What Is The Google Sandbox?
The Google sandbox SEO theory has been around since 2004. At that time Google started penalizing new sites that contained potential spam links. There were a number of sites owners that noticed that their websites weren’t appearing in the top ranks for competitive keywords and could only rank for less competitive ones.
However since 2014, this filter seems to be affecting all new websites regardless of links. Before that time, you could register a new domain, point some PBN links to it, and within 5 days it could potentially be on page 1.
If your website is new then you can be sure that it will be ignored by Google. Why? The possibility is that your site is lacking good content as you are still learning. Google doesn’t want people to do a search and find your half-built, under construction site. Almost all good sites are at least a year old. By that time they are established and may have become an authority in their field. Rightfully Google focuses on bringing good sites to searchers. Your site, being new, has a really high chance of not being good, therefore Google ignores it.
As a result, your site goes into in what is called a “sandbox” at the beginning. It doesn’t matter that your site is optimized for certain keywords and is the best match for what is being searched, your site will still not appear in the results. Google does not trust you. And the only way to establish trust is through time with positive actions.
There is no exact figure, but it is estimated that to get out of the Sandbox takes 2-6 months (it varies for different niches). After that period your site should start receiving the traffic it deserves from Google.
Sandbox refers to a place that sites are temporarily located…. The authority of new sites is such that they receive no ranking. Had a customer’s site way back in the day that had 100+ pages, well over 100 quality links to it (competition had less than 20 backlinks from crap directories and 6 pages of content).
He was nowhere near the first page in organic search for [city+service] for an entire year. At the one year mark, BAM number 1 through 3 for 50 keyword phrases for geolocation + keywords phrase related to his service. Window Tinting.
New sites shouldn’t be seen as “as credible” as sites that have been around for 10 years. Like being the new guy at work, no one cares what you know, they don’t ask you questions about what you do…. after a year or two you become a source they can ask. Same with new sites – not as credible in Google’s eyes. Makes sense. I start clients off with PPC and work on SEO and as SEO builds, lower PPC until the ROI for PPC is less than SEO and then full transition is made to SEO only.
Does Google Acknowledge The Sandbox Effect?
No. Some interviews with Google staff have acknowledged that perhaps some of their anti-spam algorithms may cause an effect similar to what is described in the sandbox theory. Some sites seem to be affected more than others.
And here’s a tweet from Gary Illyes that denies the sandbox.
we don't have a Google sandbox
— Gary "鯨理／경리" Illyes (@methode) December 12, 2016
I totally disagree. It might not be called “sandbox”, but new sites have the upward challenge of satisfying the requirements of Trust, Relevance, and Security. And, to meet the minimum requirements of each (or intersection thereof), requires time. And, that time, is the sandbox.
I’ve personally experienced this and, despite using SSL and backlinks from majorly high domain ranking sites, a site I was managing received zero to little search visibility.
Then, literally, traffic soared exponentially. Before month 8, zero to a few trickles.
Very interesting and strange.
But, the sandbox is very real.
Although Google has never acknowledged the sandbox effect, it is known that all new websites appear to be stalled in their SERPs for a period. This is probably due to a number of factors, and as soon as you address these will move you on your way;
- Low level of content – limited amount
- Lack of articles on similar themes i.e. low level of authority
- Lack of links (related to limited content and promotion)
- Lack of a social presence (new site will evolve over time)
It has been suggested that Google doesn’t use the registered date of the domain name but starts from when the first inbound links are developed (i.e. the content is produced).
Competitive keywords seem to be affected more than the less competitive ones.
What Do You Do To Get Out Of The Google Sandbox?
Just because your site has been sandboxed doesn’t mean that you stop work. There are a number of things that you can continue to do so that when the site is released, it would start ranking better immediately for all the posts.
- Continue producing good quality, long-form material with long-tail keywords so that when you are out of the sandbox there is plenty of content to start ranking.
- Work at improving the rank of existing posts as well as producing new content. New posts and links may be delayed slightly in their ranking.
- Continue building your links.
- Don’t be tempted to use any black hat techniques such as buying links because these will definitely not help ranking at all.
