Web Standards Compliance
Standards compliance and cleanliness of code is historically unimportant, but the recent accessibility
work may eventually make it become a small ranking factor. That said, Matt Cutts downplays it because
40% of the web doesn’t validate (
itself does not validate, at the moment of writing this text. You can use the W3C
Markup Validation Service at
to test your web pages for compliance.
Detrimental “Red-Flag” Factors
Obviously writing spammy content, launching thousands of spammy doorway pages simultaneously, or
soliciting spammy links that actually get detected as such are detrimental in nature, but we will not con-
tinue in that vein. Some of these factors are discussed in more detail in Chapter 8, “Black Hat SEO.”
Potential Search Engine Penalties
A penalized web site is much less likely to show up in a SERP, and in some cases it may not appear at all.
This section discusses the following:
The Google “sandbox effect”
The expired domain penalty
Duplicate content penalty
The Google supplemental index
The Google “Sandbox Effect”
Many search engine optimization experts hypothesize that there is a virtual “purgatory” that all newly
launched sites must pass through in order to rank well in Google. In fact, many new sites seem to pass
through this stage, and many find that the period is remarkably close to six months. Matt Cutts states in
an interview with Barry Schwartz that there may be “things in the algorithm that may be perceived
as a sandbox that doesn’t apply to all industries” (
We believe that while Google may not explicitly have a “sandbox,” the effect itself is real. For this reason
it is termed an “effect,” and not a “penalty.” It may be the collective side effect of several algorithms —
not an explicit “sandbox algorithm.” Some sites seem to be exceptions to the rule, especially those that
acquire links from several authority sites early on. A few links from
and other prominent web
sites, for example, may exempt a web site from the sandbox effect.
Some hypothesize that Yahoo! has a similar algorithmic factor, but that it is less severe and pronounced.
MSN Search does not appear to have anything similar implemented.
The Expired Domain Penalty
Using a previously expired domain to launch a new web site used to evade this dreaded “sandbox
effect.” This was likely because Google was unaware that the site was new. Google put a stop to this
loophole a while ago, and now it seems to be quite the opposite situation at times.
Chapter 2: A Primer in Basic SEO
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