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Researching A Website
Published: Monday, August 30, 2004


Profiling a company and the website

Once in a while, we research a company or a website for competitive analysis, partnership and advertising prospects or simply knowing about its business. This article specifies some of the easiest and inexpensive methods of profiling a website in order to know its relative position in the internet's playing field. There are various criteria for analyzing a website. A website's popularity is often related to its page views, number of listings in search engines and directories, and brand name. While website popularity is important, other information related to the domain name and server will provide us with the knowledge of the business behind the website.

Search engine presence

A quick search on any of the search engines (preferably Google or Yahoo) for the domain name or company name, without the domain extension (like .com or .net), will reveal the popularity of the website on the search engines. It usually provides a key indicator of the number of page views the site receives. Also search for keywords that best describes the website topic. For example, if the topic is race cars, one may want to search on race cars, performance cars etc. See if the site is listed within the top 20 listings.

The number of search results should be considered with caution. If most of the results are from forum based websites, one may ignore these results. Many webmasters, who do not have enough money for website promotion, try to bomb free-to-link websites and forum pages with their comments and website links. These links do not reveal the actual popularity of the website.

Estimating link popularity with Google page rank

Google page rank is a quick way of knowing the linking structure of the website. If you are not familiar with Google page rank, it denotes the ranking of a web page based on its popularity and quality of links, among various other factors. The basic idea behind a higher page rank is that it is easier to find the website on the internet. The more links the website has from other websites, the better is the page rank. However, page rank is not totally based on the number of links, but the quality of links. Google counts links from a higher page ranked website as better than many links from low page ranked website.

The easiest way to find page ranks is by using the Google Toolbar (toolbar.google.com). Page ranks are measured on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest. Most good websites have a page rank of 5 or more. If enabled in the tool bar options, the page rank is displayed as a green bar indicator on the tool bar when you visit the web page. In addition, enabling the 'Page Info' option allows you to view the list of other web pages that link to this page. Note that page rank is for each web page within a website. Usually the website's home page (domain) will have the maximum page rank.

Estimating website traffic with Alexa traffic ranking

Alexa (alexa.com), an Amazon company, provides a relative traffic rank for more than five million websites based on the website's traffic. The website with the most traffic is ranked 1, while a higher number will denote less traffic. Alexa uses its tool bar (download.alexa.com), which is used to collect information about the websites that each Alexa tool bar user visits. Based on the data collected from millions of users spread across the world, Alexa can provide a relative ranking of websites. The relative rankings on Alexa works well for the first 100,000 websites.

Alexa traffic ranking should be cautiously used to estimate a website's traffic, because it is not necessarily a true statistical estimate, but only an estimate from Alexa toolbar users. If a website encourages its users to download the Alexa toolbar, its ranking may significantly increase without actual traffic increase. Usually a website within the top 25,000 should be considered to have a significant amount of traffic.

Important information from Whois Source

Whois lookup at Domaintools.com (whois.domaintools.com), a Name Intelligence company, can provide a lot of free information about a website. It not only stores whois (domain registration) records, but also provides information related to the following:
  • Domain name registration date.

  • Website title, description and meta keywords.

  • DMOZ and Yahoo directory listings.

  • Server related details including IP address.

  • Company and registrant information.

  • Alexa ranking.

  • SEO statistics

  • Website favicon next to the domain name.

Information on Whois can be found by going to whois.domaintools.com and selecting the domain explorer tab. Typing the domain name of the website and clicking on search brings the information about the website in a one page report. The most important information is related to the directory listings on DMOZ and Yahoo. One or more listing on these directories should be considered positive. More listings on Yahoo, specially on commercial categories, will reveal that the company can pay to get listed on Yahoo directories. More listings on the free human edited DMOZ directory mean that the website is considered as a valuable resource to the internet community. Other than that the domain name registration date (created date) will give some idea about the age of the website.

The other important information about a website is its server details. Though the server details such as name server, server type are more technical in nature, one key statistics is the reverse IP. This reveals how many websites are hosted by this web server at that IP address. The number of websites will reveal the nature of the company or entity behind the website. If the number is quite large (more than 200), it might be hosted on a cheaper shared web host, whereas a number below 20 will denote hosting on a dedicated server. High traffic and affluent websites, which have good revenue stream, will prefer a dedicated server. Clicking on the link for the reverse IP websites, one can view the other domains that are hosted on the same web server. The domains, which are hosted on the same dedicated server, are most probably the other websites that are run by the same company.
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