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Monday, April 04, 2005


Google sandbox theory validated by search engine giant

What is the Google Sandbox?

The Google Sandbox is an alleged filter placed on new websites. The result is a site does not receive good rankings for its most important keywords and keyword phrases. Even with good content, abundant incoming links and strong Google PageRank, a site is still adversely affected by the Sandbox effect. The Sandbox acts as a de facto probation for sites, possibly to discourage spam sites from rising quickly, getting banned, and repeating the process.

How would you describe the Google Sandbox in one sentence?

The Google Sandbox is very similar to a new website being placed on probation, and kept lower than expected in searches, prior to being given full value for its incoming links and content.

Why did Google institute a Sandbox?

It is thought that the reason Google created the Sandbox new site filter, was to stop spam related sites from adding numerous purchased links, and ranking highly for their keywords from the date of launch. Since Google apparently considers a high number of links pointing to a site from the beginning to be rather suspicious, the links are not considered to be natural. Another possibility is spam sites would use various tactics to rise to the top of the search results, and gain heavy sales prior to being banned for being in violation of Google’s Terms of Service; and then repeating the process continually. As a result, new sites are put into a form of probation, usually referred to as the Google Sandbox.

Does everyone agree there is a Google Sandbox?

Not everyone agrees that the Google Sandbox exists as a separate filter from other alleged Google filters. Note that not everyone involved with search engine optimization even agrees that Google uses a system of filters at all. Skeptics believe that the phenomenon merely echoes already existing Google algorithm calculations, and the Sandbox effect is an illusion. Note that Google has all but admitted recently that the Sandbox filter is real.

When did the Google Sandbox first appear?

Website owners and search engine optimization professionals began to notice the Google Sandbox effect, real or imagined, starting in March, 2004. Websites launched after that date were noticed to not be ranking well for their first few months live on the internet. The rankings were seen as poor despite good Google PageRanks, strong incoming link totals, and overall good optimization practices being employed.

What types of sites are placed in the Sandbox?

While all types of sites can be placed in the Sandbox, the problem appears much more frequently for new websites seeking rankings for highly competitive keyword phrases. All sites are likely given a term in the Sandbox, but those websites seeking rankings in highly competitive searches, are probably in for a much longer duration.

My site has never been in the Sandbox. Why not?

You can avoid having your site in the Sandbox for several reasons. If your site was launched before the March 2004 Sandbox filter, your site probably avoided the problem. Sites targeting non-competitive keywords and phrases are often left out of the Sandbox as there is little point in applying the filter. Keep in mind, however, that even less competitive search terms can be Sandboxed, but their much shorter stay can often go entirely unnoticed. If you had ownership of a domain prior to the installation of the Sandbox filter, your site would also likely be spared its probationary period.

How long is a site in the Sandbox?

Stays in the Sandbox can vary from one to six months, with three to four months being the normal time frame. Less competitive searches will be given the much shorter stay, while hyper-competitive keywords will often spend six months in the Box. The most frequent length of stay is about three months for most search terms.

Are there variable lengths of stay in the Sandbox?

The stay in the Sandbox is highly variable. The more competitive the keyword, the longer the site spends in the Sandbox. The filter will be gradually decreased over time, and will lose most of its dampening effect in about three months. Of course, for the most competitive search phrases, the Sandbox filter might remain in full force for six months.

How do I know if I am in the Sandbox?

Evidence of Sandbox activity usually is spotted by having good Google PageRank and incoming links, and strong search results in some secondary search phrases, but the site nowhere to be found for the most important searches. In such cases, it is likely the site has been placed in the Sandbox.

How do I know it’s the Sandbox and not a Google penalty?

If a site were suffering from a Google penalty, the site would not appear in the Google search engine results pages (SERPs) for even the less important searches. The site would also show no PageRank or even a grey bar on the Google Toolbar.

I still rank well for some less important keywords. Why?

One of the most important characteristics, and indeed one of the marks of being in the Sandbox, is the continuation of strong placements for less important keywords. The alleged Sandbox filter is apparently designed to concern itself with the more competitive keywords as they are more likely to have spam sites, purchased and other links Google deems unnatural, and probably more manipulation attempts being made. That is far less likely in unimportant and non-competitive keywords, so they are generally left alone and out of the Sandbox filter.

If I join Google AdWords or Google Adsense, will that prevent being placed in the Sandbox?

