Saturday, 14 July, 2007

The Google "sandbox"

The Google "sandbox"

An unofficial term that refers to a filter / penalty that is in fact not in use.

A phrase used by some webmaster and SEO communities, the "sandbox" refers to the phenomenon of a newly indexed or recently updated web site not appearing or virtually disappearing from competitive and/or generic search result pages for an indefinite time, while still being indexed, cached and shown for obscure queries. The consensus between those who use this phrase is that the time it takes for the web sites to be "clear of the sandbox" is used to evaluate whether a web page was created with a valid long-term business plan, opposed to being spam, or any other short term venture, one that would be breaching Google policies in its intentions.

Web sites that are, or have been near the borderline of triggering quality filters on Google may have seen major, yet periodical shifts in their rankings, and thus came to the wrong conclusions. An example of such false assumptions was that the pages affected were seen as valid, but too recent to be included in the index. Others were mentioning manual penalties based on business model evaluation. The term "sandbox" was used in so many instances that all it means, is that "you have a problem", that may or may not resolve by itself. However instead of waiting, investigating possible errors and examining your web site with a critical eye should be your priority. And in case you see no problems at all, you may need to refer to information on PageRank and especially on TrustRank.

Known issues

A general hint for web sites being indexed, but yet to show up on the results for broad, competitive or generic queries may be a relatively low TrustRank compared to other relevant pages. Recently launched web sites, and using certain practices on established web sites, may see an overall lack/drop of trust, that is either yet to be established or needs to be utilized with more care. The TrustRank patent does in fact implement the history of URLs and referral link age as two of its factors, however the age of the links alone will not keep a page from, or help it to rank significantly higher than others. The phenomenon the "sandbox effect" terminology refers to is a false assumption of grouping a wide range of possible causes under a single imaginary filter in the index. The actual causes that may result in the discussed effects may be one or more filters reacting to the web site, a low number of quality incoming links, or sometimes the database not yet carrying all information on the newest pages.

+ Resolution: Read up on all of the possible causes, as the term "sandbox" does not refer to neither the problem, nor its resolution. Newly launched web sites may find the information on TrustRank, Duplicate content, PageRank, Website Navigation, Anchor text link and Bulk updates the most important, while established web sites should definitely be checked for Canonical Issues, Duplicate content, again their Internal navigation and Anchor text links, and Bad neighborhood linking. A thorough examination however may reveal that the web site in question is yet to accumulate enough off-site quality factors ( PageRank, TrustRank and even relevance ), or that there is at least one problem with on or off-site parameters.

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