Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SEO The Sandbox and the Overoptimization Filter

By Brent Sweet

I just wanted to write something up to give some people some guidance. I get a lot of questions daily on the Sandbox and the Overoptimization filter on Google posed by my clients. I really wanted to address if they exist and how to fix any problems you may have. I have done some tests and finally have results that clear some things up for me.

I will start with the Sandbox, because from my prospective it is easy. I read all the time about the 3-6 month sandbox and that if you have a new site that it is impossible to rank high in the search engines regardless of your keywords popularity. I say this is crap. I just started promoting about 3 sites in November, they were all brand new and within a few weeks they were all on page one.

I don't know if the Sandbox exists or not. It is like being 8 and questioning Santa Clause. I am not sure if it is there or not, but as long as I continue to believe then I am careful, or in the Santa Clause instance I get presents. Now I would love to come out and say it doesn't exist because I would probably be the only SEO that would make such a claim. All I know is that I either have a superior method to all the people that talk about the Sandbox, or people talking about it have other problems than just some sandbox.

Now as for the overoptimization filter, that does exist, and it will hammer you. I had a site that I started promoting and had excellent results. I was about number 5 on Google for my keywords, and then one day, I was gone. I dont mean gone like moved down, I mean gone. I didnt even rank number one for a search for my domain name including the dot com.

Right away I screamed Sandbox, read everything I could on it, and accepted that I would not be ranked for six months. I then pulled half of my hair out wondering if my other sites would drop like that too. As a matter of fact I obsessed over my rankings sometimes checking them hourly just to make sure they were still somewhere close to page one. You know Google rankings change a lot, I learned this during my little breakdown. After about a month of inaction because I assumed Sandbox I boldly made a move. At the top of my site in my H1 tags I had my keywords, I changed that tag, took the keywords out of it. A few days later, though not number one because I still am overoptimized, I was in position 100. Guess what? I wasn't sandboxed, I overoptimized.

Now I am not watching my rankings so close. I know that the problem with this particular site was that it was overoptimized not sandboxed as I had assumed. I moved this site back into the index by changing 4 words. I jumped over 16 million positions changing four words. I had to make another change though, because 100 position sucks, and I am still overoptimized. See in my forum reading I started beliving these yahoo's (people not search engine) that said my key word density should be between 3 and 7 percent. When I looked at my competition they are between 0 and 1%. I was over 4%. Now I have to work to keep reducing my density and as I do that I expect my rankings will continue to improve.

Before today if someone asked me I would have said on page optimization is crap, and nobody needs to do it. I change this statement now and say onpage optimization will not get you good rankings, but it will absolutley blast your site if you do too much of it. See I didn't think that Google would weight the factors within my control so much, when it comes to improving rankings, they may not, but boy they will just delete you right out if you are over optimized. The only problem I have is I have now dropped in my rankings on MSN because they like high densitys. Thats ok though, I want a good position on Google, I will get MSN later.

So if you have been sitting around reading forums thinking your site is in the sandbox for 6 months, I want to tell you to change your strategy. Something you are doing is wrong. If you can seriously sit around for 6 to 12 months hoping to magically jump out of this sandbox to number one you are nuts. Make some changes to your site and see if anything happens, what do you have to lose? You aren't indexed, instead of doing the natural thing and adding all your keywords and stuffing them, see if you need to remove some. I get on page 2 in no more than 2 months with every site I launch, at least thus far, so I don't think there is anything to this sandbox.

My secret tip of the day, what do I do so differently? Here is one... I don't link to anybody. I don't exchange links nor do my sites have a single outbound link on them. Why? Because I know for sure that I can be punished for people that I link to, but not for the people that link to me. Therefore I just don't link to anybody and I avoid this issue. - 16651

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