The Sandbox, the March Filter & BLOOD vs. TLD
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
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
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