Joining programs like Google Adwords and Google Adsense will have no effect on your site’s duration in the Sandbox. Those paid programs could provide much needed traffic while your site remains in the depths of the Sandbox, however. Participation in the various Google advertising programs will not keep your site out of Sandbox, or shorten your stay, despite what some myths would have you believe.

Are there any other Google filters that act similarly to the Sandbox?

The alleged dampening filter on new incoming links is often mistaken for the Sandbox. It’s thought by many search engine optimization experts that new incoming links are not given immediate full credit. The purpose of that gradual passing along of Google PageRank and link popularity, is to discourage purchasing of links, and various linking schemes designed only to increase a site’s standing in the Google search rankings.

If my website is stuck in the Sandbox, how do I get out?

The only real escape from the Sandbox is time. Depending on the competitiveness of your most important keywords, that time can vary from one to six months, with three to four months being the normal duration. In the meantime, continue to improve your site, and be prepared to make a rapid rise once the Sandbox probation ends.

What should I do while my site is still buried in the Sandbox?

While your site is in the Sandbox, it’s an ideal time to continue to add fresh keyword rich content and new incoming links to your site. Adding incoming links will ensure that they also avoid any possible new link dampening filter that might be in effect. They would be well aged, and ready to pass along their full value of PageRank and link popularity, as the site rises from the depths of the Sandbox.

Should I continue to add content to my site, while in the Sandbox?

Your website’s stay in the Sandbox is an ideal time to add more theme relevant content. Concentrate on adding more keyword rich pages, and don’t forget both on page and off page factors. On the page, make sure your title tags match the most important keywords for that page. Add a site map and be sure that all of your pages link properly to one another with appropriate link anchor text containing the keywords for that page. Off page link anchor text should be set up to include keywords for the receiving page as well. Don’t waste any of your available site improvement time while in the Sandbox. When the filter is lifted, your improved site will rise rapidly to its proper place at the top of the search rankings.

Should I keep getting new links to my website?

The Sandbox is an ideal time to start adding incoming links to your site. Because of the alleged new links dampening filter, adding links while in the Sandbox solves two filters at once. If the newly added links are indeed dampened by a filter, then their full value should take effect just as your site emerges from the Sandbox. Be sure to add strong keyword rich anchor text to your incoming links, and vary it to include several keyword combinations.

Are there ways of getting out of the Sandbox any faster?

Only time can get your site out of the Sandbox. The duration in the sandbox tends to vary with the perceived competitiveness of the keyword phrase. That said, there are ways to hasten your rise to the top of the SERPs upon release of the Sandbox filter. By adding some powerful incoming links, with strong link anchor text, and by adding keyword rich relevant content, your site will rise quickly from the Sandbox. Note that the rise will take effect upon the removal of your site’s Sandbox probationary period.

When my site started out of the Sandbox, its search rankings were still low. Is that normal?

Your rankings could remain weak for more than one reason. As a Sandbox survivor, your site was not in the rankings at all for your most important keywords. There is still a long climb ahead of you, and much work to do to achieve strong search placements. While your site is freed from the Sandbox, it probably is also lacking in strong incoming links, good link anchor text, and requires more keyword rich theme relevant content. Fortunately, all of these problems can be resolved, and your site can continue its rise to the top of the SERPs.

How long is the climb to the proper search ranking after leaving the Sandbox?

The length of time required to achieve your site’s proper ranking is difficult to quantify as so many variables are taken into consideration. If you have been adding well anchor text covered incoming links from theme relevant websites, your rise will be much faster than someone who has not continued to add inbound links. It will also assist your site’s rise to search prominence by constantly adding keyword rich content. Of course, the more competitive the keywords you are contesting, the longer and harder the climb.

How can I avoid being placed in the Sandbox in the first place?

The Sandbox can be avoided to a degree by purchasing and sending live a website, prior to its being fully ready for prime time. While the site will endure low rankings, it will start the clock ticking on its Sandbox duration time. Be sure to add as many incoming links as possible to get past the alleged new links filter. Keep adding content to your site. Anything that can be done to speed up your site’s appearance on the internet, including the purchase of an already existing domain, should be considered. If you have the time working in your site’s favor, it can be applied against your possible stay in the Sandbox. With proper time management, a site can avoid the Sandbox entirely.

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hmm, just before I thought getting crazy why my keywords didn't show up in Google... I guess I'll need some patience to find myMailMarket between the results for e-mail marketing or e-marketing...

