Google Cracks Down on Doorway Pages

2014 was a busy year for Google. There were Pandas, Penguins, Pirates, Pigeons and of course the official death of Google Authorship. 2015 on the other hand, has been a lot quieter. Aside from the upcoming mobile-friendly update (which has yet to be released), the only confirmed update of 2015 doesn’t even have a name. But don’t get too comfortable just yet.

Today Google reminded us that their Search Quality team is constantly working on new ways to effectively reduce web spam. Their latest target: doorway pages. Doorway pages are nothing new and neither is Google’s stance on them. But Google has announced they will be adjusting how their algorithm treats doorway pages in the near future.

Doorway pages are essentially web pages (or websites) that are created for the sole purpose of ranking higher in search results. For instance if you own a landscaping business in South Florida, you may be targeting several different cities. In order to rank well in each city, you may consider creating separate pages for each market you serve.

Google doesn’t have a problem with websites adding more content to boost organic search visibility, as long as the content provides “clear, unique value.” Also, these pages shouldn’t serve as what Google refers to as “intermediate” pages – meaning pages that aren’t necessarily the final destination for users.

Here are some examples of doorway pages:

  • Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
  • Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
  • Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy

Google recently updated their guidelines to clarify what types of pages are considered doorways. Here a few questions you should ask yourself to determine if your pages may be seen as doorway pages:

  • Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
  • Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?
  • Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
  • Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?
  • Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

I’ve worked with several clients that either have used doorway pages in the past or continue to use them today. Google’s Panda update did a pretty good job of eliminating the biggest offenders, especially those that were almost entirely comprised of duplicate content. But now Google is fine-tuning their algorithm to crack down harder on sites that may have previously slipped beneath their radar.

If you’re currently using doorway pages to boost your website’s rankings, I would highly recommend finding another (less spammy) solution. There are many ways you can rank well for different markets, products and services, while still providing “unique value” to the user. Even if you’ve been using doorway content for years without a penalty, with this new algorithm update, your days might be limited.

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