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November 14, 2005

Getting Your Site Out of the Google Sandbox

By Jack Spirko – SEO Specialist
The MasterLink Group, Dallas Texas

So Just what is a “Google Sandbox”?

There has been a lot of talk about Google placing new sites in a “sandbox” away from the regular ranking index, to rank well in Google’s general organic listings a new site simply must get out of this sandbox phase as soon as possible. So how long does this period last if you don't take specific steps to speed it up? Generally from 120-180 days, that is up to a half a year just to start being given a fare shake. During this period, new sites tend to have low page rank or even a page rank zero however, they often rank well in MSN or Yahoo in spite of being shunned by Google.

To me personally this is just one big reason Google will continue to loose market share to Yahoo and MSN. People what the most germane content to their search and ruling out all the content put up over the past 180 days rules out a lot of content.

If that is true then just why did Google create the sandbox?

In theory sandbox prevents new sites using what Google sees as "tricks" to rapidly gain rankings. By filtering out sites that are new they force you to build real and relevant content and links over time. While this seems good in theory it basically assumes that your site has nothing relevant to contribute until it passes some random time period some person at Google simply decided was "long enough". As you can tell I am not a fan of the "sandbox". Of course as an SEO Specialist I guess that is natural but if you think about it with logic this does seem to be a bit like tossing the baby with the bath water does it not?

What triggers the sandbox?

According to the few people at Google, (such as googleguy) who will comment on the sandbox, “The sandbox is triggered mainly by unnatural linkage patterns. As evidenced by Goggle’s recent patent, Google has been keeping track of historical data for some time now. Google has an excellent understanding of what natural linkage and text looks like”. Which to me again personaly is Google simply stating, that we have decided that a new site is not capable of gaining quality links in any quantity quickly no mater how germane the content may be or what the quality of the site may be.

There are a few things you should be aware of to understand this issue.

First Your Anchor Text

One of the biggest signs of over optimization is your anchor text. If the majority of your anchor text is for the same keyword phrase, Google may penalize your site. Natural anchor text is varied and Google knows this. So if you want to optimize for lets say “low mortgage rates” make sure you use various anchors such as “get low mortgage rates” and “find low mortgage rates” as you build links both on and off site.

Next Your Incoming Links

Google’s algorithm knows if your incoming links are not natural if you just launched your site and you already have five thousand links to it. Google knows how many incoming links your site has, the rate of incoming link growth, the anchor text used, what ip addresses the links come from and many other signs of artificial efforts to inflate rankings to quickly will almost always lock the sandbox down harder.

Finally the location of your links and where they point to are of key importance.

The location of your off site links is very important natural links occur on many different sites hosted on different servers all over the country and the world if you have 100 links from a single IP address that is sure to trigger the filer and even after you are “out of the box” those links will still be discounted and do you little if any good. On where your incoming links are pointing to, if they all or even most point to your homepage, there is high probability you will indeed trigger the filter. So as you build links focus on 5-10 pages (at least) on your site and try to create a balance of home page and deep links.

So what can you do to avoid the sandbox?

In theory not all new sites are placed in the box though I tend to disagree with this. I personaly feel they all are or if you don’t trigger it that means you link popularity is so low it won’t matter, you still will not rank for any competitive terms. However you can indeed cut down your time in the box with a few simple steps.

First acquire offsite links slowly and avoid “link farms”. Work hard especially in the beginning to gain 20-30 links on very much “on topic” pages and vary your anchor text using the main phrases surrounded by different terms and even break your phrase up and leave a word out from time to time. By the time you gain 10-15 links to your home page try to have 20-30 “deep links” to various pages on your site. One of the biggest things you can do is the second you register your domain, place a temporary page up and get it indexed. If your site is going to be in initial development for say 1-2 months DO NOT WASTE THAT TIME get indexed fast and let Google see you continue to add content as soon as a page is decent get it added to your online web.

Even during construction try to obtain some off site links and start pushing links to your sub pages right away. Continue to develop your content and stay aware of all the important on page factors as well. We may not like that sandbox but it is here to stay for a while anyway.

Now here is the good news, no make that great news. In spite of the fact that Yahoo and MSN don’t at this time have a sandbox of their own the reality is if you take the approach I advise here you are going to do very well with both of them as well.