The Google Sandbox refers to an alleged filter that prevents new websites from ranking in Google’s top results. Think of it like a probation period—even if you do everything right, your site won’t get decent rankings until it comes to an end.
The Google Sandbox has never been officially confirmed by Google. But many SEOs are confident in its existence, as they see sandbox-like effects when trying to rank new websites.
So what’s the truth? Does the Google Sandbox exist in 2018? If so, how do you prevent Google from “sandboxing” your site?
To answer these questions, I reached out to a few SEO practitioners to learn what they think about Google sandbox in 2018, based on their experience with new websites.
Huge thanks to these guys:
Bill Sebald, the owner of Greenlane digital marketing agency
Edward Sturm, Director of Marketing @ World of Ether, previously SEO specialist at iProspect
Eric Sachs, SEO expert and CEO of Sachs Marketing Group
Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media (Andy was especially excited about this topic. He has worked on 1000+ website projects over 18 years and had a lot to share).
Now let’s get started.
Google Sandbox: A Brief History
Back in 2004, webmasters and SEO professionals noticed that their newly launched websites were not ranking well on Google for the first few months, despite their SEO efforts.
New websites were duly indexed by Google, but they did not rank even for relatively low-competition keywords and phrases. But they were ranking well on other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo.
This “sandbox” effect lasted from a few weeks to several months.
Keeping in mind that Google wants to serve authoritative and high-quality content to its users and might not trust in brand new websites, that actually made sense.
Rand Fishkin, for example, believed that SEOmoz had been sandboxed for 9 months, despite its perfectly natural strong backlink profile.
SEOmoz is finally sandbox free for the first time since our move to this domain 9 months ago. We aren’t alone, either. Many folks had sites escape, and I’m happy for all of them. It looks like our 12,000+ all-natural links (never link built for this site, just link-baited) finally paid off.
Rand Fishkin, Co-founder Moz
There was even a theory that the Google sandbox was pushing people to spend money on PPC.
In 2014 Google sandbox got another wave of interest when site owners and SEOs again saw that their new sites were not ranking as quickly as they used to, on a large scale. This was mostly discussed on black hat forums and could be the result of another anti-spam filter from Google.
Is There a Sandbox Period in 2018 and If so, How Long Does It Last?
Although I’ve personally met people boasting about high rankings for 1-month old websites, many SEOs believe there is something that prevents a brand new website from reaching the top search positions.
A lot of SEO experts even list it among the Google ranking factors.
Let’s learn a few opinions from SEO experts. Here’s what I asked them:
1. In your work, do you feel the impact of the Google Sandbox (or whatever looks similar to it) on new websites?
2. How long does it usually take to get out of the sandbox?
1. I never thought it was a specific “found a new site; let’s suppress it until we know it’s not a fly-by-night site” type filter. But yes, a new site, be it a start-up or a microsite for an established domain, struggles to get visibility until it proves its importance to Google.
2. If getting out of the sandbox means ranking on the first page, the answer depends on the time put into improving the signals vs the competitiveness of the existing sites. It could be days, months, or years. You get out what you put in. But if getting out of the sandbox means getting indexation, that shouldn’t take more than a few days (unless something is wrong).
Bill Sebald, Owner Greenlane
1. While I agree there’s no Sandbox, there telemarketing list are certainly sandbox-like algorithms in place to make sure only quality and/or dedicated webmasters are given the SERP coverage they need.
2. I’m a believer in the “13 month rule” for new sites that aren’t receiving a ton of mentions. For these sites, once the algos see that the site exists past 1 year (non-dedicated webmasters will not pay for hosting fees past 1 year), results tend to increase.
Edward Sturm, Director of Marketing World of Ether
1. Yes absolutely. I completely believe that all new domains experience a “proving period” before they have a shot at organic visibility in Google’s SERPS.
2. That’s dependent on so many different factors. It definitely cannot be a “set it and forget it” approach. The more development one does (content, links, content, directories, Search Console, content, social signals, content, local directories, content, local citations, etc.) the better. As a general rule, I’ll go out on a limb and say 4-6 weeks.
Eric Sachs, CEO Sachs Marketing Group
1. The way