The Mystery of Google Sandbox

Most SEO topics and best practices are pretty clear cut, but there is a topic that has been somewhat of a mystery to many people over the years. That topic is: Google Sandbox

First of all, what is Google Sandbox? Google Sandbox is a term that describes the penalizing affects of Google’s search engine algorithm on newly launched websites. Google Sandbox supposedly prevents new websites from ranking normally in the first few months after launch. The purpose of Google Sandbox is to fight against spammers who put up websites overnight and hope to rank right away.

Before we move forward, let’s set something straight. The term “Google Sandbox” isn’t something that Google came up with – it is a term that was coined by the SEO community.

Although Google has never confirmed the existence of a “Sandbox,” Matt Cutts has said that a Sandbox-type of affect exists due to the normal workings of Google’s search algorithm.

Here are some of my observations of “Google Sandbox”:

  • I have seen newly launched sites rank well for the first few days after getting indexed, and then rapidly lose its rank.
  • I have launched sites that would rank well from the beginning and generally never lose its rankings.
  • I have seen new sites get indexed by Google within a matter of a few days, but they were no where to be found for any keywords despite having good content and on-site SEO.

I’m sure many of you have witnessed the same things that I may have if you’ve been in the SEO game long enough. Based on my observations over the years, I would say that these occurrences are all in line with Google’s normal search engine algorithm and nothing really out of the ordinary.

It is well known that Google makes it harder for people to break into certain industries. Typically the industries with the most competition and spam get hit the hardest with filters. So, this explains why your new credit card or loan site may not be ranking too well even if you have unique and compelling content.

Also, domain age plays a role in brand new sites. Sites with new domains are less likely to be ranking for popular keywords as Google tries to determine the value and uniqueness of the site when it is first introduced.

So, how do you explain how a brand new site starts ranking immediately for certain keywords? Here’s what I think… In certain industries, you may have some new sites that fall through the cracks and begin ranking immediately based on the site content. But, as Google begins to learn more about the site and as all the data centers get updated, it eventually begins to sort out the ranking order.

How about sites that rank well from the start and stay there? My explanation for this occurrence would be that you are in an industry that is not that competitive or you’ve targeted a keyword phrase that has yet to be over-utilized. Or, you might have created content that is so great and unique that it is naturally outranking all your competitors.

Hope that explains a bit about Google Sandbox and why your new site may not be ranking as well as you had expected.

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