Google has a sandbox, and unlike the one kids may play in, this is not a fun or good place to be. Some have claimed the sandbox is as mythical as a unicorn, but the fact is that the sandbox is very real and very much so a place you never want to be. Google uses the sandbox a lot like a parent might use a corner of the room to separate a naughty child from everyone else so they have time to think about what they have done wrong.
Sandboxing or the sandbox effect or the Google penalty has been the subject of much debate, despite the lack of confirmation by Google that the practice of reducing new domains’ page rank to cut down on manipulation by black hat SEOs really exists. Confirmed or not, it’s very real and it is very much something you need to avoid.
Being sent to the ‘Sandbox’ is a punishment many new webmasters fear, and multiple theories exist on how to avoid being sandboxed or penalized. The main tactic which appears to include websites for punishment is using owned domains to create a huge amount of inbound links to power up a new site. There was a time that this actually worked and many webmasters got away with it, but Google has grown so much smarter since then and they do catch this and they do punish it.
Like so many other aspects of SEO, it is claimed that there is another side to all of this. A “reverse sandbox” effect has also been purported to exist. In this case, new pages with good content but without inbound links are temporarily increased in rank depending on Google’s evaluation of their worth. This, again, is unconfirmed by Google, but does seem to have merit based on input from a number of webmasters.
According to webmaster David George, the claim that Google applies sandboxing to all new web sites “doesn’t seem to be borne out by experience”. He says”[n]o one knows for sure if the Google sandbox exists”, but adds it “seems to fit the observations and experiments of many search engine optimizers”. George is of the opinion that the sandbox “has introduced some hysteresis into the system in order to restore a bit of sanity to Google’s results.
What does Google have to say about it since they are the ones we are actually talking about? Matt Cutts says”[t]here are some things in the algorithm that may be perceived as a sandbox that doesn’t apply to all industries”. Whether the “sandbox’ exists or not, the main lesson is don’t try to artificially inflate PageRank – it could result in a time out in the penalty box!