Does Google Sandbox Effect Really Exist?

Published on April 7th, 2013 by | Category: Google , Search Engine Optimization

I think it is more than few years that “Google Sandbox Effect” or “Google Sandbox” found a spot among the search engine optimization related terms. Since that time, webmasters, SEOs and bloggers discussed and argued a lot about this subject. Nowadays some of these people believe that Google sandbox doesn’t exist anymore. Some others believe that it still does exist. No matter what we call it, Google sandbox, or anything else, I personally believe that such an effect exists, and really has to be applied to the new websites by a search engine like Google. Before I tell you why, and then show you my proofs, let’s see what Google sandbox is exactly. Maybe you are new to this, and you don’t know what it is exactly.

When a new website is launched, Google will index it, but it will not give it the same credit as the old websites in the same niche. It means, even if the website is well-developed and organized, and is designed according to Google and SEO rules, it can not be ranked exactly where it has to be. It takes few months for Google to trust the website and list it on the first search result pages with the related keywords/phrases. While the website is not trusted by Google yet, they say it is in Google sandbox. This is what Google sandbox means.

You might say that it is because the website is new and has no or a very low link popularity. This is also true, but it is proven to me that the Google sandbox effect has nothing to do with link popularity. I have proofs for what I am saying.

On December 2011, I created a new website. The website domain name was an “exact match” with a two words key phrase. You know that exact match domains are the most eligible for being ranked as the first site with the related keyword or phrase. The search engine optimization of the website I am talking about was started from its domain name, and I did my best to choose and register a good domain name. For your information, exact match domain names are the domain name that have the exact keyword or key phrase without anything extra. They do not even have hyphens. I hate having hyphens in my domain names, because I know that they strongly lower the website credit from the search engines point of view. Please let me give you an example about the exact match domains. “Internet Marketing” is a key phrase, and so InternetMarketing.comInternetMarketing.netInternetMarketing.org are the exact match domain names for this key phrase. Please learn more about having the keywords in domain names here.

The website started working with 30 pages, including the home page. Since December 2011 that it was launched, I did not add any new pages to it, nor I added a single back link from any other site. As it was such a new website, I am 100% sure that the other webmasters and bloggers knew nothing about it and have not linked to it at all. Also there was not any social bookmarking tools like FaceBook like box and other things on the site, and so people did not shared it on the social bookmarking sites too. The site just went online on December 2011, and I left it and did not do anything for it at all.

I am used to have the StatCounter traffic tracking on any website I launch, so that I can monitor the website traffic from the first day it starts working. I am used to StatCounter since several years ago. I know Google Analytics is a better choice, but I am used to StatCounter and the information it gives me about my websites and web pages traffic is somehow helpful and complete.

As soon as the website was indexed by Google, the traffic started coming, but it did not exceed from more than a few clicks per day, and besides, the home page was not used to receive any traffic at all. It was just the other pages that received traffic, and this is one of the other signs of Google sandbox effect, because Google starts ranking the home page and driving traffic to it harder than the other pages of the site. Google is more picky about the home page. Your new websites need a lot more time to receive traffic to their home pages from Google, whereas the other pages receive traffic almost from the first week that the site is launched. The reason is that, from the Google’s point of view, a website has to be more trusted and reliable to have its home page ranked.

Of course, please note that I am talking about the well-developed websites with strong and unique contents. Other kinds of websites, including the Sblogs and autoblogs, and the websites that have problems like duplicated content, keyword stuffing and… may never receive any traffic from Google (specially after the Google most recent algorithm updates), or if they do, they can never follow the steps that a good websites follows regarding receiving traffic from Google.

My goal from creating this website was having its main page ranked on Google as the number one website with the related key phrase that the domain was its exact match. It had everything to be the number one site on Google among all the other sites, because:

  1. Its domain was the exact match for the key phrase.
  2. The content was absolutely unique and original and well-optimized.
  3. The key phrase was not a too competitive one, and was relatively easy for a new website to be ranked by Google as the number one site.

I did know that I should not expect to see it on the first page soon, because it was not my first time to create such a website. I have been doing this for the past 15 years. However, many of the websites that I run are not created to receive any traffic through the home page. For example, I do not expect that Google sends any traffic to HowToee.com home page, because it is not optimized for any special keyword/phrase. HowToee will receive traffic to its home page only when it becomes so popular and people use HowToee as a search term to locate HowToee.com on Google. Websites like HowToee.com are designed to receive traffic to their articles pages. But the other websites that I create are different. Specially when I register an exact match domain name, I expect the home page to receive the highest amount of traffic.

So what happened to the site finally?

