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Matt Cutts on the Google Sandbox

Secrets of the sandbox revealed at Pubcon?

     
10:45 pm on Nov 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The existence of a new-site "sandbox" (which delays the site being ranked well for months) has been a topic of debate among SEOs.

In reply to a question from Brett Tabke, Matt said that there wasn't a sandbox, but the algorithm might affect some sites, under some circumstances, in a way that a webmaster would perceive as being sandboxed.

So, for some sites, in effect there IS a sandbox.

7:54 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Sometimes, but not all the time...

It's like deja vu all over again...

8:48 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Yes there is a sandbox and there has been one since spring 2004 but someone will come along here and refute this again. It always happens :)

What I don't understand is why Google don't just come clean. We all know that it exists so what's the point in continuing to deny it?

We'll even let them choose their own name for it ;)

11:05 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What I don't understand is why Google don't just come clean. We all know that it exists so what's the point in continuing to deny it?

Exactly - they have nothing to lose by saying it exists so why do they keep saying it doesn't - pretty obvious really isn't it. The fact is IT DOESN'T exist per se for ALL new sites and is only part of their large algo.

11:14 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I know in this update a site of mine has got out of the sandbox, but only the frontpage non of the internal get hits from google and that I think is a little wierd, but ok the internal pages also have links to it, in a way.

Let google say what they want but a new site dont rank at once.

11:29 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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No sandbox? This is really great news :)
11:46 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Let google say what they want but a new site dont rank at once.

Why not?

Mine did!

I just put a brand new white label site up last month. I did a bit of SEO and got a bunch of related links. I submitted it to about 100 directories and I now get 10-15 referals per day from google. It may not sound like much but considering the site has automated (read duplicated) content it does rank for a lot of broader search terms. It has zero pr as I missed the last update by a couple of days.

So, I got a wedge of links (oooh sandbox), a brand new site (with duplicate content) and zero pr. This site is in a very competetive market and is in profit already.

I have sites in the communications ;oP and finance markets and have never experienced any sort of sandboxing. I am not saying it doesn't exist, just that I never see it.

Ska

11:46 am on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I think Matt is right; they don't term it as sandbox. Google Sandbox is a negative word, so next time we should say the site/link need to have historical data before it can reflect anything in the serp and that's take TIME.
12:02 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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As I said in message three ...

We'll even let them choose their own name for it
1:33 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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ska_demon - your domain could be old, no competativ search, sandbox will maybe come later... there could be many things.
2:15 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Or a site with duplicate content gets no sandbox! ;)
2:21 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hey Zeus.

The domain has never been registered before and the market is very competetive.

You stated:

Let google say what they want but a new site dont rank at once.

Why would I take a trip to the sandbox in the future if it is there to allow sites to 'age' and 'mature' a while?

I believe there is some sort of penalty for certain sites in certain niches but it doesn't seem to affect any of the sites I have built over the past couple of years.

Ska

2:26 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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wanderingmind

Heh heh you may well be right. Maybe I will incur a dupe content penalty next update but until then I hope to continue to profit. The white label site is a sort of test project for me. I have never done it before and would like to see how easy/hard it is to profit. If it works, voila! I make 50 or so of them for different merchants and if I can avoid the penalty Yay for me, if not, lesson learned.

Ska

2:34 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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In reply to a question from Brett Tabke, Matt said that there wasn't a sandbox, but the algorithm might affect some sites, under some circumstances, in a way that a webmaster would perceive as being sandboxed.
I got the impression that it only affects sites in "certain industries," perhaps from some of Matt's subsequent remarks.
2:37 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't see anything new here. When the Sandbox was first discussed the conscensus was that it was an effect created by algo components rather an algo component itself.

Having said that, I would say that the Sandbox Effect clearly demonstrates that Google's algos are not so great - since good sites are being hidden from users. It also contradicts Google's expressed desire to keep results fresh.

It just goes to show that you can have a Ph.D. and still be as thick as a brick. (Personally, I have an M.Phil.)

Kaled.

2:42 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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ska_demon - I have seen that once where a site rank at once but after the next update goes to the sandbox.

About new content on google: Yes google is not freash, because SO many new site first appeare a year later, meanvile ranks on MSN after a month.

2:52 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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My 'sandboxed' site shows for non-competitive terms on inner pages but not major keywords - I'd guess that a general 'new site' penalty might have this effect? (popular terms lost in the serps while less popular terms show simply because there is much less competition).
3:11 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Zeus, I agree with you. I am hoping that this niche will not be affected by the penalty and the site will continue to do well. As I said this is just a test run for me so we'll see how it goes.

Ska

3:13 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Not to offend anyone here, but the term 'sandbox' is being tossed around to give black-or-white status to listings where the actual status is much more complex, and this is what Matt is saying.

