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Search Engine Ban, Google Sandbox Effect, Poor SEO, Reinclusion Request

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If you are receiving little or no traffic from search engines, don't panic just yet.

There could be several reasons for this. If you receive some traffic, then I have good news for you: a ban or exclusion from the search engine index is not your problem.

If you don't receive any traffic at all and your domain has been around for a while (six to nine months or longer), you might want to check the section "Finding Out IF you are Banned" below.

Banned vs. Sandbox vs. Site Problems

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The Google Sandbox Effect

If your site is brand new, then the chances are good that you are experiencing what is called the "Google Sandbox Effect." You are not alone: most new sites today experience this effect. There is not very much that you can do about it.

The effect has to do with the lack of trust Google has about your site. You might compare it to how much you trust people whom you meet for the first time. Not very much, right? Trust is something that is earned over time. With Google, that time is three to six months and in some cases even nine months before you have earned its trust. If your site is about a highly competitive topic (pharmaceutical, legal advice, financial advice, loans, etc.) the time in the sandbox will be much longer than if your site is about something that is not very competitive (crocheting, synchronized swimming, etc.).

Reducing the Time Spent in the Sandbox
The only thing that might reduce your time in the sandbox is earning inbound links from strong and highly trusted "authority" sites, such as the websites of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, etc.

Other Sandbox Effects
Your site will rank early for all kinds of weird phrases that are very specific and "long tail." Also keep in mind that sites that link to you with your site's name or your pages' titles in the anchor text tend to outrank you for that term. Specifically the part that you don't rank for your own name is a bit "ugly" so make sure that you get some links (with your site's name in the anchor text) from favorable and non-competitor sites, and quickly.

Search Engine and Directory Submission Software - Submit Wolf by Trellian Inbound Links You Can Get Quickly
I recommend that you get your site listed at some of the major directories right from the start, especially the Yahoo! directory, Best of the Web, and DMOZ. You can find a list of directories here.

Most directories either list you with your site name in the anchor text or let you choose the anchor and accept your suggestion, as long as it is accurate and relevant (and not keyword stuffed). Most submissions cost money: Yahoo!, for example, costs $299. A lot of money, you might think, but trust me it is worth it. Think about it: what search engine spammer would spend $299 for a site review and listing at a directory? None -- right, you got it.

Poor SEO and Site Crawlability Issues

If your site has been around for a while and it is receiving only little traffic from search engines, your problem is most likely the result of (1) poor SEO, or (2) crawlers (search engine spiders) are having problems with accessing all pages and/or all of the content that is available on your website.

SEO 101
Since this would exceed the limitation of this resource, please check out my Introduction to Search Engine Optimization which refers to a number of SEO 101 articles and resources to investigate further what exactly the issues are that your site may be experiencing.

Issues could be technical, such as the code of your site, or they could have to do with site architecture, the format in which content is presented on your site, or inbound linking, just to name a few.

Getting Help from a Third Party
You might want to consider hiring an SEO professional to evaluate your website. If you are not sure how to go about that, I suggest you download this Buyers Guide to SEO Firms.

It not only provides information about SEO firms that are out there and how to contact them, but also provides resources and information about what to look out for in a contract and other things that are relevant to making an educated decision when you hire someone to take care of your search engine rankings.

Lean more about SEO Training, Certification and How-To Kits for webmasters and and marketers.

Resources to the Google Sandbox Effect and SEO

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Finding Out IF You Are Banned

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Check If Your Site Is Included in the Search Engine Index

The Test
Enter "" in the search box at the search engine and replace "domain" with your site's domain. If you do this and get no results, that is not encouraging. But the fact that your PR bar is not grayed out gives some hope that you are not banned.

The Unique Phrase Search Test
Now do a search for something that is unique to your website. For example search for your phone number or address, if you list them on your contact page. Better than that would be a long phrase from your homepage content. Make sure to enclose your search phrase in quotes (for example, "Internet Marketing Resources Portal at" would be a unique phrase for my website). Try more than one phrase, just to be safe.

If neither the site command nor your unique phrase searches return anything, then your site is definitely not in the search engine index.

