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What is the Google Sandbox Effect and Why is it Destroying Your SEO?

The Google Sandbox. Well, it isn’t the place where kids have fun and neighborhood kittens do their “gardening”. It’s actually an important phenomenon to help in understanding your SEO (or Search Engine Optimization).

Bottom line, the sandbox is a temporary filter for new websites.

And the reason it exists is likely a direct result of SEOs getting too good at figuring out Google’s algorithms.

So if Google puts you into the sandbox, there’s really two core outcomes.

Outcome #1 – They reevaluate and find you actually do fit the profile of a spammer or SEO results manipulator.

Outcome #2 – Or you eventually get your release papers, get out of the penalty sandbox, and get to compete in the full Google search rankings.

If it turns out to be option one, then you went too far, and you’re probably penalized in ways that are going to make your time in the sandbox irrelevant.

Doing SEO is risky and if you’re going to do black hat or deeply gray hat SEO, you had better know what you’re doing.

Does the Google Sandbox Actually Exist?

Most likely it does. We did decide to write a whole article on it so it better be

If you’re not convinced, you should be. Here’s why:

Google is certainly aware of SEO tactics employed by various pros. The initial discovery and ranking of new websites has to be handled as a special case in their ranking algorithms.

It is a challenge to both optimize a site and also avoid getting pushed into the sandbox for doing so. Once you’re in there, it can take months to escape and begin getting traffic for some of the search keywords for your pages.

Why is the Sandbox algorithm hitting you?
  • Low quality links
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Duplicate content
  • Automated content
  • Hidden text or links
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Rich snippet spam
  • Anything else considered spam by Google

In the case of spammers who buy and manufacture links in various ways, Google would be rightfully cautious to chuck them into the sandbox head first.

In the case of great content, a solid social media campaign, and savvy marketing people on your site – Google would be wrong.

Or perhaps, “overly cautious.”

On average, they tend to be right. While the sandbox is inconvenient when we are trying to pull in new traffic, as Google users, we benefit greatly from much better search results.

Are you in the sandbox? Google Sandbox and penalty checking tool

What can you do to get out of the Google Sandbox?
  1. Clear your website of anything considered spam (see above)
  2. Do white hat SEO and marketing
  3. Make sure your website is easily scannable and indexable with a sitemap.xml file and robots.txt file and submit them to Google via Google Search Console
  4. Each one of your web pages needs to have a tag
1.Get rid of spam tactics

The best course of action is actually to continue creating strong content and earning quality links to your site.

If, on the other hand, you’re getting low quality links or using keyword stuffing and other methods listed above then it’s really very simple. Stop. Then go back and remove all of it.

2. Do white hat SEO

The second suggestion we have is also a best practice overall. Try to do some good marketing. It’s true that Nofollows don’t add to your search ratings but they do provide some diversity to your link structure which makes it look more like natural links.

  1. Make your website easily scannable

Once you got all the obvious content and link building stuff out of the way you need to remember that Google is based on bots and without proper guidance bots are like Alicia Silverstone: Clueless.

Google Search Console, or the platform previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, is a great starting point for any website regardless of sandboxes or penalties.

  1. Use the tag

The tag is a tag you want to add to your XML sitemap file. You need to modify this tag with every new modification you make to your website. It helps Google keep track, which is crucial if you’re taking steps to get out of the sandbox.

Shaking the sand out

So now you have your plan of attack. First, get rid of your spam tactics. Google is on to you so there’s no point of continuing to do it. There are no work arounds. Do not pass go. Do not collect your $200. It’s time to join the light side, white hat seo that it.

You can keep building links but you need to do it the white hat way: guest posts, outreach campaigns, and quality content that people want to link to and share. Then, do more marketing: promote your content to your target demographics and get the word out. It might not work as fast as back hat SEO but the way we see it is “once bitten, twice shy.“

Tell us about your experiences getting trapped in the sandbox. How did your traffic change when you broke out?


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I'm Head of Marketing Operations at AdNgin. Before coming to AdNgin, I was a marketing professional focused on SAAS business models. When I'm not working, which is rare, I sail and hang out with my son, Jonathan, and wife, Meital.

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