Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the Google Category

Google Sandbox

Thanks to Jill Whalen of for this clear discussion.

Purgatory for Brand New Sites

For those who aren’t familiar with the aging delay and the sandbox, you’ll want to note that there is a lot of disagreement over what causes a site to be thrown in the sandbox. However, based on my own observations and the experiences of some trusted SEO friends, it’s my belief that the sandbox is basically a purgatory database where Google places certain URLs based on a variety of predetermined criteria. (Much of this is spelled out in the first part of the patent application.)

Basically, if you have a brand new domain/website, it will automatically land in the sandbox regardless of anything that you do with it. Your new website will be stuck there for an unspecified period of time (averaging around 9 months these days) and it will not rank highly in Google for any keyword phrases that might bring it any decent traffic. Yes, it can sometimes rank highly for the company name, or the names of the people who run the company. It may also show up in Google for a few additional phrases that other sites are not focusing on within their content. But new domains will not show up in Google’s natural results for even slightly competitive keyword phrases until they are removed from the sandbox.

The full discussion of this topic can be found in Jill’s really informative newsletter, a copy of which can be found in her archives at

Google Releases Search for Mobile Phones

Google has released a special search engine for web sites that are optimized for display on small screens like PDAs and mobile phones. Beta News broke the story a couple of weeks ago.

SEO Firm Vanishes on Google!

Until recently, large SEO firm SEOinc consistently ranked among the top two or three sites in Google for keywords like “search engine optimization” and “search engine positioning”. About a month ago, they suddenly vanished from the top 30, and they’re still not found today.

What did they do wrong?

According to Threadwatch and StepForth, Google got wise to their link-spamming strategies. According to Stepforth:

SEOinc had recently been embroiled in a link-trading controversy that started when a third party link-vendor sent several competing SEO/SEM firms a spam-email asking them to provide a link to SEOinc on their sites in exchange for a link to their sites from another, unnamed website. Aside from being a particularly un-tempting offer, many in the SEO community saw it as proof of what are perceived to be blatant link-spamming techniques designed to game Google’s rankings. SEOinc currently has 24,900 backlinks recognized by Google. By comparison, SubmitExpress, the number one listing under “search engine optimization” only has 4,580 backlinks recognized by Google.

This is exactly why we recommend (and practice) ethical link building efforts.

Ethical Link Building

When seeking links, always approach reputable web sites that are somehow related to yours. Explain to the web site owner how a link from their site to yours adds value for their visitors. Their site will be more valuable to someone visiting it because of the link from them to you. As long as that’s true, most web sites will link to you. And many will do so without requesting that you link back to them. This is sometimes called “organic link building”, and those links to you are there because the web site doing the linking thinks that you have a good and valuable web site. That’s exactly the kind of link the search engines love.

More Intelligence From the Google Patent Application

We’ve reported earlier on intelligence gleaned from Google’s patent application. Here’s some more stuff. It seems that Google might track how often users click on a page when it is listed in the search results pages. Google might also track the amount of time that users spend on that page or that web site.

It seems that Google might be tracking click-throughs (when people click on a listing in the search engine results to go to the listed web page) and rewarding those sites with higher click through rates.

Google may also plan to track the behavior of web surfers through bookmarks, cache, favorites, and temporary files (possibly with the Google toolbar and the Google desktop search tool).

More specifically, it’s possible that Google might track the following information:

  • The number of searches over time is recorded and monitored for increases.
  • Information about a web page’s rankings are recorded and monitored for changes.
  • Click through rates may be monitored for changes in seasonality, fast increases, or other spike traffic.
  • Click through rates may be monitored for increase or decrease trends.
  • Click through rates may be monitored to find out if stale or fresh web pages are preferred for a search query.
  • Click through rates for web pages for a search term may be recorded.
  • Traffic to a web page may be recorded and monitored for changes.
  • User behavior on web pages may be captured and recorded for changes (for example the use of the back button etc.).
  • User behavior might also be monitored through bookmarks, cache, favorites, and temporary files.
  • Bookmarks and favorites could be  monitored for both additions and deletions.
  • The overall user behavior for documents is monitored for trends.
  • The time a user spends on a web page might be used to indicate the quality and value of a web page.

What does this mean to your web site?

If Google really tracks the click-throughs to your web site from search engine results, you should make sure that your web pages have attractive titles so that web surfers click on them preferentially in the search results.

Make your web pages interesting enough so that web surfers stay some time on your web site. It might also help if you can entice visitors to your web site to add your web site to their bookmarks.

Make sure that your web page content is optimized for Google. The ranking factors mentioned in the patent specification are only additional factors. If your web page content is not optimized, all other ranking factors won’t help you much.

How Google Ranks Links

As we point out in many places on, Google heavily relies on incoming links when it comes to ranking web sites. In addition to the sheer number of links and their anchor texts, the recently released Google patent specification shows possible ways how Google might use historical link information to further evaluate links.

For example, Google might record the date they first found a link and even record the life span of a link and the speed at which a new web site gets links.

The patent specification indicates that Google might track this:

  • Both the anchor text and the discovery date of links are recorded.
  • Google might monitor the appearance and disappearance of a link over time.
  • Google might monitor the growth rates of links.
  • Google might monitor the changes in the anchor text of links (what the link actually says) over a given period of time.
  • Google might monitor the rate at which new links to a web page appear and disappear.
  • Google might record a distribution rating for the age of all links.
  • Links with a long life span might get a higher rating than links with a short life span.
  • Links from fresh pages might be considered more important.
  • If a stale document continues to get incoming links, it will be considered fresh.
  • Google doesn’t expect that new web sites have a large number of links (but they do need some).
  • If a new web site gets many new links, this will be tolerated if some of the links are from authorative sites.
  • Google indicates that it is better if link growth remains constant and slow.
  • Google indicates that it’s best if anchor text varies as much as possible among incoming links.
  • Google indicates that a quick burst of new links may be a strong indicator of search engine spam.

What does this mean to your web site?

If you participate in quick link exchange schemes or buy links to your web site so that you get many links at once, chances are that Google will see this as a spamming attempt and will penalize your rankings. It’s far better for new links to appear in a natural way, a few at a time over an extended period of time.