Danny Sullivan: Yes Virgina There is a Google Sandbox

20 comments

Everyone's been endlessly debating the is there/is there not a Google Sandbox debate, and Matt's cleared things up with a few hints there is the remote possibility that there might be something that is vaguely sandbox-like-ish. Danny Sullivan steps up to the plate and calls a spade a spade in a comment on Search Engine Watch thread Is There A Google Sandbox?

As it happens, I was at a friend's house yesterday who has a completely new site, only a month and a half old. He was wondering why another site was outranking him. I'm probably going to go into detail about what I found, but fair to say, there was a sandbox effect for everything I could see. If ranked for some terms but wouldn't rank for other ones that it absolutely, positively should have -- given the other terms it was doing well for.

Hat tip to Search Engine Roundtable

Comments

..i am really not sure how

..i am really not sure how some of the most respected people in SEM have managed to ignore or deny the sandbox effect. Grehan's recent comments should really give someone pause about his credibility. Suppose I went around saying "The Title Tag is Dead! Optimizing your Title Tag is Admitting Defeat!" and used as my evidence that I can get a site to rank without an optimized title.

Depends what you're talking about

Half the pointless arguments about this topic happen because people omit a definition of what they mean by the term at the beginning of a discussion.

or maybe...

Grehan's recent comments should really give someone pause about his credibility.

or that maybe he is trying to elevate and reinforce his image as being one of the few reliable SEOs in the world who knows how to integrate SEO into an overall marketing strategy and he really wants others to think of him in that light?

How's that work?

He's trying to elevate his image by making a fool of himself?

I don't want to make Mike

I don't want to make Mike Grehan attack threads per say, but I don't think he is making a fool of himself.

In spite of my nearly constant exposure to SEO few people have anywhere near as much mindshare to me as he does, and right now we are discussing him and marketing him, etc. To me that means he is doing something right.

I am not great at business and selling services (I always undervalue my time) but I do appreciate that others are great at establishing brand strategies and running with them.

Someone saying something uniformed is not good marketing

"It's not what they say but the column inches they say it in" doesn't apply. If someone's plan is to say silly things so they get talked about it, then fine, but the silly things are still silly.

"It's not what they say but

"It's not what they say but the column inches they say it in" doesn't apply. If someone's plan is to say silly things so they get talked about it, then fine, but the silly things are still silly."

You've missed the point - Mike's primary argument is that sandboxing should be an irrelevance when dealing with internet marketing:

How could anyone in this business take on a client, tell them not to expect any results for a possible nine months AND expect to be paid?

Paid, to sit around and hope that some technical process might make your website popular with end users?

Search engines are not a panacea for marketing. They're simply in the mix.

I doubt many people aware of Mike's standing in the industry will see his objections as "silly" or "foolish".

I think Aaron is right in

I think Aaron is right in that (about Mike Grehan) "few people have anywhere near as much mindshare to me as he does" If anyone is debating mikes knowledge I'll bet they've never spoken with him or read his book. Mike knows more about search engine algorthyms than many of the search engine engineers. I happen to disagree with Mike a little on this one, but Mike still knows tons more on tons of more SEO things than I, or 99% of us will ever know.

I think that stever hits it on the head with his comment that "Half the pointless arguments about this topic happen because people omit a definition of what they mean by the term at the beginning of a discussion."

Mike's defination, like Google's, says there isn't a "sandbox", to others like myself, in my defination, there certainly is one.

What is sandboxing

Personally I hate the term sandbox because it's used as a catchall when things don't work out as you planned. There is some "age factor" that I see, and there is also a "quality or trust factor" as well. If the two are connected, dependent on one another or are sub factors of each other is what I'm wrestling with.

It's really mind-boggling when a site that is ranking 1000+ for a term suddenly jumps into a top 10 listing, when slow incremental changes were being made. It's also equally as intriguing when you can add 1 page to a website that is 5 years old and have it rank in the top 20 purely on internal anchor text in less than 5 days, when you have half a dozen other sites that are two and three years old competing on the exact same term that are 1000+ .

And why I hate it...

Personally I hate the term sandbox because it's used as a catchall when things don't work out as you planned.

