Weekly SEO news: 17 March 2009
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

This week, we're taking a look at Google's sandbox effect. This Google filter is still alive and it might be the reason why your website is not listed as high as it could.

In the news: the latest search engine statistics, Google might care whether a link is underlined or not, the future of search and more.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Google's sandbox filter is still alive

Google's sandbox is a filter that Google's search quality team created some years ago to fight spam in the search results. If you have a new website or if you made major changes on your website then Google's sandbox filter might be the reason why your website's rankings have dropped.

Google SandboxHow does Google's sandbox filter work?

The usual process is that Google indexes a new website, lists it for some less important queries in the search results and then the web pages drop from the search engine result pages for several months.

Although other search engines work fine, Google doesn't list the web site, sometimes not even for the company name. In general, brand-new web sites with new domain names need about 6-8 months to get top rankings on Google.

Why does Google use the sandbox filter?

It's likely that Google delays the inclusion of brand-new web sites to encourage webmasters to build content instead of building mini-networks.

Some webmasters try to artificially inflate the link popularity of their web site by creating a network of small web sites with different URLs that all link to each other. Many of these web sites have no purpose other than linking to the main web site.

By delaying the ranking of new web sites, this mini-network strategy doesn't offer a quick jump to the top anymore. The delay might encourage webmasters to focus on the content of their main web site instead of building useless mini sites.

Is there proof that the sandbox exists?

Yes. Many webmasters have observed the sandbox effect on their own website and Google has been granted a patent in which the method has been described.

The patent indicates that the sandbox filter might be used for new websites and for websites on which you have made major changes. Although Google started using the sandbox filter several years ago, the filter still seems to be in place as many webmasters observe its effects.

How can you find out if your website is in Google's sandbox?

If the following criteria apply to your website, it is likely it is in Google's sandbox:

  • Your domain is 0-2 years old or you have made major changes on your website.
  • The web pages of your website cannot be found if you search for the exact text of their title tag.
  • Your website did have good rankings for some relevant queries and then it dropped off 30 to several hundred positions.
  • Your website has good rankings in Yahoo and MSN/Live but not in Google.
  • You don't use any spam elements on your website.

What can you do to get out of the sandbox?

Except for waiting, there is not much that you can do to get out of the sandbox.

If you have a new website, expect that it will be listed within 6-8 months in Google. In the meantime, add content to your web site, get good inbound links and make sure that your web pages are optimized for Google.

When you register a new domain name, create a temporary page and link to it from another web site to make Google aware of your web site. The 6-8 month delay seem to start with Google's first contact with your web site. The sooner Google knows about your web site, the sooner it will be listed.

Google's sandbox is Google's attempt to prevent spammers from creating low quality web sites. Nearly all websites have to go through this filter.

If you find that your website has been put into Google's sandbox, do not worry but work on the content and the links of your website. If you do that, your website will get better rankings than before as soon as it is out of the sandbox.

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2. Search engine news and articles of the week

Search enginesFebruary 2009 U.S. search engine rankings

"Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in February with 63.3 percent of the searches conducted, followed by Yahoo! Sites (20.6 percent), Microsoft Sites (8.2 percent), Ask Network (4.1 percent) and AOL LLC (3.9 percent). [...]

Americans conducted 13.1 billion searches at the core search engines, down 3 percent from January. Google Sites handled 8.3 billion core searches, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 2.7 billion and Microsoft Sites with 1.1 billion."

Does Google care if a link is underlined?

"If it's just a style element, Google probably doesn’t care. If it's being used to deceive users, particularly in conjunction with other code that will make it impossible to discern a link short of viewing the source code, then you’re taking risks."

Discussion: how to get links from .edu pages

"Searching on things like widget instructors, widget courses, and anything you can think of related to education in your niche is likely to provide a rich list of potential link sources. [...] Sites run by students can be a good place to get some links. Lots of students have blogs or hobby sites that are reasonably well backlinked."

Mobile InternetMobile Internet becoming a daily activity for many

"[comScore] reported that the number of people using their mobile device to access news and information on the Internet more than doubled from January 2008 to January 2009. Among the audience of 63.2 million people who accessed news and information on their mobile devices in January 2009, 22.4 million (35 percent) did so daily; more than double the size of the audience last year."

The future of search - just another evolution story?

"No more than a few generations ago, our grand-grand parents have witnessed the introduction of electricity in every day life. [...] Comparing to electricity, which, on a traditional evolutionary scale, would be too young to even mention, the Web is an infant. Born less than 20 years ago, it is still younger than the majority of the contemporary human population: a teenager that, for many of us, seems to be around forever."

Search engine newslets

  • Search engine marketing is cannibalizing print media.
  • Google introduces interest-based advertising.
  • Many see privacy on web as big issue, survey says.
  • Yahoo reverses its web strategy with web videos.
  • A screenshot of Microsoft's new search engine Kumo.
  • Google tests icons in German AdWords ads (German).
  • Is Google evil?

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3. Success stories

"What a time saver!"

"Your software IBP continues to be a God Send for us.

We spent years trying other SEO programs before finding IBP. This software is the easiest, most advanced SEO software on the net. At Reggaeloops.com we sell royalty free reggae loops, and reggae music, and this software has proven to help us achieve top ranks in Google, MSN and Yahoo.

Thank you guys so much for an awesome SEO program. What a time saver!"
Taylor, www.ReggaeLoops.com

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Let us know how IBP has helped you to improve your website and we might publish your success story with a link to your website in this newsletter. The more detailed your story is, the better.

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4. Previous articles

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