What does that website ranking really mean, and why should you care?

Jan 26

What does that website ranking really mean, and why should you care?

The New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily newspaper recently ran a story about its ranking as the 4th most popular newspaper website in Africa by the 4 International Media & Newspapers based in Australia. There were a number of reactions to the ranking with some saying New Vision had got the recognition it deserves, while others said New Vision is even not the best newspaper website in Uganda alone (citing poor design compared to Daily Monitor), with even others wondering how worthy that particular ranking is.

New Vision January 26

I agree that the New Vision can do with a better design, and Daily Monitor is currently better designed and optimized for online, just as I agree that New Vision leads in Uganda (I can only commit to that) when it comes to content.  And that this ranking while providing no special insights is giving due credit to good content. I will in due course as requested by some of my readers be analyzing Ugandan websites. But for this article, I make my take on this debate about website rankings based on popularity especially as it relates to our websites in Uganda, and in the news media.

I didn’t at first feel there was need to react to the rankings on reading the New Vision article because for me it is neither news nor worth much unless we get further details of what is really popular on New Vision or other websites, and especially the trend over the years so we can see which website is headed for better times.

How websites are ranked by Google, Yahoo and Alexa

The New Vision story stated the ranking was based on the most visited websites, according to Google Page Rank, Yahoo (Yahoo site explorer) and Alexa rankings. Now you all know these rankings are available everyday, and for one to join them together and rank you high or low does not constitute anything new. You should as a website be consistently following your ranking on these platforms.

More important however, is that if you take time to analyse how these rankings are arrived at, you will notice that while they provide reliable information you should give attention to, they are not the only web metrics used to determine a good website, neither are they using the same ranking metric.

Google page rank is based on how many ‘worthy’ websites link to pages (content) of a particular website. Being that New Vision was one of the pioneers of newspapers going online in 2003, it shouldn’t be surprising that they have more content on the web linked to by reputable sites than other Ugandan or African newspaper websites that came on the scene much later. Though it does show the New Vision has worthy content worth linking to.

But as Google shows in explaining their web metrics, page rank is just one of the over 200 factors it considers in its search engine ranking of online content.

Alexia also measures website popularity based on number of visitors and links. It has made a name as a big reference point in the web metrics industry and is normally quoted as an accurate measures of web traffic. But their results are only accurate from web users who install the alexa bar in their browsers to enable alexia track their web usability reliably. So I don’t know how many visitors of Ugandan or African websites have installed this alexia bar to provide dependable data. In other words, how many of the visitors to your website does a particular “ranker” base on to rank you?

Yahoo page rankings are somewhat based on a combination of the two models of link referral and visitor popularity, going further to provide linking to particular pages within a website, including inbound links within a site itself. But you have to remember that Yahoo ranking is based on exploring a whole sites’ traffic and with a command of bare 13% of the web search market, yahoo search engines are not the best at this job.


Which is the best newspaper website?

If you have analysed any of these rankings, you will notice that one website does better in google while another does better in Yahoo or Alexa.

Daily Monitor on Jan 26 2010

For example in Google page Rank (which you can access by putting the domain of your interest in http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php) New Vision scores 8 out of 10 possible points, Daily Monitor scores 7 out of a possible 10 points, Observer scores 6, UGpulse.com 5- to mention a few Ugandan websites. You will notice that the difference isn’t that much. Kenya’s Daily Nation scores 7 out of a possible 10 points while The Standard scores 5.

With the Alexa ranking (accessed by putting the domain name of the website whose rank you want to see at http://www.alexa.com/), New Vision ranks 11,764 globally and 7th best website in Uganda (with 900 sites linking in). Daily Monitor’s rank is 12,788 globally and 9th in Uganda (with 927 sites linking in) while Daily Nation of Kenya ranks 7,053 globally with 1,073 sites linking into their website).

Yahoo Rankings for selected websites in Uganda and Kenya (this is not the full list)

New Vision Pages (469,163)Inlinks (348,433) Daily Monitor Pages (44,508) Inlinks (101,774) Weinformers.net Pages (1,847)Inlinks (677) Ugpulse.com Pages (25,696) Inlinks (411) The independent Pages (17,825)Inlinks (1,352) Observer.ug Pages (39,496)Inlinks (4,561) Nation.co.ke Pages (109,172)Inlinks (135,307) The standard Pages (138,504) Inlinks (110,141)

What do these rankings tell us?  You will notice that Next Page

Pages: 1 2 3


  1. Rehema Baguma /


    Thanks for your informative article. I enjoyed reading it.

    Just want to add that these automated ranking systems have shallow methodologies. Most of them cover one or two issues useful for an effective website. Therefore using one or two or even many in isolation may provide misleading results. They need to be supplemented with other Web usability evaluation methodologies like heuristics evaluation, user feedback,comparison with websites of market leaders in the same sector,region, etc.

    For example you might find that much as the results show high traffic, most of these are new visitors every time meaning very few people come back because for the majority, they never find anything to bring them back.


  2. Cavin M /


    you are spot on,
    tools like alexa, and google ranking tools rely on simple metrics, (items which can be measured easily)

    although google tries to implement artificial intelligence, its limited by computing power,
    a computer brain is at the same level of intelligence as a cockroach

    If you look at the Makerere website (mak.ac.ug) its one of the top 20 visited sites in Uganda, however 98% of its traffic comes from internal webmail access.

  3. Loius Jadwong /

    I agree. Whatever the media, Content is King. I however wonder what role if any that basic visual appeal plays? There are ‘modern’ sites you get to and feel lost or overwhelmed.

    • Hello Louis,

      Design helps readers and viewers of online form opinions on the quality, trustworthiness and reliability of your content. Design actually forms the first impression of interacting with your content.

      Just as it is important that we design newspaper pages well to achieve better visual appeal to enhance the message (content), so is it that we design our websites with the best visual appeal for the target audience. I hate cliches but i have to say first impressions last long, and those normally come from design than content.

  4. Cavin M /

    Visual appeal plays a big role,
    especially when the competition is strong, customers will look at product differentiation to make a choice,

    when you have a duopoly with Monitor and the New Vision as the only bulls in the kraal, (plus Independent, Observer, Red Pepper, fighting for the crumbs) vision appeal, might not have a significant role

    Its also a trade off, one of the most popular sites in the world craigs list, has the worst design ever, and this is on purpose, to make it light weight, they also implement a complex caching system, that allows millions of users to access their content super fast

    they promised to release the code to the open source community, but am not sure they have made good on that promise

  5. Thanks Peter for your insightful addition. I was especially pleased with your view on partnerships. That is the issue of my greatest concern now. We need to learn and compliment each others’ strengths to deliver better content and platforms for audiences, instead of all of us copying each other.

  6. no probs… also note that your results for the Yahoo InLinks on the first page are somewhat wrong in the way you have presented them. They only refer to the url… instead of “Entire Site”…. If you follow your “inlinks” links, you can select “Entire Site” to get the inlinks Yahoo has found for each of the “entire” sites.

  7. Thanks for the good writeup. It in fact
    was a enjoyment account it. Glance complex to far introduced agreeable from you!
    However, how could we communicate?


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