The Google Sandbox Effect

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Google is the leading search engine, so any effort to use the Internet for marketing and publicity usually starts with getting your site listed in Google. For many sites, Google provides 25% to 50% or more of this total traffic.

When you create a new web site, or change your site to a new domain name, you may experience an effect where Google does not list your site for any competitive keywords for many months. Google’s ranking algorithm often gives new sites good rankings, then suddenly pushes them down to the bottom of the listings. This is a result of the automated logic that Google uses to rank sites. If your new site disappears from Google, you have not done anything wrong, but you’ll need to be patient until Google reranks your site several times. Eventually, your site will bubble up to the right place in the search rankings.  There are a number of things that can help your site appear faster.  These tactics relate to increasing the apparent trustworthiness of your site.

Why does Google do this? Search engines want to present good quality search results. When a site is new, it hasn’t been proven, and it may be difficult to judge whether the site is reliable or a scam. Consequently, Google takes a “wait and see” approach for most new sites. Changing domain names can trigger this same aging delay, or “sandbox effect”. There are plenty of good reasons that people, businesses and web sites change their identity, but there are also dodgy reasons. To be safe, Google typically does not immediately recommend these re-branded sites.

The implications for a business owner are significant. If you are launching a new site, you need to get it live sooner rather than later. Roll out pages when available, rather than waiting to launch everything when the last page is finished. If you are stuck in the aging delay, links can provide immediate traffic. Some strategies for coping with the aging delay include:

If you are planning to build a web site, consider registering the domain name now, and installing an inexpensive site that says who you are, what you do, and how you can be contacted. Better yet, add a box where visitors can leave their email address so you can notify them of future developments. You should also work on getting other sites to link to yours.

If you are thinking about changing your domain name, make sure you have a good business reason, and be prepared for a reduction in natural search traffic for several months, and possibly longer.

About the Author

After graduating from Yale with two degrees in Computer Science, Jonathan Hochman set up his own consulting company in 1990. He has been an Internet marketer since 1994.

For additional information on search engine listings, please contact Hochman Consultants.