By Mark Doust
What is the Sandbox?
Before we get too far into an explanation as to what Google's sandbox is, it must
be noted that not everyone even agrees that the sandbox exists. The sandbox is actually
nothing more than a theory developed to explain what many different SEO experts
have witnessed with their listings. Whether or not the sandbox really exists is
actually irrelevant when we know that the effects of the sandbox exist.
Google's sandbox is a relatively new filter that appeared to be put in place back
in March of 2004. This happened after the widely publicized updates of Austin and
Florida, and the implementation of what is known as the Austin update. If you are
not sure what those are, there is no need to worry as those updates are now for
the most part in the past. The sandbox filter seems to affect nearly all new websites
placing them on an initial "probation" status. The effect of this is that new websites
may get into Google's SERP's (search engine results pages) relatively quickly and
may even perform well for a couple of weeks. When the filter is applied to the new
website it is referred to as being put in the "sandbox". The new website will still
show in the result pages, but it will not rank well regardless of how much original,
well optimized content and regardless of how many quality inbound links the site
may have. The filter restrains new websites from having immediate success in the
search engine result pages.
The sandbox filter seems to affect almost all new websites, with very few exceptions.
It is important to note that the filter is not a punishment for anything the webmaster
did with their new website. The filter is merely an initiation period for new websites.
The sandbox filter also affects more competitive keyword driven sites more than
sites that key in on less competitive keywords. If your website focuses on very
competitive keywords, you are likely to remain in the sandbox for a longer period
of time than if you focus on keywords that are relatively non-competitive keywords.
Why Does the Sandbox Exist?
There is a lot of debate as to whether the sandbox filter is a good thing for Google
to implement or not. Obviously webmasters who are trying to get their sites well
positioned in Google do not like the sandbox filter as it prevents them from receiving
the huge levels of traffic that a top listing in Google can bring. The filter was
not implemented at random, however, and there is some good reasoning for the filter
As the SEO community figured out the basic elements of Google's ranking algorithm,
inbound links, original content rich with keywords, and the proper use of anchor
text, search engine spammers began to take advantage of these elements. Search engine
spammers would setup websites that were in clear violation of Google's policies
with the knowledge that eventually their website would be banned from the listings.
This, however, did not matter. If a search engine spammer could get their website
to rank well in Google for even one month, the profits they could make from that
one month would justify the cost of building the site in the first place. All they
needed to do in the future was to rebuild their spam websites with different domains
and slightly different content. The idea for spammers was a simple one. Capitalize
off of Google's traffic for as long as they can (before they get banned), then do
it all over again with a new website. The method was extremely effective and easy
What made this all the more easy to accomplish was Google's extremely fast indexing.
While other search engines would take several months to index a new website, Google
could index a website in as little as one month (they are now indexing sites within
a few days). Search engine spammers were living large off of Google's generosity.
To solve this problem, Google determined that it would compromise. They would still
index websites quickly, attempting to get as much new, fresh content out to the
general public as possible, but they would not trust new websites implicitly as
they had in the past. All new websites that were launched would be put on probation.
As time passed, and as the sites continued to pass any spam filters they ran, the
website will not be held back from performing well in the rankings. Eventually,
after quite a bit of time had passed, a site would be allowed to "leave" the sandbox
and join the rest of the established websites.
How Does This Affect My Website?
If you have a new website, there is a good chance that you will be placed in the
sandbox. This should be expected, but it should not change the way you build your
website or market it. You should use the sandbox filter to your advantage.
Google still ranks websites in much the same way that they had in the past. Websites
are judged on the quality of their inbound links and the quality of their content.
Google will continue to change how they evaluate inbound links and content, but
the basic elements of their rankings will remain the same.
While your website is in the sandbox, you should use this time to build your traffic
using regular traffic building methods such as writing articles, building a strong
community of visitors, and partnering with websites that offer some synergy to your
visitors. During your time on probation, you have an excellent opportunity to build
all the elements that cause websites to perform well in the search engines. When
you finally do leave the sandbox, your website should be very well positioned within
Is My Website in the Sandbox?
When webmasters learn about the sandbox filter, their first question is always whether
or not their website has been placed in it. Determining whether or not you are in
the sandbox is a relatively easy task to do. First, being placed in the sandbox
is different than having your website banned.
If you do a search for your domain in Google and they return zero results for your
website (and you had been previously listed in Google), there is a chance that you
have been banned. One of the best ways to determine if you have been banned is to
look at your log files to see if Google is visiting your website. Banned websites
typically do not see Google visit their websites, regardless of who is linking to
If you have not been banned, but do not rank well with Google, you should look at
the quality of your content and the quality of your inbound links. You should also
see if you rank well for non- competitive keywords. Remember how the filter affects
competitive keywords more than less competitive keywords? Well, you can use this
to determine if you have been sandboxed. Finally, if you rank well in all the other
major search engines, but do not show up at all in Google's rankings, you have probably
Is There A Way to Get Out of the Sandbox?
The quick answer to this is yes, there is a way out of the sandbox, but you will
not like the answer. The answer is to simply wait. The sandbox filter is not a permanent
filter and is only intended to reduce search engine spam. It is not intended to
hold people back from succeeding. So eventually, if you continue to build your site
as it should be built, you will leave the sandbox and join the other established
Again, if your website has been placed in the sandbox you should use this time to
your advantage. It is a great opportunity to build your traffic sources outside
of the search engines. If you have a website that does well in the search engines,
you may be tempted to ignore other proven methods of traffic building such as building
a community, or building strong inbound links through partnerships. However, if
you establish traffic sources outside of search engines, when you finally leave
the sandbox, you will see a welcome increase in your traffic levels.
Google has been going to great lengths to cut out on search engine spam. Some have
faulted them on the lengths that they are going to claiming that it is effecting
legitimate sites as well as the spam websites. While this is probably the case,
as an owner of a website you need to place yourself in the position of Google and
ask yourself what they are really looking for in a website. Google is looking for
websites that offer quality content. Google still relies on the natural voting system
that was first used to establish pagerank. They may change the way that they qualify
content or inbound links, but the basic elements of a quality website will always
remain the same.
No website owner in their right mind will "like" Google's sandbox. However, a smart
website owner will use the sandbox as an opportunity to build a website that Google
simply cannot refuse.
About the Author:
Mark Daoust is the owner of
Site-Reference.com, articles that focus on
Internet Marketing, Website Development, and Search Engines. This article
was originally published at http://www.site-reference.com/Search-Engines/5147/index.html
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