How I Escaped the Sandbox

7 replies
Recently I stupidly tried some techniques that were, well black hat-ish in nature. They got one of my top 3 sites thrown straight into the infamous "sandbox".

Now I know there is a divergence of opinion on whether such a contrivance actually exists, so to keep the discussion on that brief I'll just say that whatever you want to call it, there is obviously some process by which Google essentially drops your site from the rankings and there it will stay until they see fit to restore it. In fact they admit as much right on their own help pages, it's not really up for debate, Google emphatically proclaims it. To wit directly from Google's webmaster guidelines:

Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the "Quality Guidelines," which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise penalized. If a site has been penalized, it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google's partner sites.
It really can't get more obvious than that now can it? Personally, I call that the sandbox, but if others want to call it something else, have at it. It doesn't really matter what we call it. The truth is that google does punish sites in the rankings and your site can stay there until they feel good and ready to remove it from that cyberspace purgatory.

Anyhow, while my site was technically still in the index, it was nowhere to be found in the serps, even searching 300 pages deep it just wasn't anywhere. How did this happen? Well being a professional programmer I'm always tinkering with how things work on my websites. I wrote an application that will create random text and inject my keywords into it. Then I would take that text and paste it into a DIV tag on my web site which I used CSS to position out of user view.

Well, Google didn't like that much I guess, and one day I found that my traffic died off to absolutely nothing at all. When I checked with my usual queries my site was gone completely as I described above. Well, I knew I had stepped on it but didn't know how or why. So I did some web research and found some articles detailing how Google doesn't take too kindly to keyword stuffing into gibberish content. Evidently I'm not the first to try it.

So after reading their webmaster guidelines again and reading through their website resubmission process, I realized what I needed to do. Which turned out to be quite simple. I just removed the offending code. I didn't even submit it to Google for resubmission, though it was on my to-do list. Evidently their algorithm noticed the changes on the next crawl and restored my site to it's rightful, or well usual position. Number 3 for my main keyword.

Moral of the story, if you are thinking about trying these kinds of black hat techniques, don't do it! They will catch you, I don't care how smart you are, Google's engineers when they put their heads together will always be smarter.

But if you do fall into the BH pit anyway, all is not lost. You may escape simply by fixing whatever the problem is. If not, there is always resubmit. But in some cases, such as in mine, you don't even need to do that.
#escaped #sandbox
  • Profile picture of the author Rob Barbour
    How true....never try to game Google - they almost always catch you and penalize you. I always work from the premise of building a business online and not trying to make a quick buck
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  • Profile picture of the author emigre
    And now people will come in to say there's no sandbox.
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  • Profile picture of the author proaffiliate26
    Quite an insightful post. Moral of the story: Never mess with the Big G.
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    • Profile picture of the author areaK
      Originally Posted by proaffiliate26 View Post

      Quite an insightful post. Moral of the story: Never mess with the Big G.
      So glad to see some people with some sense. I'm beyond tired of seeing people say you can't get penalized for this or that - because the fact is that you CAN...you may not always and some, even many, people MAY get away with some things BUT there's always a chance you'll be the one to suffer a penalty so why not 'better safe than sorry'?

      Now don't get me wrong, we do linkbuilding that while being viewed as 'natural', if you will, really isn't what SEs have in mind (i.e., they rather other people who really like your site to give you links rather than have you go out and build them yourself but we all know we'll never rank high if we just wait for this to happen) so we try to avoid a ton of things that others might argue are 'perfectly safe', 'can't get you banned', 'Google can't figure out', etc. You don't KNOW what Google can or can't do, you can only guess or make assumptions based off of experiences...whatever you conclude, good or bad, is almost always an assumption because we just don't have access to Google's backend to know FOR SURE what's going on and what isn't.

      Just rather not take the risk when there are PLENTY of methods of building links that can get you lots of good link juice without going too far with the greediness.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Lots of things can get your site penalized or banned. Did you search for your site using the site:www*domain*com search to see if it was still indexed? I'm guessing what happened to you is what happened to me when my site was hacked. It got dropped to the supplemental index. That's not the same as being banned, and according to popular theory, the "sandbox" only affects new sites.

    Matt Cutts has said there is no sandbox, but also says there can be a sandbox-like effect on some industries. It doesn't sound like your site is new, so it was probably dropped to the supplemental index like mine was because there was something they thought was spammy. In your case it was your hidden text. In my case it was thousand of dead links a hacker inserted.
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    Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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  • Profile picture of the author robcole
    I have a similar problem. I have removed the offending code.

    How long did it take to get out of the supplemental index?

    Cheers
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