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Taking a Long Time for Google Results?

Is Google putting new sites on hold before giving them the page ranking they deserve? Learn about the Google sandbox theory and what it means to you.

Several of my clients are now having trouble with Google. One has a perfectly good site. We've gradually been working on the site itself, the pay per click campaign and a link campaign. The link campaign has progressed to the point where we now have 27 reciprocal links. But Google gives the site zero page rank, which is very odd for a site with that many incoming links.

Another site had a problem with a Webmaster who put in a mass of hidden keywords--you recall, the old technique that used to work with search engines, a lot of keywords in the background color so that search engines would pick them up but human visitors wouldn't see them. This site lost its page rank, and has almost certainly been penalized by Google. However, for the last several months a linking campaign has been conducted that has obtained a number of quality reciprocal links. But Google still shows a page rank of zero.

For both of these sites, inquiries have been made of Google, and replies were received that the sites are in the Google index and are not currently being penalized.

What's going on? It used to take several months for a new site to appear in Google's free search rankings. But both of these cases have been going on for much longer than is customary.

Understand that Google doesn't announce how their ranking methods work, so the discussion that follows can't be verified. I'm reporting to you on a topic that is being discussed a lot in search engine marketing forums to that I read. It certainly fits my own observations, and it fits the observations of many others who work in the field.

It appears that when a new site, or a site that has been banned and is recovering, gets good ranking position for a short time, and then gets very poor positions in search engine results for several months. In some cases this can last as long as six months. Many observations over time have tended to confirm that this is happening. The phenomenon has even been given a name, "The Google Sandbox."

Why might Google do this? The searchmeisters at Google are determined to deliver search that truly reflects the content of sites, and is not influenced by "spammers" who try to fool search engines into giving high-ranking positions that don't reflect the content of the sites. Recently, a technique has been developed to get good Google position that has been quite effective. The spammer uses techniques that ultimately cause the site to be banned by Google, such as hidden text, and gets a good position, for a while. Then, when the site is banned, the spammer just gets another domain name and does it again with another site. Using this method, it's possible to keep employing spamming techniques and maintain a more or less consistently high search engine position.

So, the theory goes, Google decided that they could circumvent this technique by putting a new site into a "sandbox" for a number of months, then gradually allowing it to have the ranking that it deserves. Many observations of how new sites are ranked by Google indicate that something like this is happening.

Does Google really have a sandbox? We don't know, and they won't tell us. However, this theory explains a lot of observed behavior, so whatever the mechanism, what I describe here is really happening.

How do we deal with this? First, as an expectation, it will take months for free search to deliver a lot of Google traffic, months more than previously. Take this time to work on a quality linking campaign, and of course use paid methods such as pay per click and content-rich sites to draw traffic to the site. The basic strategy of obtaining high ranking in search engines by providing high-quality content is still the approach to follow. The change here is simply to not expect quick results from free search, and not to abandon good technique when proven methods don't work right away.

The Bottom Line: For a new site or a site recovering from being banned, used paid techniques to obtain traffic while conducting a reciprocal link campaign. Provide Web pages that are well designed around relevant content. Give free search up to six months to provide results, much longer than we previously allowed.


Dave Roberts provides expert Web marketing services to help you meet your business goals. Subscribe to his newsletter at: DaveDoesItAll.com

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