The Google Sandbox is the term given to a number of webmasters’ observations about the way Google ranks web pages in its index. In 2005, SEO experts noticed a sudden change in the rankings of their websites (evidently well optimised with a large amount of inbound links) – unexpectedly their rankings had dropped dramatically. Some web pages were either dropped from Google’s index, or were ranking extremely low (page 40 and beyond) for selected keywords. The ‘sandbox effect’ seems to have affected websites created in March 2004 – the theory was brought about after an update to Google’s main index in 2005 – codenamed Allegra.
Is your website sandboxed?
If your website is well optimised (lots of inbound links, high keyword density etc) and it is not ranked in Google, or if your rankings have suddenly dropped, then your website has been Sandboxed.
How does a website escape the ‘Sandbox’?
- ‘Time Delay’ factor: it has been noticed that Google releases websites from the Sandbox after a certain period of time. Nevertheless this theory has been questioned; during the Allegra update for example, it was noted that some websites created before March 2004 were not released from the Google Sandbox. But, websites created as late as July 2004 managed to escape the Sandbox effect.
- ‘Link threshold’: a website must build up a good number of quality inbound links in order to be released from the Sandbox.
- ‘Link-aging’: websites are released from the Sandbox based on the ‘age’ of their inbound links. If you keep a steady long-term link-building campaign, you will be released from the Google Sandbox within six months to a year.
However there is no definite way in which a website can escape Google’s ‘Sandbox’. As it is a theory only and not an official update, it is difficult to avoid your website being ‘sandboxed’.
Minimise your website’s time in the Google Sandbox
- Practice honest SEO – black hat techniques may work short term, but Google will always penalise your website eventually, which may result in a longer period in the Sandbox.
- Promote your website immediately: the sooner it is being indexed by Google and the more you can optimise it, the sooner it will be achieving high search engine rankings again.
- Follow your link building campaign conscientiously.
- Target one particular keyword, and make sure your website containts good content with a high density of that particular keyword.
However the Sandbox was beneficial in the long run: websites that were constantly being optimized during the time that they were in the Sandbox ranked highly for targeted keywords immediately after the Sandbox effect ended.