If you’re struggling to rank a new website, you might be running into a problem with the way that Google ranks sites and pages.
In particular, people often find that brand new websites, or websites on domains that have changed hands a lot, tend to take longer to rank than they should.
This frustrates a lot of website developers and has been termed the sandbox effect.
The sandboxing of sites is an area that is constantly debated and there is a lot of controversy about whether the practice actually occurs or not.
One of the reasons for this is that Google has never confirmed that it has a practice of sandboxing sites, so not everyone is sure that this is the case.
Indeed, some people think that sandboxing might not be something intentional at all, but just a side effect of the filters that Google has in place to prevent spam.
Even if this is the case, it is still clear that new sites are not treated the same way as established ones, and this is a source of frustration for people developing new websites.
Why Sandbox Sites?
The practice of sandboxing appeared to start in 2004 or so when Google made a change to its algorithm.
In general, Google has been moving towards penalizing poor quality sites and supporting good quality ones, so the move might be an attempt to discourage low-quality sites from ranking in Google.
This seems like an unfair practice, but honestly, there are good reasons for the practice.
In particular, there is a major problem of people creating small low-quality websites and getting them ranked at the top of Google, normally by using black hat SEO.
Having a sandbox in place helps Google get around this issue and increase the chance of good quality sites ranking instead.
How Do You Tell?
When a site is sandboxed, it isn’t ranking like it should be, but it is still showing up as being indexed by Google.
This means that the first check you have to do is whether Google has indexed your site. This is really easy to do and just involves typing “site:www.yoursitehere.com” into Google, replacing the website address with your own address.
If your website is indexed, Google should show up with search results for your site. If it isn’t indexed, then the search result will be blank.
For some sites, a really big indication that the site has been sandboxed is when it ranks really highly for a short time after it was created, then dramatically drops in ranking. In practice, this effect looks something like this:
This seems to be Google thinking that your site is suspicious and putting it in the sandbox until it is sure that your site is legitimate.
In general though, if you are doing everything right and your site just simply isn’t ranking well, then sandboxing might be the reason behind it.
If your site isn’t ranking and you think it should be, there might be a different reason altogether.
When Google changes its algorithms, it often makes dramatic changes to the things that cause a site to rank. This can mean that a site that used to rank well suddenly doesn’t rank at all.
To avoid this issue, you need to keep up with the changes that Google makes to its algorithm. This involves keeping an eye on news about Google and reading the chatter on SEO websites.
Often you can quickly get an indication of what is likely to be an issue about your website and resolve it before it has a dramatic impact on your site.
What Causes Sandboxing?
Google doesn’t just blanket sandbox all new sites. In fact, some sites manage to rank on Google without any issues at all.
You can control some of the things that may get your site sandbox, but unfortunately, many of the issues are out of your control.
For example, you might find your site sandboxed because someone directly copied your content and posted it on their own site.
When someone does this, it comes up as duplicate content, and Google doesn’t really care whose content it originally was.
You can also get in the sandbox because of what happened on your domain before it was yours. For example, if you purchase a domain name that used to be a scam site or a very small site, you’ll probably find that Google sandboxes you.
After all, would you trust an ex-scammer that was trying to sell you something?
Another possible reason for sandboxing is if your site is having server problems. Server problems can mean that the site isn’t up when Google tries to crawl it, and this can cause red flags immediately.
At the end of the day though, sandboxing isn’t an exact science.
Google hasn’t confirmed its existence and you can do everything right and still end up in the sandbox.
This isn’t exactly fun, but it might be the reason that your site isn’t doing as well as you expected.
Getting out of the Sandbox
Because Google has never confirmed the existence of the sandbox, it can be difficult for website owners to figure out how to get out of it.
In fact, there is no approach that consistently works, and for many sites, the answer is just time – which can be very frustrating.
Sometimes it can take six months, if not longer, for a site to get out of the sandbox.
To get out of the sandbox early, the main thing to do is to prove to Google that your site is legitimate.
Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as submitting some information to Google, because Google doesn’t even admit the box exists.
Instead, you need to work on ensuring the quality of your site is good and making sure that you don’t have any major issues, like broken links or duplicate content.
The other thing to remember is that brand new domains will sometimes take longer to rank than ones that have been used previously.
This is one reason that it is often beneficial to buy old or expired domains.
However, this isn’t always the case and other people have found that they are still able to rank quickly on new domains.
If your domain is new, a good idea is to get it online as soon as possible, even if you just have it up with a page that says ‘under construction’.
Doing that can help make sure that when you do fully set up your site it will get ranked faster, and you may be able to avoid the sandbox entirely – if you are lucky.
In some cases, getting a number of high-quality links to your site can help to get your site out of the sandbox.
However, you need to be careful with this one, because lots of low-quality links can have the exact opposite effect.
At the end of the day, getting out of the sandbox may simply require waiting for Google to make up its mind.
Regardless of how long it takes to get out of the sandbox, the important thing is that you won’t be in the sandbox forever.
While you are there, your site might be slow to get off the ground, but as your site improves and you get out of the box, the differences for ranking, traffic and profit will be huge.
So, if your site is in the sandbox, the best thing you can do is just to keep producing quality content and working on your site as if it was ranking normally.
Eventually, Google will catch up with you.
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