- Use social media to drive traffic and prove to Google that everything is genuine.
- Make sure your website host is reputable
Acquiring backlinks from authoritative sites may help to move the site out of the sandbox quicker, but these are not easy to get for newbies.
You may be thinking about giving up at this point and think that you will never be ranked. This isn’t the case. Sandboxing usually only affects popular high traffic keywords, stick to long tailed keywords and continue ranking highly for these terms while you wait.
Remember, the purpose of sandboxing is for Google to see which are genuine sites and which are spam, so if you stop producing content, that could be an indicator to the search engine that your site isn’t genuine.
People have been discussing various ways to beat the sandbox and reduce the time it takes to rank. In general, the most widespread theory is that you want to create a viral effect.
Link Building Strategy To Reduce Sandbox Length
For most websites the first links are usually from social websites. A business naturally goes out to brand itself on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. This social fortress should constitute the first links that you create to your website.
Then write a press release in order to present hype around the creation of your business’ website. Use only brand and/or naked URL’s as anchors. Get all nofollow links if possible. If you have a good Press Release provider, your article will be syndicated to 100-200 legitimate news sites.
The addition of “brand links” often helps sites get out of the sandbox faster. Press Releases are safe if done correctly and with high quality. People often run into trouble by choosing the wrong anchor text or by using poor quality articles/distribution services. Press Release brand links can also act as “pillow links” to diversify your backlink profile and protect your site when you’re doing more powerful link building.
A day or two after the press release is syndicated, create a month long social signal campaign to drip out about 50 signals over 30 days. Some people are much more aggressive with their social campaigns, but less is more.
This will go a long way to get your site out of the sandbox.
Using Social Media to Drive Traffic
Social media continues to play a large part in marketing and it is particular important for new sites who are looking to get established within their niche.
It is important to remember that search engines are not the only form of traffic nowadays, online marketing is about using more than just SEO techniques and getting ranked. There are many marketers who still manage to acquire significant amounts of traffic to their site without ranking in Google at all, using mostly social media.
Social media shares and likes can also be another way to tell Google that the links you have on the site are your own and are legitimate.
The easiest way is to focus on creating plenty of good quality content. Write juicy stories that people will want to share.
A great example is Melyssa Griffin’s Pinfinite Growth. Melyssa used this strategy to get to 300,000 monthly visitors from Pinterest. One thing that I learned from her free webinar is that Pinterest, despite everyone’s belief, is more of a search engine than a social media site and if you use it accordingly, you will be a lot more successful.
Can You Speed Up Getting Out of the Sandbox?
Seems like using expired domains with history helps.
The main impact of the sandbox phase is that competitive page rankings will be suppressed.
Using long tail keywords and what is sometimes referred to as low hanging fruit keywords can be a way to counter this.
Low hanging fruit are the low traffic, low search keywords. These may not bring in much traffic but they will enable your site to rank highly for some searches, even during the initial sandbox phase.
By producing content using low hanging fruit phrases this will also achieve the following;
- Google sees the site developing content in a specific niche area
- You can use these pages to link internally to other more competitive keyword pages that are not currently ranking.
- You can still promote all your posts on social media which can bring traffic to your site.
It can be frustrating trying to get traffic to your site at this stage because the search engines will contribute very little to this process.
- not to get too hung up on post ranking position, because that doesn’t mean they won’t show in actual search queries, which is what really matters.
- stay focused especially in the beginning, spreading yourself too thinly across different topics will make ranking harder as you have no real authority (i.e. other content) to support you.
- monitor your site using different tools.
- You need relevant followers – thousands of indifferent followers is not much use, few regular customers will go a lot further.
- social media is about interaction and providing value to others, not just self promotion (people will get bored with you very quickly)
- different types of people use different social media, but don’t try to do everything try to pick two or three that work well for your niche
Unfortunately having a site that makes money is a lot of work with little reward in the first 6 months.
Ranking in Google Takes Time
One of the main reasons that people fail is because they give up too fast.
Google isn’t a magic faucet that immediately sends traffic as soon as you start a new website or publish an article.
