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How long is the Sandbox effect (months and days)

 9:25 am on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hello, I've developed a website for a very competitive field. We've won 300 natural links from blogs (some of them very well known not exactly Techcrunch but similar relevance in my country) and from digital versions of very well known newspapers. I've never bought or exchanged a link, I'm building something honest and for the long run.

All the links are from articles or posts about our market, maybe 60% from relevant ones, and the rest from the typical blogs written with love by their authors. The anchor text is most of the times our brand, but all the text surrounding is on-topic. We had this link with natural rhythm, a good quantity the weeks of launch, and the rest spontaneously month by month.

Our market is some country in Europe. And our backlink profile is very much powerful than our competitors (who basically buy or exchange links through other webs they own as their corporate blogs in example).
I've write this long description because I want to explain what kind of work I've done.

Our website now has 50-90 visitors a day (almost nothing), half of them trough referral links, a quarter from searches with our brand and the last 25% from long phrases or not the most competitive keywords. This is a Sandbox.

I'm in this sandbox more than 18 months since first link or since first visit trough google (they're 3 days difference). Yes, our domain was a new one, and the link bait and seo work started the same day we launched the website. That's why we are sandboxed.

Now we are desperate, because we are now two weeks away from the day we passed the 18 months limit.
The sandbox effect over our website has evolved a lot from first days to this moment, month by month, but our traffic and our place in google listings are not natural. It's still very very strong. We see better rankings each month through webmaster tools, but now we are at 18th month and two weeks, and I don't know how much more I have to wait.

My question is, How long I'm gonna have to wait? We are a small start up and we are very stressed, running without incomes. We didn't think it would happen because we thought Google Sandbox wouldn't exist this days.

I'd like to receive some feedback from people working with new brands, new domains in insurance, hotel, cheap flight industries, because they are maybe more competitive than my niche.

[edited by: tedster at 5:50 pm (utc) on Dec 9, 2012]



 8:18 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't believe there's such a thing as the "The Sandbox" as some people believe there is. And even so, 18 months is a long time.

You should investigate the history of the domain before you had it. Have you filed a reconsideration request just to check whether it is under a manual penalty ?


 8:23 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Reconsideration request is always the ABSOLUTE last option to choose, I have a site that has suffered for 16 Month I have still not asked for a reconsideration request, but I have also heard that a manual penalty stops after about 4 Month?


 8:41 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

@zeus, I understand what you mean. But I don't think there would be any harm in doing so. Either, he gets confirmation that the site is under-penalty, or he gets an automated-reply saying there's no manual action.

If your point is about trying to stay "under-the-radar", then the automated reply won't cause him to be noticed. If he is in fact penalized, there's no use trying to hide.

My feeling is that if your site can't stand up to manual scrutiny by a Google Human, then eventually one of the Google Animals will get you algorithmically. Just get it out of the way, rather waiting 18 or 16 months doing nothing but hoping.


 9:29 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

What natural (seriously natural, not 'fake natural') quality signals does your site have going for it?

I've gone through what feels like the traditional sandbox many times in recent years, and found that the only reliable way to get out was to actually get real people interested in what I was doing on the site. It sounds like I'm drinking the Google Kool-Aid, but I swear it works.

Don't forget to go offline as well -- for example, if you have something interesting, email your local radio talk show hosts who might be interested. They're always dying for something relevant to talk about. It's hard to fill hours each day, and getting some type in search traffic can be helpful.


 10:11 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

I build sites for competitive terms that rank within a month.I do this with less than 20 links.My links are a mixture of good , average and medicore quality.
18 months sandbox suggests to me something is very wrong.Either the domain had a bad history or your links are perceived badly by google.How are you faring with Msn?


