Visit any SEO forum and undoubtedly you will find a heated discussion of Google’s dreaded “Sandbox” amongst the threads. The Sandbox is a well known, but as of yet unconfirmed aging delay implemented by Google; generally for newly indexed websites. The sandbox is experienced as an inability to rank for nearly any search phrase including one’s own domain name. The sandbox effect appears to have a widely varying time frame, with some websites being sandboxed for as little as 1 month, while others are sandboxed for as much as a year and lengths of up to 18 months have been reported.
The sandbox is thought to be related to a March, 31st 2005 Google patent filing (Application #20050071741: Information Retrieval Based Upon Historical Data.). The patent document describes a variety of methods for scoring documents using temporal data which is stored in a document profile. The sandbox is quite possibly an aging delay which allows Google to build a historical profile for newly indexed websites.
The sandbox has not been well received within the SEO/SEM community. In fact the advent of the sandbox has dramatically altered several aspects of how search marketing business is conducted. For example, with such a wide variation in how long a website can be sandboxed; it is now thought to be unrealistic to offer time-frames for which clients can expect to see SEO results to manifest.
On the other end of the spectrum; there are many SEO’s who don’t believe that a sandbox exists at all. Regardless, something is going on and has been for some time. Something that prevents new sites from performing on Google.
Google’s aging-delay effect (if that is indeed what is occuring) is not likely to disappear any time soon. So instead of ranting and complaining about the injustice of the sandbox, I propose an entirely new approach: One that seeks to understand the mechanics of the sandbox and use it to the SEO’s advantage. Such an approach may actually prove necessary in some cases, for example websites that target search phrases for which Google may place greater significance on historical profile scoring when sorting search results.
Careful study of Google’s patent filing (Application #20050071741: Information Retrieval Based Upon Historical Data.), reveals many possible avenues of exploration and even some guidelines for drafting initial methodologies to test. I envision the purpose of such research as focused on attaining an understanding of the type and use of the data collected during the sandboxing period. Once such an understanding is secured; this information can be employed to draft methodologies designed to ensure that a sandboxed website is furnishing Google with the ideal data. Hopefully resulting in a very strong historical profile which in turn should enhance presence within the search results once said website is released from the sandbox.