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    Out of the sandbox


    My site came out of the sandbox exactly on its six month birthday (as measured by Google first indexing the site). By this I mean that it appeared among the top ten for a few of its less competitive terms. The competitive ones also did better than they had been. The holiday lasted for a few weeks and then the site tanked again.

    This week it will be eight months old.

    It would be interesting to know if anyone has any ideas about how long it takes a site to get out of the sandbox. Would you please respond if you have a site that did come out, either temporarily, or for good.

    Let us know:

    How old the site was when it surfaced?

    What happened to make you think it got out. ( Iím not asking why it escaped, just what makes you think that it did? For example, it suddenly went from # 100 to # 2)

    Has it stayed out, and for how long?

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees : Thanks Larry... If anybody can tell us enough information to get our sites out of the standbox too.. we will enlarge your avitar, post it on our wall and bow to you every morning for a long, long time!
    • earlpearl agrees : Good topic Larry. This is how we all help one another.
    • siva_lingam agrees : thats really great
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    I had a site sandboxed for close to 5 months. This happened when I changed the site's title and some other tags when the site was around 4 months old. I had a PR 4 then.

    I had to scratch my head for around 2 months to find a way out. Some of the few things I did are:
    1. Bought a few sub- page links from some decent sites with good PR.
    2. Removed the duplication of anchor text. I mean, stopped using the same anchor text for all links..
    3. Waited for 3-4 months.

    The break came after I managed a link from a very good site. 2 weeks after this link addition, I've started getting decent rankings..

    I've started a similar site before 3-4 months and taking care not to buy links that may induce me into the sandbox. But though the site has more than many hundred pages indexed, it ranks well only for a few keywords..

    I think now the game is to wait and improve links ..

    Muthu
    Last edited by SEO_AM; May 2nd, 2005 at 02:47 AM. Reason: Quote not required.
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    Larry,

    Sorry to hear about the ranking getting tanked. I saw this one multiple occasions for several sites. Rankings lasted for a week or so, and then completely disappeared for the specific phrases. Interesting enough they kept their ranking for select keywords that were 50% right on target for what they were targeting. It was odd. They have not returned out of the sandbox but have remained in limbo for various phrases.

    Unfortnately I can't bring you any good news as to when I think you site might be out. It could be a year, 2 years, or longer. Or even tommorrow. But realistically I think its best to look at where you are now, and what you are currently doing to "SEO" your site and take steps to build it for yourself and others, and not Google. Google will follow eventually. One of the main problems I have seen with people seo'ing their site for the sandbox is how their tactics seems to diverage from the mean of what effective SEO is supposed to do for you. They focus on things they heard in the forum, or concentrate solely on a single link building tactic, don't do anything at all, or apply questionable tactics in order to outsmart a search engine. For the most part it's common nature to view a search engine as a simple creature which they are, but not have an understanding of how the mathmatices come into play. In that a couple SEO tricks here and there will not get your out of the sandbox, the combined effort and detailed work of a lot of tactics will get your out. You need to think like a search engine and how it will read your page. Viewing a site, actually really tells you little as to the "fitness" a page might have to rank well in a search engine. Sure you can make some good deductions, but as they say "you can't judge a book by its cover", likely so web pages in particular are often the same way. That's why we have to view the source constantly.

    Now, I think maybe I can provide some insight on some studies I did recently at the end of last year regarding the sandbox (or lack their of) on sites that were newly created but were able to rank for key phrases that garners above 10-100+ million results. For such terms as "john kerry" "democrat" "george w bush" and several other high profile phrases at the time. They never experienced a quote "sandbox", and when I asked the owners of such sites if they have ever heard about it or had ever SEO'ed the site they said no. They actually asked me what these terms and ideas meant. The main target for which I was studying was sites that dealt with the 2004 presidential election, many of these sites were created within a short period of time (less 6 months) for the sole purpose of a discussion on the election. A lot provided political satire, witty discussion, or downright ruddy hyped nonsense about a particular candidate.