Still, there is no reason to panic just yet. Not being included in the index does not necessarily mean that you were banned.

Possible Causes for Exclusion from a Search Engine Index

  • Exclusion via Robots.txt or Robots META Tag
    You might be preventing search engines from accessing and indexing your content. You might have blocked them via your website's robots.txt file or meta tags in your pages that tell search engines to not include those pages in their search index.

    See Robots.txt and META Tags Resources

  • Inaccessibility of Website
    If your site was down for a period of time, or responded very slowly or not at all to requests from search engine spiders, the search engines could have concluded that your site no longer exists and removed it from their index.

    See Website Availability Monitoring, Up Time and Response Times Checks

  • Severe PageRank Drop Because of Loss of Inbound Links
    Your site did not have much of a PageRank to begin with, because most pages had no or only few inbound links and your site then lost some or many of the few inbound links it had. The result of PageRank drop might cause your site to get excluded from a search engine index. This is rare, but it happens. The "Jagger/BigDaddy" updates by Google between fall 2005 and spring 2006 caused a number of sites to fall victim to this. Advice: check your back links.

    See Back Links Analysis Tools and Resources

  • Search Engine Issues or Mistake
    Nobody is perfect and even the big search engines make mistakes. The drop might be only temporary, due to issues with one or several data centers. Wait a couple days and do the checks mentioned above in the meantime. If nothing changes, then you might want to contact the search engine(s) and ask. Be polite and calm when you ask. They will reinclude your site quickly if they made a mistake.

    If you made changes to your site during the last few months, changes beyond site content updates, see also Finding Out WHY You Are Banned.

    See Search Engine Webmaster Portals, Help and Support

Note for Google
Google Webmaster Tools might tell you if you are banned, but that is nothing you can rely on. You might be banned without anything showing up about it at Google's Webmaster Central.
See Search Engine Webmaster Portals, Help and Support - 24/7 Website Monitoring Service

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Finding Out WHY You Are Banned

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There is no way to find out why your site was banned unless you contact Google or any other search engine and they tell you the reason. Otherwise only you know if you did anything the search engines might not like and violated their guidelines. See Guidelines of the Main Search Engines.

Filing a reinclusion request will work only if you have fixed whatever was wrong with your site that got it banned in the first place.

Maybe somebody else made changes to your site; perhaps you hired an outside SEO firm to boost your site and the firm deployed some "black hat" methods without your knowledge or, worse, your site was hacked without you knowing about it and the hacker did something that got you into trouble.

If you really don't know why your site was banned, it might be the right time to look for a trustworthy SEO company to evaluate and analyze your website and find possible causes of the ban.

Download this Buyers Guide to SEO Firms to help make an educated hiring decision.

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Reinclusion Requests

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Reinclusion Requests for Google

If you did get banned by Google and know why, what now?
  1. Fix the problem that got you banned in the first place. If you honestly don't know the reason, tell Google what changes were made (by you or somebody with whom you contracted) to the site during the past few months.
  2. Read the detailed post by Matt Cutts from Google about Filing a reinclusion request at Google, and also watch the Reinclusion requests video session with Matt Cutts.
  3. Submit a reinclusion request via this Reinclusion Request Web Form at

Note: The reinclusion process at Google can take six months to kick in so you may have to wait a while once your request has been approved.

There will be no notification about whether Google removed the ban or not. This reminds me a bit of DMOZ directory inclusion requests, but it is unknown how Google treats multiple reinclusion requests. DMOZ does not like them which could cause your site to never be reviewed. Let's hope that this is not the case with Google. It is certainly something they could improve on by issuing a support ticket with status that is accessible via Webmaster Central.

Reinclusion Requests for Other Search Engines

Visit Microsoft Search Request to get your website reincluded into the MSN Search/Windows Live Search Results.
An alternative option is via email to the Microsoft team:
Review Request for reinclusion into Yahoo! search index.

Additional Resources

Search Engine Penalties and Bans, a collection of links to blog posts and forum threads about specific Google and Yahoo! penalties, bans and their possible causes, provided by

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