BANS site suddenly dropped from google or no traffic? This article is for you…!

bans wordpress theme conversion

This is the long overdue installment #4 in the series Watch Me Build a BANS Niche Site from Scratch. First to answer a few questions – the most often asked seems to be either “why is this series taking so long” or “when is your next installment”. I guess I have muliple answers. The first is – I’m writing multiple article series at once, and the 30 WordPress Hacks in 30 Days series that’s almost half over had kind of taken precedent since I write for that every day. Next is, I write for multiple blogs I own. But the most important was I think that my test site for this series Used Cell Phones is a victim of the Google Sandbox Effect. That’s where a new site is placed in google’s “sandbox” (getting no traffic) becuase it’s “too new”. It’s almost like your site is on “probation”. Google has no documentation on the so-called “sandbox”, although most old school webmasters like myself can attest to the fact that it exists. It’s in place to keep someone from trying to start a brand new site based on a trend or event just to spam people for a quick profit. I was a victim of the Sandbox in January 2007 when I tried to start an American Idol site on a brand new domain, only to find I came out of the sandbox just as the season ended.

So, I should also let you know that I did the wrong thing. I should not have ignored my test site for all these weeks, because now it seems out of the sandbox and it’s not ready really for the index. I could have done all kinds of promotion behind the scenes, like an athlete in spring training getting ready for the season. Now, I’m just going to have to work a little harder! If your BANS site isn’t getting much or any traffic, that’s no excuse for not working on it. The only excuse I have is that I have multiple sites and blogs to distract me.

So far I’ve shown you how to set your site up, how to put some content in it, and how to start building back links for it. Since I know my site was indexed and was getting some traffic, but now is not I decided to elaborate a bit on the Google Sandbox effect and Google Penalties and how they can affect your BANS site. I am by no means an expert on either, but I do have a lot of experience on both – and I can tell you how they affect me and what I do to try and correct the issue. I’m going to write this article as I work on my site, and document both what I think and do as I go along so you can learn from me.

I’m going to start some brief research to see if I can figure out why this site is getting <10 hits per day and almost nothing from google. In addition to the sandbox effect I may have had, this site might also have been sucked into google's bad graces because it's a BANS site. I had the "powered by build a nice site" link on the site when it was version 2.0 for a few months, and around that time I head some people hollering on digital point forums that google had targeted some BANS sites - and they either got flushed from the main index to supplemental hell, or they lost their pagerank. If you don't have a lot of experience with web design, web promotion, or the google index you might wonder WHY google has a problem with BANS sites. Think about it real hard - you're trying to put an entire online store into their index (that's already on eBay) with hundreds, maybe even thousands of pages for the purposes of making money with little or no original content. Maybe you even have lots of original content in your BANS store, but the number of eBay store pages vs. your content pages is a disparaging 50 or 100 to 1. To google this is upside down, you've created an affiliate monster and tried to "game" the search engines with a bazillion pages with nothing more than (already existing) eBay auctions. To google you are better than a spammer, splog, or scraper site unfortunately - and if they find you, you may pay the price in their index. Just read google’s quality guidelines to find the quote: “Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content. I need to find out if the Used Cell Phones site has been “googlesmacked” if you know what I mean.

I’m going to start with pagerank, since a big google PR update occured just a few days ago. I don’t have the google toolbar installed, because I have waaaay to many other extensions installed in my firefox, so I rely on other pagerank checkers that I can use. Google must have changed their API – because 98% of the online PR checkers don’t work, but SEO Tools Future Pagerank still does. Give it a domain and it will spit out page rank. If you get a number from 1-10, that’s great. If you get no number at all, that site may be in the index, but has no pagerank yet. If you have a site that comes up “0” – then you were ranked for pagerank, but you have some kind of penalty. I just checked our test site, and it has PR 0 – so we have some kind of penalty. If I had the google toolbar installed, our test site would be grey or what we call “greybar” (penalty, PR 0). I don’t know how long or what kind it is, all we can do is promote, promote, promote – so we’re ready when we come out of it. There are some other preventative measures to take, but I have just a little more research to do first.

I should mention, that when you notice you have PR 0 or a penalty problem, the first thing you should do is go to google and do a search on www.yoursite.com to see what you get. If your own site doesn’t come up #1 for it’s own name – you have a problem. I typed that in and got zilch. The I did a search for link:www.site.com and got 6 backlinks, which was ok. Then I did site:www.site.com and got zero!!! OMFG – zero!! Google DUMPED ME from their index! They REALLY must have targeted me for having a bans site big time! THEN I logged into Google Webmaster Tools to see what kind of details I could glean. You should already be registered with Google Webmaster Tools (read: Increase Traffic with MSN, Yahoo, and Google).

So what did I find out? Our test site was crawled just a few days ago, but (confirmed!) it’s not in the google index at all right now (it was!?). Also, the remind says we never verified the site (which shouldn’t be an issue, except once we do – we’ll possibly get better error messages).

webmaster tools results

Fix: register our site with google in the Webmaster Tools

In bans you have to use the “meta tag” verfication method and add that code in your header.php file within the “head” HTML tag. Once I did that, google instantly gave me those error messages I wanted to see:

google crawl errors

It shows a few 404 errors (that I can worry about later), at least there are only 3 – and probably just some minor URL problems I need to fix. Those same 3 errors occur for in the sitemap as well. So, to sum up my google problems I “might” be still in their sandbox, I “for sure” have a google penalty, I don’t know how I got it or how long it will last, and I need to build some more original content before I submit a reinclusion request. Keep your eyes peeled, the next article in this series will be “BANS Content Pages and How to Promote Them”!

As always if you have anything to add to make this article better, or question – please comment now!

My other articles that you should read right after this post are:

Guilty by Association – The Google Penalty
How to Track Search Engine Rankings for Your Blog
Increase Traffic with MSN, Yahoo!, and Google
Copy Sitemap Changes for SERP pages