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Atleast for one site of mine, the sandbox was actually a bonus. The niche was an emerging niche and because of the sandbox I was able to build up a 300 page site "under the radar" of my competators. Then BAMB! I lept into the serps and caught them all by surprise.
So, on the theme of turning lemons into lemonade, I'd love to hear about any other way I can turn the sandbox into an advantage. Just to be clear, I am not interested in how to get out, but rather how to use this to my advantage.
emodo, give yourself a pat on the back, unlike many posters here who will go to absurd lengths to argue whether this thing exists, you've correctly diagnosed your problem, and avoided the semantic word games people are so fond of playing when it comes to the sandbox. And then, to make matters even more strange, instead of complaining about it, you're asking how to best use the time. I have to give you credit.
Your question is excellent, usually I don't get into the sandbox thing anymore because the debate is boring, but you're asking the right question.
From what I can see, the sandbox will primarily impact keyword phrases in competitive categories. Not competitive in terms of raw count of serps returned, it's something else, it's more if sites are actually competing for those. Read the hilltop algo from google to get a better sense of what this does.
Your site is behind a wall, but it's not totally hidden, parts will show, the parts google decides are not competitive. Build out from those parts.
Start building out your site. Add the best content you can. You will come out of the sandbox one day, probably in 6-8 months. In the mean time, try to see if you can get some real links to your site. Avoid link directories, and anything that might look like a link directory, like the plague.
Links from sites that are directly related in topic matter are much better than not topically related links. Sitewide links are a dead giveway, don't use them. Too rapid link building is a dead giveaway, avoid it. Natural links appearing in totally oncontext situations on pages with very few other outbound links are very good.
Create more content. Watch the serps very carefully, make sure you can track your google referral phrases. You'll notice after a while that your site ranks for some odd little phrases. If that fits the topic of your site, think about adding more in that area. Getting an authority quality inbound link makes all the difference, I'd rather have one of those than 100 directory links.
See if you can 'scoop' a story now and then. If you can, you will be more likely to get high quality inbound links. The best inbound links come from high quality sites. Google is getting much better at determining link quality.
Think about finding something that you can either do better than competing sites, or that nobody really does. Do it. This may help generate more quality inbound links. Play to your strengths.
Make sure all your urls are search engine friendly, no query strings. Start the site right.
You will probably need to do some link building. Try to get mostly one way links pointing to your site. Sometimes you can write articles for other people in exchange for a link. Be very careful building links, google is getting much better at that part of the game.
Long term the less seo cr@p you use, the better off you will be. It takes patience. Be patient, write content.
Read brett's 26 steps to site success. Add a 27th, building quality inbound links. Everyone here reads it, and very few here actually do it, that's why a lot of people complain and whine a lot.
Read up on trustrank, keep reading on it until you understand it. The name doesn't matter, the concept behind it does. Page rank is not very important, don't worry too much about it, having pr 4 or 5 helps a bit I'll admit, but it's not hard to get that naturally.
<added>anyone here who wants to debate the sandbox, take it somewhere else please, the common sense of this poster is so refreshing it would be a shame to ruin it by counterproductive arguments</added>
We told them to think of it as though they opened a store on a street with no bus line -- on the hope that the bus line would be located to their street sometime in the future, if only they can stay in business long enough. So instead of picketing the transit authority, they just got down to business with the very real traffic they had.
They recently began an interactive section where the owners answer visitor-submitted questions, and that feature has just taken off -- floods of questions that they can barely keep up with. And the Answers Section helps drive sales in a real and natural way.
I'm proud of them -- and I sure wish I had the magic chip shot that could get them out of the sand trap. When that does happen eventually, they will thrive and they will have earned their success.
But I've been surprised, I added a one off thing, just for my own use, then one day I noticed that I was number 2 in google for it. I fixed up the page, fixed up the stuff I was offering, now it dominates the serps for its category. Timing can be everything.
That's why you just keep working on the site. I'm glad tedster mentioned yahoo and msn, depending on your niche, that traffic can be very good. But sometimes it's just a trickle. The numbers you see will show you a lot about your target demographics search behavior, it's not uncommon for me to see numbers less than 1% for msn search on some sites, others it's 20%. Same for yahoo. For you the percentages will be a lot higher of course, but you will be able to very roughly extrapolate your potential google traffic from the msn/yahoo numbers if your users are fairly average in terms of the market.
