Back from holidays and firing on all cylinders. And straight into one of our favourite subjects: the dreaded sandbox! The tomb of websites in the hollows of the SERP...
First things first. What is Google Sandbox? Is it real or just the SEO’s Nessie? Debate has been going on for some time now, and signs are the debate will go on. Google officials don’t say anything about it, SEO “specialists” around the world use it to justify their failures, site owners curse its existence when they think they got their wheel caught up in it. But the question remains.
Let me be clear. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Something is out there, lurking in the shadows of the SERP; but it’s not what you’d think. It’s actually worse :)
Sandbox gospel states that this effect occurs to new sites, when Google temporarily reduces the page rank of new domains, placing them into what is referred to as its "sandbox", in an effort to counter the ways that search engine optimizers attempt to manipulate Google's page ranking by creating lots of inbound links to a new web site from other web sites that they own.
As you’d expect, I believe this to be false. A few facts stay by my side:
- Google loves fresh content. Why would it punish new websites? On the contrary, our observations state that new websites are welcome to the game, and only suffer some damage after an initial boost of a couple of months, IF they can’t get to be good enough to actually rank for the keywords that they’re aiming for.
- New websites bring new voices to the web, Google encourages this, in an effort to improve their own SERP, troubled by recent Bing victories.
- Page Rank, the measure for the sandbox enthusiasts, has decreased in relevance, so much so in fact that Google is actually putting it on hold as a metric, while they reevaluate its existence.
Most of the time, new websites that fail to get ranked, or get ranked and then are quickly demoted, are getting this treatment as a result of what they are doing. Or - even more so to the point - due to what their SEO is doing. New websites, while encouraged to come to the table, are being more closely watched, that’s one fact about the sandbox that is true. The biggest mistakes that lead to the “sandbox effect” are:
- Backlinks. Sure, they matter a great deal, and there should be a concerted effort from a website to get them. Most people believe the quantity of links is to be blamed, other believe it’s the speed at which a site is acquiring IBL’s. Actually, it’s neither. It’s the rate of getting IBLs. The thing to remember is that Google relies on natural backlinks for ranking websites. Why would a new website that gets 1000 links over night be a bad thing? It could be the next Internet phenomenon. Provided tomorrow and the day after, and the week after it keeps up. This is the mistake most rookie SEO’s make: getting a massive amount of IBL’s fast, and then... crickets. Now think for a minute and think: if a new website gets 1000 links one day, and the next 5, would you believe it’s natural evolution? Me neither. So important tip: KEPP YOUR IBL RATE!
- Link exchange. Ah... one of my favorites. This idiocy that worked a couple of years ago roams the internet like a cancer, never seeming to die. A lot of rookie SEO’s truly believe it to be beneficial. And they do it. While irrelevant in most circumstance, it’s downright poisonous for new websites. STOP THE LINK EXCHANGE CANCER!!!
- Bad onsite. This is actually something that should be done before launching a website. Proper onsite can help a website tremendously, but the opposite is true as well, as bad onsite will bury it.
- CONTENT. Most new website owners, the moment they pay for the domain name, seem to gat fire ants in their pants. The site isn’t even half done yet, but they want to be on the first page of Google. This would be on of the main reasons for startups failure: NOT ENOUGH CONTENT. Forget about the relevance. I’ll say it again here, as I have many times: SEO means Search Engine OPTIMIZATION. You need something to optimise first, having 2 html files and calling it a website just won’t do. And then comes all the talk about relevance to the issue, quality, etc.
Bottom-line. There is no “Google Sandbox”. At least not in the way it’s believed to be. There are only mistakes penalized by a search engine that gave you a chance, indexed you, to find you’re not worth the chance, because you tried to break the rules!