Google's Giant Sandbox
by Mark Daoust
This article is an excellent summary of a little-known
phenomenon known as the Google Sandbox. Understanding the mysteries
of Google and search engines in general definately helps you with
your online marketing. Mark Daoust explains in simple language what
the google sandbox is, and how it affects your rankings.
If you pay any attention to the search engine optimization
community, you have probably heard about Google's sandbox. Knowing
exactly what the sandbox is might be a little confusing, but it
is an important concept to know if you hope to eventually be successful
What is the Sandbox?
Before we get too far into an explanation as to what Google’s
sandbox is, it must be noted that not everyone even agrees that
the sandbox exists. The sandbox is actually nothing more than a
theory developed to explain what many different SEO experts have
witnessed with their listings. Whether or not the sandbox really
exists is actually irrelevant when we know that the effects of the
Google’s sandbox is a relatively new filter
that appeared to be put in place back in March of 2004. This happened
after the widely publicized updates of Austin and Florida, and the
implementation of what is known as the Austin update. If you are
not sure what those are, there is no need to worry as those updates
are now for the most part in the past. The sandbox filter seems
to affect nearly all new websites placing them on an initial “probation”
status. The effect of this is that new websites may get into Google’s
SERP’s (search engine results pages) relatively quickly and
may even perform well for a couple of weeks. When the filter is
applied to the new website it is referred to as being put in the
“sandbox”. The new website will still show in the result
pages, but it will not rank well regardless of how much original,
well optimized content and regardless of how many quality inbound
links the site may have. The filter restrains new websites from
having immediate success in the search engine result pages.
The sandbox filter seems to affect almost all new
websites, with very few exceptions. It is important to note that
the filter is not a punishment for anything the webmaster did with
their new website. The filter is merely an initiation period for
The sandbox filter also affects more competitive
keyword driven sites more than sites that key in on less competitive
keywords. If your website focuses on very competitive keywords,
you are likely to remain in the sandbox for a longer period of time
than if you focus on keywords that are relatively non-competitive
Why Does the Sandbox Exist?
There is a lot of debate as to whether the sandbox
filter is a good thing for Google to implement or not. Obviously
webmasters who are trying to get their sites well positioned in
Google do not like the sandbox filter as it prevents them from receiving
the huge levels of traffic that a top listing in Google can bring.
The filter was not implemented at random, however, and there is
some good reasoning for the filter existing.
As the SEO community figured out the basic elements
of Google’s ranking algorithm, inbound links, original content
rich with keywords, and the proper use of anchor text, search engine
spammers began to take advantage of these elements. Search engine
spammers would setup websites that were in clear violation of Google’s
policies with the knowledge that eventually their website would
be banned from the listings. This, however, did not matter. If a
search engine spammer could get their website to rank well in Google
for even one month, the profits they could make from that one month
would justify the cost of building the site in the first place.
All they needed to do in the future was to rebuild their spam websites
with different domains and slightly different content.
The idea for spammers was a simple one. Capitalize off of Google’s
traffic for as long as they can (before they get banned), then do
it all over again with a new website. The method was extremely effective
and easy to implement.
What made this all the more easy to accomplish
was Google’s extremely fast indexing. While other search engines
would take several months to index a new website, Google could index
a website in as little as one month (they are now indexing sites
within a few days). Search engine spammers were living large off
of Google’s generosity.
To solve this problem, Google determined that it
would compromise. They would still index websites quickly, attempting
to get as much new, fresh content out to the general public as possible,
but they would not trust new websites implicitly as they had in
the past. All new websites that were launched would be put on probation.
As time passed, and as the sites continued to pass any spam filters
they ran, the website will not be held back from performing well
in the rankings. Eventually, after quite a bit of time had passed,
a site would be allowed to “leave” the sandbox and join
the rest of the established websites.
How Does This Affect My Website?
If you have a new website, there is a good chance
that you will be placed in the sandbox. This should be expected,
but it should not change the way you build your website or market
it. You should use the sandbox filter to your advantage.
Google still ranks websites in much the same way
that they had in the past. Websites are judged on the quality of
their inbound links and the quality of their content. Google will
continue to change how they evaluate inbound links and content,
but the basic elements of their rankings will remain the same.
While your website is in the sandbox, you should
use this time to build your traffic using regular traffic building
methods such as writing articles, building a strong community of
visitors, and partnering with websites that offer some synergy to
your visitors. During your time on probation, you have an excellent
opportunity to build all the elements that cause websites to perform
well in the search engines. When you finally do leave the sandbox,
your website should be very well positioned within Google.
Is My Website in the Sandbox?
When webmasters learn about the sandbox filter,
their first question is always whether or not their website has
been placed in it. Determining whether or not you are in the sandbox
is a relatively easy task to do.
First, being placed in the sandbox is different
than having your website banned. If you do a search for your domain
in Google and they return zero results for your website (and you
had been previously listed in Google), there is a chance that you
have been banned. One of the best ways to determine if you have
been banned is to look at your log files to see if Google is visiting
your website. Banned websites typically do not see Google visit
their websites, regardless of who is linking to them.
If you have not been banned, but do not rank well
with Google, you should look at the quality of your content and
the quality of your inbound links. You should also see if you rank
well for non-competitive keywords. Remember how the filter affects
competitive keywords more than less competitive keywords? Well,
you can use this to determine if you have been sandboxed. Finally,
if you rank well in all the other major search engines, but do not
show up at all in Google’s rankings, you have probably been
Is There A Way to Get Out of the Sandbox?
The quick answer to this is yes, there is a way
out of the sandbox, but you will not like the answer. The answer
is to simply wait. The sandbox filter is not a permanent filter
and is only intended to reduce search engine spam. It is not intended
to hold people back from succeeding. So eventually, if you continue
to build your site as it should be built, you will leave the sandbox
and join the other established websites.
Again, if your website has been placed in the sandbox
you should use this time to your advantage. It is a great opportunity
to build your traffic sources outside of the search engines. If
you have a website that does well in the search engines, you may
be tempted to ignore other proven methods of traffic building such
as building a community, or building strong inbound links through
partnerships. However, if you establish traffic sources outside
of search engines, when you finally leave the sandbox, you will
see a welcome increase in your traffic levels.
Google has been going to great lengths to cut out
on search engine spam. Some have faulted them on the lengths that
they are going to claiming that it is effecting legitimate sites
as well as the spam websites. While this is probably the case, as
an owner of a website you need to place yourself in the position
of Google and ask yourself what they are really looking for in a
website. Google is looking for websites that offer quality content.
Google still relies on the natural voting system that was first
used to establish pagerank. They may change the way that they qualify
content or inbound links, but the basic elements of a quality website
will always remain the same.
No website owner in their right mind will “like”
Google’s sandbox. However, a smart website owner will use
the sandbox as an opportunity to build a website that Google simply