The Google Sandbox is an unconfirmed filter that Google places on new sites, such that no matter what you do, you cannot rank for a certain period of time. Of course, Google hasn't come out and confirmed the existence of the sandbox, but the evidence of its existence is apparent.
If you've launched a website within the past 6 months and haven't seen any traction getting it ranked on Google, odds are, you're probably stuck in the sandbox. But, how can you know for sure? Is there a certain amount of time a website can be stuck in this no-man's land?
As an SEO myself, I've found myself wondering this on a number of occasions, and it's only after having dealt with literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of websites, have I gotten a hold of what the sandbox really looks like.
The following are a few quick ways to tell if you're in the Google Sandbox.
Test #1: Verify The Age Of Your Site
Depending on the situation, the amount of time you're in the Sandbox can vary slightly. Generally speaking, most websites are in the Google Sandbox for an average of 3-6 months. This is from the time Google crawls and indexes your site, not from the domain registration.
So, with this being said, if you registered a domain name years ago but have yet to launch an actual website on it until recently, you're still going to feel the effects of the sandbox.
If your website is less than 6 months old, don't panic about not ranking, it's completely normal. To see if you're in the Sandbox, continue onto test 2 and 3.
Test #2: Verify Your Website Is Indexing
There's always a chance that you configured something wrong on your site and Google hasn't even crawled it, and that's the reason for the lack of rankings. If you're worried this might be happening to you, there's a quick trick you can try to check if Google sees your site or not.
Open up Google in a new tab, type in site:yourwebsite.com (ex: site:serpdecoder.com) Once you search this, Google will spit out every page of your site that is has indexed. If your pages are showing up, congratulations! Your website is in the Google index and is crawlable.
Test #3: Searching For Super Long Tail Keywords
Okay, so you're indexing, but you aren't showing up for your keywords still, right? It's still pretty nerve-racking having to sit and wait, but there another test you can do to ease your mind, and confirm you're in the Sandbox.
Just because your site is in the Sandbox doesn't mean it won't show for anything, it just means it won't show for anything that people are likely to search for (isn't it ironic?).
If you do a search for the exact title of your page (assuming it isn't yoa competitive target keyword) and follow it with something else unique to the post, such as your brand name, you should see your content in the first 2-3 pages of results.
If you see your content, you know it's indexing, you know its somewhat relevant to show for search terms, Google just isn't allowing it to show for anything substantial yet.
If you ran through all 3 tests and the results were a "yes", odds are very strong that you're in the Sandbox.
What Should You Do While In The Sandbox?
When you're in the Google Sandbox, there's still a lot that you can do to help boost your site in anticipation for being let out.
First, make sure you're continuing to post content. Make sure that content is added to your sitemap and you have your sitemap connected in Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools).
Next, get traffic from other sources! Write great content and share it on places like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Social traffic can still generate user signals that Google can pick up on. Don't spam your content, make sure you put out in front of an audience who will interact with it.
If your website has good user interactions, it can get you out of the Sandbox more quickly, which brings us to my next point.
Bypassing The Google Sandbox
What? You're probably wondering why i spent so much time talking about how the Sandbox is just a rite of passage, just to tell you that you can bypass it. Ehh, not so fast.
There are 2 ways to bypass the Sandbox, but they don't come without a catch.
Method 1: Go Viral
One of the few ways to get your site out of the Google Sandbox sooner rather than later is to go viral. Now, I'm not talking about running some facebook ads and getting a few hundred visitors a day. I am talking about server crashing, controversial, online insta-fame sort of viral.
If your website all of the sudden gets millions of hits, Google is going to pay attention. With this level of traffic, your odds of skipping the Sandbox go up substantially. However, nothing is guaranteed with Google, but it's one of the few options you have.
Method 2: Don't Use a New Domain
I don't fully back this tactic because it comes with benefits and drawbacks, but it is a solid way to bypass the Sandbox (is some cases).
Remember, the Sandbox is for new websites. If your website isn't new, you don't have to play by the same rules. Rather than buying a fresh domain name and starting from scratch, you can buy a domain that had another website on it in the past and with a little luck, Google will rank it without you having to wait the normal 3-6 months.
This tactic has been abused in the past and isn't a shoo-in. In fact, with this method, you're risking never ranking. If that domain you buy has had a penalty or spam in the past, there's always the chance that you'll be stuck on page 2-3 forever. By purchasing a pre-used domain, you're inhering the reputation of the website that was on it before, which can be good or bad. It is a roll of the dice, but if luck is on your side, it can help you get past the Sandbox.
How Do You Know When You're Out of The Sandbox?
After reading through this article, if you've come to the conclusion you're in the sandbox, odds are, you're probably right. Now you're probably wondering how you'll know when you're out of it.
Some key signs of being out of the sandbox include things like over 100% increase in traffic month over month and huge rank jumps. If you check the status of your keywords and see ranking jumping 20+ spots, this is a telltale sign you're coming out of the sandbox.
Being in the Google Sandbox is completely normal, and while it can be an absolute pain, it is one of the safety features that Google has in place to make sure they are always serving the best results.
Without the sandbox, the SERP would be mayhem.
If you're worried about your rankings, make sure your site is crawlable and indexing in Google. Make sure you focus on putting out decent quality content, with solid on-page SEO. If you're ranking for long-tail variations of your keyword but not anywhere for your main terms, you're probably in the sandbox.
Publish your content and share it on social media to help give yourself a boost and get some traffic while you wait out the Sandbox.