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Sandbox, yet again
probation or penalty

 2:06 am on Apr 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Can an old site, that has been is serps for many years, all of sudden go to the sandbox, while not losing it's PR, backlinks etc? What is exactly the sandbox: a probation period for newbies or a penalty for everybody?

In other words, is it true that once you are out of sandbox, you will never get there again?



 2:06 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

Put it this way, once you have penalties they are very hard to shake off. Not impossible, as I have done it myself but the first step is a big big clean up then a beg letter to Google detailing the clean up.


 2:15 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

Sue, what kind of penalties are you talking about? Too much SEO?


 10:52 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think sandbox is only for new websites, you are maybe penalized because of too much SEO.


 2:33 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)


<In other words, is it true that once you are out of sandbox, you will never get there again?>

People have mentioned that Sandbox is only for new sites.

However it seems that on the 3rd of February 2005, Google established a virtual "Guantanamo Base" where penalized established (old) sites are sent there to stay for unspecified period of time. Reason of penalty could be anything from 302 hijacking, dups, heavy SEO and more. Once a site is at Guantanamo it may lose part or all of its positions on the serps and accordingly great portion of its Google referrals. And no site is bulletproof when it comes to Guantanamo :-)


 3:37 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Ok, so if I understand correctly, there are two types of sandbox: 1) for the new sites on highly competitve subjects (like dating, adult, travel, gambling etc..) and 2) as a penalty for doing smth wrong, like too much SEO, duplicate content, spam, etc...)

Or maybe there is one sandbox for everybody, but there are only two ways of getting there: either by being new on some competitive subjects, or by behaving "bad". You cannot get there (while "behaving good") just because your keywords, which used to be not very competitive years ago, now turned into competitive ones, is it correct?

My old site is not in the sandbox (thank God!), but there is more and more young bully competition every day, so I worry... maybe Google would like to give a "green light" to somebody new and push us old grandpas to the sandbox and let us retire there... lol


 8:24 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)


<Ok, so if I understand correctly, there are two types of sandbox: 1) for the new sites on highly competitve subjects (like dating, adult, travel, gambling etc..)>

In short and in general, the sandbox delay theory assumes that new sites are being penalized for gaining too many inbound links too fast. Others suggest that it's the reciprocated links that are being delayed by an aging filter. The sandbox holding period is typically anywhere between 3-8 months.

<and 2) as a penalty for doing smth wrong, like too much SEO, duplicate content, spam, etc...)>

Not always for doing something wrong. In 302 redirect issue publishers might be subjected to hijacking which is out of their control. I.e it was Google which did something wrong in penalizing such innocent publishers.


 12:59 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Quick question. My url & content was registered & up & running 15 Dec 2004.

Still on Google a search for the domain



Sorry, no information is available for the URL www.mysite.net

Find web pages from the site www.mysite.net
Find web pages that contain the term "www.mysite.net"

I am assuming the site is in the sandbox? So sandbox is both nothing indexed in google and/OR yes indexed in google but huge penalty i.e. you are at bottom of SERPS for your keywords?



 1:14 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)


This is not a sandbox issue - it means your site hasn't been indexed by google. You need to get at least one inbound link pointing to your site from a page already indexed by google.

Once you've got this sorted THEN you'll have a sandbox issue :)


 4:18 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)


Thanks.....I do seem to have inbound links, when I search for my domain in quotes:

"www.mysite.net" I get:

Results 1 - 10 of about 44 for "www.mysite.net". (0.25 seconds)

A couple of examples in the SERPS are standard links from goguides, gimpsy & Microsoft Small Biz Dir.

But my actual site isn't in the index. Glad this isn't a sandbox issue but still don't understand what is wrong.....


 9:50 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have the same problem with one domain that I bought 2 months ago. It has many backlinks of course, coz all my older sites with good PR are pointing to it, but Googlebot won't even visit it. Yahoo and MSN spider it, but Google ignores. I know there is nothing wrong with site, absolutely nothing to penalize it for.

The only thing I can think of, some years ago this domain used to belong to somebody else. In archive.org wayback machine I found out that this domain belonged to some small TV production company. Nothing bad though, looks like it was an innocent and amateur site with no porn or spam. But who knows, maybe Google penalized that site for smth, and now I'm paying the price :(

Look in archive.org to see if your domain used to belong to somebody else years ago. If so and that site was banned, there is really nothing we can do... we just did a mistake by buying that domain.


 4:56 pm on Apr 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Can an old site, that has been is serps for many years, all of sudden go to the sandbox, while not losing it's PR, backlinks etc?

Yes, absolutely. Though some would make a semantic argument to the effect that this is not really the "sandbox". But, yes, Google can change it's algo and take you right down. It might not even be a penalty, it could just be a change in the Google's algo. It's best to wait a few months as many people come right back. If the problem persists, then maybe some changes are in order (unless you know you're doing something risky in which case stop doing it right away).


 8:31 am on Apr 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

There are many things that can make a site go down in google.

1.sandbox - this applies to new sites only - if it happens to an old site it is not called 'sandbox'

2.penalized - aquired too many links too fast or 'too much SEO' maybe a site is not subject to this until it emerges from the sandbox. - site emerges from the sandbox and THEN gets penalized.

3. hijacked - someone (or several) did a hijack or 'scraped' content and you got a duplicate content problem. This does not become a serious problem until you start ranking well. A site emerges from the sandbox, starts ranking well, gets hijacked because it ranks well.

