“We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that are created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.”
This has paved the way for a doorway page penalty algorithm, and is bad news for any websites which currently use doorway pages to improve their search ranking, but what are doorway pages, and why does Google want to eradicate them?
What are doorway pages?
Doorway pages are essentially web pages which contain similar or identical content, with different URLs. Websites have frequently used them to rank well for different searches around a single topic area. So, for example, if your company provides plumbing services in London, but wanted to attract customers from specific areas, it may have created individual landing pages for each location, such as ‘plumbing services Croydon’ and ‘plumbing services Knightsbridge’ etc. If the content on these pages is identical or very similar, they are likely to be considered ‘doorway’ pages, as they provide a particular doorway into the website, without providing unique, useful content for the user.
Why does Google want to get rid of doorway pages?
Google’s aim has always been to enhance the user experience, and, as we have seen from the game changing algorithms penguin and panda in recent years, it is willing to penalise sites which it feels undermine the authority of its search results. Doorway pages are seen by Google as a website’s attempt to “maximise their ‘search footprint’ without adding clear, unique value”, and therefore it feels they are of no real benefit to users. Google is rolling out the doorway page penalty algorithm to penalise websites which employ this tactic to enhance SEO, and to discourage their use in future, in order to improve the quality of search results for users in the long term.
How can I protect my website’s search ranking against the doorway algorithm?
The simple answer is of course to remove (or at least edit) any doorway pages! But if you’re not sure whether your site contains any, it can be hard to know where to start. Thankfully, Google itself has put together a handy list of questions to help website owners define whether they have doorway pages on their site:
- Is the purpose to optimise for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site?
- 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?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you may have a doorway page on your hands, so your next step should be update your site and consider any future content carefully. We suggest following the following rules in order to make sure your website stays penalty free:
- Avoid duplicate content
This also ties in well with the Google panda algorithm. Make sure every page on your site is unique and helpful to users, in order to avoid any penalties.
- Make all pages easy to find
Doorway pages are typically very hard to find from a homepage, and are not integrated into the site’s navigation system. This is because they are generally written for search engines rather than users. Make sure all your web pages are optimised for human navigation.
- Remove empty pages
Remove any existing out-dated or empty pages from your site, and only make pages live when they contain unique content.
- Streamline your domains
If you have more than one domain which contributes to your SEO for a single enterprise, consider whether they could be consolidated into one single domain. If your company offers dramatically different services, then different domains are more feasible, but if you are currently listing similar products or services on different domains with the same contact information, then Google is unlikely to see this as justified.