 10:21 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

@klarko Sandbox exists without discussion (Matt Cutts said, not me, in an interview with John Batelle in 2005). The point is how long could We expect in their maximum expression.
@Sand thanks, offline doesn't have impact, only links matters. Natural is natural, you do something interesting, talk about it to people with blogs and they find it interesting and publish things about you and competitors. We did something interesting, that's all. But I expected 18 months for sandbox but... Dude, now it's few days more, but I don't know if I should wait for 19 or 20 months.
@Zeus we don't have to do a reconsideration request, because we are not out of Google nor penalised. We have good rankings for low competitive terms, and that means low traffic from searches and low "buying intemption" and low sales. Low incomes are a problem for a little start up trying to build a business doing honest SEO (following their guidelines and working hard).
@Klarko about the domain is the origin of the sandbox, it was new. Absolutely new (is our brand, it didn't existed before. The reason we are in the sandbox is: new domain + a decent amount of links (more links, more sandbox effect) + competitive market (more competitive, stronger sandbox effect)

The question is if anybody has the REAL experience about Sandbox, how long it could be, from your own experience, with competitive terms. A new website selling shoes (nation wide) or properties, travel or insurances... That kind of things.

Have you ever done something interesting with a new website? Something like Kayak (how long was their Sanbox effect) or Hipmunk, or Trippit. Or insurance comparison sites, or any website going for competitive terms, with new domain, and natural links obtained like the examples like that.

Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences...


 10:23 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ Cabbie

What do you mean by ranking quickly?, op appears to be getting about 25 visitors per day.

My experience withe new sites is identical, tho I've nothing like the Op by way of links.

My take is that if you've already got establishd sites that Google knows,

Your "new sites" are not treated as new, but get a substantial benefit from your existing Google profile.

To me, this generally undermines most of the advice given here to newcomers cos Google emphatically treats webmasters differently


 10:40 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Cabbie thanks. Bing is doing exactly the same. I think they've the same Sandbox effect than Google (copied, of course). I don't know why is lasting a lot too, I have a theory that Bing copied the same algorithm for this issue, or developed a very similar formula observing Google. I was surprised about this, but I think that Bing is worst than Google evaluating the relevance of websites.

I know the first thought could be: you've something wrong with your website. But it isn't. It's almost plain HTML. We are indexed but for low volume searches. Month by month it has evolved, going better, but it's lasting more that I've ever read.

In addition: we did another website first, new domain, same competitive market but only were able to obtain 8 links from blogs, some of then with average relevance. We were Sanboxed from first day (we weren't in first page for our own domain). It was Sanboxed for 1 year, less 10 days. We have very low visits from searches maybe 30 or 60 a day, but that's what I expected because we weren't able to obtain more links. It's two pages web with information, interesting but not enough. We have searches from low competitive terms of course, but with this site we were obtaining 1 to 2 visits from searches in the year we were Sanboxed.
And, in addition, we have double or more visits with this site from searches than the actual site we are talking about. And we obtained almost 300 natural (really natural and spontaneous) links. And keep obtaining more (less often, because now we are not as 'hot' as we were a year and a Half before.

Plus, we had competition from another startup a month or two after we launched our website, and they have very similar volume of links and yes, they're sandboxed too. They doesn't care too much about SEO because they doesn't have more than 40 words in their homepage, more inside but anyway they doesn't appear on search results too.


 10:43 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sand thanks, offline doesn't have impact, only links matters

Sure offline matters, because is can (does) produce definite, natural online signals ... Thinking only links matter is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.


 10:54 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ok. I understand it better now.
You are getting less competitive serps, not just the main competitive ones you desire.
Is that still sandbox, or just a result of not competing well enough for those competitive terms?
I would've thought the latter.


 11:24 pm on Dec 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Themadscientist Yes, I gree with you, and yes we received links from digital editions of newspapers and in offline editions, and yes it's the way we've received links from smaller blogs or other press.
@Cabbie I've studied the backlink profile of our most important competitors, and I think we have a better one,but...only Google knows. But I find often we rank lower than smaller websites with a worst backlink profile for sure, and that's not logical.

