If you were to ask Google’s Matt Cutts, he would insist that the Google Sandbox is nothing more than an urban legend which some people have come up with to try and explain away their own poor efforts at SEO. Ask many SEO professionals and they’ll insist that there either is or was such a thing as the Google Sandbox. The answer, in my experience is somewhere in the middle of all this muck.
The Origin of the Sandbox
The origin of the concept of the Google Sandbox was that brand new websites didn’t do too well. The idea was to prevent new sites from popping up, spamming the Internet with thousands of links and then disappearing quickly. While Google never acknowledged the existence of the sandbox and in fact insisted it didn’t exist, many webmasters and SEO professional swore up and down that the Google sandbox effect existed and that new sites, with good content were getting penalized.
The Google Bounce
The original definition of the Google Sandbox effect definitely does not exist at all anymore. That’s because of the so called Google Bounce or Google Honeymoon (don’t you love all these imaginative terms we come up with for SEO concepts?).
The Google Bounce refers to an effect (also never officially acknowledged by Google) whereby a brand new website which has just been indexed gets deliberately placed higher in the rankings for their chosen keywords. The idea is supposed to be for Google to let the Internet community decide on the quality of the website and then to rank it accordingly – if it gets plenty of backlinks, it’s useful. If it’s ignored, then it goes to the bottom of the pile until it can prove itself.
Where the Sandbox Still Exists
Okay, so much for the original Google Sandbox theory. That is dead and buried and long since gone. However, there is another, more generic use of the term Google Sandbox, which while Google has acknowledged that they engage in, though they don’t refer to it as the sandbox.
In essence, when a website is found to violating Google’s rules, they are deliberately ranked lower in the SERPs. This happened after the New York Times found that JC Penney seemed to be getting artificially high rankings for a number of popular keywords and it’s another thing Google is pretty secretive about.
It’s Not De-Indexing
Note that this is different from being de-indexing of a website. If you type site:jcpenney.com into Google’s search bar, they still show up. Instead, the site has been deliberately re-evaluated to take away some of the artificially high bounce that they got from black hat SEO techniques.
No, the Google Sandbox doesn’t exist – at least not in its original form. However, the more generic usage of the term Google Sandbox does exist and has even been acknowledged by Google to exist, though they don’t use that terminology for it.