Google Sandboxing: Explained

IMG_2733As you will already know, Google is a great but often complicated internet giant. We’ve explained adsense and Adwords already, but today we’re talking about one of the most commonly queried Google topics on the web: Google Sandboxing.

What Is Google Sandbox?

Because you have an online presence, it’s important that you have a good SEO standing and will want to understand Google Sandbox. You’ve probably read the horror stories online. So what is Google Sandbox?

Put simply, Google Sandbox is a filter that Google add to new websites or domains that hope to appear in the search engine for specific phrases or keywords. The Sandbox effect exists to stop spammers from manipulating their way into Google’s search engine by incorporating all of Google’s guidelines.

While Google themselves have not confirmed the existence of Sandbox, many SEO experts believe in the ‘theory’ and Google have hinted at it. During Sandboxing, your website may not appear at all on Google’s search engine for up to 6 months (although, the typical amount of time is 3-4 months).

So now that we know what Google Sandbox is, let’s move onto some frequently asked questions.

Which Websites Can Be Sandboxed?

Any website can be sandboxed. After extensive research over my time as a blogger (five years), I can personally say that whether you have a new website or an already established website, your site could be sandboxed. I’ve seen it happen dozens of times. With that said, you’re more likely to be a victim of the sandbox effect if you are competing for hugely popular keyword searches.

How Can I Avoid Being Sandboxed?

While there are no guarantees that your website won’t spend sometime in the internet jail that is Sandbox, new websites in particular should avoid using popular keywords and phrases on their website and gradually introduce them if they are truly important to your website. Sandbox was (supposedly) introduced in 2004, so if your website dates back before then, then you will likely avoid it.

I would also recommend adding new content to your website consistently to let Google see that you’re serious about your website. It might not stop you from being put in the sandbox, but it might shorten the amount of time you spend there (normally 3-4 months, no more than 6 months).

How Will I Know If I’m In The Sandbox?

It’s quite easy to find out if you’ve been sandboxed. You can go and search on Google to find out where your site is ranking. Alternatively, you can use a tool such as http://pixelgroove.com/serp/sandbox_checker/ which will tell you if your site has been penalised, de-indexed or sandboxed.

Will Using Google Services Stop Me Being Sandboxed?

Google is pretty clever and they can see straight through this kind of thing. Using Adwords and Adsense are believed by some to be the answer to their sandbox prayers but unfortunately, it makes little to no difference if you use a Google product in terms of Sandboxing. With that said, if you have a blog and choose to build your blog using Google’s ‘Blogger’ platform, it has been suggested by some SEO experts that you are less likely to be sandboxed. With that said, this is a pretty controversial topic and many SEO experts vehemently disagree with the theory and insist that using any Google service would neither help nor hinder with the Sandbox effect.

Should I Still Be Using Popular Keywords?

Yes! Many people make the mistake (myself included I should add!) of changing their website all together and focussing on less popular keywords. Some have even changed the topic of their website altogether and in some cases, people have stopped working on their website completely. This of course is not what Google wants to see. If you drastically change or stop working on your website then Google will think it has done the right thing by sandboxing you which will result in very poor rankings once the sandbox effect is complete. Ideally, I would recommend consistently working on your website, and incorporating more keywords or phrases that are less popular than some of the big hitters. Don’t remove the popular ones, just add some more.

Tip: Don’t go keyword stuffing either. Google will think you’re trying to get noticed from all angles. I know, I know, you can’t win!

So what are the Do’s and Do Not’s of Sandboxing?

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DO NOT:

  • Aim to be number 1 in the search engine if you’re a new website. Using popular keywords or phrases such as “cheap flights to New York” in your website will automatically show red flags to Google.
  • Change the theme of your website. Going from being a beauty website to changing it to a travel website overnight because you’ve been put in the sandbox will only mean Google ‘proved’ your website was a spam site. Let Google see that you are consistent and chances are your time in the sandbox will be short.
  • Cease working on it altogether. If you suddenly decide to stop working on your website while you are in the sandpit, chances are that once your website starts to re-rank, you will rank poorly.
  • Keyword Hack! If you add a lot of keywords and use them throughout your site, Google will just think you’re trying to hit it from all angles and will either poorly rank you or throw you in the sandbox.

DO:

  • Publish your website before it’s ‘perfect’. If Google see’s your site is gradually being worked on and you have no keywords, they are less likely to sandbox you because you don’t appear to be a spammer with a set site format that is automatically published.
  • Add less popular keywords and phrases – so as an example, rather than using “Cheap flights to New York” try “Low cost flights from Dallas To JFK” – the search phrase is still hugely popular but not as broad as the original one mentioned.
  • Be persistent. If you continue to put up new content and source inbound links, Google will see that you are a real person rather than a bot or spammer. If you still end up in the sandbox, chances are your time there could be short and once you are out of it, you will rank well.

Most Importantly

Remember that thousands of websites are in the same position as you are and you can still drive traffic to your website using inbound links and social media. Don’t give up on your website because you have been sandboxed or have poor rankings. A website can be built overnight but being maintained and growth is something you will always have to work on.

To Summarise

I hope this guide on Google Sandboxing has been useful and informative for you. If you have any questions about this, feel free to leave a comment below or tweet us @purelysocialtip

Until next time..

Holly

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