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What Should I Be Doing While I am in Google’s Sandbox?

By Donald Nelson, copyright 2005

It is now well known that Google has an ageing delay in its algorithm. What this means is that a new site will not, during an initial period, show up in queries made for that site’s main keywords or key phrases, even if the site is well-optimized. Some people have referred to this as the “Google Sandbox.” If you have a new site the big questions are: 1. How long does this period last? and 2. What should I do during the time when I will not get good results from Google searches?

Search engines do not the publish the details of their ranking systems, so the answer to the question “How long?” can only be a guess. Based on my experience I believe that the period is around one year. One year! That is a long time to wait for traffic from the Internet’s most important search engine. But who says that you have to sit around, wait and do nothing. Here is what you should be doing.

1. Optimize, Tweak and Test Your Website.

The other major search engines such as Yahoo and MSN do not have such a long ageing delay, and if you optimize your site properly it should appear in the listings of these search engines within a few weeks. Now, if you can’t get a good ranking in Yahoo you will probably not get a good ranking in Google even after your site gets out of the Sandbox. So, while you are waiting to show up in Google, fine tune your site and aim for good positioning in Yahoo. This will bring you some traffic from Yahoo and MSN, and eventually, when the time is right, from Google itself.

2. Conduct a Campaign to Secure Links to Your Site

In addition to actual on-page optimization, ranking in Google is highly dependent on how many sites link to yours. Each link is counted as a “vote” for your site, and the quality and quantity of these links weighs heavily in Google’s ranking system. While you are waiting to see your site in Google, it would be a good idea to get links from complementary sites, either by a reciprocal linking campaign or by getting your content placed on other sites, with a link back to yours.

3. Buy Traffic with a Reputable Pay-Per-Click System

While it is nice to get “free” traffic by being well placed in natural searches for your keywords, you can get traffic immediately if you are willing to pay for it. If your site has convincing copy and a strong call to action, then the ratio of paid customers to total visitors (known as the conversion ratio) should be high enough to pay for the costs of an Adwords campaign with Google or a search marketing campaign with Yahoo. One word of caution, if you opt for paid traffic, stick with the well known pay-per-click systems and do not try out unknown companies who sometimes provides tons of useless traffic at a high price.

So, don’t despair if you don’t see your site at the top of Google’s rankings during the first few months. Take some constructive steps now and the day will come when your site’s natural search engine positioning starts bringing you a steady stream of traffic.

Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the director of A1-Optimization (, a firm providing low cost search engine optimization, submission and web promotion services. 

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