Yahoo Dopey, MSN Goofy, Google is Mickey Mouse Lost in a Sandbox

Seventy-two days ago Googlebot first showed up and crawled over 250 pages of a brand new domain in an experiment that has had an odd cartoonish character to it, where unexplained things happen with sometimes dark foreboding, a kind of Fantasia online.

If you're unfamiliar with the Disney animation classic, Fantasia, Mickey Mouse plays a sorcerers' apprentice who wreaks havoc one evening as he dons the bosses magic wand and merrily destroys the castle. Comparing Google to Mickey Mouse is probably not often taken to mean low quality or amateurish in the pejorative use of the name. If I were to compare Google to Mickey Mouse, it would be as Jimmy Carter did, saying, "Mickey Mouse is the symbol of goodwill, surpassing all languages and cultures. When one sees Mickey Mouse, they see happiness."

Source: Wikipedia

I'd suggest that most webmasters see Google the same way Carter sees Mickey Mouse. We're very happy to see Googlebot (Mickey) wandering through our pages and he definitely brings happiness - if and when he ever indexes our pages. But for the past 72 days Google has seemed more like the dark character "Chernabog" from the same movie, a nocturnal demon who holds power over various restless souls whom he summons from their graves. That is how those buried deep in that evil sandbox imposed by Google on new sites must imagine the search engine - we'll be summoned from our graves one day. Google crawls after each article in this series, but has yet to index any of the several hundred pages it has spidered.

This consignment to a "Neverland" of invisibility by Google has only seemed to plague sites with content in tightly competitive markets. The category that this new site fits might be considered competitive since it's all about internet business. There are no shortage of sites addressing internet marketing & ecommerce. Peter Pan probably couldn't fly if not sprinkled by a little of Tinkerbell's Google Pixie Dust. The same is true of Sandboxed web sites.

The long sandboxing in this case may be proof of the long time rumor circulated among webmasters that new sites are indexed very quickly for obscure or unpopular terms, while those seeking entry into tough markets take longer to get indexed. The question every webmaster asks in this scenario is, "How long Mickey?" After the first two articles in this case study series were published, one webmaster after another wrote to say their site was fully indexed in 30 days if targeting terms such as "Grow Bananas in Pots."

But those in hotly contested areas, targeting competitive market segments have found themselves in limbo for as long as six months before release from the Google Sandbox. Guidelines would be nice. Doing that daily search at Google using query operator "site" to find how many, if any, pages are indexed at the search engine gets tiresome after ten weeks of looking. Those who suggest that it only takes a few links to get indexed by Google can do a link search at both MSN (369 links) and Yahoo (7950 links). A result of the intense interest focused on this story by webmaster ezines & online publications.

The second installment in this case study series ranks at #23 for the Google search "Google Sandbox" from the webmaster site: WWW Coder

This might play out to fulfill other suggestions that those sites that are well optimized with extensive inbound links spending even longer periods in the sandbox due to "over-optimizing" type of penalties. The site now fits both descriptions as it's a text- only site (only images are the logo and background) built to rank well that has hundreds of inbound links. Would that suggest that it is wiser to launch with no optimization, little content, lots of images, extensive javascript, obscure market segment and keep quiet about the site online until indexed and released from that awful black sandbox? THEN optimize, remove images and scripts and slowly ease in to the competitive arena after de-sandboxing?

How long Mickey?

A few words about the other three players in the search engine game... AskJeeves has also not yet released this site from their own version of the sandbox. Playing Sleeping Beauty here Teoma?

Yahoo is now showing 8,210 pages indexed, though they had done the inexplicable and CHANGED THE URL of over 8,040 of those pages sending visitors to error pages until we programmed a special 301 redirect just for Yahoo to change all of them back to those they crawled on the site. This is just plain Dopey behavior and earned Yahoo the Dopey Dwarf role in this Disney Sleeping Beauty toon.

Yahoo also earned the Dopey moniker by being very slow once the pages were crawled to post new pages. We're seeing old versions of the site, versions of pages that haven't existed for over 8 weeks now since Slurp first crawled back in May. Some new pages are indexed, but they make up a tiny portion of those listed.

We've found that Yahoo shows several hundred broken links to an email masking directory we've excluded them from in our robots.txt file - weeks after we banned the Slurp crawler from that directory. Dopey, you're so cute, but real sloooooow.

MSN now indexes 6,162 pages and is crawling the site like mad after each of these sandbox case study articles is published. Their index increases by about 1000 pages per week on a rather regular schedule. We've christened MSN "Goofy" for the bizarre search numbers shown with a "site:Publish101.com" query operator.

MSN shows, across the top of the page on the day after each new update, first a very low number of results, then a higher number of results after clicking in five pages, then a lower number of results after the sixth page. THEN after going to page 25 of search results, it stops showing more results pages. So no matter how many pages are indexed, Goofy shows you only 250 of them. In a search done right before completing this article, MSN shows 220 pages indexed on that "site:Publish101.com" query - as do pages 2 through 4. But if you click page 5, it suddenly shows 6,941 results. Page six (links at top & bottom of results pages) then shows 6,721 results. No more after page 25. Goofy, just plain Goofy.

Dopey Yahoo does this as well, first showing 8,210 pages, then dropping back to 8,040, then 8,020, then 7,980 down to 7,770 at result page #100 where you'll see a link at the bottom of that page saying, "In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the ones already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included." But if you click that link, then click page 10, results drop to 5,700 pages, until result page number 100, which shows 3,140 pages indexed and STILL you can't look beyond 100 results pages - 1,000 results.

Very Dopey, very Goofy and very Mickey Mouse!

Copyright © July 26, 2005

Mike Banks Valentine is a search engine optimization specialist who operates WebSite101

Previous Google Sandbox Case Studies are at the following URL's

Sandbox Case Study #1 Sandbox Case Study #2

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