When you were a youngster, you probably have fond memories of playing in the sandbox. Building castles and digging holes was a great way to pass the time as a youth. If you are a business who utilizes the web to generate business and attention, then the last place you want to spend time is the sandbox… Google’s Sandbox, that is.
You may be asking yourself, “What the heck is he talking about?” Well, I don’t blame you, the first time I heard of someone being stuck in the Sandbox, I didn’t think it was a bad thing. As it turns out, if you want to be found on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) when potential clients look for your keywords then it’s a very bad thing.
So, for your website to “be in the Sandbox” basically means you’re in a holding area where your search rankings are on hold until Google can determine if your website is “search worthy.” Once Google deems your site to be of quality and importance, the website will be removed from the Sandbox and will start to appear on SERPs.
While being stuck in the Sandbox stinks, it was created for the right reasons. Back in the day, Google was trying to stop spam websites from getting to the top of SERPs, as businesses would set up promotional sites for a short amount of time, and they would gain a high ranking even after the promotion was over. The end result was unsatisfied searchers, and Google hates that. So to avoid that, they created the Sandbox to “scare” site owners into playing by their “rules” and keeping things on the up and up.
Now, if you are playing nice with Google – and avoiding black hat SEO techniques (we will get into that at another time) – and you think you may be in the Sandbox, there are a few things to check:
- Be certain that you are using original content; duplicate content is a major issue with Google.
- Make sure you are not having server problems. If your site is down when Google comes to index your site, they won’t see any original content and could banish you to the Sandbox.
- Check the links on your site, to ensure they are not broken, as that will count against you.
- Is your site brand new? It can sometimes take months before your website, starts to show up on SERPs.
If all of that checks out, do a search on Google for your site. Start by entering “www.yourwebsite.com” into the Google Search bar (replace “yourwebsite.com” with your site address). If Google shows no results, then most likely your entire website has been dropped. If yourwebsite shows in the results but has recently dropped down in keyword rankings, then you are still indexed but it looks like you were put in the Sandbox.
Now, Google doesn’t acknowledge the Sandbox as no one is privy to their algorithms or how they index pages. In essence, Google is like the Wizard behind the curtain making the decisions while remaining out of view. Websites are like Dorothy trying to figure out what to say to have the Wizard grant her wishes. All we can do it constantly test, perform research and surmise as to what they are looking for… and hopefully our wishes will be granted.