The Google Sandbox is a highly debated issue amongst the SEO community. Whether it’s urban legend or reality, any new blog should be aware of one basic lesson from the tales of the Sandbox Effect: it takes time for SEO to work.
What is the Google Sandbox?
Real or imagined, the Google Sandbox is supposedly a penalty for new Web sites that was created to prevent new, spammy junk sites from getting high page view rank.
Wikipedia describes the Sandbox:
The Sandbox Effect is the theory that websites with newly-registered domains or domains with frequent ownership or nameserver changes are placed in a sandbox (holding area) in the indexes of Google until such time is deemed appropriate before a ranking can commence. Webmasters have noticed that their site will only show for keywords that are not competitive.
What it means for practical purposes is that, assuming it’s true, new blog and web sites have to play in the sandbox for a while before they grow up and hang with the big boys.
Am I in the Sandbox?
One quick way to tell if you’ve been put in the Sandbox is to search for your site based on spot-on terms, such as your site’s name. If you aren’t on page one (and your site name isn’t something wildly competitive like web.com), that could be a warning sign.
If your site is new, and we are assuming the Sandbox is real, there is no real consensus on how long a site will be penalized. My personal experience has been new sites tend to stay in the sandbox maybe three to six months. It is probably just a good idea to plan accordingly. If you were opening a new brick and mortar shop, you would expect to run in the red for six months to a year perhaps.
The Blog Business World offers this method for determining whether you’re in the Sandbox:
Evidence of Sandbox activity usually is spotted by having good Google PageRank and incoming links, and strong search results in some secondary search phrases, but the site nowhere to be found for the most important searches. In such cases, it is likely the site has been placed in the Sandbox.
How do I get out of the Sandbox?
First of all, don’t panic. Don’t start second-guessing yourself and tinkering with your entire site. The single best thing you can do to get out of the Sandbox is write quality content, optimize your site and pages for search engines, and repeat. You also need to have patience.
Here are musings about that from Big Oak:
The quick answer to this is yes, there is a way out of the sandbox, but you will not like the answer. The answer is to simply wait. The sandbox filter is not a permanent filter and is only intended to reduce search engine spam. It is not intended to hold people back from succeeding. So eventually, if you continue to build your site as it should be built, you will leave the sandbox and join the other established websites.
Consider the early days of your blog as a time to build and grow, and keep an eye on your stats, Google referrals and keyword referrals, but don’t obsess. You can also see this as a time to concentrate on social networking (also good for your Google rankings, incidentally).
Comment on other blogs in a way that contributes while linking to your site. Join social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Add like-minded blogs to your blogroll, and contact fellow bloggers who write on similar topics.
Eventually, just know that your hard work writing and optimizing will be recognized by Google, and Google will let you hang with the grown-ups.