    These sites were created like any other sites that get created these days. Registration of a domain, hosting, design, content, etc.. They had an unusually high amount of unique content, and they never solicited for a link exchange. Why would you if you are trying to dominate a social network of influencial people that could help extend your message? Remarkably most of the sites did well for the fact that they had such great content that it attracted a lot of attention instantly. Many were brilliant, and I felt humbled by the passion people had during the election. I am sure you can remember a lot of what was going on during the time. They attacked it head on. Now naturally these sites attracted a good amount of links, in the same fashion instantly popular sites usually do. It's similar to how blogs explode with links, or how a google bomb sort of happens except for the specific anchor text targeting. Now the recent patent from Google tells us that document inception and rate of change are factors that google is looking at it. It also looks at the amount of links a site may get in a set amount of time. Interestingly enough it relates that documents can do well despite the fact that they get a huge amount of links in a short amount of time. Its raised ideas that sites that did get a good amount of links in a relative short amount of time should do well! However it also mentions that it can watch to see if these documents may be spam and thus lower the ranking if its determined it to be.

    Now the cusp of what created many of these sites to do well seems to be one, links and the uniqueness of these links. In this I don't mean how all the backlinks used crafty anchor text to rank for a particular phrases. They grabbed links from many unique sites that Google ranked highly for its content (not necessarily pagerank). Many of the links to these sites didn't have a lot of pagerank, as they were from other newly created political sites, journals, random cool site of the day type thing, news, and so on. The second part was the unique content of the sites and their direct ability to update and influence the nature of their content continually. As they had something to say, they darn well made sure someone who was listening heard it. These were after all political websites trying to get a message across, not necessarily trying to sell anything. This use of content was valuable, and while I can't say exactly how exactly this get scored by Google, its good reason as the patent doc mentioned that they look at all these varying rates of changes at many different time periods. Now in regards to the links to the site, the anchor text being used for the site had some reflection of the content, but it was also a lot of "check this out" and other ones like "John Kerry is a retard, this dude like him" type of stuff, and often they just linked to the name of the website such as "Johnkerryisadouchebag.com".

    Now the fact that the links really sometimes didn't have all that much to do with the site didn't matter or ended up helping it, when paired with the benefical nature of the unique content and the constant updates, this would give good indication that one the site was not spamming, and two the site was of value in the index, and other documents could be superceded (about the same subject) as they were not as "hot" at the popular website. The content aided the links, and it slipped through the "sandbox". Now some of the flaws in the study happened to be older sites (1-2 years) that had been around ranking for popular pages, I only really tried to look at single website who internal pages were as valuable as the homepage. This is a big difference from sites who only focus on link building for the homepage. There were probably many other factors involved such as the application of some basic seo techniques, which are really only editing titles and metas, and possibly using headers and good elements in the code.

    Now while I can't say anything I looked at was conclusive nor did I really do anything with the study, besides my own interest, knowledge, and learning, it was most interesting to see these sites do well in competitive areas whose owners could have carried less about whether they were in the search engines or not. I interviewed as many sites as I could as to make sure I was looking at a site some SEO had created, and if they did that would have been interesting to see how they were using search marketing to rank the site. I guess the goal of the story that I was trying to illustrate is adjust you tactics to best reflect what you are doing, not what type of traffic you could be getting. Your link building will probably have to increase, your content will probably have to be improved upon, and the way you do it will probably have to improve to reduce the amount of time you are int he sandbox. For the sites that I have seen rise out of the sandbox, its a good sign in my book as it means you are getting closer to achieving some success in your efforts.

    Comments on this post

    • Wit agrees : You pulled a nice GC on us there - heh. Reading this in stages, getting it all in :)
    • randfish agrees : Bravo Ben - Great information here
    • Chatmaster agrees : Proof that you are getting ahead in the battle with this filter! Great post!
    Last edited by Phoenix; May 3rd, 2005 at 01:22 AM.
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    The other thing I wanted to mention was the effect at which sites who have the inability to rank, may not ever rank for a good period of time. One day, but not today or for the next year. While I don't think this is a death sentence, sometimes you have to look at what we are capable of as humans and how much we can influence the situation via our efforts (SEO, links, etc..) can be limited to our resources, knowledge, and physical ability. As it can be tiring to sit at a computer and build links and content all day, something which we do, but don't always necessarily always want to. I have seen some sandboxed sites get abandoned just because people don't have the time, they get burned out, or frankly don't care anymore. As the gap has gotten wider for new sites to do well, so has the learning gap.

