What is the Google Sandbox Effect & How is it Affecting Your SEO?
Published on 05 Dec by Tetiana Sitiugina - Web Development Specialist
If you are in any way exposed to digital marketing or are a business owner trying to push your website up the Google ranking ladder, you have likely heard about the mysterious Google Sandbox effect.
As fun as it sounds, the Google Sandbox has nothing to do with sand – nor does it have anything to do with boxes. So what exactly is it and how is it different from the Google Dance? Does it really exist or is it a mere legend being passed on among SEO professionals?
Today, we will answer these questions and share some tips on how we can help you overcome the negative effects of the dreaded Sandbox.
What is the Google Sandbox?
In a nutshell, Google Sandbox is an alleged filter intended to prevent new websites from being ranked in Google’s top search results. In a way, it is a probation period set by Google – even if you do everything right, have your backlinks in order, perfect your content, and set all the tags in place, you won’t get decent rankings until the period is over. You just have to live through it.
Is the Google Sandbox Real?
The first encounter with Sandbox was reported as long back as 15 years ago, when SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionals worked their magic as usual - yet still couldn’t rank newborn websites on Google, even for the least competitive keywords. At the same time, they were ranking perfectly well on other popular search engines such as, Yahoo and Bing. This effect lasted anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Since then, the effect has been well documented by digital marketers all over the world, but, never officially confirmed by Google itself.
If you think about it, the Sandbox effect makes perfect sense. Google has always aimed to serve high-quality and authoritative content to users. That being said, you wouldn’t consider a newborn baby an authority, would you? Same goes for the websites.
In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts suggests that if you’re planning on launching a new website, you should first put up a welcome page announcing that the site will be coming soon. Then, by the time the development is done, you should be able to rank well.
So is Sandbox real? Nobody knows (well, maybe except for Google). Will you see this effect when you launch a new website? Likely so.
What’s the Purpose Behind it?
In simple words, Google Sandbox punishes new sites in order to combat black hat SEO practices. Black hat SEO techniques involve building thousands of websites overnight automatically in order to create large volumes of backlinks to the main site. If the specific technique fails, black hat SEO experts reconfigure these fake sites differently and try again.
There are two ways in which Sandbox is making these blackhat practices more difficult:
- When a new site is placed in Sandbox, the black hat SEO experts are forced to wait months until they find out whether their scheme actually worked. In the case that it didn’t work, it will take them an additional few months to experiment with another loophole technique. This also makes it impossible for a brand-new site with thousands of low-quality backlinks to outrank legitimate well-trusted sites.
- By creating this probation period, Google simply buys itself time to algorithmically determine any link-building schemes before they actually affect the search results. So, while a black hat SEO site filled with fake backlinks is sitting in the Sandbox, Google figures out the trick and adjusts its algorithm to ignore these links.
Is Google Sandbox the Same as Google Dance?
If you are confused about the difference between these two, you are not alone. Indeed, the two are similar, but, unlike Sandbox, Google Dance has nothing to do with the domain’s age.
Google Dance means that your website’s rankings for specific keywords can change dramatically within a matter of days. It is important to remember that Google Dance is not a penalty, but rather a natural process observed after new backlinks have been submitted. Think of it as Google re-evaluating a site’s position just to re-rank it better later on.
Overcome the Sandbox Effect with the Help of Xi Digital
Can Google Sandbox be Avoided?
Real or not, it can noticeably harm your rankings. If you have recently launched a website, and it was indexed just a couple of months ago or you don’t have many high-quality backlinks, you fall in the Sandbox-risk group. The good news is that it can easily be avoided. Here are three things you need to do to avoid the penalty:
- Create high quality content relating to your business to show Google that you know what you’re talking about and you are an authority in your niche.
- Avoid acquiring a large volume of backlinks in a short period of time – you don’t want to look like a “black hatter”.
- Don’t try too hard! Search Engine Optimization is great, but you need to know the limit. Don’t use your focus keyword more than 0.5% to 2% of the total number of words. For instance, for an 1000 word article, the keyword shouldn’t appear more than 5 to 20 times.
I’ve Been “Sandboxed”… What Now?
SEO can be tricky, and being Sandboxed can happen to the best of us. Luckily, if there is a way in, there is always a way out. Here is what you can do to get out of the sandbox:
- Clear your site of anything that could be considered spam such as, low quality links, keyword stuffing, automated or duplicate content, sneaky redirects, and more.
- Perform white hat SEO and marketing strategy.
- Create sitemap.xml and robots.txt files to make sure your website is easy to be scanned and indexed by Google. Submit them to Google.
- Each of your web pages should include a
tag. It helps Google keep track of every new modification made to your site.
If you follow these steps correctly, you should see your site getting out of the Sandbox in at least 7 days.
To avoid falling in the same trap twice, you can simply hire a digital marketing agency like ourselves for SEO, while you sit back and watch your website reach the top of Google’s search results.
Contact Xi Digital for Professional SEO Services
When it comes to SEO, you need to be careful. After all, you don’t want to spend months on your website just to find out that all of your efforts have been trashed down the drain just because of a few little mistakes. That is why you should leave Search Engine Optimization and Content Management to professionals. Luckily, at Xi Digital, we know all the “ins” and “outs” of SEO, and employ only white hat SEO and marketing techniques to make sure your site grows into a strong, authoritative, and well-trusted domain ranking on the 1st page of Google.