Google Sandbox Ultimate Guide – What it is, How to Recover & all the rest

Google Sandbox
It’s the worst thing ever to see that your site has lost traffic.

Manual penalty, Google sandbox penalty, or loss of organic traffic sometimes seems so unfair.

You work so hard, create wonderful content, and get backlinks just to realize that, all that was a waste of time because of Google.

Google can be a B*** when it comes to organic traffic.

So, you must play by the rules!

Just the problem is, Google rarely clarifies the Dos and the Don’ts of SEO. So, even the best of us can be hit by a penalty of some sort.

In this post, we will cover in depth what Google Sandbox penalty is, how to avoid it, and how to recover from it.

This is a pickle because, even the top SEOs still argue how to deal with it.

Table of contents

Is Google Sandbox Real or Not?

Yes. Google Sandbox is Real.

Google Sandbox is more like a filter that is placed on your site to downgrade your rankings for specific keywords.

In other words, this filter hits where it hurts the most.

google sandbox

Google Sanbox is like a filter for your most important keywords – you still get organic traffic but not as much as you normally would.

Google’s John Mueller  has mentioned that, “it can take a bit of time for search engines to catch up with your content, and to learn to treat it appropriately.”

This could be understood as the cause for the sandbox effect.

What is Google Sandbox?

Google Sandbox is not a penalty, it’s a filter that Google places on new sites that have overoptimized website’s content and have way too many backlinks from the day when the site was indexed on Google.

Your page will attract organic traffic but not for the main keywords and not as much as you would get normally.

How Do I know if my Website is in Google Sandbox?

Spotting Google’s Sandbox might be actually easier than you think.

Even though you won’t get a notification about your Sandboxed Website, you can use Google Search Console to check if Google has punished you.

Step 1: Head Over to Google Search Console

how to spot google sandboxHead over to Search Traffic (1), click on Search Analytics (2) and check the Pages (3).

Step 2: Check for Suspiciously Low Traffic for The Main Keywords

how to spot google sandbox2

If you have selected a focus keyword and your site is perfectly optimized, but it ranks for other keywords but not on your focus keyword – chances are you have been Sandboxed.

Step 3: Go through all your pages

how to spot google sandbox3

Spend a little time and check your top performing pages (1) and their queries (2) in long-term this could help to save a lot of your traffic.

Note: this filter is mainly placed on sites with thin & overoptimized content and a ton of backlinks.

So if that’s not your site – chances are you have nothing to worry about.

How to Spot Google Sandbox?

If you are wondering if Google has placed your site on a probation there are several tools that can analyze this for you.

Here are the best of them:

Search Engine Genie

new-logo-1This tool will diagnose if you have been placed on probation for a specific keyword.

Fruition

FruitionThis tool checks for penalties in general – no matter if it’s automatic or manual penalty, Fruition will spot it.

Google Sandbox example

To help you visualize what Google Sandbox might look like when you look at Google Analytics, here’s the screenshot:

Google sanbox example

Note: in this picture, you can see only organic traffic.

As you can see the organic traffic is still coming to the page but not as much as before. There are two significant drops – one in late November and one right before May. In both cases, clearly, the website has suffered a drop in organic traffic for the main keywords.

And when you see something similar in your Google Analytics – you know, you have been Google Sandbox’ed.

Now that it’s clear how to spot Google Sandbox, let’s explore how you can avoid this.

How can I avoid being placed in the Google Sandbox?

It’s important to note that Google Sandbox is commonly known as a penalty for new websites.

So, if you just made a website and it was indexed just few months ago or you don’t have that many high-quality backlinks here are 3 things you need to do to avoid being placed in the Google Sandbox:

  1. Create high quality content on topics related to your business
  2. Avoid buying or acquiring a large number of backlinks in a short period of time
  3. Don’t over-optimize your content – use your focus keyword no more than 0.5% to 2% of the total amount of words
    • If you have 1 000 word article – your focus keyword shouldn’t appear more than 5 to 20 times.