Our back links come from posts or articles talking about our industry (and then they talk about us) and they have relevant keywords for us in the URL, title and text. They mostly link to us to the homepage with our brand (a creative word without keywords) as anchor text.

Thanks cabbie


 6:29 am on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

18 months to get to 70 visitors a day is a tad slow if you've been working on the site daily. You could stand on the corner outside and hand out pamphlets to people and expect better results I'd guess. You mentioned having to wait so if you aren't doing anything to improve results you might just be waiting indefinitely because it doesn't sound like a sandbox to me though I'm sure it feels like one.

It doesn't matter how high you can rev the engine so to speak, it matters that you get traction and keep it over time. Check the site for glaring SEO issues to fix, get rid of all content that isn't unique or is of poor quality, and connect with people who are interested in your niche online or off. Slow and steady wins the race.


 9:24 am on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

If I've had press coverage is because it's original content.

I'd like to know How long has been your sandbox experiences.

I'm in a extreme sandbox effect. That's all. Nothing is wrong, just I don't know how long is going to be and I'd love if some of you have had a similar experience, please share a little with me, thanks


 12:15 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think you're in a sandbox either,

If the majority of your target keyword rankings are currently occupied by independents , like yourself, perhaps you should already be outranking them from time to time

If the target rankings are occupied by the likes of
about.com, wikipedia , ehow, amazon,,,,, Whats going to change to

Another thing, if you're reliant on text based editorial content, is it still unique, have been visited by a few spiders, have you checked


 2:04 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Maybe domain authority of other sites contribute to their ranking more than you realise.

Also, you said you won 300 links which happened, from what I understood, when you launched the domain.. Have you had steady growth of links since then? If new links are not arriving then perhaps Google might look at these links as somewhat "stale" and they might count less.

What I am trying to say is that your press coverage might not count as much as you think any more.


 2:54 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Many people use the word "sandbox" to mean an artificial limit that is placed for some period of time. We learned back during the earliest Google Sandbox investigations that there is no time period attached to the phenomena that people notice with new websites - so using the word "sandbox" can be quite misleading.

This thread, Filters exist - the Sandbox doesn't. How to build Trust [webmasterworld.com], is one of the key discussions from 2006 when the idea of a Google Sandbox was being widely discussed. Even though it is six years old now, it is valuable food for thought even now.

When the Sandbox discussion first exploded around the SEO community, Google's Matt Cutts gave a denial that any such thing had been introduced at Google. And indeed, some new sites at the time began ranking rather quickly where others took months. Eventually, Matt did identify a complex of algo factors that could look like a Sandbox - but he still was quite firm that there was no sandbox that kept sites from ranking for any specific time.

18 months is well beyond anything that has been reported even as a "sandbox" effect. I agree with the above comments -- you don't really have anything to escape from, you have something to build.


 3:39 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tedster thanks for the reply and the thread. I've lived a sandbox before as I said in one of the comments. I have a website for the same competitive market, with maybe 7 to 10 links, only HTML content (two pages of text, a guide for buyers, nothing sophisticated). I was sadboxed as long as 1 year (less 10 days). The question is not if Sandbox exists or not (exists, maybe they are filters, maybe is anything, but is perceived as a sandbox). The question is how long this filters are full applied to a website in the extreme.

I understand that sandbox is not the exact metaphor as Matt Cutts said, I think they're filters too, but is easier to "name" the effect. But yes, they are filters, and they are less and less "hard" applied as time goes by.

All the variables like the "rhythm" achieving links are absolutely normal, pure natural. We have some waves with more atemption, and maybe we receive 2 or 3 links a month. But absolutely natural. And yes, we have links from very reputable sources newspapers as relevant as The Guardian i.e. but the one equivalent for our country. And several of them.

If a sandbox of 1 year is considered something that could happen, why not longer? We didn't anything wrong or black or grey hat.


