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Although thousands of website owners swear by the existence of the infamous Google Sandbox effect and hold it responsible for the inconsistencies in the way websites struggle or fail to make an impact in search engine results despite intensive optimization efforts, the phenomenon is nowadays still being regarded as a chimera, a myth of the Internet if you like.
Considering the difficulty (or better yet, impossibility) of measuring the Sandbox effect scientifically by means of experiments and addressing it in an observable manner, chances are we won’t be seeing the mystery veil surrounding the Sandbox come off any time soon. Until that day comes, all we can do is add to the already existing speculation concerning Google Sandbox and try to debunk any unsubstantiated hypotheses that we are unable to verify ourselves.
If you number among the ones who have heard of it but don’t know exactly what to make of it, let us begin by sketching a definition for the Sandbox phenomenon and then we will have a closer look at the negative effects it has on websites’ search engine rankings.
The Google Sandbox first started to show its teeth around the summer of 2004, when increasingly larger numbers of websites were beginning to confront with the same problem – in spite of heavy optimization work done on them with the aim to achieve better search engine exposure, websites were paradoxically falling down like flies in Google’s hierarchy. Perplexed and concerned about the actual reasons why otherwise carefully optimized websites were free falling instead of climbing up positions in Google’s rankings, and why these negative effects seemed to persist for a certain period of time and then subside as if they never happened, webmasters came up with numerous explanations and interpretations of what later became known as “The Google Sandbox Effect”.
The negative, mysterious impact of the Sandbox continued to escalate and seemed to have reached its peak by early 2005, when it encouraged the formation of many SEO community groups and alliances determined to find the causes and possible solutions for the strange and annoying event. By February, after the first attempts of addressing the problem – with the implementation of a Google update codenamed “Allegra” in the frontline – have done little to correct the problem, the online community was really beginning to feel the panic and all kinds of debatable claims about conspiracies were soon spread out all over the Internet.
Although there was not much of breakthrough concerning the causes and potential solutions for the Sandbox effect, the phenomenon that originally started out as suspicion was beginning to shape itself into a concrete belief that there was something out there messing up things in terms of website search engine exposure. It wasn’t all about some paranoid website owners on a ghost chase, something was actually happening.
Today, although the existence of a Google Sandbox is still not globally accepted and, just as before, it is extremely difficult to measure, verify or support this idea with solid proof, webmasters are more aware of it and on the permanent lookout for any possible signs. Although there is still no proven way for a website to avoid falling in the Sandbox trap or escape it once in, fortunately there are ways of minimizing its negative impact, but we will have to address this on another occasion.