4 tecnical issues - did you (or someone) do something that is screwing up googlebot so it can no longer crawl the site properly?

5. Do not use automatic query tools everyday. Have you been spamming google with keyword ranking checks? There is a warning about this: see fact #3

6. Simply an algo thing - your site was fine until an algo change and you simply have to rethink your SEO or wait for another update.Googles last update they reverted from using snippets to using META descriptions, this could seriously effect sites across the whole spectrum - SEO rethink here.

7. Bad neighborhood - did you recently link to a 'bad neighborhood' and google is associating you with them?

It is always a good idea to keep backups of your site, say each month you archive a copy of the site (or the sections you are working on) so that if you do drop out of the SERP's you may be able to revert back to the pre-dropped state.

Another good idea if you suddenly drop out of SERP's is to check WW to see if it's an update and if others are experiencing it too.


 8:46 am on Apr 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Useful summary Reid - Thanks.


 8:57 am on Apr 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

(wait a few months as many people come right back)
that year i went out and came back 3 times (1-2 months)


 11:29 am on Apr 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thank you very much Reid!

<site emerges from the sandbox and THEN gets penalized.>

That's the hard part for new sites, because you never know either you are still in sandbox, or already got penalized for something.

And about the new description thing in Google: does it affect the ranking? I thought it just a new way of displaying things to the searchers, nothing more...


 3:44 pm on Apr 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

And about the new description thing in Google: does it affect the ranking? I thought it just a new way of displaying things to the searchers, nothing more...

Do a google search - notice the keywords highlighted in the displayed META descriptions?
Google has somehow resorted to META search - I think until they do another re-crawl (hopefully)

BTW there are probably many more possible reasons - that was just off the top of my head - anyone care to add to the list?


 1:55 am on Apr 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

So what's better than: stuff descriptions with the keywords or remove them completely? I've noticed that for those who don't have description metatag Google still uses snippets from site.

And to your list I can add one more from my own unfortunate experience: sometimes Google penalizes a site because of its webhost. Some webhosts are on Google's black list and all sites hosted there are penalized.


 4:21 am on Apr 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thats right natashka - you need to check out your host.
Shared IP can cause problems too.
if your host or shared IP is notorious for spammers then you may be hosting your site in a 'bad neighborhood'


 4:08 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

We had switched to a new domain about 8 months ago, the following bot from Google made us drop into oblivion. Over the past months we have been slowly coming out of the whole with our keywords consistently doubling each month from 207,104,47,25,11 then back to 34. This month our PR went from a 4 to a 5, and many inner pages from a pr of 1 to 4 or 5. But we have dropped off again with our major keywords again, nowhere to be seen.

Question is could this be due to adding new pages to our site? This month we have added 10 non dynamic pages, two being added to the root directory (If that makes a difference. Or is this part of the Sandbox and coming out?


 5:10 am on Apr 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

We had switched to a new domain

I think that answers all your questions.

make sure you 'switched it' properly and wait, it sounds like you are still being spidered ok but google has to also switch.


 1:06 pm on Apr 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

So you don't think we would be getting penalized after coming out of the sandbox? Because the switch over was about 7 months ago, and what I have read it can take 6 to 8 months to come out. But just find it funny that at the same time last week when our site disappeared from only our main keywords, our PR throughout the site did significant jumps. It almost seems like we were flagged to be check because it.

Just to add to this, the keywords we disappeared on were extremely competitive words, in overture companies are paying $11US per click. On Google ad words we are paying 3.80, to stay in the he top 5.

Thank god on MSN and Google were in the top 3 and don't have to pay $11.

Anyways just looking for reassurance that maybe someone out there has seen this before and that in a week or two we should be back up in the rankings and be seen somewhere.



 7:22 am on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)


You may want to read or re-read the newly filed patent "Information retrieval based on historical data" as discussed in this thread [webmasterworld.com...]

I think it is a very important document as it gives clue to what can be the criteria in Google algo and its decision to rank your site. I believe without any evidence that many things written in the paper have already been implemented by Google even before it files the patent.

For example, we often talk about "Sandbox" of new sites and links and there are many conspiracy theories. Sandbox was once a mystery. If you read the paper, it implies that Google does not give weight to new sites or links instantly because it has to wait for "historical data" of that site or link to be collected, accummulated and processed before it gives any relevancy. Once done, then the site may appear in Serp and people say it is out of sandbox.

No one know about your site more than you, so this paper can give you some clues.


 3:27 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)


First thing to think about is if you made any significant changes before the change in google, such as robots.txt changes or any global changes.

If not, I wouldn't get too impatient about it. Google has been very volatile lately, ie the SERP's are doing a yo-yo all over the place.

The first and most critical thing to look at is that googlebot is able to crawl the site and is not getting hung up on anything.

I wouldn't worry too much beyond that because google is not known for stability in the past month or two.
Just keep adding content and check allinurl:yoursite

If you see

your description ........your page cached
someone elses URL

that is a hijack, just watch out for those and beyond that, if your site was doing ok then just give it some time.

also check site:yoursite make sure there are no foreign URL's in there that are being associated with your site.

You can also check for duplicate content. Do a search for a sentence that would be unique to your page (an address or a slogan) make sure it is not being copied by someone and causing a duplicate content penalty.

another thing to check is that google is not indexing the w*w.yoursite AND the non-w*w version , this can also cause duplicate content, you will see this in site:yoursite. (make sure the page count hasn't doubled)

if all these things check out ok then wait it out a bit and see if it comes back, it could be just bouncing in and out like many others.

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