Over the past several months I’ve been working on and studying several Websites with hopes of digging up some definite truths to the “Google Sandbox Theory.”
I’ve done many case studies in the past and with most things search related I’m able to figure out a somewhat defined answer to my questions. With this case in particular though I’ve learned only two things:
1. The Google Sandbox is real.
2. There are no clear answers as to why a site is placed in the sandbox.
What is the “Sandbox Effect?”
Believe it or not there isn’t even a “standard” definition for this. There are so many variables that there are very few instances in which the explanations are the same.
- Some people say that the sandbox is a parameter within Google’s algorithm, which prevents new sites from ranking until it has reached a certain level of maturity (age.)
- Some say it is when a site is dropped from the SERPS because too many links are pointed at a site in a very short amount of time.
- Some say it’s directly related to Google’s “Supplemental Results,” which are now obsolete.
Those are just a few of the many different definitions you will find if you start researching the subject.
I’ve tested every theory I’ve heard and while I won’t say they are all 100% false, none of them turned out to be 100% accurate 100% of the time.
As I mentioned in a prior post my Article Marketing Report was ranking very high for a few relatively competitive search terms such as:
- article marketing
- article marketing ebook
- article marketing report
…but all of the sudden, over a year after its launch, it was dropped completely for those search terms. No black-hat SEO methods, alot of natural linking, but gone from the SERPS. Not long after that post it reappeared. A few days later…gone once again. To this day, almost a month later, it’s still not ranking for those terms.
I strongly believe this has something to do with the “Sandbox,” as there has been no black-hat techniques and although it is a sales page, all aspects appear to be good with Google.
But this wasn’t a new site. That’s only one example of the MANY different variables that go into the “sandbox effect.”
On the other hand, I had an article directory that obtained over 40,000 links within the first month of it’s creation. That site was ranking high for hundreds and thousands of long-tail keywords and still to this day ranks well. It’s never had any type of sandbox effect applied to it. (mentioned site has since been sold due to the lack of time I had to manage it)
I could go on and on with many, many different examples of different sites. Some in similar niches others in completely different niches. Some sales pages others full of content. Only a handful of the results match!
The Google Sandbox Can’t be Definitive
If there are a few, easily understood, set rules, it would screw up Google’s SERPS. Why? because although we can control some of our links to some extent, we can’t control the majority of them.
If Google said any site that receives so many links in a set period of time, or any site that is less than x months or years old will not be returned in their SERPS, they would be punishing some good sites and more importantly to them (I’d imagine) they would be restricting searchers from being served some of the best sites on the Internet. Some of the most popular sites online today were started by Companies and Organizations that already had mass exposure, meaning those sites gained an INCREDIBLE amount of exposure from the start.
How dumb would Google look if everyone and their brother was talking about this cool, new site, and it wasn’t even in Google’s results?
From my own testing and research I do believe there is definitely some sort of algorithmic parameter, which Google uses, but I don’t believe it can be generalized into a common phrase, such as “The Sandbox.”
I don’t see anything wrong with giving a new site a boost with a strong link building campaign, but I have seen some of my own sites being pulled from Google’s SERPS after building 10′s of thousands of links within a few months time. However, I’ve seen some of my own sites and sites of others gain 10′s of thousands of links in less time, which continue to conquer competitive search terms.
Your new site may or may not retain top SE rankings right away. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! If you have solid content on your site and your promotion is white-hat based, even if your site is held back in the beginning it will eventually take off.
I can’t tell you what causes a site to be “suspended” (for lack of better terms) initially in Google’s SERPS and I honestly don’t believe anyone else can either unless Google decides to speak on the matter. What I can tell you is that other than the one example above (my article marketing report) which I expect to regain it’s positioning soon, I’ve never had any long-term issues with Google not ranking my sites and pages for their respective keywords.
Once again, I believe the “Sandbox Theory” to be an over-hyped “the sky is falling” theory that has been blown way out of proportion. It does exist and as I’ve shown examples of it can sting a bit, but quality, white hat Websites and pages always seen to recover. That being said, although it is something to keep in the back of your head, I don’t believe it to be something you should worry too much about when thinking long-term!
Photo Credits: Thawizard