Oh Ye of Little Faith
After what, 2yrs? of speculation, the Google Sandbox, the algorithm that puts some (not all) new sites in a kind of probationary period, has now been confirmed by Google. Rand Fishkin recounts conversations at the recent SES
During the conversation, which centered around spamming Google (as Todd, Greg & Dave are or were all top-level spammers), Matt asked how succesful Google's recent efforts to stop spam had been.
Greg & Dave in particular had some choice words about the subject and I commented too. We all shared the opinion that ranking new sites at Google was a pain since the inception of "sandbox" and Matt noted (this is a near word-for-word quote) - "OK, so it's really working. Even on you (guys)."
It gets better.
I asked him [not Cutts, but a different Googler] what Google internally called the sandbox. He doged my question fastidiously until saying that he would try to get the spam team to adopt our term, "sandbox", so we could all call it the same thing. I asked him if they would continue using it and he said "definitely" or possibly "almost certainly"... He noted in words I cannot remember exactly that they felt it was having a remarkable effect on the quality of the index. We moved on to other subjects after this, but not before he was vehement in explaining to me specifically that they did not design it to affect "all new websites", but that a "filter must be tripped" for a site to be "boxed".
and our own DougS also talks about what must be the same? conversation
Last night at the Google Dance at SES, I listened for some time to one of the Google engineers expounding on all things search at Google. He said that internally they do not refer to the probationary period as the sandbox. They've been amused by the term, and have affectionately turned to calling the sand covered volley ball court in their quadrangle "the sandbox".
He did, however, openly acknowledge that they place new sites, regardless of their merit, or lack thereof, in a sort of probationary category. The purpose is, as MHes mentioned earlier, to allow time to determine how users react to a new site, who links to it, etc. He dismissed the notion that its related to Adwords or any financial considerations favoring Google.
The probationary period can vary anywhere from six months to a year.
That said, there are exceptions where sites quickly stimulate an obvious quantum leap in user popularity measured by quality IBLs, etc.
I think the overal concensus was sandbox does not effect everyone and everything, it is just part of the algo and many sites fall foul of it. But it does not have to happen.