Sandbox Discussion

Over at SERoundtable, Barry is highlighting some of the discussion over the Google “sandbox”.

Here’s how I define if a site has been “sandboxed” (I agree with Barry’s definition):

  • The site is indexed
  • The site initially ranks well for it’s terms
  • The site is placed into the “sandbox” and now cannot rank for certain terms

I feel that “sandboxed” sites have triggered Google’s spam systems and Google then prevents these sites from influencing its rankings.

So how do you avoid triggering Google’s spam filter when launching a new site?

Pay Attention to Your Links

All search engine marketers know that Google loves links. Typically the more links coming into your site, the better.

During the launch of your site, pay great attention to the growth of your links.

Are the incoming links growing at a steady pace?
Or does the growth look unnatural?
How relevant is the anchor text?
Is it all the same anchor text?
Are the links permanent?
Or do the links constantly change location?
Are the links coming from trusted authority sites?
How does the index time of the link relate to the index time of the page? Are they both “fresh”?
Are there any deep-links?

Google is constantly building historical data about your site. Since new sites have no historical data at conception, any small spurts of unnatural linkage could easily raise a flag.

For example you have two sites:

The first site’s incoming links pattern:
April 2005: 0 new incoming links (launch)
May 2005: 100 new incoming links
June 2005: 0 new incoming links, 100 old incoming links
July 2005: 0 new incoming links, 100 old incoming links

Total: 100 incoming links

The second site’s incoming links pattern:
April 2005: 0 new incoming links (launch)
May 2005: 20 new incoming links
June 2005: 25 new incoming links, 20 old incoming links
July 2005: 55 new incoming links, 45 old incoming links

Total: 100 incoming links

The second site’s link pattern looks much more natural and represents a more “fresh” site – constantly pulling in new links. Although both sites have the same amount of incoming links, the second site has stronger historical data and has a lower chance of hitting any spam filters. Obviously this was a very generalized example and Google considers much more than incoming links.

Natural Search Engine Optimization

Google is in the business of delivering relevant search results. So help Google along by optimizing for relevancy and building site credibility. Start off with basic on page 101 search engine optimization – title tags, headers, body text, and outbound anchor text. Continue to build natural historical data and fresh content.

Building site credibility (for Google) is a lot like building financial credit. Take it slow and don’t do anything that looks shady. Overtime as your credit gets stronger, you can take more risks and stretch your credit further without signaling any alarms. Same thing with Google.