Leaving the Google Sandbox

Steve from Careers Network writes:

I have hunted high and low for information about leaving the Google sandbox. I have a web site which was launched in Nov 2005 and still has very few pages indexed compared to the size of the site, I’m in one of the most competitive markets and from what I have read means my stay in the Google sandbox "trust filter" would be one of the longest but come on nearly 2 years, what’s going on?

My site traffic is up and down like a yo yo from 675 a day steady for about a week and then down to 75 to 135 a day and when checking Google regularly I find that there is a lot of pages still not in the index or I find the ones in the index have fallen out.

Have you experienced this or is it just me, I have optimised the site fully for natural organic searches. How long does it take to fully get out of the sandbox, months or years.

Google Sandbox Effect

I have covered the Google Sandbox effect in previous articles: What is the Google Sandbox Theory and Aging Delay Filter.

First of all, I don’t believe your site is in the sandbox, your issues with Google are more complicated than than the problem of longevity. In our experience, it’s rare, these days, for a well optimised site with clean, W3c compliant source code, with good quality incoming links to have any issues with the Google sandbox effect, after 6 to 12 months. If a site isn’t firing well after that, it’s usually down to the longevity of competing sites, URL issues, optimisation, coding or linking issues.

Assuming that we are talking about your Careers site, you have several issues that are effecting your positions in the serps and how many pages that are registered in the index, (although 4520 pages cached isn’t bad in anyone’s books!)

One of the reasons that the number of pages cached by the Google network will change on a weekly basis, is that you have so many pages that have virtually identical content. The fact that you have taken care to use different page titles is your saving grace, otherwise hundreds of these pages would be in the supplemental index. Ensuring that each page has unique content is the best way to ensure that more pages make the Google main index and stay there, as your internal linking is really quite good for a site of this size.

You have ensured that your index page is w3c compliant, but the internal pages are not. The three that I quickly checked had 46,  9 and 8 non compliant coding issues. I know ensuring compliancy is a pain, but worth doing.

Your Page titles feature dashes, which is fine, but ensure that there is a space either side of the dashes. On several pages, the dashes are attached to keywords in the title. Your page titles could also be longer, up to 73 characters and spaces.

Your index page is a series of links, with no discernible content. This causes the issue that the main keyterms that are targeted in your page title, have a very low keyword density on the page. The term, recruitment specialist, for example, appears only twice on the index page as a combined term, yet there are 3199 words on the page, giving a keyword density of only 0.13%.

The .com and the .net versions of your domain name are owned by someone else and they had a 302 redirect on the URL, which is commonly used in black-hat techniques, such as cloaking. If you could buy that domain and take down the redirect, that would prevent any confusion for the spiders.

I don’t believe the Google sandbox is your issue, but that’s only one man’s opinion, although I can claim to have a little more experience that many.

These are a few of the issues facing your site, some of which I’ve mentioned above. Address some of these and you will stand a better chance of success on the engines.

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