The reason is simple. As of June 2018 there were over 333 million domain names registered across all top-level domains (TLDs). This is a lot of competition.
The truth is that it takes time to rank in Google. How much time? Well, that all depends.
The first two months will go by fast. Excitement drives you forward. Everything is new. Your new site is born with high hopes. Following all your dreams about how successful your site will be, you work late into the night and through the weekends. You learn something new every day and your site slowly grows.
It does not concern you that you have little or no visitors, or that you are not making any money. Building the site, writing content, the new challenges are exciting enough. You keep getting new ideas.
By months 2 and 3 your site is more or less complete. The design is done, a lot of content has been written and it is now time to shift your focus on getting traffic. You visit forums, leave comments on other blogs, write articles.
If you are just creating a brand new site and just publishing content, you will likely need to wait 2 to 3 months before you start seeing much traffic at all. And even then, 10 to 20 visitors a day is probably the norm.
So, after 2 to 3 months, you can start to expect to see a small trickle of traffic.
The period after this is the worst. This is where so many people start to give up…don’t quit though!
Your site is now fully grown and functioning, but there is no perceivable progress – It’s like a mall that has been built but no one is coming to shop to. For several months you have been working on your site and promoting it. But traffic just does not happen; revenue is either zero or not much. Maybe you have a subscriber or two, maybe a small sale…
Most people give up at this point. They put in all that time and effort with no result. No reward, no money, no feedback. You are all alone, working for nobody to see it. This is the point where you need to start using social media and this will give you success. Keep going, you will be out soon…
If you are able to keep publishing great content, getting a few links here and there, and building your email list, you will likely start to see even better results after 6 months or so.
Once you hit the 6 month mark, Google should be sending you much more traffic and no longer considers your site “new”.
For example, a friend created a website almost exactly one year ago (as of the writing of this email). When the site was just 3 months old, it was only getting about 30 to 40 unique visitors a day.
He then started added lots of content (about 100 articles in the next 3 months), and by month 6 the site was getting about 350 to 450 unique visitors a day. That’s a 10 fold increase!
Now the site is about a year old and getting 1200 to 1400 unique visitors a day. In addition, the site earned just over $3,000 last month!
So, if he had stopped when the site was only a few months old because he wasn’t seeing huge results (just 30 to 40 visitors a day), he would have missed out on the $3,000 a month in earnings the site is now achieving.
So, the bad news is that it does take time to rank in Google. But the good news is that once you start ranking in Google, you tend to stick around for a while. In fact, rankings tend to just increase as your site ages and gains more authority.
Overall, stick with it, have patience, and over time you should start seeing results.
How Do You Know You Are Out Of The Sandbox?
The key is in your Google Search Console account.
The “Total Clicks” number in “Search Analytics” will start increasing and the graph that belongs to it will slowly unstick from the zero line.
Below the graph where you see the search queries, you will see the number of queries increase daily and you will see clicks for these keyword phrases.
Make sure you submit any new content you write or update to Search Console. Go to “Crawl”>”Fetch as Google”, enter your page URL, press “Fetch”, then press the button to request indexing. With this method the new post that I just wrote showed up in the search results, on page 3, in as little as 3 days. Note: you can submit 500 indexing requests a month.
Obviously you will spend the first period of your website digging yourself deep into your niche, finding out more, plus creating a number of content pages. In this time period there is no point ranking in the search engines.
Concentrate on writing epic content. Target your posts with long-tail keywords. Look at sites that are successful and follow what they do!
Once your site looks like a real site, concentrate on your social media promotion. Build up your Twitter followers, Pinterest, Facebook.
I have read suggestions that it is enough to post once a week, or even less. I disagree. For an establish site, maybe.
For a new site, write several posts per week with juicy content, share them in your Facebook groups, forums, etc. This will keep your traffic going. Just make sure your posts include monetization, sign-ups for your mailing list.
Now I pretty much figured out the traffic aspect of websites. The next thing I need to figure out is monetization.
I would be interested to see in the comments how YOU got through your sandbox period or how you are doing in it.
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