Online Marketing Blog

The Google “Sandbox” Effect Simplified

So what is the Google “Sandbox”?

The Google Sandbox or the “Google Aging Delay” is a much debated restriction that Google places on new websites so that they cannot rank “well” in its search results for a certain amount of time. This time is supposedly to allow Google to determine whether a site is trustworthy and legit or spam. While a website said to be in the sandbox may have many strong incoming links and lots of unique and useful content, it will fail to rank high for the search terms it is aiming to be ranked for.

Why do some sites not get “Sandboxed”?

Some sites are just plain lucky to avoid the “Sandbox” and some are trying to rank in an industry that Google will consider not extremely competitive. Let’s say you have a site offering “Information On Local Badminton Clubs On The Aran Islands”. Google’s job is to help users find relevant results. This site would be relevant and would be far less subject to spam compared to a site geared toward “Making Money Online” which has many fly by night websites trying to spam their “latest get rich scheme” into the index. It should also be noted that even if a site is subject to the “Sandbox” effect, it can still rank pretty well for what is called Long Tail results. But that is a nice advanced topic for another day.

So I’m in, how do I get out?

Unfortunately, there is no sure fire way to get out of the Google “Sandbox”. There are theories that suggest placing your site on a subdomain of an established site and then using a 301 redirect to your domain once established. This is less than desirable for a variety of reasons, among them being no proof really exists for this and what company wants to be a parasite on another company’s website? All you can really do is wait.

So how long?

Now here is where it gets interesting. While there is no data freely available on the aging delay Google imposes on new sites, it does seem to vary from site to site. Sometimes it seems it’s based simply on the mood Google is in. However, one thing that is almost certain is that the time spent in the “Sandbox” is directly effected by a trust factor for your site/domain. This brings us to TrustRank. I will be covering this in more detail later, but for now, lets just say that Google gives a certain level of “trust” to your site based on many factors. One of them being the age of your domain. Let’s just say a new sandboxed site on a 10 year old domain would almost certainly be out of the sandbox before a site in similar conditions on a recently registered domain.

So I just have to wait?

Yes and no. Yes you have to wait, but no, you can get to work on your sites trust and authority in the meantime. Use the time in the “Sandbox” to create quality content and get relevant links from authorities in your field. Use this time to make sure your sites on page SEO factors discussed in my previous post ( 10 SEO tips ) are impeccable so that when you do eventually come out of the “Sandbox”, your ready.

What if I get in Google’s good books?

Some people think that joining adsense and using Google’s products like AdWords and Google Checkout will help. This is simply just not true.

Is there a Yahoo or MSN Live “Sandbox”?

Currently there is nothing as extreme as the Google “Sandbox” effect applied to sites in the Yahoo! or MSN Live index, however recently it has become apparent that Yahoo! is placing a “waiting” time on inbound links before it allows them to have any measurable effect. This time varies depending again on the authority and permanence of the inbound links.

OK, that’s pretty much all the basic Google “Sandbox” questions that I get via email covered. Please be aware that this is still a theory based on educated observations and Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm with changes and sometimes crazy updates. I will be going over more detailed Sandbox topics in future posts. Is there any important basic information I am missing here? Feel free to add your own Q&As.


  1. avatar
    David Temple Says:
    December 24th, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    Nope I think that about covers it and covers it well with a simple explanation. Good job!

    Reply

  2. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    January 24th, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks Dave. I have subscribed to your blog.

    Reply

  3. avatar
    Matthew Zim Says:
    May 4th, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Hi. Our site was chugging along at around 900 uniques a day till mid-March, when it suddenly shot up to around 1,400 and seemed to be steadily rising. Halleluyah! Most of this new traffic was from Google, consistent with an ‘end of sandbox’ effect – we’d done nothing else of note.

    Then early April we got hit by a day’s server down time. As luck would have it Google was crawling that day. We zoomed down to 550 uniques. Our cached Google links were eventually restored to us after three weeks, but traffic has not recovered, and Googlebot has not revisited, so new pages remain uncrawled. Is this a ‘return of the sandbox’ effect? I haven’t seen anything written about the effect coming and going. It’s usually described as a one-off process, you get out of it, and that’s that. What’s happening to us? What is the cause of this strange behaviour?

    Reply

  4. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    May 4th, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Mattew. This does not appear to be a “Reverse Sandbox”. To me it looks like you have been banned from Google for some reason. globalpropertyguide.com is showing the “Grey bar of death”.

    You should check in webmaster central if you are suffering any penalties.

    Reply

  5. avatar
    Matthew Zim Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 3:29 am

    Hmmm…that’s surprising. Sorry, I see my description was a little over-emphatic. When I said ‘Googlebot has not revisited’ – that’s true for most of the site, but we have had four pages newly indexed, out of a total of about 1,200 pages.

    Reply

  6. avatar
    Matthew Zim Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 6:36 am

    And add to that, Google lists 600 of our pages. That’s not the problem. The issue is 1. Very few googlebot visits 2. Very poor ranking in Google search results (home page not displayed!) 3. traffic from Google greatly down since our remote host went temporarily down.

    Reply

  7. avatar
    SEO UK Expert Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    I have had a site going for a few months now and seemed to be going well, then all of a sudden it has dropped about 50 places in Google. ICould this be some kind of delayed sandbox effect?

    Reply

  8. avatar
    Goldy Says:
    June 12th, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Does someone know what’s the average duration of the “Sandbox mode”? I had my first site and it was just 3 months of waiting, and now my existing sites is almost 5 months old but still in the Sandbox. I guess it’s because it’s more competitive, just like the article stated.

    Reply

  9. avatar
    SEO Says:
    August 31st, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Good article Dave,

    One of the best ways I have found to avoid the google sandbox is by setting up my own DNS on my own domain name. Since doing this my new domain names and sites are usually listed within the day of uploading the new site, many within hours.

    Having your own DNS and only adding quality sites tells google that the sites on this server can be trusted. You are no longer considered someone living in the dark back alleys with the thousands of spammers who live in the shared hosting dungeon.

    Reply

  10. avatar
    Christian Says:
    November 28th, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I hate the sandbox. My site is 13 months, still in. Well optimized with 5% keyword density. Over 50,000 backlinks with some pr 8,9, etc. .Edu backlinks, the whole deal. My number 1 competitor has only 6,000 backlinks and 4% keyword density. My meta tags are good, everything indicates it should be number one. However, my competitor’s site is 10+ years old, mine 13 months. Sandbox is unfair, i hate it. I may change my mind when my site is 10+ years old, but for now I hate it.

    Reply

  11. avatar
    erevos Says:
    December 24th, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t think that Google has a sandbox these days. I have a lot of new sites(3 – 6 months) that rank in the top 10 results for high competition keywords. I make hundreds of links every day for all of my domains and i have no problems at all because the links are not indexed the same day.
    @Christian: domain age is not a factor at all… or we can say that’s a factor among millions of other factors. It does not have an important weight in the algorithm.
    Also (New Sites = Poor Results) that became known as the Sandbox effect and had controversial definitions, does not exist anymore (in my opinion). Matt Cutts confirmed the sandbox existed, somewhat, in his Coffee Talk with Brett Tabke 7 years ago. But since then, they did not discuss it much.

    Reply