Ignore the short term success black and gray hat seo methods offer. The risk factor is very high, they accept short term profit because they don't care about their sites, they are disposable to them. It can be tempting, don't fall for it. I watched yet another client lose many sites during jagger because he just couldn't keep his fingers out of that honeypot. Plus of course he seems to be pathologically unwilling to apply his vast knowledge on his site's subject matter in a positive way, such as writing a good weekly article guaranteed to get good inbounds from the best sites on the web. Sad to watch.
This is a good, positive thread and I agree with what you are saying but I am in a bit of a Catch 22 situation. My only problem is that I am trying to juggle so much work I don't have time to spend on my particular problem site and if I don't spend time on it I don't get out.
Why not make the time I hear you ask? My problem is that I have so much work to do for my paying clients right now. If I drop this I lose earnings doing something that may or may not pay off.
I use it as a soft or hard (depending upon the situation) bargaining chip with clients. When I take on an SEO job for a firm, I sometimes (not always) mention the sb in the literature I provide (stressing it lightly or more heavily as I judge the client) and also stick in a couple of well-chosen links to information/discussions about it so they can see it is a real phenomenon (regardless of whether it actually 'exists').
Then, whether sandboxed or not 'in reality', you have much more time to play with re. ranking than you might otherwise have had if you require that extra time (for any reason - perhaps a resource issue).
Basically, should you need a fallguy if a client job isn't delivering, or if you need to buy time for a new client, you have one waiting.
From June through September, I enjoyed traffic from Google. I added another 125 pages during that time.
Since October, I've published another 100 pages and I have another 25 waiting to be published. I get virtually no traffic from Google. BUT...
Traffic has been slowly building over time - even without Google. The site has been mentioned on NPR and is more and more frequently picking up quality IBL without me asking. I've never been a quitter. The site is already a success in my eyes. Stopping only admits defeat. And the last thing that will defeat me is a machine (coded by humans).
The work they already did built a solid "community" of regular visitors, customers and even contributors. Their traffic was already growing in a natural way and their viral link growth has been darned good, with lots of inbounds within the content sections of various articles on other domains, including magazines and newspaper articles.
Thanks again to emodo for beginning this thread and giving us a good place to focus. I think one of the main "signals of quality" is actually to BE quality -- and not worry too much about how an algorithm might be measuring that at any one moment.
Yes, it took me a while to realize this, I was interested in the tricks of the trade last year more, but this is the same conclusion I've come to.
In case it's not clear, simply construct the opposite:
the main signal of quality is to not be quality.
the best way to get quality inbounds is to have low quality content.
Quality content is hard to do, it's work, but it's how to succeed. I think I'm giving up on SEO, it's a game, I have more success when I don't play it, and so would my clients.
That way, one isn't creating a store reliant upon traffic from the bus line, because those routes can change at any time.
If your in the sandbox, it's tough, but if you build a quality website that's well branded, you can make a site that people will want to drive, bike, or walk to.
I try to focus on that kind of traffic, and view any bus line as a gift from the transportation gods, and not as a requirement for my site.
That's all fine and good assuming you're eventually released from pergatory. I have a site that has been "in the sadbox" for almost 2 years now. The site is fundamentally only going to be successful based on SE rankings, PPC won't cut it for this one because the profit margins won't support the bid costs for the PPC ads.
This site is dying a slow death, thanks to the "sandbox".
The one that I always use when talking about gaining traffic (even pre-sandbox) is that of opening a restaurant.
There are some places where a restaurant can open and instantly pick up 100% of the business in that area, such as at a truck stop in the desert that is at least 50 miles from the next stop.
Then there are places where it is expensive to open, and it takes a while to build your reputation enough to have regulars. You have to be able to survive long enough for that traffic to build, and you have to offer something to draw people away from the other popular places.
Getting instantly good rankings in competitive areas is an anomoly that never should have happened in the first place. It is not the way the world works.
Being in the sandbox is a great time to work on the long tail terms that you tend to ignore while you are ranking for the money terms. Gaining authority on those long tail terms will also help on the money terms when you get out of the sandbox. Consider the sandbox to be part of your development time.
And be damn thankful for those other SEs in the mean time.
And for ways to come out of the sandbox stronger.
Get out of this forum!
Y! Forum [webmasterworld.com]
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Thats where you can start to grow your other baskets for your eggs. After all, the goal is not to get Google traffic, it's to get to where you don't need Google traffic.
Besides, when you get enough traffic from other sources, the bus route is sure to follow.
Couldn't agree more Powdork.
Thats exactly what I've done, focused my new sites at yahoo and msn - totally. I haven't optimized any for google at all. I just felt that it would be easier, and less discouraging.
I'm still learning the ways of these two engines as before last sept it was all google for me but I made a decision after I suffered the effects of the sept 22 fallout not to make that mistake again.