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I believe one of my websites went into Google's sandbox, because it was under construction. I know there is a debate about whether the sandbox exists, but when I read about it, it really seems like it exists and that I fell into it.

My site is now finished and clean white hat SEO has been applied. I can see that the web URL is in the index with the site command. However, it does not rank for its keywords (it does not appear in search result) for the past two weeks. Google Webmaster crawl stats are erratic. The cache command returns a pretty recent version of it.

I have read somewhere that changing the URL of one's website helps solving the Google Sandbox effect. Has anyone tried this and did it work? Would you recommend this? Thanks.

Update

I have performed a small test where I copied my site on another server with another IP address and another URL. I made a small modification to the title, but the content remained the same. That new site was indexed quickly, but it did not help getting out of the sandbox. So, this time, I know for sure this technique does not help...

However, I noticed that setting a sitemap in my robots.txt with proper lastmod values for modified pages, helped update the cached page and the keywords in Google Webmaster Tools. My guess is that Google reads robots.txt more frequently than it crawls my sandbox pages, which helps presenting more recent content to users and accelerate the exit from the sandbox effect.

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There is substantial evidence that a sandbox effect does indeed exist and even Matt Cutts confirmed it does in some industries.

There is many myths how to get out of sandbox and to be honest a lot of them are best to avoid because changing things like URL can trigger yet another sandbox.

My Personal Actions Getting Out of Sandbox

  1. Be Patient (Time is the biggest factor with sandbox)
  2. Build good quality back links that are credible.
  3. Engage in social media
  4. Build more content
  5. Register Address with Google Plus, Google Places, and Google Maps.

Be Patient

Naturally sites come out of the sandbox effect in time without any futher invention and this time varies from site to site. The worst thing you can do is start changing stuff that you shouldn't and when it does come out of sandbox your site is hint with another algorithm but this time its an actual punishment. Sandbox is just temporary and hence why 1. is Be patient.

Build Good Quality Links

There has been many recorded cases and even my own personal experience that building some good quality links can force Google's hand and bring it out of the sandbox effect. Personally I recommend only quality links such as DMOZ, Yell, Google Plus Page, Facebook Page, and niche web directories. Basically go for credible links, avoid blog comments and forums based replies.

Engage in Social Media

Making a Tweeter account, Pintrest, Facebook, Google Plus and more have the ability to add a backlink to your website which is good but also tweeting, sharing the link can help too. Google can see this and if someone reshares, retweets or even backlinks its a huge plus for getting out of the sandbox effect.

Build more content

While there is little evidence to proof that building more content does help but to be honest waiting for the sandbox effect to wear out is not very constructive... You should try to improve your rankings for when it does come out by building a better experience for site visitors. This is way more constructive.

Another Myth... Register your Address

We already know that things like registering your address with your website helps local rankings since you need to confirm your address and they said that via the post to your home/business address which in my eyes is very credible, I personally recommend this.

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If there is a sandbox effect for new sites, it seems unlikely that starting over with a new domain name will help.

If your new site is not ranking in Google, it is because Google doesn't find the content compelling enough, or because the site has not earned enough trust yet. Keep in mind that it typically takes websites a year to get ranked for "fat middle" phrases that drive a decent amount of traffic, but which are only moderately competitive. For competitive "head" keywords, you not only have to demonstrate that you have a solid, compelling website, but you have to gain more references (links, and social) than the competition. It usually takes years to get into that type of position.

For a new website try to focus on:

  • Creating as much high quality content as you can. Bigger sites get more traffic. You often don't know what works until you try it, so try as many things as you can
  • Getting recommendations. Solicit high quality links from websites in your niche that find your website helpful (never spam links). Get +1 and likes for your website from fans and friends.
  • Hone your user experience. Ask friends to give you an honest opinion of your website. Ask them to try to perform a task on your website and see if they can do it as easily as you expect. Ask them how well your content answers a related question.
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You are giving SEO recommendations which I already know and which I am applying. And your are not answering the question... –  JVerstry Feb 28 '13 at 13:48
    
As I said, in my first sentence, starting with a newer site seems unlikely to help. Most sites get out of the sandbox through the methods I've described, rather than by tring to trick Google somehow. –  Stephen Ostermiller Feb 28 '13 at 13:52
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