The Google Sandbox

In my recent post I mentioned that I was dissappointed because the individual article pages within this blog did not received any PageRank (PR) during the update that occurred in the last few days. The main page and category pages each received PR of between 2-4 which is a good start, but it’s the multitude of articles on this blog that I would like to see pulling ranking and showing up in Google SERPs.

One of the possible reasons why my pages haven’t been ranked is because of what is called the Google Sandbox, which is a relatively new theory in SEO. If you have recently launched a website and are frustrated because no matter how much effort you put into SEO your site still doesn’t show up in Google, then you could be being sandboxed. It doesn’t matter if you have hundreds of quality backlinks, a great navigational structure, hundreds of pages of original, keyword rich, content – it all means jack to the sandbox.

The somewhat mythical sandbox is a theory that has not been admitted to by anyone at Google but is largely accepted as a likely by the SEO community. It has been demonstrated to exist, or at least the symptoms have been shown to occur with enough frequency that a thoery was formed. Of course because this is Google with all those thousands of variables to consider we can never be 100% sure until someone at the search engine company puts us out of our misery and confirms it. That is not likely since Google instigated policies like this to stop people from abusing the search engine to obtain free traffic. The less the badies know the better.

Blog Business World has a great primer on the Google Sandbox. If you want to get a grasp of this concept I suggest you read the full primer, it should answer all of your questions.

Blog Business World: The Google Sandbox is an alleged filter placed on new websites. The result is a site does not receive good rankings for its most important keywords and keyword phrases. Even with good content, abundant incoming links and strong Google PageRank, a site is still adversely affected by the Sandbox effect. The Sandbox acts as a de facto probation for sites, possibly to discourage spam sites from rising quickly, getting banned, and repeating the process.

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  • If the google sandbox was taking effect then I think your whole blog would be affected. Have you checked the oldest articles to see if they have a PR? I looked and many of the older posts do – an analysis will soon show when the PR cuts out. This will give an indication of the latest PR database update cutoff date..

    I note that your article page has no PR, but many of the articles do.

    It appears that if you have good content, good inbound links (and outbound as well perhaps) then the sandbox effect will not be as evident.

    I know of some site owners who have had sites up for 6 months and are still waiting…they have done very little ‘exposure’ marketing though.

  • Hi Matt,

    Yes I agree with you. I think it is a case a gradual rollout of PageRank across the site. I just wanted to mention the sandbox effect as a possibility as a means to introduce the topic.

    How about your blog matt – did individual articles gain PR?

  • Yes, the main page at is PR 4. An entry June 22 has a PR3, but one made 2 days later (and all subsequent ones) have no page rank yet.

    It should be noted that the blog is on an existing domain – this means the blog was being indexed within a few days of my creating it – unlike a ‘new’ blog such as yours that was starting from a new domain name – which in itself would have caused some delays until Google started spidering it.

    That said, of course your old blog pointed to it nicely – which is how I discovered it originally!

    Also good to see how your ‘reader’ numbers have jumped recently.

  • Google gave me a PR4 on the main page and a PR3 on the login/register pages and thats it as far as I can work out, the PR system is annoying me these days, I really don’t think it is that important, I am starting to like Yahoo! a lot too.

    I have been getting 80hits an hour today from The Yahoo!

    I am starting to give up on Google, one simple search result showing me as the top page has generated so much traffic from yahoo!

    keyword search in yahoo :

    “lifehouse you and me lyrics”

    I decided a few weeks back that I would index all the lyrics submitted by all users into one page where the search engines can index them. It was a really good idea, I am getting a lot of traffic which has led to a lot of new sign ups for the site.


  • Man, I’m going to start putting up free lyrics on all my sites too. Hmm, or maybe not, probably not my target market.

    But good job Al, that deserves an article I think! Enjoy it while you can keep up too.

  • A new site of mine seems to be lost in the sandbox as well unfortuantly. Any idea’s on how long this will last or is it just googles way of taking forever to shift through new websites in the database?!?

  • Hi Jamsi,

    The sandbox has been reported to last up to 12+ months plus if your site targets highly competitive keywords. But you shouldn’t assume it’s the sandbox – have you been conducting any SEO campaigning? It could be that Google simply can’t find your site…

  • Sorry this is a bit late, but Jamsi you could try Google sitemaps – Its not guaranteed to work but it should hasten the process and improve the effectiveness when Google does crawl your site.

  • Thanks Edward, I’ll give it a shot.

  • […] You might remember my article on the Google sandbox, a theory that new websites must wait before Google will take them seriously and index them high up in the search results pages. The wait can take as long as 12 months and is designed to stop spam sites from showing up high in results. […]

  • […] I did some tests of my sites and one thing I noticed was the Google sandbox is having a strong effect on this site (or at least I presume it is), which makes me wonder how deep in the sandbox this site is for general web search (here’s hoping in a few months time when this site rises out of the sandbox I get a huge influx of search traffic). My other blog, The Official BetterEdit Blog, where this blog was born, is well indexed and showed up for many search terms I used trying to find this blog. The old blog has a lot fewer backlinks and lower quality backlinks in a PageRank sense than this blog does, but since it’s hosted on a domain that is nearly five years old it’s showing up well in the results and isn’t very sandy at all. […]

  • […] Taking over a mature site (at least 12 months old) will also mean you avoid the Google sandbox, a significant perk of buying established web property. Of course it really depends at what stage you take over a website as to how much of a step-up you gain and will no doubt reflect how much the owner will expect to receive for it (traffic for cash in simpler terms, but there are other variables to consider when selling a website). […]

  • […] Once you find a few niches you think have potential search those keyphrases and see what results show up. If the natural search result sites that turn up are badly optimized (look for low PageRank, poor title keyphrases and heading tag keyphrases) and you are confident that a site with well optimized content would quickly jump to the top of the rankings and by quickly I mean about 3-6 months (remember the Google Sandbox is going to impact how quickly you get high rankings) then you might have your first candidate for a niche content site. […]

  • The sandbox certainly exists. Unfortuately, Google seems to have instigated the same strategy with new sites as with new hires.. better to keep the bad out than let the good in.

  • This explains what happened to my sites a couple of months ago and on the next update my pages and links where listed.

  • […] over a mature site (at least 12 months old) will mean you avoid the Google sandbox, a significant perk of buying established web property. Of course it really depends at what stage […]

  • My site has been live for one month and if you enter two of my keywords together im in the first result, but if you entrer just one i nowhere in sight, can this be related to the sandbox?

  • My website has suffered from this. Very frustrating. Even though I know I’ve got the keywords right and first class content – it hardly ranks with Google.

  • I’m a little bedazzled about Google Sandbox then. The post doesn’t sound too optimistic.

  • My site is in it’s 3rd day and it’s top for it’s main keyword! But it is rather obscure “Journey To Codevana”…

  • Im not sure if sandbox is still an actual term after Penguin and Panda was released. What is your thoughts on this topic?

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