Is Your Site in the Google Sandbox?

by Jeannette Balleza

The Widget Corporation is a highly successful business that specializes in designing and manufacturing office widgets, namely customized stress balls and ergonomically designed footrests.

The owner Jason Widget collaborated with a web design company to create a beautiful web site with strong content, numerous incoming links, an online catalog and ordering system.

Even after the site was featured in the industry's most popular trade publication six weeks after the site launch, Mr. Widget was confounded when he went to Google and searched for his web site using intuitive keyword combinations, including ''Widget Corporation,'' ''office widgets,'' ''custom stress balls,'' etc.


His searches kept yielding pages of results, but the Widget Corp's site was nowhere to be found in the first two pages of listings.

Then he typed in the keyword combo ''ergonomic footrests,'' and his site popped up #1.

Sound familiar?

Mr. Widget's web site, although optimized well for search engines, is likely one of the many web sites launched after March 2004 that are experiencing the Google Sandbox effect. While the existence of the Sandbox as a new site filter is a subject of debate among search engine experts, Google has reportedly all but admitted that the Sandbox filter is real.

What exactly is the Google Sandbox?

According to Wayne Hurlbert, a contributor to Blog Business World for successful entrepreneurs, the Sandbox ''is very similar to a new web site being placed on probation, and kept lower than expected in searches, prior to being given full value for its incoming links and content.''

With the onslaught of spam-related web sites coming online, the Sandbox theoretically weeds out from results pages those spammers who supplement weak content with purchased links to garner high rankings and sales before getting banned.

If a new web site has strong, relevant content, abundant incoming links, favorable search results for secondary keyword phrases and yet does not appear for the most important searches, then it has probably been earmarked to do its obligatory Sandbox time. Time in the Sandbox can range from one to six months, but the average duration is three to four months.

A site's duration in the Sandbox is directly proportionate to the competitiveness of the keywords and key phrases it targets. The more competitive the site's search terms, the longer the site stays buried in the Sandbox.

While time is the only real solution to getting out of the Sandbox, Hurlbert offers some helpful tips for making the best out of the unavoidable:

1. Register a domain, set up hosting and publish a web site prior to official launch time to start the clock ticking on the Sandbox duration period
2. Continue to add as many incoming links as possible
3. Keep building relevant content to your site
4. Consider buying an already existing domain

Hurlbert claims that proper time management can help a site avoid the Sandbox altogether. Even if you're not ready to build a web site just yet, procure a domain name and put up a splash page at the very least.

Contact to get started today and avoid the Sandbox. Your widget sales just might skyrocket.

Read Hurlbert's entire blog entry on the Sandbox here: Send your comments or questions to

About the Author: Jeannette Balleza is Co-Owner of Vulcan Creative, a creative agency specializing in identity with integrity. Vulcan Creative consults with clients on communication strategy and concept development and refinement for graphic design and web site development projects. Go to for more information and to request a free initial consultation.


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