hot URLs list. From a website owner’s standpoint, getting one of your website’s URLs to show up on this list means that “you’ve made it”. It also means that your website’s search engine rankings are going to change (for the better) and your website is (or soon will be) getting better organic search engine rankings because your site traffic is up. And from a web surfer’s standpoint, it’s certainly an interesting place to start your web surfing: the list shows what’s hot right now, the websites that everyone’s visiting right now. Quite often it’s full of the latest top news stories, but it’s also filled with lots of other stuff: and that’s the whole point of me writing this.
I have watched the Alexa Top URLs for over a month and determined that the list can be broken into certain types of URLs. After categorizing them, I have analyzed each type to determine exactly how and why that type of web page appears on the list of Alexa Hot URLs and added comments on how you would get your site on the list if you own a similar website. These are not necessarily in any order of importance or any order of how often they appear.
The Mainstream Media News Article
If it’s major news, then it’s most likely going to be covered multiple times and all the major news websites are covering it. Quite often, there will be more than one article covering the same topic.
Examples – News.yahoo.com articles, CNN.com articles, local FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS news affiliate website articles
How often It Stays – As long as it’s news, people will still be interested in it. These don’t stay around for a while, a few hours at best. Longer if the article has gone popular or hot on a social bookmarking site like Digg.
How You Get There – If you’re a mainstream news site, putting the article on your site’s home page and promoting it on other sites will certainly help. Make sure the article is optimized with the proper title tag and include links to socialize the article like a link to Digg.com, Mixx.com, Propeller.com, Reddit.com, and Delicious.com. A link to StumbleUpon may help, as well. If it’s big news, getting picked up by Drudge will help. The news site should also be in Google News and in Yahoo News, which also helps.
The Mainstream Media Link Bait Article
Classic linkbait articles with nifty headlines still will pull in readers. Linkbait is not just for bloggers, the mainstream media has been using it for years and still use it. “How to” articles and “Things you didn’t know” type of articles still are highly read.
Examples – MSN and Yahoo! are notorious for these types of mainstream linkbait articles. Here’s one by MSN and
How often It Stays – Usually at least a day or so, it really depends on how long the main site wants is featuring it. If it’s an MSN.com article, then the traffic is usually from MSN and they’re pushing it. If it’s a subdomain of Yahoo!, like RealEstate.Yahoo.com, then the traffic is mainly from Yahoo.com.
How You Get There – The mainstream sites know how to get their article there: feature it on the home page. Certainly pushing it out through social media bookmarking sites will help, but mainly the traffic is already there and it’s just a matter of featuring it somewhere.
We love our sports stars and Celebrity athletes. When a sports celebrity screws up, well, we all want to know about it.
Examples – Articles on ESPN.Go.com are typical.
How often It Stays – Not for long; like mainstream news articles, these come and go depending on how newsworthy it is.
How You Get There – Articles should be optimized with a good title tag and headline; getting on Drudge and featuring it on the home page of a major site like ESPN.Go.com or on other major portals like Yahoo will certainly help.
The Mainstream Blog
There are three mainstream blogs that seem to always have something on the Alexa Hot URLs list, at least once a day: TechCrunch, Mashable, and Huffington Post. Typically, it’s a rant by Michael Arrington or social media news or political commentary.
Examples – Mashable, TechCrunch, Huffington Post.
How often It Stays – Actually, longer that I would expect. It really depends, but usually it’s a few hours or longer. Some blog posts and whiny rants might even last a day on the Alexa Hot URLs list.
How You Get There – Twitter. Yes, if you can get people to re-tweet it then it will send a lot of traffic to the URL, and others will tell others about it and soforth. It gets around quickly. Retweeting and Socializing it on the main social bookmarking sites is primarily how it gets around.
