By 7 years ago in Google SEO

Anatomy of a site in the Google Sandbox

BlogStorm is about 4 months old and is firmly in the Google Sandbox. In this blog post I want to show people exactly what happens to new sites in 2007 and how Google handles the increase in trust as a site ages.

To start with let me explain that the Google Sandbox is where sites reside until they earn enough trusted links to move upwards in the Google rankings and into whats known as the Google Trustbox. When you launch a new site it has no incoming links and Google doesn’t trust it enough to let it rank for any search terms.

Gradually the site earns more trust and the rankings improve. The sandbox filter simply means that it takes 6 to 18 months for the effects of all your trusted links to propel you to the top of the rankings.

Some people will tell you that the sandbox doesn’t exist and that they can achieve top rankings straight away – these people are either lying or are not targeting competitive keywords.


BlogStorm has attracted a huge number of links in 4 months. These links are from some of the most trusted internet marketing and search engine optimisation sites on the web and yet we still don’t rank for any competitive search terms.

I know the site is trusted by Google because we get a lot of long tail search traffic and rank for some phrases with millions of results such as jpg and digital point forums.

Am I sandboxed?

90% of people who think they are sandboxed simply don’t have enough trusted links to rank highly. If you know for a fact you have hundreds or thousands of naturally acquired, editorially given links to your site but you still don’t rank highly then you may well be sandboxed.

What is a competitive term?

As you can see from the above examples BlogStorm ranks for some terms with over half a billion results and yet can’t rank for the money terms such as “internet marketing”. This is because Google doesn’t just look at the number of results but at factors such as search volume and the number of Adwords adverts on each term.

If there are 100 advertisers willing to bid up to £2 per click on Adwords for a particular term then Google knows its way to competitive to let any new site rank for at least 18 months no matter how many trusted links they have.



As you can see from the chart above gets a fair amount of traffic from Google and, in general, the traffic is increasing. There are several spikes associated with the site being featured on social media sites (remember that getting on Digg increases your Google traffic in real time) but you can see there is no huge increase from the site ranking for new search terms.

Getting out of the sandbox

In the future I expect this site will start to rank for more competitive terms but it will be very interesting to see how long it takes for this to happen.

The only method I will be using is linkbait so lets see what happens.

By Patrick Altoft. at 3:52PM on Tuesday, 09 Oct 2007

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events. Follow Patrick Altoft on Twitter.


  • Hamlet Batista

    Matt: Yeah. It’s cool to show people too, because I see so many SEOs complaining about, my domain is not holding up or I’m in the sandbox or whatever you want to call it. And I go, I have a domain that I registered six months ago that’s ranking for very, very competitive terms.

    It just goes to show that Google has all these signals it uses to rank pages age is one of them, relevance but of all those signals there is one you can control and one you can overpower every other signal with, and thats links the sheer volume of links. And so after accruing 80,000 links to the site, thats how I was able to make that.


    Hi Patrick,

    Matt doesn’t seem to agree with your assertions here. His success with Mingle2 is proof that it is possible to rank for competitive terms in a short period of time.

    You probably need far more links than you have so far. It took Matt 80 thousand natural links to rank for “online dating”. ;-)


  • Patrick Altoft

    I will be the first to say that what Matt did was pretty amazing but 99.99% of people can’t get 80,000 natural links in a few months.


    Tell me, I have a site thats been going for awhile, some pages are PR1 other nan, I get good results when searched locally South Africa, but have reports that results in the UK differ. I am curious about US results for the term getting traffic as an example.

    Getting 80 000 links seems to me to be pretty damned difficult

  • Patrick Altoft

    I’m pretty sure a site won’t appear in the UK serps very often, even if you search for worldwide results.

  • Internet Marketing

    In my SEO Case Study I went from 0-400 search engine visitors per day in 6 weeks.

    Is this proof against the sandbox or not? My target keyword are not as competitive as keyword such as ‘internet marketing’ but they still bring in more traffic that what you are getting after 4 months. ;)