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One of the most annoying things about starting a new website now is that it takes much longer now for you to start driving traffic from the search engines.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts call it the “Google Sandbox” effect. Because of it, your site can take up to 6 months to finally get some love from Google.
But there’s a smart technique using which you can avoid Google Sandbox and start getting traffic to your new site straight away.
Want to know more? Keep reading
What Is Google Sandbox In SEO?
Google Sandbox is an unannounced hibernation period for newly registered sites from an SEO perspective during which Google does not send any search traffic to them even after indexing their pages and content.
What’s the logic behind Google Sandbox?
Apparently, Google uses the sandbox effect to fight low quality and spammy websites that are built for short-term SEO benefits.
For example, because of Google Sandbox, a black-hat or grey-hat internet marketer can not create a brand new website before a major event like Fifa World Cup or New Year and immediately rank for high traffic keywords for these topics using thousands of automated backlinks and spun content.
As a result, the number of such spammy sites in search results has dropped dramatically over the years.
The sandbox effect ensures that Google shows only the most reliable websites in its search results that are publishing genuinely useful content and are built with a long-term vision.
Is Google Sandbox Real Or Just A Myth?
People say the sandbox is theory and they’re not completely sure if it exists or not. I can tell you first hand that it is real. With the number of sites that I launch, I definitely have noticed it.
And I’m not alone.
Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and one of the most trusted names in the SEO industry, has long believed that Google Sandbox is real and does impact the amount of search traffic new sites receive.
Just look at these Tweets from his account.
Way back in 2005, he also published a detailed blog post about how Moz (SEOMoz back then) finally came out of Google Sandbox after 9 months.
As a result, some people – myself included – have been registering domains, putting up a few pages of content and just letting them sit for a few months before starting to grow them out.
But there has to be a better way than that, right?
How To Avoid Google Sandbox?
When you purchase a fresh new domain, you have to go through the usual process of waiting for it to be indexed, building a few links, and all the other stuff that comes along with it.
And it makes sense.
There’s no history at all on your fresh domain.
The way to bypass Google’s sandbox for new sites is simply to NOT use a new domain.
Instead, start your site using an expired domain that’s already indexed in Google Search and has gone through the sandbox period.
This way you won’t have to wait for months for your site to get search traffic.
This idea is actually not new.
People have been putting up new sites on expired domains for a while now.
However, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Using expired domains has a lot of benefits but it also comes with its own set of risks.
Google Sandbox: The Benefits of Using Expired Domains
Using expired domains has several benefits from an SEO perspective.
Expired domain names give you a head start because the domain already has a certain level of authority in Google’s eyes. This allows you to rank for competitive terms faster and with fewer backlinks because domain authority is a major ranking factor in Google’s algorithms.
In comparison, when you register a completely new domain, it has no authority or footprint on the internet because of which it takes longer to start driving search traffic.
Google values older domains because it shows that the site has been around for a few years and is not just a quick spammy niche site that only wants to make money.
Ideally, you should go for expired domains that are older than 5 years because that’s the age when a domain truly starts to gain value in Google’s books.
Existing Link Profile
If you choose the right expired domain, you’ll already have a bunch of high authority backlinks from other relevant sites. That’s a huge bonus in SEO terms and allows you to grow your search traffic faster.
No Google Sandbox
And finally, using expired domains allows you to completely avoid the sandbox period and start working your site’s growth straight away because sandbox only applies to new domains.
The Risks In Using Expired Domains For Your Website
The problem with using expired domains is that they’re a potential risk. Your site has the possibility of behaving as if it were penalized as soon as you launch it.
It’s not always the case, but there were more than enough case studies on the subject reporting the same thing.
Another thing to note is that most expired domains are… expired. The site’s most recent crawl leads to a dead page or a stock page from its previous domain registrar stating it’s been expired and is up for sale.
Some people claim that Google discredits a domain’s strength once it is dropped. We don’t know for sure if this is true, but I’ve experienced it being the case myself.
