Some people in the SEO industry believe it exists and others completely disagree. However, me personally, I think there’s definitely a Sandbox Effect on new domains/websites. Let me try to explain why first.

The main reason for sandboxing would be to fight spam. If you had a burst pipe in your house and you had to choose between 2 plumbers, one who is completely new to the business and the other who’s been in service for 5 years, you would without a doubt choose the one who’s been around longer. Similarly, a new website *would* not achieve its full ranking potential until it has been properly vetted by Google (or other search engines).

To further illustrate my point, let’s consider a website which offers medical advice. If someone was searching for some sort of rare disease and came across this newly registered domain which contained a lot of information about this, that person may believe what’s written is completely true and may try whatever solutions were listed on the webpage and cause harm to themselves. Unless someone in the field can vouch for the accuracy in the information provided, you shouldn’t trust the information.

Spammers (people who do not contribute to make the internet better but looking for ways to make easy money) don’t want to spend the time and effort to build a successful website which stands the test to time. They just want to make cash fast and they’ll create lots of websites to make them profits usually at the expense of quality. To combat this problem, the sandbox inhibits the ranking of new sites. An aged site is not one which has been registered a long time ago but one which has been first indexed ages ago. For example, you might have had a domain for 5 years but you only posted something 2 years ago and Google crawled it 2 years ago. So really, your website age would be 2 years only. Now an aged website does not mean better rankings, that comes with quality of content and trust your website has built over the years.

How much are the rankings held during the sandbox?

You shouldn’t really expect a lot for the first 6 months. During that time, it’s best to concentrate on adding useful content to your website, branding it and getting your site socially connected and engaged. You can refer to the following table for the sandbox effect with time:

Month    Holdback

1                100%

2               75%

6               50%

12             25%

24             10%

36             5%

48             0%

I’d also like to mention that creating a sub domain on an aged domain does not guarantee top rankings. The sub-domain will be treated as a new one and will enter sandbox and therefore it will have to create its own reputation as well. The only benefit it can have from being linked from a popular domain is that it will be indexed faster and can be transferred some link juice as well as getting a strong signal that’s the sub domain is important. This reinforces the rule of impeding a website from ranking well initially to prevent spammers from gaining first page results by registering a new domain and building spammy backlinks to it.

UPDATE : I created a new sub domain on 28 November 2012 and it would not rank even though it was getting editorial links from some authority websites. Surprisingly enough, today (24 May 2013), a little more than 6 months later, it’s ranking on Page 1, 5th position for its main keyword on This shows new websites (domains and sub domains included) go through that sandbox phase during which they need to build with Google before they start ranking.


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