And I hate it because it (understandably) leads to people focusing on their own site(s) and then to them excluding all other ways of looking at the topic...

1) Google have done something to my site which puts it in the sandbox

is a far far different thing than

2) Google have done something to the way they treat certain search queries which does not allow my site to rank for that query at the current time

but the second is sadly rarely discussed in sandbox threads I've noticed (I'll admit that I may well be hanging in the wrong places!).

Thank You

thats why I don't believe in the sandbox.

Well I do actually, but I can't have a sensible sandbox discussion because I don't agree that an age-factored-dampener and some form of trust rank = automatic 6 months of penalty for every term with more than 1000 results.

Sites rank, sites don't rank - and coming up with a cute name for a filter doesn't make it any more exciting than any other algo factor. People say things like "I'm not out of the sandbox after 3 years" - bollocks - you're not ranking after 3 years...

I was trying to use that as

I was trying to use that as an example of looking at things from a search engine's point of view rather than a "site-centric" way - not trying to promote it as a theory, which would be getting dangerously close to starting yet another sandbox thread.

I doubt many people aware of

I doubt many people aware of Mike's standing in the industry will see his objections as "silly" or "foolish".

Martha Stewart may not have a problem getting her soufflé's to rise and be light and puffy, however for her not acknowledge this is problem that other people may have or should be aware of would be "silly" and "foolish".

Martha Stewart may not have

Martha Stewart may not have a problem getting her soufflé's to rise and be light and puffy, however for her not acknowledge this is problem that other people may have or should be aware of would be "silly" and "foolish".

True, but if Martha's audience are wasting lots of time arguing as to whether their eggs are free range or not, how to prove it one way or the other, and what tips for ensuring your eggs are free range, then there's no soufflé being made. Which I believe is Mike's point.

Certainly there is a sandbox, but I grew tired of arguing the case nearly a year ago (Gurtie excepted!). Mike's position for objecting about the discussion I think are very salient and really worth paying close attention to.

We are all completely free

We are all completely free

We are all completely free to decide for ourselves who or what to believe or trust, but I can assure everyone of one thing. Dismiss Mike Grehan at your own peril!

There are two people in that thread that should be considered carefully if you are truly looking for long term success on the web. Two people who, in my opinion anyway, have hit the proverbial nail on the head. They are EXACTLY right and are generous enough to tip their hands for us all to see.

One is Mike Grehan http://www.mikegrehan.com and the other is Ian Mcanerin http://www.mcanerin.com/.

What I believe Mike is trying to get across is that if you have a business/marketing plan before you even secure a domain name, you would incorporate what Ian is trying to tell us all and part of that strategy would be building confidence in the site for it's target terms virtually from day one. Do that successfully and you too would have no idea of what people are talking about when they speak of a sandbox.

One of the most difficult things for me personally in terms of professional SEO over the last 10 years, has been being able to look at myself and my decisions with complete honesty. Human nature dictates that we convince ourselves that we weren't wrong, rather it was outside factors beyond our control that has caused some error. BUT, the times I have been able to find the intestinal fortitude to listen to things I didn't want to hear and honestly evaluate the situation, I usually found the real reason for my problems and was able to learn from MY mistakes and move forward.

Anyone that doubts or dismisses the validity of the remarks made by Mike and Ian, need only ask themselves one question and answer it honestly to be able to determine for themselves who or what to put more faith in. What did you do first?
#1. Secure a domain name
OR
#2.Write down a mission statement

If your answer is 2, then you likely had an objective, a strategy, a time line, cash flow projections and a budget that you and/or anyone else could easily read, understand and follow. In that strategy and budget you would have made allowances for things that would have addressed any possible delays in search engine indexing and/or traffic generation. You would have either hit your numbers or not and if not, you would have either adjusted your objectives and strategies or given up. Either way, a sandbox would have never come into play. You would have simply been doing what marketers do.

If your answer was #1, then you are likely feeling like Google is stupid not to have the good sense to realize your "unique" content is really the best "unique" content. Maybe it really is the best, but even so, you're still at the bottom.

