60 Day Sandbox for Google & AskJeeves; MSN Indexes Quickest, Yahoo Next


Search engine listing delays have come to be called the Google Sandboxeffect are actually true in practice at each of four top tiersearch engines in one form or another. MSN, it seems has theshortest indexing delay at 30 days. This article is thesecond in a series following the spiders through a brand newweb site beginning on May 11, 2005 when the site was firstmade live on that day under a newly purchased domain name.

First Case Study Article

Previously we looked at the first 35 days and detailed thecrawling behavior of Googlebot, Teoma, MSNbot and Slurp asthey traversed the pages of this new site. We discovered theeach robot spider displays distinctly different behavior incrawling frequency and similarly differing indexing patterns.

For reference, there are about 15 to 20 new pages added tothe site daily, which are each linked from the home page fora day. Site structure is non-traditional with no categoriesand a linking structure tied to author pages listing theirarticles as well as a "related articles" index varied bylinking to relevant pages containing similar content.

So let's review where we are with each spider crawling andlook at pages crawled and compare pages indexed by engine.

The AskJeeves spider, Teoma has crawled most of the pages onthe site, yet indexes no pages 60 days later at this writing.This is clearly a site aging delay that's modeled on Google'sSandbox behavior. Although the Teoma spider from Ask.com hascrawled more pages on this site than any other engine over a60 day period and appears to be tired of crawling as they'venot returned since July 13 - their first break in 60 days.

In the first two days, Googlebot gobbled up 250 pages and didn't return until 60 days later, but has not indexed evena single page in 60 days since they made that initial crawl.But Googlebot is showing a renewed interest in crawling the site since this crawling case study article was published on several high traffic sites. Now Googlebot is looking at afew pages each day. So far no more than about 20 pages at a decidedly lackluster pace, a true "Crawl" that will keep it occupied for years if continued that slowly.

MSNbot crawled timidly for the first 45 days, looking over30 to 50 pages daily, but not until they found a robots.txtfile, which we'd neglected to post to the site for a week andthen bobbled the ball as we changed site structure, thenfailed to implement robots.txt in new subdomains until day 25 - and THEN MSNbot didn't return until day 30. If littleelse were discovered about initial crawls and indexing, wehave seen that MSNbot relies heavily on that robots.txt fileand proper implementation of that file will speed crawling.

MSNbot is now crawling with enthusiasm at anywhere between200 to 800 pages daily. As a matter of fact, we had to usea "crawl-delay" command in the robots.txt file after MSNbotbegan hitting 6 pages per second last week. The MSN index nowshows 4905 pages 60 days into this experiment. Cached pages change weekly. MSNbot has apparently found that it likes howwe changed the page structure to include a new feature whichlinks to questions from several other article pages.

Slurp gets strangely inactive then alternately hyperactive for periods of time. The Yahoo crawler will look at 40 pagesone day and then 4000 the next, then simply look at the homepage for a few days and then jump back in for 3000 pages thenext day and back to only reviewing robots.txt for two days.Consistency is not a curse suffered by Slurp. Yahoo now shows6 pages in their index, one an errors page and another is a"index/of" page as we have not posted a home page to severalsubdomains. But Slurp has crawled easily 15,000 pages to date.

Lessons learned in the first 60 days on a new site follow:

1) Google crawls 250 pages on first discovery of links to site.Then they don't return until they find more links and crawlslowly. Google has failed to index new domain for 60 days.

2) Yahoo looks for errors pages and once they find bad linkswill crawl them ceaselessly until you tell them to stop it.Then won't crawl at all for weeks until crawling heavilyone day and lightly the next in random fashion.

3) MSNbot requires robots.txt files and once they decide theylike your site, may crawl too fast, requiring "crawl-delay"instructions in that robots.txt file. Implement immediately.

4) Bad bots can strain resources and hit too many pages tooquickly until you tell them to stay out. We banned 3 botsoutright after they slammed our servers for a day or two.Noted "aipbot" crawled first then "BecomeBot" came alongand then "Pbot" from Picsearch.com crawled heavily lookingfor image files we don't have. Bad bots, stay out. Best toimplement robots.txt exclusions for all but top engines iftheir crawlers strain your server resources. We consideredexcluding the Chinese search engine named Baidu.com whenthey began crawling heavily early on. We don't expect muchtraffic from China, but why exclude one billion people?Especially since Google is rumored to be considering apossible purchase of Baidu.com as entry to Chinese market.

The bottom line is that we've discovered all engines seem todelay indexing of new domain names for at least thirty days.Google so far has delayed indexing THIS new domain for 60days since first crawling it. AskJeeves has crawled thousandsof pages, while indexing none of them. MSN indexes faster thanall engines but requires robots.txt file. Yahoo's Slurp crawlson again off again for 60 days, but indexes only six of total15,000 or more pages crawled to date.

We seem to have settled that there is a clear indexing delay,but whether this site specifically is "Sandboxed" and whetherdelays apply universally is less clear. Many webmasters claimthat they have been indexed fully within 30 days of first posting a new domain. We'd love to see others track spidersthrough new sites following launch to document their resultspublicly so that indexing and crawling behavior are proven.

Copyright July 18, 2005 Mike Banks Valentine

Mike Banks Valentine is a search engine optimization specialistwho operates WebSite101 eCommerce Tutorial and will continue reports ofcase study chronicling search indexing of Publish101 Article Resource

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