    Mike Grehan had an interesting article come out recently called Filthy Stinking Rich, in which he talks about how existing authority type site will continue to do well because they will naturally attract more links over time than newer or lesser known sites because they rank higher, or more well known, and have better content, and many other factors which would cause you to give them a link. They will continue to do so well, that they will earn a place in engines for eternity, or unless they do something stupid or get caught for spammy tactics (ie wordpress.org). Reference Example: DMOZ and the abundance of multiple links in multiple categories authority sites such as Yahoo, CNN, and so on have in the hundreds or thousands, even though technically you only get one link per site for any regular site. Naturally as you can see all these big time sites that will get richer as time goes by can cause problems for a search engine. They will grossly effect an algorithm away from what it originally did, and they sites will earn a corner all their own. The good news is that newer sites will rise out of the established "good ole boys" network of rich sites and rise up to be rich sites all there own. It won't happen in a year, but it could happen here and there for expectional examples and by means of other holes in the whole sandbox concept the index will naturally level out technically speaking with a good rich deal of sites that people should go to because they are valued not because someone else thinks through SEO they earn the right to traffic in Google. Oddly sometimes these indexes reflect the modern world in a way. Google is an example of an exceptional site that rose above the established "good ole boys" area to provide something that is in use by millions daily. They filled a hole that wasn't previously there, and now are rich all there own, really flithy rich. Now while the above doesnt really reflect with SEO, its just an idea I had in regards to my post above. Its an interesting example that Google wishes others to follow in the same way it rose to popularity and wealth. Not by some instant over the night success by hard work and providing something we couldn't do without. In that regard site you can't live without often at the moment or for a long time do well in the rankings.

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees : Wow, thanks for these great summaries, Phoenix... really appreciated... you must have stayed up all night typing them. lol
    • earlpearl agrees : These are killer comments Phoenix. Thanks
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    you must have stayed up all night typing them
    Hehe, not quite but it was fun. I should have totally put it into an article, which I may do so. But sometimes it just comes out better when posted.
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    It took my site 8.5 months to get out.

    It was released on Feb 7 (an update was going on at the time).

    For my most important phrase, I had hit #36 in a pool of 2.9 million in mid-November which was the six month point. (in fact this may have been the sandbox release)

    Two weeks later, I fell to #56. Three weeks later I fell to #76. Three weeks later (now mid-January 05) I fell to #136.

    Feb 7, with the update, BLs fell from 140 to 105, but I went from SERPs #136 to #6. I have stayed between #4 and #6 since.

    I believe that during the time my site fell from #36 to #136, I was actually getting hit by either a link aging filter, or a 'too many too quick' filter. Link building was rather aggressive from mid-September to January 05.

    /*tom*/
    Last edited by longcall911; May 2nd, 2005 at 10:26 AM.
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    Phoenix:

    Great comments and great research on sites.

    I think the G patent referenced timeliness of topics. The political sites are examples of that. The topic was timely and the additional updated information was timely.

    I'm wondering if you provided the most updates of any site for a search term, how would G evaluate that? We have done this for a while and I can't evaluate its impact, but I suspect it has helped us to get to the first page. Our main topic is not "timely" like the elections. We have owned a business/service for the past 20 years. Nothing new there.

    With regard to timeliness it has been noted elsewhere that as holidays approach certain sites within google tend to rise in the rankings.

    In general it is powerful to build the site for the reader...while being cognizant and aware of SEO.

    Dave
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    With regard to timeliness it has been noted elsewhere that as holidays approach certain sites within google tend to rise in the rankings.
    Yes as do traffic levels. I want to hug some web analytic companies for the level of detail they provide sometimes, where I can compare data for the last 2 years and see where they have risen and fallen in comparion to holidays and world events. Its a natural part of the web, but even still sometimes its forgotten that their are cycles.

    We have owned a business/service for the past 20 years. Nothing new there.
    Traditional business can have difficulty with new content, but then again sometimes they don't, because if you have been in business 20 years. I bet you have some advice or stories to tell potential customer, partners and such that would do well on a website. Extending that knowledge in good faith will help with keeping things fresh. Who knows an article you write might get picked up by another source or linked to from a relevant website. I have gotten bombed before by getting picked up on The Register article about a graphic and description I used on a website. They thought it was funny. It ended up sending me a flood of traffic. If I hadn't used the graphic or written the description it may not have happened.
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    Phoenix:

    You are right. We add timely content. We provide constant updates on our business. Its just that it isn't timely in the nature of political sites during an election.

