If you are not familiar with what the Google Sandbox aka “the Google sandbox effect” is, it’s basically a filter Google puts on new websites to prevent them from ranking very well for the first 2–12 months or so. While Google doesn’t directly admit to the policy’s existence, SEOs like ourselves see it in practice, and are the ones that came up with the name for it. We believe the term “Sandbox” references parents putting their kids in a sandbox. As they grow older and more mature, they are able to get out of the sandbox and face the real world.
Why Does the Google Sandbox Exist?
In the early days of SEO, it was much easier to spam Google. You could simply set up a website, and as long as it was properly keyword optimized, you could build links to it and rank almost overnight. As you can imagine, there were many affiliates and black hat SEOs that took advantage of this by creating tons of spammy websites. The sandbox was created to defend against these spammy tactics.
10 Ways to Lessen the Time Period of the Sandbox Effect
Although the sandbox can be annoying, the good news is that there are ways to get out of it faster. Here are some tips on how to get out of the Google Sandbox quickly:
1. Get Indexed Right Away
Even if your site is live, it does not start aging in Google’s eyes until it is actually indexed by them. You can check if your website is indexed by simply doing a Google search for: “site:yourdomain.com”. If it is not indexed, you will probably want to get it indexed as soon as possible. In order to speed up this process, you can register your domain with Google Search Console and request for Google to fetch and render your pages. You can find more information on how to do that by reading this article.
2. Social Signals
These are key to any new site gaining trust with Google because it allows Google to see that your website is gaining traction on other platforms. One simple method you can use to get social signals and traffic to your website is running Facebook ads. We recommend publishing an article on your blog and running it as a Facebook ad to a relevant audience.
Traffic is another factor that can help get your site ranking in its early days. You can gain traffic by using some of the methods below.
- Posting videos on YouTube around similar topics: YouTube has no sandbox so you can rank quickly on there and direct traffic to your website.
- Post in forums and Facebook groups: Instead of just linking directly to your website’s homepage, try to offer more value by linking to one of your blog posts.
- Facebook ads
- Guest posting on popular websites: This is also a great way to get a strong backlink. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo this early on. Your website may need to build some trust with Google before doing any major link building.
4. Foundational Links
While we believe it is a bad idea to do any major link building at this stage in your websites development, foundational links such as social profiles and citations can help. They show Google that your website is listed on various platforms across the web, and therefore your website appears more trustworthy to Google. We recommend using this service for foundation link building.
Tip: When asked by the service provider what anchor text you want to use for the links, ask for all generic, branded, and naked URL anchor text. Using keyword anchor text in this situation is unnecessary and may be seen as over-optimizing while your site is still building trust and authority.
5. GMB Verification
While GMB listings are key to any local website, they can also give national websites a boost. Just make sure that it is not against Google’s policy to get a verified GMB listing for your niche. In order to get your GMB verified, all you will need to do is ask Google to send a postcard to your home or office address. Once the postcard arrives, you will type in the code found in the postcard and your address will be verified. Keep in mind that you can also hide the address on Google Maps if your business does not want people visiting.
6. Go After Low Competition/Longtail Keywords When Your Site Is in the Google Sandbox
While Google will most likely not be giving you much exposure on your more competitive “money keywords” early on, they may allow you to rank for some low competition keywords. You can find longtail variations of your keyword by using our tool found at this link. You can also check to make sure a keyword is low competition by checking it’s difficulty score with a tool like SEMrush.
In addition to finding data on specific keywords you want to target, you can also use SEMrush to analyze your competitors and use some of the keywords they are ranking for. To do this, you can search for your competitor’s URL in the tool dashboard, which will then show you some of the keywords they are ranking for.
7. Build Topical Relevance (Without Keyword Cannibalizing)
Topical relevance refers to the relevance of your site as a whole instead of just single pages. Providing Google with additional pages of content that support your target topic may help build some relevancy and trust. That being said, we have been able to rank one page websites perfectly fine, and to us, it is not clear how much of a benefit having topical relevance actually provides. The other thing you should make sure you are not doing is cannibalizing your keywords by targeting the same keyword on multiple pages. Instead, we recommend that you target related keywords and similar topics with your supporting pages.
8. Avoid Being Too Aggressive
Overall, Google is more lenient towards spam coming from authoritative websites and more strict towards spam coming from newer websites. While it may be annoying to deal with the Google sandbox effect, doing too much off-page SEO work during this time to try and get out of the sandbox may be counterproductive. We suggest that you take it easy during this time by doing things like:
- Not building a huge volume of links
- Drip-feeding the foundational links you build
- Using under-optimized anchor text
- Getting social signals
Giving your website a slow but steady start should help in the long run to build more trust with Google and allow you to be a little bit more aggressive, with your link building methods, if you choose to be, once you get out of the sandbox.
9. Use an Auction Domain That Is Still Indexed
An auction domain is a domain which someone is selling directly or that a registrar is selling because it has expired. If you are impatient and prefer to skip the waiting period altogether, this may be a good route to go down. You can find these by going to sites like Godaddy Auctions or Flippa, but you don’t want to just purchase any domain you see. You will need to run some tests on these domains to see if they are clean, relevant, and decently powerful. You can perform these checks by:
- Checking to see if the domain is indexed: As we mentioned earlier in this article, you can check to see if a site is indexed by searching for “site:yourdomain.com” on Google.
- Checking if the domain is actually ranking for any keywords: You can check this very simply by putting the domain into a tool like SEMrush. If it is ranking for some keywords, that is a good sign that this domain is not sandboxed.
- Checking the domain’s backlink profile: You can use a tool like SEMrush to see some of the backlinks of the website. Make sure the linking domains are not spammy and that the anchor text is mostly under-optimized. In other words, the anchor text should be mostly naked URLs, generic, image, and branded.
- Checking the domain with the Wayback Machine: make sure that the domain’s past history does not contain any spammy redirects or did not host any spammy looking sites. You should also check to make sure that the previous history of this domain is at least somewhat related to the current website you are looking to build.
10. Buy an Active Website to avoid the Google Sandbox Effect
If your main goal is to get out of the sandbox without having to spend a decent amount of money on the site, we suggest finding a website that has small amounts of search traffic and age, but little to no income. You can use a website like Flippa to find established websites that you can potentially expand on or repurpose.
The great part about buying an active website is that you can gauge the power of the domain by seeing which keywords it is ranking for.
Even though the sandbox can be annoying to be in, it is possible to shorten the period of time by using the methods we mentioned. Please let us know of any experiences you have with these methods or feel free to suggest some other ones in the comments below.