Does Google have a sandbox?

September 14th, 2005

Unless you’re new to the SEO world, you’ve probably heard people talking about the dreaded “Google Sandbox” causing their site to get poor rankings. Some people go so far as to say “all new sites must wait 6 months before being removed from Google’s sandbox”, while others adamantly deny the existence of any type of sandbox.

So is there a Google sandbox? There is no real Google sandbox. New sites aren’t penalized. In fact, in some cases, new sites are actually rewarded (MSN does this most notably).

Ok, so why is my new site doing so poorly in search? Well, there are a couple of factors you need to look at.

1.)How many other sites link to you? 2.)How good is your content? Is it fresh, deep and related to the topic? 3.)How is your site hosted?

Before we get to what these factors have to do with the “Sandbox Effect”, lets take a look at how new sites are most likely* handled by Google.

When Google first stumbles upon a site, it doesn’t know anything about it. All it has to go on is its content (which it quickly indexes). Sadly, thanks to shady SEO firms and search engine spammers content isn’t enough to make a ranking decision. It may look great to the search engine, but how does Google know if it’s of any value to users?

A great example is the site located at While at first glance it looks to be a jewelry company, closer inspection reveals that all the links are just search results. Sure it’s full of content and looks great to the Google spider, but it’s not really useful to a person. There is no added benefit in using this site versus searching Google for “jewelry”.

Ok, this takes care of #2 , on to #1. How does Google tell if your site is useful to a person?

Simple, they wait. After Google finds a new site, they then look at what sites start linking to it, and how quickly in-links start popping up. If 100 off-topic links pop shortly after a site launches, Google starts to get suspicious. On the other hand, as reputable sites start linking to you, you start building rapport with Google. As links slowly get added, your relationship with Google starts to grow. Think of it like dating: It takes time (a few dates, and a sufficient amount of money) to build the trust required for a loving relationship (and a lot more money as that trusting relationship grows into marriage).

You mean SEO takes time? I won’t see results over night? Now you’re getting it!.

Alright fine I’ll wait, but what does hosting have to do with this? Google is also a name registry. That means they know the details about your domain name and hosting. Did you register that domain for 5 years or 1? Most spammers tend to only register domains for a year and drop them if they don’t generate enough traffic, whereas a legitimate business will keep that domain for a long time. (It’s also cheaper to register for 5 years versus 1)

What about hosting? Do you have a static IP? Are you hosting it from your house? Who had your IP before you? What did they do with it? Was it blacklisted as a spam site in the past? If so, it may take a lot longer for the search engines to realize it has a different site on it now.

A dedicated server with a dedicated IP costs money; a lot more money than the $7 / month shared hosting plans many companies offer. Which one is a search engine spammer more likely to purchase? Having your own IP is a really good way to establish rapport with the search engines (and it offers more flexibility for your developers too).

A dedicated server is also a good way to prevent changing hosting companies. Remember, even though your domain name is the same, switching hosting companies may you back in the so called “Google sandbox”. If you’re thinking of switching to another shared host, you may want to start practicing your serve.

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Entry Filed under: Search Engine Optimization

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