The Sandbox effect in Google is something that frustrates a lot of website owners. This is not to be confused with Google’s Sandbox program, the sandbox effect is an officially undocumented but widely reported penalty that gets applied to brand new domains.
The sandbox effect is most commonly experienced by bulk domains or recently purchased domains that have not been linked to yet. The sandbox effect does not apply to all brand new sites, but it is something that webmasters need to be aware of. If you’re a domainer, read this article for more on how the sandbox effect can impact your sites and which tactics you can use to avoid it.
What Does The Sandbox Effect Do?
The sandbox effect is a penalty that is automatically applied to new domains that have no existing/relevant backlinks to them. Generally, a brand new domain, for a brand new website will be placed in the sandbox right away and the result is that you will get next to no organic traffic from Google.
This makes launching a brand new website rather difficult. Pages upon pages of high quality, relevant content will be completely ignored in the results pages on Google simply because you have a new site that Google can’t trust just yet.
The sandbox effect will start out very strong and over time it will gradually become less strict. After around 6 months, your website should have been removed from the sandbox and you will see a noticeable difference in traffic coming to the website. That is, assuming you have put some effort into building fresh, new content during this time period. Google doesn’t want empty websites.
Does The Sandbox Effect Apply To New Domain Names on Existing Sites?
More often than not, if you are simply changing the domain name of your existing site, you should be able to easily avoid the sandbox. If you are able to successfully set up permanent redirects from your old domain to the new domain. Google will very quickly transfer all of the authority from the old domain over to the new domain.
You will see a drop in rankings during this transition period but this often lasts weeks rather than months. The main issue with new domains is Google does not know if they can trust the content that is going to be available. Since an existing site will have some backlinks and authority already built up, you will be able to transfer this to the new domain which will get it out of the sandbox almost immediately.
Will Buying A Bunch of Backlinks Get Me Out of The Sandbox?
Buying backlinks is considered Black Hat SEO and while it can sometimes work for people, it is against the TOS for Google. If you have a big site that has been around for years, you will more than likely get away with purchasing some backlinks but if you have a brand new domain, you need to be extra careful.
Think of it this way. A brand new domain comes online. Within a few days, it has loads of backlinks that have an unnatural pattern to them suddenly appear. All Google will end up doing at this point is applying a manual penalty to your website rather than removing it from the sandbox.
You should absolutely aim to get some backlinks while in the sandbox but buying them from link farms is not going to help you at all.
Why Does Google Sandbox New Domains?
Google does not officially sandbox domains at all, so we do not have an official answer to this question. However, many SEO experts believe that the sandbox effect is performed as a way to protect Google from sudden manipulation from spammy websites.
One example that is super common is the fake “generator” websites for games. Games like Fortnite have an in-game currency called V-Bucks. There is no way to generate free vbucks, otherwise, the game’s developer would be losing a lot of money. This does not stop it from being a high traffic term that has very low competition. Why is the competition low? Because nobody can provide a result for this term.
If this term is getting a few thousand impressions per day, you could quickly create new domains that quickly rank #1 for some of these terms, enjoy a few weeks of high revenue from it before Google bans the domain. Then you move onto a new domain.
Having to wait 3-6 months for your domain to start ranking makes this tactic prohibitive. This is one theory as to why the sandbox effect exists and why it will more than likely remain in the future.
Will Parked Domains Be Removed From The Sandbox?
If you have to wait 3-6 months, why not just buy a domain now, leave it for 6 months and then start putting some effort into it? Good idea, but this is not how it works. You do not automatically get out of the sandbox after 3-6 months. This is generally how long it takes when you are actively trying to get out of it. If you put no effort into getting out, you will never get out.
Parked domains have no value to a search engine and neither do blank websites that never get updated. The less effort you put in, the longer it takes to get out. If you put in no effort, you never get out. It is as simple as that.
Sandbox’s Relation To Google Penalty
The Google Sandbox Effect is also used as a tool to make sure that a website that has been flagged for violating their Webmaster Guidelines can’t do any further damage to the Google Search Engine. This is why you must always respond to Google penalties urgently and with all seriousness.
You may have a small penalty that causes a full or partial sandbox effect to be applied to your site. It does not matter how old the website is. A penalty can kill weeks of hard work.
Obviously, penalties can be lifted and if you respond swiftly, the penalty can be removed in a few weeks. The sandbox effect however does not always get lifted with the penalty. From experience, I found that an outbound link penalty, which only Google said devalued outbound links as punishment ended up in the sandbox for 3 months after the penalty was lifted. This was pretty devastating for an established domain and a stern warning to take Googles Tos seriously.