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Sandbox or penalty?

I'm I in the sandbox, or is this penalty?

3:25 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hello all,

I own a niche-<widget> site (launched SEPT 2003) which, up until about FEB was ranking in the top 10 for all relevant phrases.

Form mif-feb to present, all of our pages are ranking VERY poorly on google (but remain in the top 5 on yahoo/msn/ink), and regardless of the fact that we've garnered about 100 one-way, on topic, relevant links (most unsolicited - including 2 PR8 pages deep linking to specific product categories) as well as a good dmoz listing, we seem unable to rise above 300 in the google serps.

We DO have a small (very picky) affiliate program running which creates links that look like ntrual URL's (i.e. [example.com...] which I had thought was a good idea. However, doing a search for the pages indexed by google has turned up a few dozen affilaite pages that may be considered by google to be duplicates.

Could we be receiving some kind of duplicate content penalty due to our affiliate program? Or will google simply ignore the duplicate affiliate pages?

It shnould also be noted (although I'm not sure how relevant this is) that using the "-dfsdgsdsd -sdfgsdgsdfg -sdfgsdgsdg -sdfgsdfgsdfg -dsfgsdgsdg -sdfgsdfgsdfg -sdgsdfgdsfg" exclusion to any googel search brings our pages back to the top 5 for all relevant phrases searched.

So...is this the "sandbox", or a penalty?

Note: No "dodgy" techniques here, NO reciprocal linking, no hidden text/redirets, etc. In fact, we haven;t changed a thing since we launched, and Yahoo/INK seems to love us, but it sure would be nice to garner some "organic" traffic from google in addition to the $100 a day in adwords traffic...

[edited by: ciml at 6:13 pm (utc) on May 13, 2004]
[edit reason] Widgetised [/edit]

3:41 am on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well, that one is a little tricky to diagnose, but we can rule out a few things to start.

You are definitely not in the sandbox as that refers to new sites (less than three months old) who can't rank well, whereas you were previously ranking well for a while.

If Google took offence at duplicate pages it would have just ignored your affiliates pages, leaving you alone.

And it doesn't seem to be any sort of penalty as you are still in the index (albeit low) and I assume have PR too. You'd have had PR0 or grey with a penalty.

So my guess would be a filter of some sort, especially as you come up as before with the "-dfdsdfffg" technique.

That could be anything. Do you have a network of sites on the same IP? Do you crosslink? Is your keyword density too high? Do you overuse H1 tags? I ask because all these are things that get you good rankings in Yahoo (which you have) but put you outside the top 100 in Google (although it too worked in Google pre-Nov 2003).

4:53 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Lowest Pr on main category pages is Pr5

As far as keyword density....the onyl place a H1 tag is used is a the top of each category/product page (i.e. blue-wdigets, purple widgets, reverse widgets, etc.)

We do not have a network of sites cross linking, nor do we engage in reciprocal linking, etc.

To date, we have roughly 105 incoming links (all one-way), about 40% of which are deep links with relevant anchor text (usually a personal or review website linking directly to the product).

In addition, our products appeal to the college-age crowd, so we end up linked to from a number of personal blogs, etc.

I guess my frustration stems mostly from the fact that while we continue to "play by the rules" and work on our site using legit techniques, our competitors are busy building site after site...each of which "appears" different, but each of which is simply a "front" linking to their cart/database. In fact, our biggest competitor has told me (with a no small degree of smugness) that they've purchase 75 domains and will be rolling out 2 new site each week to link to sell the same products.

At any rate...I've pretty much given up on google at this point. Unless we're willing to do the type of doorway-site type of marketing the our competitors are doing, I doubt we'll see the light of day anytime soon.

5:08 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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So how do we avoid/get out of this filter/sandbox/whatever. Just as one of my sites has had the filter removed, several others have started getting filtered. Sites that have been around for a while and have lots of good incoming links. They all show up in their old positions with the -asdf -asdf -asdf trick.

Now what?

5:17 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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metablue, I think that's one of the biggest problems in SEO right now. Everybody I talked to is absolutely clueless about what's going on.

I think it's good to start projects now, give them some good links from relevant sites and wait till Google lists them one day. Maybe it's the same thing like wine - the older the better.

I'm pretty sure Google folks have an idea about what's going on and especially why. And most probably there's a reason for that behaviour as well.

6:36 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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that's the weird thing about google.
I have a site that serps very well in inktomi but of course is useless at google for the same "money terms".
Personally I think it is keyword density, and ratio of inbounds with link backs to inbounds that are one way. Google favors sites that have one way links. Inktomi favors "old style seo" with Hx tags and anchor text.