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September 30, 2004

The Google Sandbox: an early history

On the Search Engine Watch forums, the moderator Nacho made a good list of resources here regarding the Google Sandbox.

Effectively, with one of my earlier resource lists included from that site, here’s the definitive guide to the Google Sandbox, so far as I’ve seen it properly followed in the public arena:

Google Sandbox Timeline:

April 19th 2004
Barry Schwartz, aka RustyBrick, at the SERountable, reports there’s an issue being discussed – of sites not ranking as they should.

April 25th 2004
Morgan Carey, aka SEO Guy, reports at SERountable a problem with newer links not impacting – and is referenced by Barry Schwartz that this is likely the same effect.

May 4th 2004
Barry Schwartz investigates further with a non-competitive search string, and learns that you can find the “real” results by including a specific modifier to your search, to show just how much of an impact the Google Sandbox is having.

May 6th 2004
John Scott make an interesting post at the Cre8asite forums, stating that the Google Sandbox is effectively a strategy involving the “grandfathering” of links, in which newer links are only given partial credit.

Later May 2004
WebProNews release the story to the wider SEO community via their newsletter, with comments from other SEO’s.

May 25th 2004
Mike Beverley at the Webmasterworld forums initiates a discussion on tactics that can be used to circumvent the Google Sandbox.

June 2004:
Wayne Hurlbert makes a general article of it at SEOChat.

That’s about the best that’s you’re going to get from the public arena, so far as I can tell.

An interesting point of note is that the issue primarily seems reported by the heavy link builders – people who focussed more on content seem to dispute the Google Sandbox existing. That helps suggest that the issue is primarily a links-based issue.

As has been raised elsewhere, however, if the sandbox is a blanket issue for new links, then how do established sites get new content indexed and ranked so quickly? Perhaps “affiliated links” – ie, internal links and cross linking from related domains – is somehow unaffected.

Or perhaps the age of a domain has an important role to play in the evaluation of links in general, as much as or in lieu of the links themselves?

Also, a problem is that *if* links in general are being impacted, then the effect will be so much harder to see on established sites that already have a lot of backlinks – any sandbox impact is going to be diluted in the general established linkage.

Either way, when targeting Google rankings – regardless the age of the site, I’d rather advise all clients expect to wait 12-14 weeks before seeing any noticable effect. Generally, I imagine many SEO’s will advise their clients of this anyway.

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