Google routinely updates its search engine algorithm to better refine the results you get when you search for a term. The motive behind the updates is to provide better organic results and give you the website you’re actually looking for when you search for a term. By updating the algorithm, the search engine giant can remove any incentive to use so-called “black hat” SEO practices such as stuffing a home page full of keywords hoping to catch the eye of search engines instead of simply writing the site for actual people. Thanks to prior Google updates, keyword stuffing has long been considered poor SEO work that won’t really help your page rank well anyway.
A new update to the algorithm will be coming soon and it is designed to deal with a practice similar to keyword stuffing: doorway pages. Doorway pages and doorway websites are created with the purpose of ranking highly for certain search terms. Google claims that the practice makes it more difficult for searchers to find what they’re really looking for because page one of the results is filled with essentially useless results. Says Google: “[Doorway pages] are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination.” Doorway pages can also lead users to click on a search result link only to be taken to an intermediary page, where they need to click again to reach the actual source for which they were searching. Google believes it’s less frustrating and just plain common sense to find the best way to get the searcher to the right page in as few clicks as possible.
One example of a doorway would be creating many different pages with multiple domains that target specific regions with geo targets and keywords instead of just writing natural-sounding copy on the website. In other words, pages could be set up to target searches for “Plumber in Dallas” and “Plumber in Fort Worth” and so on, just listing various areas around the Dallas-Ft. Worth area instead of simply listing the areas served in an organic way somewhere on the website. Similarly, doorways can also be set up so that multiple pages have similar keywords. For instance, there’s no reason to create one page called Air Conditioning Repair and another page called AC Repair when creating pages for a business’s services. Another common method of creating doorways is to have a page with actual useful information, but setting up multiple intermediate doorway pages fishing for keyword searches to funnel users to the useful information.
Doorway pages are also called spamdexing, bridge pages, portal pages, jump pages, entry pages, and gateway pages. Landing pages, however, are not the same as doorway pages. Landing pages are seen as legitimate white hat SEO elements, as long as they are rich in content and provide useful information. Because landing pages are often used in conjunction with a pay-per-click campaign, it doesn’t really make sense for their owners to build doorway pages because they’re already paying for top placement, albeit non-organic placement.
So with the newer algorithm updates coming, is your website in danger of being dinged by Google because it uses what can be considered doorways? Google suggests that you ask yourself a few questions about pages you might be worried about on your website to know for sure.
Are the pages an integral part of the user experience? In other words, could visitors get by on your site without ever looking at these pages, or do they have relevant information that visitors will find useful? If the answer is no, and the page is just set up to catch the eye of the search engines, it may be vulnerable to being knocked down in the rankings.
Do the pages contain similar language as other pages on the site? Spinning your own copy from other pages simply to create new keyword combinations is not seen in the same light as creating new, useful, content-rich pages.
Do the pages exist as “islands?” Ask yourself how easy it is to get around to the rest of your website from the page in question. If the page only has a link designed to funnel users to one part of your website, it’s probably going to be seen as a doorway.
As always, the best way to create a website and write web copy is to write for humans, and not for search engines. Google has stated this again and again and backs it up with the actions they take on their algorithm updates. The company has always been committed to creating the best user experience possible and preventing black hat SEO tactics from gaming the system.
If you have questions about doorway pages, Google recommends that you visit their webmaster help forum.
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