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The Sandbox, the March Filter & BLOOD vs. TLD

The SandBOX

Originally, the 'sandbox' factor was used to elaborate an odd phenomenon noticed by SEO professionals in conjunction with the hilltop algorithm. The effect was first introduced to the SEO community at large by Mr. Garret French of WebProNews, who wrote Google "SandBox Effect" Revealed on May 6. A second, oft-referenced article by Mr. Wayne Hulbert of SEO Chat was published a month later, on June 9 - The Sandbox Effect: Not a Nice Place to Play. These articles both focused on the implementation of the Hilltop Algo & how its use created a 'sandbox' where non-expert sites went to play - away from the regular SERPs
Loosely, Hilltop says that to find an "expert document" on a specific subject, you must have at least 2 "expert" sources" linking to the document. For one, two & even many three keyword phrases, the Hilltop algorithm works correctly, but for longer strings, its logic fails and no "expert documents" can be found. This was presumed to account for the original "sandbox" factor which found new sites ranking well for search terms when nonsense gibberish was appended. For example:

# A search for Microsoft Keyboards would return a set of results that did not include the newer sites while
# A search for Microsoft Keyboards -alksdjf -adijfsh - dfjh -aiodsfg would return a different set of results that included the newer sites that the SEOs suspected of being in the "sandbox"
The "sandbox" has evolved to have a very different meaning. The original search with exclusion factors no longer displays "pre-sandbox" results, sites have been in the "sandbox" for far longer than 3-6 months and some (albeit rare) sites appear to have evaded the filter entirely or been only slightly affected by it. This has sparked even greater controversy and confusion as SEOs look to emulate the few sites that have escaped and continue to suffer great traffic losses under the sandbox's effects.
There are a lot of people confused about what the sandbox means and for every SEO expert there is a different meaning. Therefore it is decided to re-name what many are now referring to as 'the sandbox'. The new name - The March Filter.

The March Filter

In March of 2004, many different websites that had been recently launched or began engaging in SEO noticed that their efforts were under-appreciated by Google.

In a thread from early September of 2004 someone wrote - No More Sandbox - Let's say the March Filter. This thread sparked additional discussion and sadly, more confusion across several of the SEO forums. The goal was to remove the "sandbox" term, as technically it refers to a test environment for software and no longer corresponds to the current penalties applied to newer sites.

Even many longtime SEO experts in the field noticed that new sites they reviewed and worked on were not gaining the positions in the rankings that normally accompanied the type of effort that was going into them. Sites with many more and much better quality back links were going unappreciated and seemed to randomly toss in the lower portions of the SERPs - results 50-500.

The March Filter also seems to be prolonged by what many are calling the lack of a 'full update' by Google, meaning that while back links update and SERPs shift around, the PageRank has not been updated in the toolbar and no large algorithm components, shifts, etc akin to the 'Florida' update have been implemented.

Some perceive this as having relation with Google's public offering, which is possible. Others see a sinister motive that forces sites to use adwords more aggressively.

The March Filter discussion prompted a more careful examination of the sandbox and even sparked the creation of the SEOmoz Website. Although results will take some time to arrive, the sandbox's definition has moved ahead and certain consistent features that stand out can now be used to track & predict its effect. The March Filter discussion was followed up by several theories that coalesced around the idea that back links, rather than sites, were being penalized.

BLOOD - Back Link Over Optimization Devaluation vs. Tld
The new term BLOOD, also called BLOOP (with penalization rather than devaluation) refers to the factors that are speculated to affect newer sites or newer links. This theory is based on the idea that an SEO who creates many new links to a site very quickly, following typical SEO patterns (such as similar anchor text, links from high PR sites, etc.) are subject to penalization for "over-optimizing" their inbound links.

TLD - Temporary Link Devaluation
A second term, TLD (Temporary Link Devaluation) surmises that new links have only 5-10% of the full value of normal links and that over time; they gain their full weight when considered in the algorithm. If TLD exists, it would suggest that newer links are not as relevant or helpful as old, established links. This argument conflicts with the theory described by Dr. Garcia (Orion) at Search Engine Watch in a thread titled - Temporal Link Analysis (TLA).
TLA purports to help search engines return more relevant results by adding a time analysis component to the value of a link. However, if speculation about the 'sandbox' factor holds true, it would suggest that TLA is not yet being included in Google's algorithm, or that sites suffering from sandboxing are not benefiting from it. In the same thread, Orion points out that the TLA patent is currently held by IBM, so it is likely not a part of any search engine algorithm at this point.
The filter on new sites, by whatever name, is a strong, overriding factor for many in the SEO industry. By properly recognizing its effects, documenting as much as we can & constantly experimenting with new ideas, an eventual victory seems likely. Unfortunately, the sandbox does not appear to be loosening its grip - more and more SEOs are finding themselves strangled by it, creating a frustrated community. As evidence arises from sites that have escaped.


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