Google “SandBox Effect” Revealed

    May 6, 2004

I reported recently on a Google ranking phenomenon in which newly listed sites rank well for two to three weeks and then drop completely out of the top 1000. Often these newly dropped sites have high page rank and don’t show for even the least competitive of terms. Discuss the Sandbox Effect in WebProWorld.

Playing with Google in the Sandbox?
Playing with Google in the Sandbox
Google Sandbox Theory

One Cre8asite poster who’s also a WebMasterWorld member reported that, "the problem is with sites that are more than two months old but first went online this year." Barry Schwarz of the SEORoundTable calls this the "sandbox effect," meaning that new sites are placed in a sandbox (where they can all play nicely away from the real sites). He recently reported a means of showing a site’s pre-sandbox results. "We have found that by adding seven exclusion parameters to the search query, the pre-sandbox results are displayed." In his post he mentioned the Florida update and the exclusion parameters you could add to a query to see the post-Florida results (Remember Florida?). The site Schwarz mentioned was one he worked on for a client – They ranked well for the non-competitive term "Negative Pressure Isolation Rooms" and then, predictably, dropped. If you search for "Negative Pressure Isolation Rooms -dfsdgsdsd -sdfgsdgsdfg -sdfgsdgsdg -sdfgsdfgsdfg -dsfgsdgsdg -sdfgsdfgsdfg -sdgsdfgdsfg" (without quotes) you’ll see the airmontinc site at the first position. In looking for the pattern that determines this drop, Schwarz said, "the only pattern I see from the threads is that these are new sites. I see a wide range of back links reported, a wide range of styles of on-page optimization. Only pattern is the site was launched after December." Schwarz told his client that they should try to "build links by finding out where the competitors were listed and ask people in their industry to link to them." Ammon Johns offered a "raw guess" regarding the "sandbox effect." "What I have so far looks like it is something again related to link structures, and I’m suspecting it is a little bit connected with hilltop too. Its a very early observation, and one that is nowhere near conclusive or authoritative, but all the examples I’ve looked at had been given ‘seed PR’. That is, they’d all had their links worked on to gain PR right from launch." He emphasized, however, that "I just haven’t got the raw data to which I can attest to all factors that I need for a real analysis." JohnScott offered an opinion based on a source who used to work with a current Google employee. "The probation does not apply to new sites. It applies to links. When the algorithm was deployed certain older links were grandfathered in. After that, links will be (are being) given partial credit, and be essentially on ‘probation.’" "It applies to links, not sites. And the age of the link is not the only factor. The IP range of the links and other considerations are made, and the person who I discussed this with said that Krishna Bharat is at Google primarily to develop and implement this new algorithm. It is supposed to radically change the way links are evaluated." ProjectPHP speculated on why Google might have instituted this policy. His top reason: "hinder (not stop though) the old a) buy domains, b) build spam sites, c) get banned, d) repeat methodology, as it makes it far riskier (will the site last three months??), and far more expensive (need more sites in the "pipeline")." CBP from WebProWorld had a similar idea: "This could be an intentional delay to avoid the quick ranking of so many affiliate/template/crap sites – pretty much every keyword(s) is well covered, what does it matter to Google is a few sites rank poorly for a few months?" Mark Carey, of GoogleGuy Says agreed that this tactic may be successful in stopping spam, but "it also hurts new sites, including new Mom & Pop sites." Sanity, a moderator at the Cre8asite forum and a reader of WebMasterWorld said that "there has been speculation that all new sites are on "hold" for a period of time before they rank – 3 months has been suggested. I too have been reading the WMW threads and a couple have people have recently commented that after 3 months their sites have started to rank." HHI Golf Guy reported that "even though the site we recently developed appears to still be in the "Sandbox", we are seeing 2nd page results on Froogle." If you’d like to learn more about the Sand Box concept be sure to read this Cre8asite thread, as well as New Sites = Poor Results in Google, The sandbox effect, New Sites Dropped From Google?, and the WebProWorld thread by the same name. Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.