The Get Rich Quick Online Marketing Scheme
They’re schemes, not scams. Technically speaking, these get-rich-quick-by-posting-links-on-Google type of schemes are technically not scams, they are selling information. Whatever they’re selling for $47, well, I just don’t want anything to do with it: and certainly it’s stuff like this that’s making the whole internet marketing/SEO/Search Engine Marketing industry look bad. It’s just another version of SEO Snake Oil, and it’s got to stop.
Examples – All you have to do is take a look at the Alexa Hot URls and you’ll see what I mean. If it’s got “internet marketing” or “PLR” or “traffic” or “instant” in the title then it’s not something that I recommend.
How often It Stays – Sometimes up to a few hours at best, then it’s replaced with another make-money scheme.
How You Get There – The more legitimate ways of getting there (if any of this is legit) is through a list. The more honorable marketers (if you can call them that) have huge email lists that they send out. They spend a lot of time building lists of thousands upon thousands of emails, and most of the emails offer something for free. Or they just do it via PPC. There are other tactics, though, that I would rather not reveal here.
The Unknown Blogger’s Blog Post
I’m only calling these bloggers “unknown” because they just haven’t hit the mainstream blogging list yet. They may actually be A-list bloggers but you don’t see their posts regularly on the Alexa Hot URLs. Don’t get me wrong, many of the Technorati Top 100 bloggers can still get traffic, but they just don’t know how to really get traffic anymore. Nowadays, it’s pretty rare that you see bloggers like this one make it to the Alexa Top URLs. You might be surprised, but even with even blogs like this one with over 530,000 readers, they only make it to the Alexa Hot URLs if they use it to announce something.
Examples – It’s great blog posts like this and this and this one that make it to the Alexa Hot URLs.
How often It Stays – Usually for a few hours at most. There have been the occasional product announcements by Google and some brilliant blog posts that have lasted for a while, but usually the blog post is on the Alexa Hot URLs for only a few hours.
How You Get There – If you’re a blogger that wants to get noticed, you need to set yourself so you can handle the traffic. Do your homework. Do some research or uncover something that everyone will care about. For once, be a journalist. Write great content. Write something useful. Insightful. You might want to start reading here and here about writing and promoting the perfect blog post. Network with the right people on Twitter and get it retweeted.
We love to get a great deal online. We love to get free stuff. If you’re an online retailer, then offering deals like $29 airfare deals or something more incredible will bring the traffic. Use a “great deal” as a loss leader…and sign them up to your email list to make them future customers. Give away something for free, even with free shipping: get them on your opt-in list and make them a customer for life. The lifetime value of that customer is a lot more than your acqusition cost.
Examples – Woot.com is notorious for having great deals that hit the Alexa.com Hot URLs. But it also can be deals like these that will get people’s interest. Jack in the Box got it right with this offer. They even have added some social bookmarking links to the page so you can help publicize it.
How often It Stays – Not for long, but it really depends on the length of the offer. Some offers last a day and get publicized enough and tweeted and retweeted that it may just stick around for a few hours.
How You Get There – I’ve already mentioned it above, but if you sell stuff online you need to use the “loss leader” or “free stuff” type of promotion to acquire customers or build your list. Run a PPC campaign and a banner ad campaign to promote the offer. Send out press releases. Get listed on the “deal” websites. Run a Twitter social media marketing campaign.
There are many sites that have toolbars and Firefox add-ons that have lots and LOTS of subscribers and users. Issue an update and force all of your users to get that update and their web browser will take them to one particular URL. It’s that update URL that ends up on the list of Alexa Hot URLs.
Examples – here is a classic example. Force an update and give people a quick tour of what you just updated.
How often It Stays – Usually about a day or so. This typically has some pretty good staying power on the Alexa Hot URLs. Amazingly enough, they last quite a bit longer than other typical URLs. But it’s because they usually have a good following and a lot of users.
How You Get There – Build a Firefox add-on or a toolbar that everyone loves to use. Make it really useful for a lot of users. Then schedule regular updates and force them to upgrade or force an update. Don’t forget to upsell those users, though, once they are coming to your update page you can send them anywhere you want or even upsell them to a “paid” service.