Because of these risks, I personally don’t recommend buying an expired domain for your main site.
It’s just too big a risk because you’ll be investing thousands of dollars into your site and publishing tons of content on it. All of it can go down the drain if the expired domain you choose has a few bad links or if it has been penalized by Google in the past.
How do you skip the sandbox then?
Here’s the alternate strategy.
‘Dead’ Sites: The Safest Way To Avoid Google Sandbox
Instead of buying an expired domain, the safer way to avoid Google Sandbox is to take over a ‘dead’ site and use it to grow your business.
What’s the difference between a dead site and an expired domain?
A dead site is still accessible on its domain URL but has been abandoned by its owner.
An expired domain/site, on the other hand, has passed its validity period and can no longer be accessed by internet users.
You can recognize a dead site if it hasn’t been updated for years, has long standing design issues that no one seems to care about, or any other indication that shows that the owner has lost interest in the site.
Buying a dead site saves you from a lot of the risks associated with expired domains.
For example, since a dead site is still online, it retains its authority unlike expired domains which can start losing authority after some time.
Secondly, it’s much easier to analyze the link profile of a dead site and find out if it has ever been penalized by Google as compared to an expired domain.
Thirdly, buying a dead site allows you to engage the site’s existing audience and drive traffic from the existing assets of the sites (like an email list, social media accounts etc.)
Why Purchase Expensive ‘Dead’ Sites?
Not as much as you think.
The reason we’re looking for “dead” sites is so that we can get them at domain value and not site value.
You can pick up these sites for $100-$200, depending on what you’re willing to pay for it and if the site looks worth it.
New domains from sites like GoDaddy and NameCheap are usually around $10.
I’m not asking you to go and buy a $10K site from Flippa. I’m telling you to find an abandoned site and purchase it for a fraction of the price of an updated site.
Would you pay $100 to get a head start with your new site? Would you rather pay a little bit more and skip the dreaded sandbox? Is it worth it to pay a little extra to start on a domain that’s already indexed, already ranking, and already has relevant backlinks from sites in your niche?
For me, it’s a yes every time. There’s no question.
Obviously, I’m not going to spend $500 on a dead site. But $100 is plenty worth it.
How To Find ‘Dead’ Sites You Can Buy
To find these sites, simply do a google search for your keywords.
Don’t look at the first 2 pages because they’re most likely going to be active, get a fair bit of traffic, and from my experience site owners aren’t really interested in selling them.
Just sift through pages 3 to 15.
You’ll want to do the right research before you reach out to the owner and ask for a purchase.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. We’re looking to buy the domain. Not the site.
Don’t be too picky about the quality of their content, how much traffic it’s getting, and what they’re rankings are.
We’re looking for dead sites that we can get for cheap so we can use their domain. Most likely, their content will be replaced entirely.
2. We’re buying the domain to skip the sandbox. We’re not buying the domain to purchase its rankings.
Of course, if it’s ranking well and we can get a good deal on the site, it’s a bonus. But that’s not our main goal with this strategy. We’re buying the domain because it’s already indexed on Google.
Once we start putting up content, it will get indexed and start ranking MUCH FASTER than if we did the same thing on a brand new domain.
So don’t get too concerned about its current rankings.
3. Look at their backlink profile, but mainly just for spam.
It would be great if the site had a ton of strong backlinks already, but that’s not what we’re looking for here.
This is different from searching for expired domains for your PBN. Don’t get caught up in the domain’s authority and the links pointing at it.
All we’re doing is making sure that the site doesn’t have a bunch of spam links.
Remember, our main goal with doing this is so that we could start a site on a site that’s already indexed and ranking on Google for some of our keywords.
4. Check the site’s age
I would prefer a site age of 5 years old and over, and stay away from domains that only have a history of a year or two.
To check a domain’s age, you can use this free tool. Simply enter in your domain and solve the CAPTCHA code and it will tell you when it was first registered.