Thx Wayne for this clarification!
Thanks for putting together this comprehensive web page about the google sandbox. After spending a little over four months in the sandbox for the term Stock Investment Newsletter, my website SINLetter.com finally started showing on page 1. Another good question you could add to this page is "Can I end up in the sandbox again once I am out of it?".
With brock.be I'm optimising this website which has realy striking resemblances to the onces placed in the sandbox: high pagerank, high rank on less important keywords but low on important ones, lots of links to sanderus, etc.
Yet this site allready exists for more than 3 years.

Maybe the teacher got addicted to this kiddo ;)
My previous comment about adding the question "Can I end up in the sandbox again once I am out of it?" must have been prophetic. I did land right back into the sandbox after a brief stint outside.

I went right back in after a network of blogs (SeekingAlpha.com) listed me as a contributor and placed multiple links pointing to my website from their blogs.
That has cleared up most of my confusion as to what the Sandbox is and why sites are in it. Thank you.
I think the way Google sandboxes sites is a bad idea because it discourages new people from getting into Internet commerce based on search engine rankings. Of course there are other ways of advertising, but search engines give the best result for no cash up front. However, the time spent improving your site while in the sandbox (1-4 months) can cost thousands of dollars with no cash coming in. Small businesses or individuals who want to get in on search engine listings has little to no chance of ever making it.
Our site http://www.aimsettlements.com has apparently been in the sand box now for the full duration of 6 month, does not come up in Google, though everywhere else.
My site InfantMail.com has been in the sandbox for almost 10 months. I'm hoping that I'll be out at the 1 year mark. I've decided to pay for my traffic using Google Adwords in the meantime, but that has been an expensive way to go!
My site http://freakyvids.blogspot.com has been ranking at the third spot for the search term 'freaky videos' and 'freaky vids' but is nowhere to be found for the popular search terms such as freaky, funny, crazy, video blog, etc.
It's about one month old. So I guess it's in the sandbox as well. It's indeed very frustating. But I'll have patience now, and will let you all know when it really comes out of it.
hmm I understatd that my website Wedding Invitation Wordingand Harlequin Romance Novel are in snad box. Thank you for provideing a nice information on Sand box.

Software Development Company
I just got the link today from SEO Chat, Great job Boss.
Being relatively new to the SEO scene, I am still finding links to useful articles. I have very recently over-hauled our site: Evict Stop and was wondering why we seem to actually be slipping down the ranks for our most competetive phrases. Thanks for a great article.
I was wondering why my latest Dodge Dealer site wasn't picking up compared to my other Dodge dealer site. The first only shows for really odd keyword combinations, whereas my other site has been around for many years and does remarkably better.
I started my Dallas Texas Real Estate website packed with all kind of information like school, taxess, recent home sales. economic outlook, private schools, colleges traffic and all sorts of thing but my Dallas Real Estate website is not comming up nicely in SERP especially in google. I guess this is the reason,
This is a very good post and has proved very helpful. I have found the sandbox to be quite annoying but, I suppose, a nessary evil of sorts that helps squelch sites that would diloute the pool even further. As a result My Bank Repo Isn't getting hits from its key terms, but is from its weaker, more unique terms. Frustrateing is the word.
I work for Weyerhaeuser Company in the Building Materials divison - iLevel. After purchasing te domain iLevel.com at the end of last year and building a very optimized site through Q1 we launched on April 20th. The site was linked within Google until around September then dropped completely. Typing in iLevel.com in the engine produces nothing and SEO tools that we have zero popularity in the engine.

Counter to this we have 1300 links in MSN and 250 in Yahoo!, and the list goes on. I feel we have definately been sandboxed.

I am not one to throw weight around, but a quick whois by Google would reflect that a Fortune 100 company owns the domain. I would expect that they would at least include this delimiter in their sndboxing criteria.
Im brand new to SEO bought the book SEO for dummies then made my site TheDiamondBladeDepot .com

