It’s finally time: after months of hard work, you are ready to launch your website and start getting new traffic coming in and exploring the site.
However, after a few months, you notice that you still aren’t ranking on Google, even though you’ve been following all of the best SEO practices. What is going on?
If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing the phenomenon known as the Google sandbox.
It’s an effect that makes it hard for new websites to rank high on Google results pages, even if you know that you’ve done all the right things for search engine optimization.
But what exactly is the Google sandbox? And is it something you still need to worry about?
In this article, we’ll address the Google sandbox and help you learn how long it lasts, what Google has to say about it, and how to tell if your website is in the sandbox.
What is Google Sandbox?
When you launch a new website, it goes without saying that it won’t automatically top the search engine results pages.
But, around 2004, digital marketers started to notice that it was taking much longer than expected for their sites to start ranking, despite the fact that they were using the best SEO techniques and efforts.
Even when a website was indexed, it had a good number of backlinks, and it had plenty of content with high-ranking keywords, the site still wasn’t appearing on Google search engines, even if it was appearing on Yahoo or Bing.
This effect was named the Google sandbox and is believed to be a filter or part of the Google algorithm that doesn’t allow new websites to appear on the first page of Google results.
Many marketers believe that during a website’s first few months (or potentially even longer), Google puts the information into a cache and doesn’t include it in search engine results pages above the second page.
How Long Does Google Sandbox Last?
Because the Google sandbox is an unconfirmed filter, there isn’t any hard data on how long it lasts.
It is widely believed that the sandbox effect will last for the first few months of a website’s existence, and can potentially last up to 2 years.
On average, it seems as though the sandbox effect tends to last around 6 months.
During this time, no matter how much SEO effort is put into a website, the site will not rank on the first page of Google results.
Does Google Deny the Existence of a Sandbox?
Google has never admitted that the sandbox filter exists. After all, some of the effects of the sandbox make sense for a newly launched website.
A new site won’t have the same level of authority that an older website will have, so it’s possible that new websites have to wait a certain amount of time before they can rank high.
Google claims that the reasons that new sites don’t rank as high come down to a few other factors:
- High Competition: There is a high amount of competition for keywords and industries, and your website hasn’t built the authority to outrank these competitors.
- Lack of Content: Your newly-launched site doesn’t have the amount of content that more established sites have, so there isn’t as much opportunity for organic traffic.
- Not Enough Backlinks: Backlinks are an important part of building authority in the Google algorithm, and new sites won’t have that many when they first launch.
- No User Signals: User signals, or the actions that users take like clicking on pages or bouncing from pages, also play into the algorithm, and new websites don’t have enough user signals to rank high on search results pages.
However, some marketers have noticed that even specific, low-competition keywords and individual page names on new sites still won’t pull up when a website is within the first few months of launch, even after it has been indexed.
This leads many to still believe that while a sandbox hasn’t officially been recognized by Google, it still exists.
Whether the sandbox is a real filter in the algorithm or a factor of Google’s reluctance to promote non-authoritative sites, the truth remains the same: new websites will have a difficult time ranking.
How to Spot if Your Website is in the Sandbox
There are a few key indicators that can demonstrate that your website is in the Google sandbox.
When you recognize these factors, you can start to consider new strategies to combat the effect and get your website ranking higher in a faster amount of time.
Let’s discuss some of the signals of the sandbox:
- Google doesn’t display site pages even when the search request is an exact match, like a unique page header.
- Your SEO best practices are all in place.
- Competitors’ pages and websites continually rank higher than yours.
- Other search engines like Yahoo or Bing rank your website much higher.
- Your SEO tools regularly rank your site higher.
Can an Old Website Go in the Sandbox?
While new websites are often the ones stuck in the sandbox, it is also possible for this effect to have an impact on older websites as well.
If a website is inactive for a long period of time, it can experience the same difficulties in ranking as a new website.
That’s one of the reasons why continual SEO efforts are necessary for all brands.
6 Ways to Stop Google Sandbox from Affecting Your SEO Efforts
Now that you understand what the Google sandbox is and why it matters to your newly launched or dormant websites, let’s dive into some of the strategies you can implement to stop the sandbox from derailing your website launch.
1. Index as Fast as You Can
The countdown clock on the sandbox effect doesn’t begin until after your site has been indexed by Google. Getting your site indexed is the most important thing to get started once you launch a website.
Registering your domain on Google Search Console and submitting your XML sitemap to Google can help to speed up the indexing process.
2. Get Traffic Coming In
Traffic is a great indicator that your site is authoritative and relevant to users. By getting in a high amount of traffic within the first few months of your site, you can get out of the sandbox quicker.
Posting about your site on social media and in industry forums can help drive traffic to your website.
3. Start Building Social Signals
Google takes a look at social signals from social media platforms to see if your site is growing in popularity, which can also help you get out of the sandbox faster.
You can try running ads on platforms like Facebook or driving traffic in from social media platforms to increase social signals.
4. Use Long-Tailed Keywords
The competition among short, popular keywords is high. If these are all you have on your site, it will be hard to outrank competitors.
By using specific, long-tailed keywords with less competition, you can target different audiences and help your site stand out to Google.
5. Build Authority
The Google algorithm is geared towards authoritative, trustworthy, and useful websites. You need to immediately start building authority on your website in order to get out of the sandbox quickly.
Techniques like getting high-quality backlinks from relevant sites can help you build this authority.
6. Focus on Quality, not Quantity
It’s tempting to start publishing a high amount of content quickly in order to start getting more links and keywords out there. However, if you push out too much too fast, Google might think of it as spam.
Spend your time focusing on the quality, not the quantity of content.
Site ranking is an important part of ongoing SEO efforts.
However, there are many different approaches you can take to move your site up in SEO rankings and appear higher on search results pages.
Techniques like SEO split testing can help you get more traffic and get better results.
To learn more, check out our blog on SEO split testing to rank!
There you’ll learn all about the technique and how to apply it to your SEO efforts. Click on the link above to learn more!