5. Check how many pages it has indexed on Google
To do this, simply do a google search using their site search.
The reason we do this is so we don’t get any surprises. Ten to a hundred is pretty normal – a few hundred is a lot – and hundreds of thousands should throw up warning flags.
If anything looks strange, just go through the pages to make sure they’re all relevant and there’s nothing fishy going on with the site.
6. Check the site’s traffic figures
To do this, I use a tool called Similar Web. It’s free to use, and more accurate than other tools I’ve tried.
Obviously, if you see something like millions of visitors, you’re not likely to get a response.
Email Outreach For Buying Dead Sites
Keep it short and simple. Talk a little about the topic of the site.
Let’s pretend our topic was baking cookies.
Don’t mention traffic and financials
In your discussions, avoid asking for how much the site is making or access to their analytics.
Then, you’re making the sale about the site and the owner might decide to hike up the price rather than if it was just an offer to take over a “dead” site.
We already checked the estimated traffic using Similar Web so that should be sufficient.
Here’s an example of an email.
Hello, My name is Chris and I stumbled upon your site today. I think it's a great resource but I see you haven't updated it in quite a bit. May I ask why? If you're not interested in running the site, I would love to take over it and grow it out. I'm a cookie fanatic, and love baking and sharing my recipes. It would be really awesome if I could share my recipes through X.com. To show you I'm serious about it, I'll even offer to pay $100 to you for the ownership transfer. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in. I would love to get working on this right away. Thank you. Best regards, Chris
You might prefer not to offer the money right away and keep it in your back pocket for when they respond. But having it in the first email would probably get you a lot more responses, than if you were just asking for a freebie.
If they’re just sitting there, most people are more than happy to just sell it off for an easy $100. You’ll be surprised at how many sites are out there where the last published post was something like 2006.
The sandbox is what kills a lot of new people entering internet marketing today. They register a new domain, put up their content, and build a few good links.
After 2 to 3 months of getting barely any traffic and not seeing their rankings rise, they get frustrated and order the 5000 link blast packages “guaranteed” to be Google safe.
That’s game over right there.
Instead, if you’re going to start a new site, this is a great method to skip those months of dryness that maybe you haven’t considered in the past.
It may not always be possible to find the right site owner that’s willing to let it go, but it’s a great strategy to have in your back pocket for your next niche site.
Google Sandbox – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Google Sandbox in SEO?
Google Sandbox is an unannounced hibernation period of up to six months by Google for newly registered websites and blogs. When a site is under the Google Sandbox effect, its pages are indexed by Google but do not receive much search traffic.
How long does the Google Sandbox effect last?
The duration of Google Sandbox is different for every website but it can last up to six months.
How do I get rid of Google Sandbox?
There’s no definite way to get rid of Google Sandbox faster. However, some SEOs believe that publishing content regularly, building high authority links, and sending social media signals can accelerate your departure from the sandbox. Alternatively, you can completely skip the sandbox effect by purchasing an expired domain instead of a new one.
Is Google Sandbox real or just a myth?
Google hasn’t officially confirmed sandbox but most SEOs agree that it is indeed a reality.
What is an expired domain?
An expired domain name is a URL that passed its expiry date and was not renewed by its owner.
What is the difference between an expired site and a dead site?
An expired site is a site that has passed its validity period and can no longer be accessed by internet users. A dead site, on the other hand, is a valid site that has been abandoned by its owner and has not seen any activity for months (sometimes even years)
How do I use expired domains for SEO?
Expired domains can help you skip Google Sandbox and rank faster for your target keywords because of their existing authority.
What are the risks of using expired domain names?
The biggest risk of using expired domains is that they might have dodgy and low-quality links pointed to them because of which your site can be penalized by Google Serch algorithms.
What are the SEO benefits of using expired domains?
Google values older domains because they have higher authority and footprints on the internet. Using expired domains can help you use the existing authority of a domain to rank faster for your target keywords.