Google's sandbox is a filter that Google's search quality team created some years ago to fight spam in the search results. If you have a new website or if you made major changes on your website then Google's sandbox filter might be the reason why your website's rankings have dropped.
How does Google's sandbox filter work?
The usual process is that Google indexes a new website, lists it for some less important queries in the search results and then the web pages drop from the search engine result pages for several months.
Although other search engines work fine, Google doesn't list the web site, sometimes not even for the company name. In general, brand-new web sites with new domain names need about 6-8 months to get top rankings on Google.
Why does Google use the sandbox filter?
It's likely that Google delays the inclusion of brand-new web sites to encourage webmasters to build content instead of building mini-networks.
Some webmasters try to artificially inflate the link popularity of their web site by creating a network of small web sites with different URLs that all link to each other. Many of these web sites have no purpose other than linking to the main web site.
By delaying the ranking of new web sites, this mini-network strategy doesn't offer a quick jump to the top anymore. The delay might encourage webmasters to focus on the content of their main web site instead of building useless mini sites.
Is there proof that the sandbox exists?
Yes. Many webmasters have observed the sandbox effect on their own website and Google has been granted a patent in which the method has been described.
The patent indicates that the sandbox filter might be used for new websites and for websites on which you have made major changes. Although Google started using the sandbox filter several years ago, the filter still seems to be in place as many webmasters observe its effects.
How can you find out if your website is in Google's sandbox?
If the following criteria apply to your website, it is likely it is in Google's sandbox:
- Your domain is 0-2 years old or you have made major changes on your website.
- The web pages of your website cannot be found if you search for the exact text of their title tag.
- Your website did have good rankings for some relevant queries and then it dropped off 30 to several hundred positions.
- Your website has good rankings in Yahoo and MSN/Live but not in Google.
- You don't use any spam elements on your website.
What can you do to get out of the sandbox?
Except for waiting, there is not much that you can do to get out of the sandbox.
If you have a new website, expect that it will be listed within 6-8 months in Google. In the meantime, add content to your web site, get good inbound links and make sure that your web pages are optimized for Google.
When you register a new domain name, create a temporary page and link to it from another web site to make Google aware of your web site. The 6-8 month delay seem to start with Google's first contact with your web site. The sooner Google knows about your web site, the sooner it will be listed.
Google's sandbox is Google's attempt to prevent spammers from creating low quality web sites. Nearly all websites have to go through this filter.
If you find that your website has been put into Google's sandbox, do not worry but work on the content and the links of your website. If you do that, your website will get better rankings than before as soon as it is out of the sandbox.
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