One of the biggest topics of conversation in the SEO world at the minute is the Google ‘Sandbox’. Google recently launched a new update in may 2014 and since then there have been many reported instances of the Google sandbox in action.
Many site owners have reported that it is taking a lot longer to gain any significant rankings to new sites. So I will be exploring the facts and myths surround the Google Sandbox.
This post will cover:
- What exactly is ‘Sandbox’
- What type of sites get affected by Sandbox
- Why Google uses Sandbox
- Evidence that Sandbox exists and is becoming more apparent
- How long will you be stuck in Sandbox
- How to avoid it
So What exactly is Google Sandbox
If you didn’t already know, this is something that has been around for a long time. The theory behind sandbox is that if you build links to a site quickly, then Google will put a hold on your rankings no matter what you do.
If you have ever found your site stuck somewhere between page 2-5 then there is a good chance that you have been sandboxed. A lot of people are claiming that Sandbox is something that is now happening to ALL new websites. So if you launch a new site, you have to wait weeks or months before it will have chance to gain first page rankings!
Many webmasters believe that Sandbox was introduced back in 2004 to prevent any new sites from ranking quickly. But it seems that the May 2014 update has made things a lot tighter and site owners are finding it ever more difficult to achieve top rankings quickly.
I have been doing quite a bit of research lately to try and find out exactly what causes this so called ‘waiting period’ and what measures we can take to avoid the sandbox, or get the hell out of their as quickly as possible!!
Why Google uses Sandbox
To be honest, although a lot of site owners see this as some sort of ‘pain in the ass’, I actually think it is a good thing for the good guys of SEO. It’s quite apparent that Google has been working hard to prevent churn and burn sites ranking quickly.
If you didn’t already know, ‘churn and burn’ is when you put together a new site and then blast it with tons of links to gain top rankings quickly, knowing full well that you will get penalised eventually.
The churn and burn guys know that their sites will eventually get penalised and removed from the SERP’s, but they take full advantages of the short amount of time that they are actually at the top.
Most churn and burn sites are low quality pieces of crap that have been put together very quickly. These are the kind of spammy sites that you see outranking you and they make your blood boil because most of the time they are a load of rubbish and you have no idea why they have higher rankings than you!
Google has made it clear that they are stamping down on spam and this is one way to fight against it. The idea is that if all new sites, or sites that have a ton of links built to them are put into a Sandbox for a long period of time, then the churn and burn spammers will get fed up and forget about the site and move on.
Where as the serious guys will continue to work on their sites and eventually Google will reward them by removing them from the Sandbox.
This theory makes sense when you think about it. And if the new update has become a lot stricter then this will certainly help to phish out the crappy sites and prevent spammers from launching thousands of new churn and burn sites.
What type of sites are getting affected by sandbox
It would seem that ALL types of sites are being affected by Sandbox. If you have a newly registered domain or have recently built links to your site then you are likely to get hit with Sandbox.
Evidence the SandBox exists
I had my own suspicions that something was going on around the May update as I had seen it myself with my own sites. No matter what I did with my newly created sites, I could not get them past 2 of Google.
I was then reading Lewis Ogden’s Niche Site Case Study and he referred to the same thing happening to him. Here is what he stated:
It’s clear that Lewis’s niche site had been sandboxed during the initial 6 months. So I went digging to find out if this was happening to other site owners.
I have kept a close eye on the forums lately and found some similarities: There was a very good thread on BHW regarding this subject:
This shows that what once worked for this guy is no longer working since the update in May.
Sorry about the smaller text, blame it on my copy/paste skills ;-p
I have only touched the surface here but there is clearly a lot of evidence to suggest that Googles update in May 14 has had some significant impact!
New websites are clearly being held below page 1 for a certain time period or until Google feels that they are trustworthy enough.
Do you believe in the Google SandBox?
Lets not forget that Google Sandbox is just a theory and not an exact fact so to speak. I came across this interesting article by Kotton Grammer about the latest SandBox theory – http://kottongrammer.com/site-google-jail-google-sandbox-2014/
Here is a statement from his article:
How long will you be stuck in the Sandbox?
Having assessed all of the information Im still struggling to see a definitive time period. Some people are suggesting 1 month, others 3-6 months and some up to 12 months.
So judging by this I think it is safe to say that there is NO exact time frame. I would say give it a few months at least and monitor your rankings.
Problems and Confusion
One problem with all of the evidence from people who believe they are stuck in the Sandbox is that we will never know if their sites would be worthy of ranking on page anyway.
Think about it for a minute. There are only 10 positions on page 1. So if somebody creates a new niche site, the chances are they are going to be ranked somewhere other than page 1.
When people presume that they are in the SandBox, they sometimes forget that their site might not be up to scratch to be on page 1, therefore Google naturally ranks them on page 3, or 7 or whatever.
Sometimes it is clear to see, Like with the example that Lewis showed us where his niche site made a sudden jump after 6 months!
So How do we get out of it?
Again there is no exact answer, but from what I can see, the best way to get out of it is to keep adding fresh content to your site.
Keep building quality links (gradually) Here is a good article for building quality link
Let Google see that you are serious about your site and that it can be trusted. If you build a site that gets Sandboxed and then you never do anything with it again, this pretty much tells it’s own story and Google will not see any trust.
Please remember to take this advise with a pinch of salt. There are that many rumours in the world of SEO it’s no wonder it’s becoming so complicated.
I am currently working on a niche site to test this theory and I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
Here is some ranking data:
I built links to this new site at around the time of the Google update in May, as you can see, it quickly went from position 149 to 21, ever since then it has bounced around between 20-50 and currently remains at position 24!!
I will continue to build a few more links and add content and see if it will break past #20
How to avoid it
The big question many people ask is how to avoid Google sandbox. Again, there is no straight answer but here are some theories:
Use old domains or expired domains – The theory here is that Google already trusts the domain on the basis of its age. For advise on finding expired domain click here
Don’t build any links – Another theory is that sites are Sandboxed when they have unnatural links pointing to them. If this is the case, build your site around quality content and forget about link building for a couple of months!
Plan ahead – Instead of waiting until you have put your new site together before launching it, just get it out there a.s.a.p. Register your domain and add a bit of content. This will then give your site time to age a little before you fully complete it!
Here is an interesting theory I found on one of the forums:
Well after my analysis I am pretty certain that the SandBox does exist and I believe it has got tougher since the May update. I also think that we shouldn’t get too caught up about it because if we do things correctly and ethically then it’s only a matter of time before we are out.
Although I have yet to find real proof on how to avoid it the theories that we have stated are fairly solid and believable.
Would it stop me from creating new sites with new domains?…. No
The next time I start a new niche site I will be certain to register my domain as early as possible and be extra careful when building links. We know that Goole has been banging on about quality content for years, and this is just another way to ensure that we abide by those rules.
Site owners who post crappy content and expect it to rank quickly will get nowhere and are likely to give up quickly. Site owners who post good quality content won’t mind waiting a few weeks or months before Google realises it.
It’s been an interesting study and I will continue to monitor my own tests. So keep update by subscribing to my email list below!!