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News August 04, 2005
Chris Richardson


Monitoring how your site performs with respect to the search engine industry is a key aspect of business in today's era. As a result, the growth of SEO-related services has been tremendous in recent years. Once SEO services are administered, being the creatures of instant gratification that we are, site owners expect to see results immediately.

Editor's Note: Whether or not Google has a sandbox it can place newly indexed websites has been a major topic of discussion among many forums. What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think such a thing exists? If so, have you ever experienced what you perceived as being placed in the sandbox? Discuss your experiences at WebProWorld.

However, when site doesn't perform as well as expected, one of the first things to be blamed, specifically when it comes to Google, is a mythical effect called the sandbox. The term "sandbox" was coined by people who had sites that weren't performing up to expectations. It is believed that if a site hasn't achieved a desired ranking, despite SEO adjustments, the new/altered site has been placed in the sandbox where it is held until the alterations are reflected.

The sandbox effect is a reason (excuse?) routinely used by some when they aren't being rewarded with the results they had anticipated. One of the main targets of the sandbox effect are newer sites who haven't had a chance to age. It is thought these sites are kept in the sandbox until Google gives their SEO and backlink work credit.

Speaking of backlinks, it is also believed the sandbox effect can affect these as well. If a set of newly acquired links hasn't given the recipient site a boost in PageRank or hasn't shown up on a backlink check (, the sandbox is the one to blame, even though Google has stated numerous times a backlink check does not reveal all of the links pointing to a site.

Incidentally, Google has never admitted to having a sandbox, in fact, the existence of a Google sandbox was actually denied by noted Google insider, Google Guy.

The topic is a contentious one. There are those who firmly believe the sandbox does exist, while others are opposed to the idea. This concept is obvious on the WebProWorld forum, where moderator greeneagle invited other posters that feel they'd been affected by the sandbox to show him which site and which keywords the site owner was targeting (the keywords can be calculated using this tool).

As with most sandbox related topics, this particular discussion has grown in length, featuring ideas and examples from both sides of the table. Both sides are well represented with intelligent posts from both camps. On the pro-sandbox side, DMC_34 offered this quite valid example:

WhosClickingWho? A Tracking Tool Designed to Detect and Deter Click Fraud - Click Here

When Google was updating with Bourbon, my new site was #1 for the domain name, and #78 for Holiday Gift Baskets, and many more. I believe during the update the filters were turned off during testing on certain datacenters. Once the update was finished all of rankings disappeared beyond the >1000 marker. I am fairly confident the litterbox does exist but hits new sites and link mongering sites the most.

Another quote, this time from poster Phantom, gives another possibility about what the sandbox could be:

However, someone told me the sandbox effects only highly competitive keywords. Since the results were for keywords with only a couple hundred thousand results or less, it was dismissed as not falling into the sandbox perimeters. Therefore, my high-ranking sites were not allowed to play in the sand. I've never had a site in a sandbox, nor do I intend to place any of my sites in one.

Because of the evolving nature of the search engine industry (in other words, the effects of many changes, especially in a competitive area are not immediate), I tend to doubt the sandbox's existence. Although, there was a quote that may give some ammo to the conspiracy buffs out there:

Protected AdWord revenue = moneybox = sandbox?

Would Google, or any other search engine for that matter, actually protect sites that are ranking well while being big advertising spenders by purposely delaying another, newer site's climb up the SERPs, provided they were taking the necessary steps (contextual content, IBLs)? That's seems highly unlikely.

The idea of the more competitive the field being harder to break into the top spots seems more probable than the whole sandbox concept of being placed somewhere by Google or Yahoo while the site matures. But perhaps these two lines of thinking have become one and the same? Perhaps both events are being used to describe the sandbox effect.

For another perspective on the Google sandbox theory, please read Xan Porter's blog post, which looks at Google's algorithm patent and how that could determine the existence of a search sandbox.

Continue the discussion here.

About the Author:
Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

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