( Ware just in case anyone needs any you can find the Best Diamond saw Blades and the Best prices from National Diamond Pluss MK diamond ) The Diamond Blade Depot llc Best Diamond Saw Blade Web site im the World ;)
it took me about 1 week to get listed in Google here i am about 2 ½ months later and we are already getting # 1 spots in google and MSN for jumped up in Yahoo real fast but now they seem to hate us.... still seems like we shold be doing better then we are + we still have no pagerank i have no doubt in my mind the “SanBox” is real.. (it is for SURE) but this article as far as i can see is 100% right on...
I have 2 new blogs with uncompetitive keywords appearing at page 1 and 2 within 2 weeks. But now they are both not to be seen in the cache, index and SERP. I guess they have both been sandboxed. It's frustrating. Guess I just got to work on building the content and the links now. Thanks for this great information about sandbox.
This explains what my problem is. Thanks for the helpful info about the sandbox. I was trying to get my blog (Hydroponics Blog) indexed and it just wouldn't show up. Now I know why - It was in Google sandbox for sure. Also, after reading more on this I heard there is some query you can add to a google search to see how your site would rank if it was out of the sandbox. Is that true, and do you know what that query is?
Thanks for putting together this excellent page on a subject that is of much interest to new site developers. I suspected my new site Hosting Directory might be in the sandpit, now I know to be patient and use the intervening time wisely. Thanks again!
Maybe, I am missing something here, But I do not believe in this sandbox theory.

I manage two sites currently and have managed three. All these sites are relatively new (under a year) and they have never been in a sandbox. They all started out with first page results from the very first week and have stayed there.

Perhaps, it is because I have effectively used the page title, meta keyword, meta description, keywords, and H1/H2... They also include quality content and a blog! I really do not know for sure... What I do know is this my site, www.yourfreshstart.us, and is only 4 months old... It currently has a PR of 4 and it currently holds down 21 #1 positions for keyword searches across Yahoo, MSN, and Yahoo. My new site, www.tucsonseosolutions.com, and is in a competitive field, SEO, and it holds down several #1 positions... And it is about a month old...

The key here for me is that I localized my keywords. Since I am in Tucson, everything includes Tucson... As in Tucson house cleaning service and Tucson SEO Solutions... So it is true I do not believe in a Google sandbox...
I have recently created a website Compare Console Prices that very quickly ranked well for my chosen keywords for about a week or so and then suddenly vanished for no apparent reason! I then did my research on the net and found out about this sandbox effect which I think has happened to my site. The fact that this has affected so many sites would suggest that something is going on with Google (even if some don't beleive in it) It seems the only way to get noticed is by advertising with Google and now I am thinking, do Google do this just to get you to pay for advertising?
In the mean time, I am going to continue optimizing my site and console myself over a chocolate dohnut!
Great insights on the sandbox. My new stock investing web-site located at Profitable Investing get's great rankings for the most vague keywords imaginable. When I get a hit from google it usually is for a keywork buried somewhere in an article on the site - but highly searched keywords don't appear at all in Google. They do appear for some MSN and Yahoo searches though. My site has been up for about two months and probably has some time to go before out of the sandbox.
What is the difference between "highly competitive keywords" and not so important keywords.

When folks speak of getting results on " less important keywords" ... where does one insert a bunch of "less important" keywords?

Are there different meta tags for less-important keywords?

Am I making sense here?

John Roger
Thankyou for the article.

For further evidence of the sandbox in action, take a look at the following url:

Google Sandbox

...there you can see a graph of visitor numbers getting to a site from Google search from the inception of a site, through indexing of the first pages, through the google sandbox, and out the other side.

No black hat SEO was used, and the sandbox effect lasted about 1 month.

I hope you find this useful

This article is very well pieced together and even though I knew about Google Sandbox, I understand it better now.
After reading your helpful information about Google sandbox, I realize that my new site - Travel Deals on EBay (created about 1 month's ago) is put into Google's sandbox. 13 links were indexed by Google one week later when it went on live but now they are nowhere to be found. When I typed site:airlineticketwithus.com, nothing shows up in Google (it used to show a lot of links before). However, Yahoo has indexed 6 links so far. I don't know how long it will take to get out this sandbox filter. Meanwhile, I'll follow your advice and try to get some quality incoming links and write some relevant content to it. Hopefully it doesn't take that long to get out of this Google's sandbox.
I had been looking for answers to these questions for so long. I had posted on several forums but not much help. This post does a very good job on Google Sandbox
Finally I can find good explanation on what's happening on one of my sites. While it's still in debat, one simple thing to check whether your site's being sandboxed or not is by searching it's domain name as the keyword.
As per google saying there are lots of going on related to algorithem changes, spam detection.. I think they are coming up with lots of bump to users
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