    It seems that google is able to discern the timely sites versus long term topics. Although I didn't search for them, I'm wondering on sites on the papacy did recently, and if certain sites that constantly reported news updates floated to the top of the SERPs.

    Within our category we maintain the most updates of any site. That is primarily for the viewer...but I'm certainly aware that it theoretically improves your serps.

    Dave
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  19. SEO Chat Skiller (1500 - 1999 posts)

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    As most everyone here knows, I had a site exit the sandbox during the Feb. 04 update (SuperBowl). The domain was registered in 1999, changed ownership in 2002, and was a fairly static site with few links until March of 2004, when I began SEO on it.

    It escaped by going from position 200-500 for many searches on Google to #1 or #2 for almost every related keyword. Every page on the site was ranking #1 for its title tag compared to in the 50+ range the day before.

    Phoenix has some excellent research and information, although I'd like to add that I know of a site that was horribly snadboxed (and hugely popular) that was related to the election. The site was www.electoral-vote.com and they had tens of thousands of new links each week. I think their big problem and the reason they got "boxed" is because almost every link to the site was exactly the same anchor text (electoral vote map or just electoral vote).

    Even sites with no SEO can be sandboxed, but sandboxing is almost certainly targeted specifically towards SEO techniques.

    Comments on this post

    • siva_lingam agrees : agree
    CEO & Co-founder of SEOmoz
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    A question that occurs to me is whether or not, or at least to what degree, can one really "speed up" the time it takes to get out of the sandbox- once in? How do we know that there isn't a "tag" that is put on the site once its sandboxed that says "release in 9 months" or something like that- regardless of what we do after the fact. Do we have firm evidence that anything we do can speed up the process? If people have relevant experiences or have run tests in this regard I'd love to hear them.
    Last edited by Darrenbrett; May 2nd, 2005 at 05:33 PM.
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    EGOL
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    Originally Posted by randfish
    It escaped by going from position 200-500 for many searches on Google to #1 or #2 for almost every related keyword. Every page on the site was ranking #1 for its title tag compared to in the 50+ range the day before.
    Wow! Hey Randfish, Tell us please what you did on this site in the couple of months before release? Anything different than from when you started?
    * "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog." Mark Twain
    * "Free advice isn't worth much. Cheap advice is worth even less." EGOL
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  25. SEO Chat Skiller (1500 - 1999 posts)

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    Originally Posted by EGOL
    Wow! Hey Randfish, Tell us please what you did on this site in the couple of months before release? Anything different than from when you started?
    I wish I could tell you something EGOL, but I can't. It appears to have been sandbox style penalization pure and simple. If you remember, dozens of SEO's sites came out that weekend - many of them as dramatically as mine.

    There was no big link campaign, just my same old couple links a day work and a new blog entry every day. This was definitely not something initiated by anyone other than Google.

    I might say that if anything, the link building slowed in the 2 months before Feb., mostly due to me on holiday. But, I doubt this affected the site's exit from "boxing" and my guess is that it was just a manual or automatic review that finally tripped with an update.

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees : Thanks for the details! Appreciated.
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    Originally Posted by randfish
    Phoenix has some excellent research and information, although I'd like to add that I know of a site that was horribly snadboxed (and hugely popular) that was related to the election. The site was www.electoral-vote.com and they had tens of thousands of new links each week. I think their big problem and the reason they got "boxed" is because almost every link to the site was exactly the same anchor text (electoral vote map or just electoral vote).

    How did you get to the conclusion that electoral-vote.com got sandboxed because almost all of their links has the same anchor text? Could it be the same anchor text and description combination that got it boxed? Could it be that it got too many links too soon ("tens of thousands of new links each week"). I've experimented with the same anchor text but different descriptions. So far I haven't been able to find any trends.
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    My site came out only after heavey link building---that is quality inbound links, most reciprocal.... Had I started the linking campaign earlier or later would this affect the results? sure.... took about 9 months.
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