Before I get into what is Google Sandbox, let us see this example;
I have just bought a new site. Will fill it with tons of content. Will get some high quality backlinks and boom, it will be on page 1 in next 3 months for my chosen keyword.
Did you ever have this thought? If yes, don’t worry, you are not the only one. A lot of new business owners/website owners think that if we do everything correct according to the book, results are bound to come in 3 months. And if not, then my SEO is not working properly.
Unfortunately, as much optimistic you or I would like to be, those days of SEO are gone. Not because, you are not doing anything wrong or black hat. But the whole concept of SEO has become a waiting game.
Today, I am going to introduce a concept which has been prevalent for quite sometime, but not used often. It is known as the Google Sandbox effect.
What is Google Sandbox?
Google Sandbox effect is a term given by SEO professionals to a period when a site gets stuck in its ranking and does not show any tangible movement for a long period of time. In other words, you are doing everything correctly, but your efforts do not seem to produce results. It seems you are forever stuck in between certain positions.
When a new site is launched, you would probably be thinking of using a 2 pronged approach. Using PPC for immediate leads/sales and SEO to bring in organic visitors over a period of time. But with rankings taking forever, it makes us wonder, if Google is deliberately trying to push PPC. Just because PPC is a direct revenue generator for Google, it makes sense for a business to push it over SEO. But, that is not the case.
We need to understand that of all the searches that take place, only about 2% of people on average actually click on the Ads. The rest (98%) are still clicking on organic results. Therefore Google will never try to implement a strategy that will piss-off the majority. After all, more searches happen on Google, more people will click on the Ads (although that may be a small percentage of the over all searches), which will impact the revenue.
Which leaves us with the next question;
Why Google Sandbox?
As much as we would like to believe that Google is a smart dude, and it can find out everything that is spammy in this world, but the truth is, it has not achieved the level of smartness that it would have liked to achieve. Yes, Google has some of the smartest PhDs in the world. But given over a billion queries happen each day and there are several million websites out there, it is a huge task to find out what is “quality” and what is “spam”.
However, Google cannot wait indefinitely till it comes out with a full proof approach to detecting spammy websites. Google hates spammy websites, because they are low quality websites and when users land on such websites, they tend to bounce off pretty quickly. This is bad user experience and tend to put people off. This in turn hurts Google’s revenue (as explained above) as well it is against Google's goal to provide quality free to stuff to people globally..
So what does Google do in this case? They implement what is called a Google Sandbox effect, as a precautionary measure to ward off spammy websites.
Google Sandbox - A method to combat spam
Although Google has never officially acknowledged it, yet it seems obvious over and over with countless experiments and case studies that Google Sandbox exists.
The best way to explain the logic behind Google Sandbox is;
Google assigns a trust score to every website. This trust score depends on multitude of factors, namely domain age, quality of backlinks, social signals, etc. You can use Moz’s Open Site Explorer to check for Domain Authority and Page Authority scores which have been modelled on Google’s algorithm to detect quality scores.
Now a fresh site, which is only a few month’s old, is unlikely to get the required Trust Score. Earlier, using spammy techniques, new websites would get high PR backlinks and rank in Google in few days. In order to stop these sites to rank, Google has implemented a Sandbox period. During this time Google detects whether a website is genuine and is trustworthy to be ranked for a keyword.
Since Google does not have a direct method to detect quality, it is using this indirect method to deter spammy websites. The rationale is spammy websites are developed with the objective to quickly make money in a matter of 1-3 months. And if Google delays their ranking, the whole purpose of making a spammy website is lost.
The flip side of this is, genuine sites which are offering valuable content, are suffering. Even with valuable content and good quality backlinking, these sites are taking way longer to rank for keywords. More competitive the keyword, the waiting period is longer. Because Google’s algorithm has no other method to detect quality, every new website has to go through this phase till they are rewarded after a certain period of time.
So next time, when you are doing everything correctly, and yet it seems your website is taking forever to rank in page 1, don’t simply blame it on poor SEO strategy. You could just be going through the Google Sandbox period. Therefore, keep producing quality articles, focus on good backlinking, and use social media effectively to build an audience. Just wait it out and you will be rewarded.
Have you suffered from Google Sandbox lately? Do let us know
Check out my article on how I ranked a website in page 1 of google.com for over 10,000 monthly searches