If you haven’t heard about the Google Sandbox, it’s time to sit back and strap in. We’re going to take you on a crash course introducing you to all things Google Sandbox. In this post, we will briefly discuss the Sandbox, its purpose, and how your site can get out of it.
Meet Google Sandbox
Google has been on a crusade for almost five years now to clean up the Internet with a serious focus on providing its users the most relevant information possible. If your website is loaded with advertisements, bogged down by endless links to worthless content, or offers visitors little in the way of valuable reading, you can expect to see your rankings on Google SERPs plummet.
Most SEOs and webmasters are familiar with these potential pitfalls, but what happens if you follow all the rules and still suffer from poor rankings? If this happens to your website, you might be stuck in the Google Sandbox. The Sandbox is an algorithm introduced by Google with little fanfare in 2004. The idea behind the Sandbox today is to enforce a mandatory probation period for new domains. What’s the point of the Sandbox?
Controlling Search Quality
The Google Sandbox exists to maintain control over the quality of websites appearing on Google SERPs. The company hangs its hat on the premise of providing its users with the best possible search results for any keyword or keyword phrase entered into its search engines. Spammers can register new domains, optimize the sites for SEO, but still offer poor quality content and shoot up the rankings. The algorithm places every new domain the Sandbox for a period of time so that Google can familiarize its systems with the content of the page before allowing it to dominate SERPs.
How Long Are You Stuck?
If you find yourself running afoul of the Sandbox algorithm, your first concern is the length of your stay. There are a variety of theories floating around about the length of punishment in the Sandbox. First and foremost, if you’re registering a new domain for your personal or business website, you should expect to spend some time in the Sandbox. Google places all new domains, with few or no exceptions, in the Sandbox.
However, the length of stay varies based upon a few key factors. The biggest factor is the competitive environment of your keyword phrases and keyword terms. If your domain uses keywords and phrases that are highly competitive on the web, you can expect to spend an average of three months in the Sandbox, with the longest stays lasting six months. On the other hand, if your domain uses keywords and phrases from less competitive niches on the web, you may be in the Sandbox for as little as one month.
The average stay for all sites in the Sandbox is three months. In many cases, it’s not as simple as the Sandbox filter being either on or off. Reportedly, there are various layers to the Sandbox algorithm that are strict at first, but taper off as you spend more time in probation.
Escaping the Quicksand of the Sandbox
You’re in the Sandbox, and you know it, so how do you get out? This is the most important question SEOs will ask and the only one they really want the answer to in the end. First and foremost, you need to accept the fact that you cannot avoid the Sandbox or, in all reality, shorten your stay in it.
What you can do is damage control. You can take some active steps to help minimizing the negative impact on your domain from a stay in Google Sandbox. The key to successfully implementing any of these techniques is to remain patient and adapt to the situation. Making too many changes to try and escape the Sandbox will only result in more damage for your domain, and resorting to black-hat techniques could result in a ban for your domain (worst case).
With all of that said, here are a few things to keep in mind before you launch your new domain:
- Actively gather content and links: Even though you’re in the Sandbox, you don’t have to twiddle your thumbs and wait to be released. As time passes, work to gather quality content for your site and build links to reputable, trusted sites. Major news organizations like CNN and USA Today help, as do .gov, .edu, and .mil links because they are often exempt from the Sandbox. Build steadily and slowly, there is no need to rush.
- Launch pages piecemeal: Instead of building your entire domain and releasing it all at once, launch a few pages at a time as they are completed. This will start the clocking ticking on your Sandbox time, and allow you to continue page development parallel to your time in the box.
- Use a well-established host: If you host your new site on a subdomain belonging to an established host, the Sandbox damage will not be as severe. The reputable standing of your host lends credibility to your site.
- Concentrate on less popular keywords/phrases: Everyone wants to compete for the competitive keywords, but someone has to lose in the end. Competing for visibility within that niche is only going to extend your stay in the Sandbox. Rather than focus on those keywords, highlight less competitive keywords and phrases on your site with a diverse approach. This will help shorten your stay as well.
- Seek out non-Google traffic: Believe it or not, there are non-Google options available to help boost traffic to your page. You can still optimize your site for Bing and Yahoo results, and use social media outlets as an option for generating traffic for your site.
As you struggle to escape the Sandbox, remember that you can only do so much to change the outcome. You’re going to end up in the Sandbox regardless. If you follow the advice above, you can minimize the length of your stay and control the damage it does to your visibility and traffic in the process.