Feeling boxed in? Thoughts on the Google Sandbox

sandboxWhat is the sandbox?
A site is sandboxed when it is has been made ‘search engine friendly’ for search phrases that are not overly competitive (such as the unique company name) yet still does not rank for the phrase(s) in Google even though it has been indexed.  Sandboxed sites are indexed but not ranking.  Don’t confuse that with not yet having been indexed, which can take time, especially for new domains or completely rebuilt sites.   Sandboxing does not happen to existing sites that make a lot of updates.  Sandboxing happens to new domains and sites that undergo change so rapidly they are seen as being completely new sites, such as a complete re-build.

How to tell if a site is in the sandbox


How to get out of the sandbox
There are many theories on this subject.  The short version is this:  Google (etc) are in the business of giving the right answer.  They are rewarded for doing so by end users choosing them as the search engine to use.  Our job is to convince the search engine that our site is the right answer to the question using our key phrases.  Here’s how we do that.

  1. Gain trust. Most SEOs believe that sandboxing happens because Google doesn’t trust the site as being the best answer to the question associated with the key phrase(s).  It is therefore about gaining Google’s trust.  How do you gain Google’s trust?  By making the site more trustworthy.  Use techniques such as:
    • Incorporating trusted links to and from trusted sites
    • Making sure you have quality content
    • Use an old domain name that has been live, which can be accomplished by purchasing a site
  2. Be remarkable. If you publish content that will skyrocket the site to internet celebrity by getting mention on huge blog sites, slashdot, digg, del.icio.us, etc., Google won’t ignore that and you’ll get rank for the associated key phrases.  Remember, the end user is really in charge and Google will bow to their demands.  It doesn’t have to take months to get good rank but it takes lots of end users to pull that rank instead of waiting for Google to push it.
  3. Change gears. If you identify and super-target non-sandboxed keyword terms, you can build up the site until it gets released from the sandbox.
  4. Play at a different park. Start a buzz marketing campaign and use other SEM techniques.  In other words, gain popularity outside of SEO.  This accomplishes two things:  You gain site traffic organically, which builds trust and it buys you time to wait out the sandbox.