Lost in Google’s sandbox? Here’s how to find your way out
Since moving to my new domain in March I’ve been stripped of my glorious Google page one rankings for my key terms (copywriter, copywriting etc), and left groveling with a begging bowl in the dank, dark depths of its search listings. Whilst a brief fall from grace was expected, I’d hoped it would only be a few months before Google learned to love me again.
However, when I noticed that my Yahoo page one ranking had been reinstated I started to panic.
Well, it would appear that Google has banished me to their ‘sandbox’. This is a mystical (some would say mythical) place where new websites are held until they’ve matured enough to be allowed to hang around with the older sites on Google’s top listings.
Whether the sandbox is an actual Google policy or merely a theory is a debate I’ll leave for the SEO experts (which is why I’m being particularly diplomatic in this article).
However, there are some generally agreed reasons why the sandbox would exist and how you can find your way out:
Why have a sandbox?
Google’s continuing success (and future world domination) relies on providing the most relevant answers to search queries. Consequently, their mathematical algorithm for classifying websites has to be able to separate the dross from the silver.
It’s believed (by some) that Google introduced the sandbox to encourage website owners to build a decent volume of good quality content and links from other sites before they’d be allowed a high ranking for competitive keywords.
The sandbox was also (allegedly) introduced to stop people using ‘black hat’ tactics to deceive Google’s spiders (e.g. keyword cloaking and link buying). The idea being that rather than using quick fix tactics, webmasters would be forced to prove they’d obey Google’s rules and could play fairly before their websites would be allowed to run free.
So how do I find my way out?
Opinions vary. But it’s generally agreed that if you’ve got a new domain then you’ll serve a minimum of six months in the sandbox before you can earn Google’s trust and be let out blinking at the bright lights of a page one ranking.
The way to find your way out, and prove to Google that you’ll behave, is to regularly add content to your website that’s relevant to your business and attracts links from other sites. This is something blogs are great at: naturally building your exposure through commenting on other blogs and attracting links to your content.
Attracting links from other relevant sites is crucial. It’s believed that links are the decisive part of the equation for earning a release from the sandbox.
You can’t just build your website, paste its pages with a bulk order of keyword articles and then sit back for six months waiting for Google’s approval. You have to build up back links and then wait for the actual links to age before Google will even think about letting you free from their holding pen.
Quality content builds trust with Google as well as customers
Whilst black hat tactics might work temporarily, Google are constantly fine tuning their algorithm to open the trapdoor on those they consider cheats and to promote those who’ve put in the hard graft and become valued members of their online community.
So writing insightful, valuable and link worthy content is necessary for building trust with Google, as well as with your customers.
Hopefully, this post will go a small way towards encouraging Google to love me again, and expediate my early release for good behaviour.