Google Dance – Disappearance and Reappearance of an Old Website

We were recently hired to optimize a website for a company that has had their domain registered since 1999.  During then and now the company has done little SEO or internet marketing and was interested in increasing their rank on Google and other major search engines.  From the beginning we figured it would be a great site to optimize because the domain has been registered for over 10 years.  We figured the website had a pretty strong “TrustRank” with Google and expected rankings to increase quickly.

Wow were we right!  After only one month of a typical SEO campaign and internet marketing; including, on-page SEO (Title, meta tags, keywords, and image optimization), article marketing, press releases, classifieds, directories, and the like, – the company’s website was on the first page of Google for two of the 15 keywords/phrases we began optimizing for!

This was great news and even better news to bring to the client.  November 5, 2010 (one month of SEO) the rankings reflected great progress in Google and the client was in the top 30 placements for every keyword.  However, on November 10, 2010, the website was no where to be found within the first 20 pages of Google.  The website was now showing on pages 40 or more for every keyword.  Needless to say, we were concerned about these results and began wondering why this may have occurred.  We continued moderate linkbuilding efforts and believed the drastic change was either the result of a slight Google algorithm change or reassessment of the link building efforts for the decade old dormant domain.  We knew the website was most likely not penalized because the website still appeared number 1 when the domain was searched in Google.

After years of SEO and internet marketing, we undoubtedly had also been introduced to the debatable “Google Sandbox”.  We wondered, could the website be Sandboxed?  After researching the “sandbox” extensively, all signs pointed to probably not because “sandboxing” most typically occurs on new websites.  This was definitely not the case for the site we were optimizing for as we have already stated because the domain was registered in 1999 and is not due to expire until 2020.

Happily, the website reappeared in search results on November 19, 2010, very early in the morning.  Surprisingly, the rankings were better then before the mysterious disappearance.  So from November 10, 2010, to November 19, 2010, the website was completely invisible on Google search and when it returned it was even stronger.  The best guess we have is that due to the dormancy of the domain, a Google filter was tripped when a number of links were being directed towards the website.  During that time, it may have been undergoing super secret Google tests and was found to be a good website valuable to Google users.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?  Specifically on a very old domain that is not set to expire for a number of years.

Thanks for reading!

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