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
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
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 existing.
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
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
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 been sandboxed.
Is There A Way to Get Out of the
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 websites.
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
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