The “Google Sandbox” is a time delay imposed on new domains, preventing them from ranking in search results unless they exceed some set of criteria known only to Google. It was named by search marketers who have since debated its character as well as its existence. Many new domains show no signs of “sandboxing”, while publishers who have had to struggle to “break out of the sandbox” know that such traffic embargos are a serious business consideration. Now, Google is reportedly preparing a 5 day sandbox for newly-registered domains.
According to Jay Westerdal of Domain Roundtable, insider sources (unnamed) revealed Google is planning to impose a sandbox delay on the monetization of new domains. Domains less than 5 day sold will not be able to monetize with AdSense. Jay suggests that this will “kill” the practice of Domain Tasting, something many in the Internet industry have been wishing for, since there is really no upper limit to the scaling of domain tasting.
Domain “tasting” is the practice of registering domain names to test them for a few days, with an option to release them for a refund if you decide (for whatever reason) you don’t want to keep them. The “tasting period” is 5 days. This option is actually available to everyone, although it is not made available to everyone because many registrars choose not to offer it or simply don’t make it readily accessible. Tasting domains would be a reasonable strategy for many web publishers. Unfortunately however, it scales very well. With Google’s AdSense a large scale domain tasting effort can be very profitable. Jay reports that one active domain taster earned $3 million per month from AdSense on tasted (and never registered) domains.
By blocking AdSense revenues for domains less than 5 days post registration, Google would effectively eliminate the profitability of large-scale domain tasting. Tasting would still serve its primary purpose for domain registrants — they can still test traffic levels or re-think their commitment to a domain, and benefit from the refund option.
What is the impact on web publishers and SEOs? If other monetization platforms followed Google’s lead to effectively embargo domain tasting as a for-profit activity, large numbers of domains that are currently registered every day would remain available for registration. That increases the pool of names available to those actually needing domain names. In addition, if activity levels decreased, this would have an impact on ad inventory levels and Quality Scores (publisher payouts) across the remaining Google ad network.