 3:51 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Your description leads me to wonder perhaps your content has been "burrowed" by older more authoritative sites,

editorial content, buying guides, 18 months waiting to rank, with links from authoritative sources, certain to have been visited by content aggregators sometime within those 18 mths

Any hows , good luck


 4:04 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi scooterdude, yes sure. But I don't think is the answer, because is the same content for months (much or less) but is not the problem. Every website has content, it's not copy it (and I've didn't found any copy yet).


 5:42 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just so there's no misunderstanding, the word "copy" in this case is a special marketing word and it doesn't mean that the text was "copied" from anywhere. "Copy" has the special meaning of "content that is written in order to sell something."


 5:49 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry Tedster, Ok.


 7:20 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you are a paying member, you could put your site and the keywords you think you ought to rank to Members forum "Review my site" and see if anybody offers any better clues. Otherwise, I do not think we can help on this thread any more than what it has been said already.


 8:03 pm on Dec 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi agree, I didn't know this option, thanks!


 2:02 am on Dec 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I see about 10 brand new websites ranking very, very well in a very competitive niche of the financial industry that were just registered within the past 3 months, and only registered for one year. They have rapidly acquired hundreds of spammy/foreign backlinks, which seems to work well -- and has worked well since Penguin. This argues against a sandbox. A few years ago, I held a vastly different opinion.


 3:15 am on Dec 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Could be Pandalized, I have a website in a very similar situation.

Are you interlinking between other sites you own?


 6:12 am on Dec 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

The 'sandbox' has really morphed into 'signals of trust'

Early signals of trust mean movements forward for websites, and brand trust signals, even more so.

Think of the sandbox as the exploratory, or predecessor to trust signals.


 5:49 pm on Dec 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

@crobb305 I've seen The Sandbox with my own eyes (the other domain I've talked about with 1 year of sandbox). very competitive as "cheap car insurance" or as "best cheap car insurance comparison tool in Oregon"? Both compete hard, but are not equal.


 10:21 pm on Dec 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

@crobb305 I've seen The Sandbox with my own eyes (the other domain I've talked about with 1 year of sandbox).

And I've seen with my own eyes domains registered in the past 60 days ranking very well, including one registered in October (2 months ago) ranking in the top 10 for an extremely competitive financial phrase. I will gladly send you examples by private message if you'd like.

Update: almenara, I sent you an example. I no longer believe in sandboxing as we once knew it. I have seen numerous brand new domains ranking extremely well post-Penguin. Granted, they have very rapid/spammy link acquisition, but they rank well nonetheless.

The 'sandbox' has really morphed into 'signals of trust'

CainIV, I had to think about this one for a bit. I would like to think that trust helps to determine whether or not a new domain is sandboxed, but the factors I would associate with trust aren't present on these domains. For instance, there are no third-party certifications, they are registered for only one year, registered within the past 90 days, rapid acquisition of spammy and/or foreign backlinks, no social sharing, no Google+ page, no FB page, etc. These domains are ranking exclusively on their backlinks (and rapid acquisition thereof).

In the past, it was common to see brand new domains soar to the top rapidly, then move down in rankings; but, I've watched some of these domains rank well for several months now. Maybe it will take a Penguin update to catch the crappy links, and give the older, legitimate websites a chance.


 1:16 am on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

These domains are ranking exclusively on their backlinks (and rapid acquisition thereof) ... In the past, it was common to see brand new domains soar to the top rapidly, then move down in rankings; but, I've watched some of these domains rank well for several months now.

It almost sounds like we're seeing a 'shift' to visitor behavior having a greater influence than it has previously based on what you're saying.

I remember the days when domains would soar and then crash if they weren't 'super hot' too, but based on what you're reporting I wonder if there's a shift in weighting of user behavior signals and these domains, rather than ranking on 'spammy link weight', are actually ranking on the behavior of searchers? Interesting question at the least, in my opinion...

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