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Beginners Guide to the Google Sandbox For New Websites and SEO

You likely have difficulty achieving ideal spots in Google’s SERPs if your website is new. Despite making every effort and building an SEO-optimized site, you’re not hitting those top spots –– or even the first couple of pages.

If you find yourself in this situation, you’ve likely been affected by Google Sandbox.

Google Sandbox is a hypothetical effect that applies primarily to new websites. New websites become “trapped” in the Sandbox and must sit under probation before seeing the traffic and clicks they want. Google seems to filter newer websites out of rankings, placing older sites with higher long-term authority in the top spots.

And while this is a universally acknowledged event by most SEO experts, Google authorities deny the existence of the Google Sandbox, even though ranking comparisons among Google, Bing, and Yahoo show that the same sites earn lower rank positions on Google than on other search engine sites.

So if Google didn’t launch a Sandbox algorithm, what is causing new sites to get stuck with low search ranks?

Why Does Sandbox Happen?

There have been many theories about why the Google Sandbox happens – from combatting spammers and their websites, to the perils of Google’s machine learning algorithms. It likely started as the former but has evolved into the latter.  Though Google denies an official Sandbox algorithm, John Mueller gives his thoughts in a Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout:

With regards to sandbox, we don’t really have this traditional sandbox that a lot of SEOs used to be talking about in the years past. We have a number of algorithms that might look similar, but these are essentially just algorithms trying to understand how the website fits in with the rest of the websites trying to rank for those queries.

He notes that when new websites are published, Google must evaluate them and determine where to put them. Google looks for ranking signals to place the site. When a site is new, it often hasn’t acquired the ranking signals required to achieve desired SERPs rank.

Google evaluates websites for rankings based on several factors:

  • Site authority
  • Strong link building
  • Relevant content
  • Technical SEO optimization

Many ranking factors factor into a site’s larger SEO strategy. And any SEO expert knows that site optimization doesn’t happen overnight. Site trust and authority and other SEO factors require long-term investment. New websites have not existed long enough to build up these ranking factors.

Because young sites don’t have the ranking factors required to earn the top spots in Google’s SERPs, they don’t enjoy the ranking power of older, established sites. And though Google hasn’t launched an algorithm that affects new sites in this way, there’s a discrepancy between rankings for sites of different ages, even though those sites have the same high-level content and SEO optimization.

What Types of Websites Get into Google Sandbox?

New sites see the most volatility from the alleged Sandbox effect. Even when Google indexes these sites, they typically must pass a probationary period before seeing the rankings they hope for.

Unfortunately, this new site “filter” seems to put domains under this probation for an indeterminate period. Depending on who you ask, new sites can be affected for a few months or up to a year. Some new sites notice a sharp uptick in traffic immediately after launch, only to find that that success was temporary.

Remember that Google employs many algorithms to ensure a quality experience for its users. Just because you see a dip in traffic or lower rankings, that’s not proof that you’ve been affected by Sandbox. But if your domain is new and you’ve done everything else right, your low rankings likely result from the Sandbox filter.

How Long Does It Take to Get out of Sandbox?

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast answer to that question. Getting out could take a few days, weeks, or even months.

Quality SEO practices are your best bet to get out of Sandbox. And like any successful, effective SEO strategy, this takes time.

Good SEO doesn’t happen overnight. Neither do its results. It will take time for your new site to earn organic traffic, build quality links, and prove to Google that your site provides value for their user. But when time has passed and your SEO efforts produce measurable data, you’ll see the traffic, ranking, engagement, and conversions you’ve been hoping for all along.

5 Proven Ways to Get out of Sandbox Quicker

There are practical and effective steps you can take to free yourself from Sandbox. Your site won’t be affected forever, but you can expedite the process of getting out by following our tips below.

Get Indexed

The first step to getting out of Sandbox is to ensure Google indexes your site. If Google hasn’t crawled your site, you cannot earn the rankings you hope for.

Google provides troubleshooting instructions if your site is missing from Google Search. You can improve your site’s crawlability by submitting a sitemap and index request.

Increase User Traffic

Increasing audience engagement helps you reduce the impact of Sandbox. Earning organic traffic signals to Google that your site is valid, relevant, and deserves high rankings. Implementing effective SEO practices helps users find your site, increasing traffic and Google’s perception of your site’s usefulness. This can be done through traditional marketing, sponsorships, and/or paid media.

Capitalize on Social Signals

If your site isn’t ranking and you can’t seem to shake the effects of Google’s Sandbox, all is not lost. Capitalize on your social media to legitimize your site and earn the valuable traffic that helps your rank on the SERPs.

Active social channels allow you to keep your audience engaged, run ads, and build links to your website.

Boost Site Authority

Google ranks sites based on their E-A-T score. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. This score measures a site’s legitimacy and ranking power and might be your site’s most influential ranking factor. If your site can exemplify expertise, authority, and trust, then Google will remove your domain from Sandbox so you can earn the rankings you deserve.

E-A-T scores allow you to rank high in Google’s search results while delivering an exceptional experience to site visitors. Increasing your E-A-T signals cultivates excellence while pulling your site out of Sandbox.

Buy an Active Domain

As we discussed above, new domains are most affected by Sandbox. Buying an active domain that sees high traffic volume allows you to bypass the effects of the filter.

You can operate under Google’s Sandbox radar by purchasing an active domain and repurposing and rebuilding the site to fit your needs.

Whereas this is an option, we don’t usually recommend it due to the challenges this may bring – as you don’t have complete insight into how that website was used in the past and the SEO strategies (good or bad) used.

Addressing the Sandbox with Linchpin SEO

Any halt in traffic or decrease in ranking is bad for business –– no matter what business you’re in. Don’t wait to address the issue if you think your site has been affected by Google Sandbox. The team at Linchpin SEO has decades of experience navigating Google and its many algorithm updates. Reach out to our team today so you can begin earning the rank and traffic you deserve.