Compute Your Own Web Traffic Rank

by Jakob Nielsen on November 1, 1998

Sidebar to Jakob Nielsen 's column on why Yahoo is good .

As long as Yahoo remains the most popular site on the Web and continues to publish its traffic data in regular press releases, you have an easy way to calculate the popularity ranking of your own website: where your site stands relative to the other sites on the Web .

Web traffic follows a Zipf distribution , meaning that it has a few very large sites, a decent number of mid-sized sites, and a huge number of small sites. In general, the Zipf distribution says that traffic for the N 'th most popular website will be

T = Y/N
(where T is the site's own traffic and Y is the traffic on the most popular site)

In other words, the Web's tenth most popular site will have 10% of Yahoo's traffic, site number 100 will have 1% of Yahoo's traffic, and so on down the line to site number three million which has 1/3,000,000 the traffic of Yahoo: about 48 page views per day, which sounds about right for one of the least popular sites.

Simple arithmetic makes it possible to change the traffic formula into a popularity formula:

N = Y/T
N = your site's popularity rank
Y = page views on the Web's most popular site
T = your site's traffic in page views

Yahoo's traffic in September 1998 was 144 million page views per day , or 1.01 billion page views per week. During that period, my own site, www.useit.com received 110,360 page views per week. Thus, the formula says that useit had a popularity rank of 1,008,000,000/110,360 = 9,134. Estimating useit to be approximately number 9,000 on the Web corresponds well with data from Alexa's Internet traffic measures which placed useit among the 10,000 sites with the most traffic.

In other words, data from your own server logs combined with freely available information from Yahoo's press releases are sufficient to give you a pretty good idea of how you rank relative to the other sites on the Web. People often pay thousands of dollars for this information, so you have saved a lot of money by reading the Alertbox today.


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