Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sandboxed by Google

You learn something new everyday.Knowing less about search engine dynamics than I do about modern punk rock, it seems a foolish enterprise for a 41 year old nerd to be the webmistress of a Google-dependent site dedicated to Warped Tour, but I've never been much one for common sense.

The site has gone through several incarnations. At first, it was a one page review of Warped Tour on Epinions.com. That was seen by an editor at a local community newsletter who contacted me, had me spiff it up a bit, and ran it here on a Long Island newsletter. Because it got a fair share of attention, I thought maybe it might be nice to get it up and online so other parents searching the web would have some information to turn to when asked, "Can I go to Warp Tour?"

It's first incarnation was on (get ready to laugh) Geocities. Although I'm pretty literate as to the damage that can be caused by ActiveX imbedded within HTML, when it comes to actually putting up a web page, I'm clueless. I used some goddess-awful Geocities template and had a one page site there. That lasted a little bit, until I realized that the url http://geocities.com/myrealfirstandlastname/warptour.html was a rather stupid thing. (Not the sharpest tool in the shed)

The site then wandered over to Tripod, until I got fed up with the barrage of popups there. Finally I settled on http://warpedtour.atspace.com/, which has proven to be a pretty stable free host with no banners or ads, and they allow you to host your own affiliate links. Affiliate links are a must, as we are just dead broke.

So far this year I've enjoyed a steady upwards climbing stream of traffic, with daily unique IP's increasing each day. About 80 percent of my traffic came from Google, with the remaining bits evenly spread out between MSN, Ask, and the blessed and beloved folks at http://www.warpedtour.net

So imagine if you will my dismay to log into Statcounter today, only to find 12 total hits during the hours of midnight to 5AM.12

From 12 unique IPs per half hour down to 12 in a 5 hour stretch. That's a sad sight to see while you're waiting for the coffee to finish brewing.

I checked the site to make sure it was still up, and there it was in all it's garish yellow glory. Odd...I checked the referrers, and that's when a sinking feeling hit me. Nothing from Google at all.

Before today, my keyword analysis was pretty steady:

google: warped tour
google: warp tour
google: warped tour parents info
google: let me go to warped tour
google: warp tour bands

You get the idea. I used to come up in position 3 on Google's first page results, even though my Google PR (which I still don't fully understand) is 0. But still, number 1 was the official Warped Tour site itself, 2 was the unofficial Warped Tour site, and there was yours truly right at spot 3.Too good to last.

Now I'm at about spot 500 in any Google search for "warped tour". Hundreds upon hundreds of sites that have less than nothing to do with the festival come up before me. After spending a frantic day searching around at various webmaster forums and sites, I think I've stumbled upon the answer.

I've been sandboxed.

It's a horrible place to be. The calming author of this article claims not to panic, because the sandbox effect usually lifts after about 3-4 months.

Just when Warped Tour ends.

Is there anyone who has worse luck than I? Oh well. I guess I'll spend this year's Warped Tour season trying to understand that whole Google PR thing, and trying to build links with other sites. That way maybe for Warped 2006 I'll be back on Google's front page again.

I hope.

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