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What Is the Google Sandbox?

Don't Forget Your Bucket and Spade...
 
Paul Smithson - 5th March 2009
   
paul smithson For several years now Internet marketers have referred to a place called ‘The Google Sandbox’, where new web sites go, for a temporary period, whilst Google decides where they should appear in their search engines.

However, according to Google’s Matt Cutts the “Google Sandbox” doesn’t actually exist.

So, is it a myth made up by Internet marketers to explain why new sites often appear in the search engines and then seemingly vanish into a no-mans land before returning, some time later, to take their rightful place in the search engine rankings?

Over to Matt Cutts of Google again.


Matt has confirmed that there is the possibility that a sandbox-like effect could happen to certain websites because of factors within Google's algorithms.

Unfortunately Google’s algorithms are a closely guarded secret and so it’s impossible to confirm what the factors might be and exactly how they impact on new sites, but experts within the industry have speculated over what these could be, so let’s take a look at some of their thoughts.

Firstly, there’s the issue of inbound links. No one at Google has actually come right out and stated that sites that get too many inbound links too quickly would be suspected of underhand techniques, but many marketers say that’s the case. 

It’s a well-known fact that Google doesn’t like the practice of buying links, or spamming guestbooks, blogs, or social sites for the purpose of gaining links. If a new site gets too many links too fast, it might look unnatural to the Google spider and this could result in the site being earmarked for further investigation before it ends up in Google’s search results. 

Another thing that is rumored to lead to the sandbox effect is a site that grows too quickly.

Sites that spring up out of nowhere with hundreds, or even thousands of pages, may look very suspicious to the Google spider.

Auto-generated spam sites are extremely prevalent, and Google is aggressively fighting to keep them from ranking in its index.  This may mean that some innocent sites get flagged as suspicious, simply because they seem too similar to auto-generated sites.

The way to avoid this is to keep growth slow, but consistent, at least for the first few months.  Add 100 pages or so per month, but don't put up a website with 5,000 pages all at once unless you really have no other option.

Duplicate content is also a possible reason your site could get sent to the mythical Google sandbox.  Many experts believe there’s a duplicate content penalty, and as such it’s wise to try and make your page content as different as you can to other people’s. That doesn’t mean you’ll be thrown out of the search engines for using some articles you found on an article directory, but if the vast majority of your site was made up of such content then you could well take a hit.

One last thing experts claim could help you avoid the sandbox-effect is to register your domain for more than one year.  Some people claim Google checks Whois information, and may trust that sites registered for longer than a year are more likely to stick around longer.

The major takeaway point is to do whatever you can to make sure your site is a genuine site as that is what Google wants to include in its search results.

If you have good quality content that grows over time, some of which is your own and some of which may come from other sources such as article directories, you will be well on the road to getting your site ranked. If you follow that up by avoiding the temptation of building a network of artificially generated inbound links you’ll be another step closer.

It’s all about being genuine and not coming across as one of those awful spammy web sites that provide absolutely no benefit to the visitor. I’m sure you’ll have seen the kind of thing. As many ‘clever’ people have proven it’s easy to shoot to the top of the search engines, but the problem is staying there over the long term.

In my experience, all the sites that do well over the long term were the ones that took their time and gradually climbed the search engine rankings. Best of all, once these sites did start to rank well they continued to do so for years. Other sites, using clever ‘black hat’ techniques would frequently shoot to the top of the rankings, but in no time at all Google would figure out what they’d done and that site would be wiped of the map, whilst the genuine site would still be there, day after day, week after week, for years.

Maybe the best way to avoid the mythical Google sandbox is to remember Aesop’s tale about the tortoise and the hare. As that story proves, it isn’t always the sly one that’s always rushing around who comes out on top, sometimes it’s the one who takes their time and has a clear vision of how they’re going to get from A to B.

About Paul Smithson - Paul Smithson is the founder of Intellimon and the driving force behind the best-selling XSitePro web site development tool. Since graduating in Business Strategy and Direct Marketing from two of Europe’s leading business schools, Paul has set up five multi-million dollar companies, one of which is now owned by the BBC. His areas of expertise include business strategy, e-commerce, on-line and off-line marketing, software development, and maximizing the potential of on-line businesses.


For more information about this, and many other Internet Marketing-related topics, visit Paul Smithson's site, www.xsitepro.com.

Source: http://www.xsitepro.com/what-is-the-google-sandbox.html


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