Hi - I'm a long-time lurker and this is my first post.
My site is six months old, and it looks like it came out of the sandbox on the Dec. 7th update. I am so relieved! (actually relieved is an understatement :). Some background info about my site;
Live; June 2006
Links: About 150 according to Yahoo Site Explorer. In order to start the crawling on my site I purchased links from Yahoo Dir, Scaffe, and JoeAnt. I received a DMOZ link in August 2006. Other links are from forum postings, article sites, and scrapper/MFA sites. Besides the directory links, I haven't tried to solicit links (that's on my to-do list).
Content: 75 pages original content. All indexed - no supps. Most pages are 2500 words long. My goal for the site is not to recreate the wheel - if someone else has written on a topic, I link to that. My articles are based on primary research (interviews, site visits, etc.) My inspiration for the site was to answer questions that I had on the topic (that I also saw were repeatedly asked on forums I participated in), but with no structured information on the web about that topic. I tried to follow Brett's 26 steps and add an article a day, but that was too much. I now shoot for a new article a week.
Architecture: Plain HTML. I focus on easy navigation, and descriptive titles/meta tags. No other SEO (if this is considered SEO)
Background: Once I received the Yahoo Dir listing, many of my pages began immediately ranking at #1 on Yahoo and MSN for long tail phrases. I wasn't surprised since I was sure there were not many sources addressing these topics from my research. On Google - nothing, nada, zip. I was number 1 for my site name, all pages were indexed, but it was as if the site did not exist. I didn't expect to be number 1 in Google, but maybe number 50-100.
I was receiving complementary emails from visitors to my site (some users wondering why they couldn't find my site sooner), was able to access "stars" in my sector for interviews based on their liking my site, and from my stats I could tell that my site was sticky, but still my content could not be found through Google.
Most of my traffic was coming from forum postings. I felt like what was the point of creating all this great content, when it would sit for ages before Google would let me out of the sandbox. Google was returning sites that were 5-6 years old, out of date, and not really relevant to the query, and my on topic pages were "not worthy" just because I was a new site. I became really bummed when I read a posting here saying that in highly competitive sectors like travel, you could be in the sandbox for 2 years! I really lost motivation to continue working on the site. I read began visiting Webmaster World compulsively to figure out how to get my site out of the sandbox.
Then, one day, I realized that I was getting substantially more traffic, looked at my Google webmaster tools, and realized that my "top search queries" were actually good long tail phrases - not random stuff. I'm not ranking #1, but at least I'm there in the top 20. I am relieved that my site can be found by Google's huge user base.
To all webmasters, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is incredibly frustrating to be in the sandbox, but I came out quicker (6 months vs. 1 -2 years) than I I thought.
To Google, please eliminate the sandbox or filters - whatever it is that basically treats new sites as non-existent. Many small, informational sites don't have the resources to buy adwords, or other ways to promote their site. I was honestly ready to move all my content to Wikipedia, so at least it could be found, then I came out of the sandbox. We create our sites as a "labor of love" and want the information to get out there to help other users.
Thanks for reading this LONG post. - C