In the Spring of 2004 there was a certain set of circumstances that could keep a domain name from being indexed by G, but what is being described as 'sandboxed' here today has little to do with those circumstances.

Even amoung webmasters here at WW, there isn't a consensus as to what the signs of a sandboxed site are, other than "not listed". Admittedly, the term 'sandbox' is much more stylish than 'not listed', but I don't see much value in discussing ranking in such generic terms.

3:15 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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the algorithm might affect some sites, under some circumstances, in a way that a webmaster would perceive as being sandboxed.

There ya have it, under the right circumstances a site can be sandboxed. Isnít that what we have been talking about since the spring of 2004?

3:50 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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the algorithm might affect some sites, under some circumstances, in a way that a webmaster would perceive as being sandboxed.

Yeah, but what does that mean?

Webmasters are saying things like just SOME of their pages are sandboxed (Matt used the term 'sites' not 'pages'.)

Webmasters are saying that some of their listings are only found way down in the SERP's so those pages are sandboxed. (they are indexed, just not ranking well.)

Webmasters are saying that their home pages are indexed, but are PR0 so they are sandboxed. (is this what sandboxed really means?)

Originally the term was used for new sites that were never added to the index to begin with, an automatic delay in adding new sites.

This is why the Google engineers chuckle when we ask if a site is sandboxed.... We might as well be asking if a site has been jelly-dough nutted.

4:05 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Dataguy - I had a PR6 wich was sandboxed, so it has nothing to do with the PR
4:10 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I have 2 PR4 sites and 1 PR5 site I believe to be jelly dough nutted LOL, all sites return IF searching for non SITE targeted keyword/phrases, if searching for main theme or title phrases, no where to be found assumption = the mystical "sandbox" or filter as they call it, all 3 are on new domains, timespan for all 3 approx 8 months so far
4:19 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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new site with new domain registered with msn online next day ... NOWHERE to be seen with G00g£e
4:46 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Here is my definition of the sandbox.

The sandbox is a term webmasters use when their site (which OBVIOUSLY deserves the No1 position)is nowhere to be seen in the google index. When their site doesn't get pr or even worse doesn't get spidered for the first couple of months it must be the sandbox. Surely it can't be anything to do with their site. That would be just daft to think that their coding or SEO night be off whack.

The sandbox is not a penalty but an EXCUSE

Maybe?

Ska

5:01 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It's not just time, it a measure of quality both in and out over time, AND difference from one calculaton period to the next.
5:02 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What did I tell you? (post three) I knew it, I just knew it.

Whenever this issue is raised there's always some one who comes along and tries to say that there is no sandbox.

Well I am sorry, I have enough evidence of my own to know what the sandbox is and what it does. People telling me that I am making excuses I don't need thank you very much, and in my case it most certainly is not an excuse. I launched three sites at the back end of last year using the same white hat SEO techniques on all of them. All of them were sandboxed. Two of them have since been released. The other celebrates its first sandbox birthday on 21 November.

The two that have been released are figuring high in the results. I co not claim to be an expert but I do know enough about SEO to know when my sites should be ranking somewhere in the results as opposed to being filtered out completely.

5:11 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Given Matt's clarification, people should stop saying/writing that a site is "in the sandbox."

For the sake of language continuity, it would be reasonable to say that a site is suffering from the infamous "sandbox effect."

As well, it sound like there are numerous factors in the algorithms which contribute to this "sandbox effect" including the age of the links going to a site, the industry/topic focus of the site, whether inbound links are reciprocal, perceiveda as having been purchased, etc.

5:17 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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ska_demon-

Same experience here, also. Site went live on 8/30/05, and is now ranking for secondary search terms off of a primary geographic search term which shows 41.5 million results.

5:18 pm on Nov 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I was at the Q&A and listened to Matt's response. The part that I thought was interesting was that Matt said when they (Google) first started hearing about the "sandbox" as the term is used by webmasters they had to look at their algo to see what was causing it and then look at the sites it was affecting. Once they studied it, they decided they liked what it was doing.

So what I concluded was:
1. Yes, there is something that behaves like a "sandbox."
2. It's part of the algo, but wasn't necessarily created to do what it does. (they didn't set out to build a "sandbox.")
3. It affects some site and not others.
4. Google likes what it does.

Now, rather than whine and complain about it; Those of us that have created sites that got sandboxed (I have one that stayed in the sandbox for 18 months) should look at those sites and decide what it is about them that Google doesn't like. If you can do that you'll benefit. But if all you can do is complain that Google is broken and doesn't deliver fresh results, then you're just waisting time.

BTW: Thanks Brett for a great convention!

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