As I said Google started driving traffic to its other pages almost from the first week that it started working. However, the home page could not be found on the first few Google search result pages for several months, for the exact match key phrase. Of course, the home page was used to receive some traffic too, but only for the other derivatives of the exact match key phrase, not for the exact key phrase alone.

Google started ranking the home page higher and higher every month, until I could see it on the first page after about 7 months, and then after about 8 months it was ranked where I expected it to be: #1 for the related exact match key phrase

Look at the below graph that shows the monthly traffic since that website was launched on December 2011:

Google SandBox Effect Graph

It is July 15, 2012 today, and so July still has 15 days to finish. But as you see July’s traffic was more than the previous months. The reason is that the website home page was ranked as the first site almost one week ago and so the traffic went up dramatically.

I have to explain again that I did not do anything for the website since it went online. I did not add anything to its content. I did not place any link to it from any other site. And not even a single “like” from FaceBook or other social bookmarking sites. I did not promote it in any way at all. Even now that it is #1 on Google, it is exactly the same as it was on the first day that it went online. The only thing that I did was adding the FaceBook like box, which was done a couple of days ago (today is July 15, 2012), and was done several days after the site was ranked #1 by Google. So it did not have any positive impact on the site ranking.

What Does It Mean?

It means the current #1 site has no difference with the time that it was just indexed by Google for the first time. It means physically it was eligible to be ranked as the #1 site from the first day, but Google did not do it. Why? Because of something that people call “Google Sandbox Effect”. You can call it whatever you want, but this is how Google treats the new websites. So, the answer to the question that was asked at the beginning of this article is yes, Google sandbox effect really exists.

What Should You Do During the Time that Your Website Is in Google Sandbox?

For this special website I did nothing, because it was not one of my main websites. It was just created to receive some traffic for a special key phrase. I don’t think that I will do anything for it in future too. But if you run a new website which is supposed to be your main website or blog, you can not stay away from it just because it is supposed to stay in Google sandbox for few months. You have to keep on working on it and by the time that it becomes released from the sandbox, it should have a lot of content and back-links. Keep in your mind that you should promote it legitimately, otherwise it not only will not leave the sandbox, but it may be penalized too.

Will You See the Same Result as My Website After 8 Months?

You will see the traffic goes up like what you can see on the above graph. However, having your website home page ranked as the #1 site or even on the first page, is something that is strongly dependent on the keyword/phrase that your website is optimized for.

First of all, if your website domain is not the key phrase exact match, you should not expect to see it on the first page even after a couple of years, because the priority is with the exact match websites, and then the other websites that are older and have a higher link popularity, strong content and… . It takes a lot more time and needs a lot more work to have a website like www.InternetMarketingTips.com, or www.Internet-Marketing-Tips.com, or www.PeterJones.com ranked on Google first page or ranked #1 for “Internet Marketing”, than a website like www.InternetMarketing.com. 

And second, if the keyword/phrase is among the competitive ones, the work will be a lot harder and takes much longer time.

However, as the time goes and you keep on working on your website, you will that the traffic received from Google increases, specially for the articles pages. Therefore, you should be able to see a monthly traffic graph with a pattern like the one I showed you above, if you are on the right track, and if there is no mistake or problem in your website. Just the numbers will be different based on the keyword/phrase that your website pages are optimized for. Google will increase your website pages ranking month after month, and so the traffic will increase. Even the home page ranking will become better every month. But as I said, having the home page ranked on Google first page, is something that depends on the domain name, the keyword competition, and of course the way you optimize, develop and design your website.

Keep in your mind that if the traffic is not going up every month, there is something wrong that has to be found out by you.

The same website’s weekly traffic trend:

weekly website traffic trend

As you can see on the above graph, the website traffic went up dramatically during the past 4 weeks which is almost after the Google’s most recent algorithm changes (Panda and Penguin). Panda and Penguin updates kicked so many websites and web pages to the bottom of the list. Many of the websites lost over 80% of their traffic. These two updates were focused on the filtration of the websites and web pages that were over-optimized or have been trying to have an artificial link popularity. They also affected so many websites because of the bad design, lack of proper internal link network, duplicated contents and these kinds of things. However, right after the Panda and Penguin updates, my website appeared on Google first page and then ranked as the #1 site. The Google updates that knocked down so many websites, gave a lot of credit to my website. It literally means that everything was prefect with my website from the new Google algorithm point of view.

I am trying to say that you will see a traffic improvement trend like what I showed you above, only if you follow the rule properly, otherwise your new websites will not get anywhere and will stay in Google sandbox for good, and your older websites will lose their ranking and traffic sooner or later. This is something that you should never forget.

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