Design & Development

Tech Support – April 2006


What’s a page rank and how does it work?

PageRank is Google’s system to rank the relative popularity of a website. Developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, the PageRank system uses the Internet’s vast linking structure to measure an individual web page. A link from one site to another is interpreted as a “vote” for the destination site. Google also examines the pages themselves to determine the importance of each, meaning that a link or “vote” from a page within itself is a high PageRank (considered “important”) will weigh more heavily than a link from a less “important” page.

The PageRank scale is between 1 and 10, and is a logrhythmic scale, much like the Richter scale used to rate earthquakes. This means that the gap between a PageRank of 3 and 4 is tiny when compared to the gap between a PageRank of 7 and 8. Generally, a PageRank of 5 is considered average, whereas achieving a PageRank of 7 indicates a popular site.

You can check the PageRank for your site by going to There are also PageRank predictors, such as, that claim to predict what your site’s future PageRank will be. While these are good indicators, they are not a guarantee of what your PageRank will be the next time Google updates.

How does an SSL certificate make transactions secure?

In order to conduct transactions on the Internet, sensitive information such as credit card data must be sent securely between the user’s web browser and the server hosting the website they are trying to purchase from. This is accomplished using an SSL (“Secure Sockets Layer”) certificate. When a web browser tries to access a secure web page, the server first sends what is called a “public key” to the browser along with the SSL certificate. Using this public key, the browser then generates a “private key”, or an encryption key, which is sent back to the server with the secure URL that the browser would like to access. The server then uses this encryption key to securely encrypt all data that is subsequently sent to the browser. Because this key is generated on the fly by the browser, the encryption method is unique between each browser and the server, ensuring that only one key can encrypt the data, and only one key can decrypt the data.

This ensures that all information that is sent to the server is secured, and your customers can rest easy knowing that their personal information is safe. Most SSL certificates use 128-bit encryption keys, although more recently 256-bit encryption has become available.

How does Alexa determine traffic ratings?

Many people use Alexa to determine their websites’ traffic rankings, the reach of the website, and other information about the popularity of their web presence. But how is this determined? It’s mainly delivered via the Alexa toolbar, a downloadable browser toolbar that has been built into Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The toolbar delivers information to Alexa about what websites people are visiting. Using this method, Alexa receives data from a defined sample population of Internet users. This data is then processed to deliver a Traffic Ranking and a Daily Reach coefficient. The Traffic Ranking measures how much traffic a site receives relative to all other websites, and is delivered as a 3-month average. The Daily Reach is determined by how many people in the Alexa sample population visit a site, and is normalized to a sample size of 1 million. In this way, a Daily Reach of 4,000 means that your site probably was viewed by 4,000 out of every 1 million Internet users.

The Alexa toolbar is only available for the Windows operating system using either Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers. The toolbar is currently not available for Firefox users, although Alexa provides the option of building your own toolbar. If your site is targeted specifically at Firefox users, or Mac users, or Linux users, odds are that the data about your site in Alexa is inaccurate, due to the fact that your visitor base is excluded from Alexa’s sample population.

How can I tell if a search engine is finding content within my site?

There are a couple of ways to determine if Google, as well as other search engines, can access the content in your site that you want it to find. The first is to find a string of text on your website that will be unique, or at least relatively rare. Copy this string of text into the search box of your favorite search engine, making sure to enclose the entire search string in quotation marks. This tells the search engine to find that specific string of text. Check the results that are returned and if your site appears, the search spiders are successfully indexing your content.

A much easier, and more informative, approach is to ask the search engine what content it has found for a particular domain. To do this, you simply enter “” into the search field of your favorite search engine. This will return every page that the search engine has indexed under that domain. This is a sure fire way of determining how effectively the spiders are getting through your website. If you don’t see content or web pages that you believe should be there, perhaps the search engine spiders are unable to access your site properly. Check with your web developer as there are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case.

Brian Getting
Brian Getting
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