It's definitely not just
a sandbox issue. My charter fishing guy's site has not changed substantially in over a year. Itsy bitsy little tweeks but nothing more than a paragraph in all that time. When Florida happened his site dropped to 140-220 range for the main keyword phrase, as well as several other variations on that phrase. Other SEs had us at sub-20's and even a few in the top 5.
Today his main keyword phrase went from 141 to 20 while a couple others went to #1, #2, #4 and various things no higher than 28 for those I track with only one exception. He's number 67 for "Florida charter boat" and considering the competition I'm quite happy (not satisfied but happy) with it.
Note, no significant changes in over a year. The site has been under my control since July 2003 and has existed since November 1998... certainly not a sandbox scenario as I understand it.
I just hope this stays like this for awhile! Thanks especially to Jill and others here who preach "Don't follow the fads, just make a good page with good content that a customer would benefit from and leave it alone." You saved me many hours of frustration - I basically made it good and left it alone and it seems to have paid off... now if I can just make it awesome!
Thanks again, guys and gals!
Edit: The change in rank was not today as I seem to be saying - I just noticed it today.