You are likely forgetting all the reciprocal link begging/swapping/trading deals you have made. You are probably not remembering where you actually came up with all that "unique" content from and you are probably pooh-poohing extremely knowledgeable people that are in reality the one thing trying the hardest to help you.

Regardless of which answer you gave yourself, calling people fools simply because they will not validate you is a mistake that you alone will have to pay for.

>flame on<

"You've missed the point"

"Mike's primary argument is that sandboxing should be an irrelevance when dealing with internet marketing"

Do we really need this third grade level understanding of Internet marketing? Big deal if the sandbox is an irrelevance. Can't you see how trite a statement that is? There is a sandbox. Any statements to the contrary are beyond foolish. Once you accept the given of the sandbox you have to face the challenges of Internet marketing.

Comments like "so-called sandbox" are nothing but trolls or very very ignorant.

Avoiding the sandbox is easy enough, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Once you get past this elementary stuff you get to the point of knowing a sandbox exists, so how does a good Internet marketer respond?

I really couldn't figure out

I really couldn't figure out why you were all discussing Mike Grehan when the thread opening post was about Danny Sullivan...

So, for new readers: Danny Sullivans post is the one this thread links to. Mike Grehans post is the first one in the same thread, here.

My own opinion - well, massa's post above makes sense to me. So does Gurtie's. And graywolf's. And I don't know squat about soufflés. Haven't read either Danny or Mike yet, but will do.

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ADDED:

Wow. I haven't really read much by Mike Grehan, as he doesn't seem to post the same places I post (I'm not that often at SEW as the site's dreadfully slow, I don't attend conferences, and I'm not a reader at ClickZ) - but this quote rocks:

If your web site doesn't rank anywhere at all at a search engine - it's probably because it has no differentiating appeal or simply because it sucks.

What you actually need is called advertising and promotion and it has nothing to do with code of any kind, or subdomains or servers, or...

So true. However, even with a formal education in Marketing (among other things) I tend to disagree just a little: Marketing alone won't cut it in the long run. You need at least a product that's not totally hopeless. Preferably an appealing one.

(the rest moved to a new post)

I don't think that anyone

I don't think that anyone here is disagreeing with what Mike has said about marketing. We all agree, and most of us say the same things all the time in our respective hang-outs.

The disagreement comes in where ssite has already stated...i.e., Mike says there's no "sandbox" (or whatever you'd like to call it), when many of us know that there is.

Doesn't mean Mike's not a good guy. Doesn't mean that anyone is picking on him. It just means that in this particular case, many people disagree with him because they know that there is indeed a sandbox.

Yeah, we still have to market our sites. But there is something going on with Google results for new sites that wasn't there a few years ago. Mike obviously just hasn't worked with any new sites lately or he would not have said what he did.

No sandbox - but it's a catchy name (unfortunately)

I've moved this part of my post after seeing your post, Jill (think I added it while you were posting). The thing that bothers me most about "sandbox" is that it's a catchy name that draws people's attention *away* from the core of the matter. It does not describe the core of the matter and it does not identify it. IOW it's a misleading term in so many ways.

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(Sidenote: Ian McAnerin also rocks in post two, and Danny likewise in post three.)
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Dannys post (#59, not #3) is pretty trivial stuff: He simply says that he saw a site that did not rank for terms that it really should rank for, especially given the (other) terms that it did rank for.

That's where most people will scream "sandbox" nowadays. But, try a reality check: So, if I like ice-cream (or soufflés for that matter) should it follow from that that I also like rollercoasters? Or?

What Danny has seen is simply a site that does not rank for some terms. Period. Perhaps it will aquire the credibility needed to rank for those terms, perhaps it will not, but as of now it simply does not have enough credibility to rank for those terms.

That's the core of the issue. Add credibility and the site will rank. It's not Google's fault, it's not a "sandbox" (or a "freezer"), it's lack of credibility. Plain and simple.

It's not a bad site, though, as it apparently ranks for something. That's a start. All good businesses start with a start.

There is a Sandbox. Definitely.

It is located in my garden and it is populated by my kids and my neighbors' kids. We keep the kids in the sandbox until they prove that they have a plan how to conquer the world outside the sandbox. Some kids don't get it. Those are sandboxed.

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