Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: open

Message Too Old, No Replies

Sandbox: affects links too?

A migration story...



9:24 pm on Dec 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi all,

I'm wondering if anyone knows whether the sandbox applies to links as much as to sites.

I have a big site, and in order to grow it had to change the structure of the site. As many pages were doing well in the SERPS, I wanted to be very careful how I managed the migration of the site structure, particularyly with the sandbox in town.

First I ran the new structure in tandem with the old structure, the only join being the index page, in order to get Google to index all of the new structure.

Once the new pages were in the index, I put in place a load of 301 redirects from the old filenames to the new structure, and deleted the old files to avoid duplicate content penalties. The result was that existing SERPS were not affected - Google still listed the old pages, but clicking on them took you to the new pages. Waited a bit longer, only the new pages showed up, and the 301s became redundant.

All well and good, so far. To make the final change to the new structure, I changed a ton of incoming links from pointing to the old filenames to pointing to the new file names. WHAM! Goodbye SERPS!

It seems that Google was happy with the new pages (no sandbox), and kept them in the same position in the SERPS, as long as the old links to them (albeit via a 310) remained in place. As soon as they became "new" links, Google was no longer happy.

I thought I had covered all the bases to manage the migration to the new structure, now I have low rankings...will my site reappear, are those links sandboxed? Any comments on similar experiences, or advice on what I should/shouldn't have done?

Should I put those links back to how they were, and add the 301's back in?!?

Comments much appreciated, as always!


12:57 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Sorry to hear about your problems. There has been much speculation and quite a bit of circumstantial evidence to suggest that it is links as opposed to pages or sites that are sandboxed.

New pages on old sites seem to do as well as before but new sites normally don't feature for money terms. It may be that your experience provides some of the best evidence of the link ageing theory so far.


2:47 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Certainly seems to back up the link-ageing theory. However, as the site itself is not new (the pages are, the site is not), that variable is still out there too!

Anyway, I am going to put back some of the old links and see if it is not too late to recover the original rankings for those terms. If it is too late, then I'll have some good evidence on how long it takes to get out of the sandbox...*when* I get out of the sandbox!

If it's not too late, I'm going to leave some links new, put some old ones back, and watch how the new ones do while the old ones genereate revenues again. Here's hoping...


3:34 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Best of luck! It would be nice if you could keep us posted with what happens :)


4:18 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

"There has been much speculation and quite a bit of circumstantial evidence to suggest that it is links as opposed to pages or sites that are sandboxed."

Let's call a spade a spade. Google punished him for having too many links in a short period of time, even though he used 301.

These days, instead of blocking any benefit from the suspicious "too many links in a short time", Google is pretty much removing you from the SERPS. Bravo google! Now we have to worry about the scapper sites that get results from SEs with exact title, competitors etc. etc.


5:35 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Its getting clearer, perhaps?....

1. Google has had to/wants to put the brakes on web authorship because they can no longer determine overall which links/documents are useful and which links/documents are manipulative or misleading. Their link-heavy algorithm is overloaded with irresponsible data. They never should have shouted about PageRank and links as votes.

2. Presumably, if they just let their algorithm "go" as it had in the past, it would produce poor SERPs. So they semi-freeze the results and the whole Google-searching world is left with SERPs from a time when links meant more.

3. They have a wholesale, crude solution that stomps on new authors no matter what, because they're in over their heads. What ever happened to their "exploitation of the uniquely democratic nature of the web" coupled with "elegant, efficient solutions"?

4. Perhaps when they can improve their "automatic quality control" over links and documents, they'll have the faith they need to get back up to speed.

In the meantime, forget rushing to voice your opinion (or sell your product) if it came into being on the back of a completely new link post c. March 04.

And if you had something to say before then, for heaven's sake, don't say too much new or improve its presentation.

Google, Lord of The Search, can't handle either scenario.


5:48 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yes, I had the same thing happen when I changed the shopping cart software, which affected 1000's of links.

Not only do I have to tell new customers that their sites will be automatically penalized, but I also have to tell customers seeking an upgrade to their shopping cart that they will probably lose money the first couple of months. The solution is a complex series of redirects from the old urls, but there is still an issue with pagerank on new urls (0).


6:16 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Very similar situation here too.. I restructured and did a 301 from old pages to new pages (~1,000 pages) same domain - well, it has been over 3 months now and the has not received it's rankings back!

Also, I've noticed another effect of doing the 301's when restructuring - check out my thread that I started 2 days ago:


9:50 pm on Dec 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just for the record, changing some sample links back to using the older URLs has *not* resulted in the rankings coming back...sigh...

Have emailed Google, on the grounds that I've lost rankings although I followed their guidelines for changing URLs. Maybe some kind soul will send seasonal joy my way...


11:45 pm on Dec 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm glad I didn't choose this route. After seeing that a 301 for domain.com to www.domain.com took months (not yet resolved), I decided not to 301 the old pages to the new structure. A 404 greets GoogleBot and sadly the visitors for now until the new pages get indexed. It will hurt a bit but beats the other scenarios. I think Google removes 404 links fairly quick.

Whatever happened to Google?


11:57 pm on Dec 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yes, very frustrating. It's almost to the point where it is better not to improve your site, because you will lose money.

I can report that most that most of the migrations I did are now idexed pretty well. It seems to take about 2 months for Google to fully index the new content. In my case, I was migrating some Miva Merchant shopping carts over to OSCommerce.

It seems the PageRank of the homepage has some bearing on the speed at which Google reindexes the content. I have one site that has a PageRank 3 homepage, and Google has barely touched it. Another site's homepage is 6 and Google has indexed it fully.


12:21 am on Dec 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Prairie, that is exactly what I think. What was Google's biggest edge (PR) is going to become the rock on which it falls. There is no way they could keep PR as such an important part of their algo with the amount of abuse. However, their results are so heavily weighted on this that changing it has become virtually impossible or so it seems and they have busted their own seach engine in an attempt to fix the problem. I have to think that they are working on a fix that will get them out of this situation before MSN launches. If MSN launches tomorrow and goes after Google with bad press about what is really going on with their results they could "Kick their butts" even quicker than Bill Gates predicted.

MSN's results might be even worse but they sure have a lot of evidence that Google is not the best place to head if you want the most recent information for your search.


5:01 pm on Dec 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

does anyone have an answer /solution to this? Please...

will too many "new" pages hurt your rankings, even though the new pages are replacing the old ones because of the URL structure change? I could see the initial probelms but after the monthly, more comprehensive update it should all clear out.

Will too many "new"/too fast links hurt your rankings even though you're just redirecting the existing ones? Is this a loophole where you're in a lose-lose situation?

I wish someone could settle this...maybe it's nothing and maybe it's serious.
quite a few people are experiencing this:


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

10+ Year Member

"It seems the PageRank of the homepage has some bearing on the speed at which Google reindexes the content."

dvduval, it's probably not the PR - it's the # of inbound links to your site. The more links to your site, the more frequently it will be crawled (side effect of having lots of IBL's is higher PR)


7:47 pm on Dec 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I don't believe it is the number of inbound links.

A new site with just one decent (PR5) inbound link pointing to the homepage will get it spidered within days.


11:52 pm on Dec 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I should of said "# or quality" of inbound links. Sheesh, you have to be so specific around here... :-)


2:33 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

will too many "new" pages hurt your rankings

I think the consensus is "not certainly, but probably."

Either Google can't handle major changes to some sites, or they are deliberately hampering those that put up a lot of new content/links.


Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month