The Error Page
If your site goes down and it’s a very popular site that everyone uses every day then put up an error page.
Examples – LinkedIn, for example, sometimes has issues for some reason and shows an error page. It may not be their fault, it might actually be someone who has tried to “game the system” so to speak and tried to get a lot of “friends” on the LinkedIn network. Whatever the case, if you’ve got enough errors on your site that it shows up on Alexa’s Hot URLs then you should think about doing something with the traffic.
How often It Stays – Not for long, hopefully. After all, it’s an error page, right?
How You Get There – Build a popular social network or a popular site and then let it go down. Or build a member site where people want to game your system for their benefit: turn off the offending account and show an error page. But why not do something useful with that traffic like upselling them or even linking over to another site while that error page is up?
People love images and crazy photos. Some images are actually short videos that have been converted into animated GIF files.
Examples – A great example is the Kid Owned By Mentos And Diet Coke one that is actually a Digg social bookmarking link. Often it will be a Digg.com link or a Flickr.com page like this that are just amazing photos that get popularized.
How often It Stays – Usually about half a day, depending on how many people like the photo.
How You Get There – Certainly you have to start with a great image. Something that people will like, obviously. It helps if you’re a popular user on Flickr.com and have a lot of friends. But it also can really help out if you are able to get a lot of people to Tweet it on Twitter, link to it from your popular blog, and maybe even use StumbleUpon to get traffic to it. Just like getting photos to show up in the organic search results on the search engines (like Google Images), you’ll need links to the file. If you can handle the bandwidth, then it’s also helpful if you allow people to hotlink to it. (Let the image show up on someone’s MySpace page but they haven’t imported it into MySpace, the image is pulled from your server every time it loads.)
The Social Bookmark
It’s actually not that often that social bookmarking websites like Digg.com have URLs that make it into the Alexa Hot URls. But they do from time to time, and if they do make it then it’s most likely a good one. It’s even more rare that Delicious.com, and Reddit.com have a URL that make the list. If you play the social bookmarking game, or just want a link to your website, then I suggest that you make it a habit of voting on and commenting on all of the social bookmarking URLs that make it into the Alexa Hot URLs. If nothing else, you’ll get some visitors and some crawls from the search engines.
Examples – Usually it’s something like this that makes it to the Alexa Hot URLs, something that appeals to ultra techy uber geeks that play video games. Or it’s just some simple pic. There seems to be a lot of images/pics lately that are showing up on the list. There’s also ones like this that deserve to be there.
How often It Stays – Usually for a few hours, actually…which is a bit surprising if you ask me. It comes and then it goes as quickly as it appeared on the list. You rarely see a social bookmark on the Alexa Hot URLs in the morning, it usually is in the afternoon.
How You Get There – You have to get your content to go hot or “popular” on Digg (which is a feat in and of itself) and then you need even more of a boost: like getting a bunch of retweets on Twitter, as well. It also helps if a “Digg this” button or Digg button also appears on the page that you’re promoting. Images and Pics tend to do well from time to time, as well. Consider using an alternative image host, though, like Flickr.com or even Imgur, as it will certainly suck a lot of bandwidth.
I have to say that as an online marketer I’ve been particular interested in seeing what are the most popular URLs, not just the most popular websites. We all know that Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia, and Twitter have lots of traffic. But what are the specific URLs that are getting the traffic? Are you surprised that while Google.com is one of the most popular websites on the internet, the Google home page does not appear on the Alexa Hot URls list that often at all? It’s really only when Google does something big like announce a new product or service that they even appear on the Alexa Hot URLs. What’s even more interesting, though, from my research, is that the “little guy” has a very good chance of getting the massive amount of traffic you will be getting when your URL appears on the Alexa Hot URLs. And to get to noticed on the Alexa Hot URLs, you’ll need to determine which “type” you fall into and play your cards right.