If you follow these steps – you can be sure your website will avoid being Sandbox’ed.

How to get out of Google Sandbox

So your site has been Sandbox’ed?

production-sandbox

Good news is we can help you to fix it!

We prepared a 5 step guide to recover from Google Sandbox and get on top of Google’s SERPs.

Step 1: Check for other penalties

If Google placed your site in Sandbox it means you have been doing some not-so-white-hat SEO.

So, definitely check if your site was penalized in any other way as well.

Check for Algorithmic Penalty

manual penaltyHead over to Search Traffic (1) and click on Manual Actions (2), there you will be able to see if your site has been awarded Google’s Algorithmic Penalty.

Check for Manual Penalty

If you got a manual penalty, Google will email you a list of things you need to do to fix.

Go through your email and search for an email from Google.

For more information, here’s how to recover from a Google penalty.

Step 2: Get Rid of Over-Optimized Content

Perhaps at some point you thought it was a good idea to place your focus keyword everywhere you can, at the expense of making the text sound weird.

Well, it is not a good idea.

A good average is 5 focus keywords for every 1,000 words.

That’s the perfect amount.

So, if you have more than that – find synonyms and edit the text. The goal is to make the text sound natural.

Step 3: Create High-Quality Content

A good rule of thumb is to create content as good as the best article on that topic.

Creating something not as good is a waste of time.

  1. Research the topic
  2. Find the top 5 articles on that topic
  3. And create something better

Fun fact: Now the average amount of words that articles on Google’s first page have are 2,000+ words.

Step 4: Disavow Harmful Backlinks

To disavow harmful backlinks, first you will need to find them.

Backlink trackers like Linkody is perfect for this.

First, you will need to sign into Linkody and add your domain.

Then Linkody will crawl the web and find all your backlinks.

Then to select a link for disavowal, click on the gear icon on the right drop down menu:

2016-03-17_1350
You can either choose “Disavow link” or “Disavow domain“.

Use the Disavow domain option if there are many links from the same domain and the domain seems spammy and harmful. In most cases, we would advise disavowing the whole domain.

When you disavow the backlink, an icon will appear to the right:

2016-03-17_1352

Next, click on Disavow on your main Linkody dashboard. On the next screen where you can see all the disavow rules you have created:2016-03-17_1354

Then you should review your rules to make sure it’s all good. After that’s done, use the “EXPORT” button to download your file, and upload it to the Disavow section in Google’s Search Console:

wmt

Done!

All your harmful backlinks are gone.

And if you are struggling to figure out which backlinks are “bad backlinks” – here are 44 SEO experts sharing their best advice on which backlinks to Disavow.

Step 5: Merge, Delete, Improve Thin Content

If you don’t think you could brag how awesome your site’s content is – well, it’s not good.

And so you should audit your content:

  • If content brings some organic traffic – you should see how you can improve it.
    • Find other articles or posts on this topic and see how you can improve it
  • If content doesn’t bring any traffic – there are two things you can do:
    • Delete the post – might be that it’s useless and not related to your business, then simply get rid of it.
    • Merge similar posts together – if you have had more than one post on the same topic, it might make sense if you put the best parts of this content together.

Step 6: Get Google to Re-Crawl your Page

Now the only thing you can do is wait!

But to fast-forward your site’s recovery, you can ask Google to re-crawl your page.

crawl your page

Once again head over to Google Search Console, click on Crawl (1) and Fetch as Google (2) – paste your URL you want to crawl (3) and click on Fetch and Render (4).

manual penalty2Then request your page, site or article to be indexed NOW (5).


Done!

Now all you can do is – sit back and create some more content.

Soon your site should be back, better than before.

Now Back to You!

This is it – we really hope this article helps you diagnose Google Sandbox and get out of it.

There isn’t anything worse than spending lot of your time on your website just to realize that all your effort can be trashed down the drain because of a few little mistakes.

I hope this post helps you to fix the mistakes as quickly as possible.

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