Doorway pages and Matt Cutts' head
by Jon Law, on May 9, 2014
Google is updating her lovely Algo again and promise this will help with those nasty doorway pages. This page has been updated to reflect that update!
It's still a great read because many people think they're being clever when they could, in fact, be in store for an SEO Horror story...
[new_content_section]The world of SEO has a dark side. In fact, many people are under the impression that SEO can be nothing other than dark. Obviously, this is not the case. Google doesn't help in many ways and is guilty of frustrating the good guys by making rules that are proposed to rectify an issue but don't because Google continues to rank a website that disobeys said rules. Sites with un-penalised doorway pages is a good example of this.
[Tweet "Avoid an #SEO Horror Story - move away from #doorwaypages Google doesn't like them"]
Scooping up the local traffic
One method of using doorway pages is when an SEO expert attempts to scoop up all the local traffic for a particular profession. For example, a beautician in Southend looking to get work from neighbouring towns in Essex the website could have a lot of similar pages for each town covering each treatment offered. This would include hair removal Rochford, hair removal Leigh on Sea, hair removal Westcliff and thread vein removal Rochford, thread vein removal Leigh on Sea, thread vein removal Westcliff etc. ad nauseam
Not just doorway - gateway, entry etc.
This is not the only SEO technique for using doorway pages and as such there are other names for these, as pointed out by Bill Slawski in 2011
Doorway pages have also been referred to by terms like gateway pages, entry pages, bridge pagers, portal pages, and their primary purpose is to attract visitors from search engines in order to send them to other places.
As a site owner, you don’t want Google to start identifying your pages as doorway pages.
Avoid doorway pages because Google isn't keen
Indeed, Google doesn't like doorway pages, she classes it as a form of cloaking. This even sounds shady, very cloak and dagger. but here's the official definition from Google's help on doorway pages on the Webmaster tools site
Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination. Whether deployed across many domains or established within one domain, doorway pages tend to frustrate users.
And pertinent to this post
Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names
Google should really be de-indexing these pages. If she followed her own rules she would but sites do slip through the net. I became annoyed by this practice upon stumbling on a site employing the doorway pages technique described above and saw an opportunity to complain to webspam guru Matt Cutts on Twitter recently. This little exchange is quite funny, well it made me laugh anyway.
Matt Cutts' Head is a parody account and very funny too, you should follow him/her. This retort really made me laugh as it sums up the frustration you can get from dealing with the Google oligarchy on a daily basis. But it's the spammers that do my head in. Google are really only trying to clean up the mess they leave behind. A bit like a giant poop-a-scoop in the internet park.
Google really isn't keen on doorway pages, Matt Cutts has been complaining about them from at least 2005 but probably a lot longer. That historical blog post details a real horror story and gives the business owner plenty of reason to carefully select their SEO provider. It's interesting that Cutts points out
I see this all the time: clients who didn’t know what their SEO was doing can actually get their PageRank sucked away to the SEO or the SEO’s other clients.
Classy, huh? That’s why our SEO guidelines tell you that you need to understand what your SEO is doing on your domain.
To the SEO that did this to a mom and pop florist site: after your site is removed from Google’s index, your reinclusion process is going to be.. difficult.
So Google is saying that ultimately, it's the website owner's responsibility. Ignorance is not bliss in this instance!
Any other reasons to avoid this doorway SEO technique
If displeasing Google isn't enough here's a few more reasons to avoid this sort of SEO thing
- Firstly, as the content on these pages tends to be pretty poor, the person who lands on this page usually wants to leave pretty quickly. It's not a very good impression for visitors to the site, is it?
- Often duplicate content is used across your site, often taken verbatim from elsewhere. Google doesn't like this either and nor does the person who wrote the copy originally, they may come after you...
- You're paying for SEO services that are of questionable value. Potential short term gain will surely result in long term misery, avoid it or repent at your leisure.
- What value do the keywords targeted actually have? Do you actually know how many searches a month these keywords get? Or how difficult to rank for they are?
The final point about keywords is absolutely vital. Because even if Google ignores your doorway pages, your site doesn't get de-indexed you have to have an idea of how much traffic all that SEO work will get to your website. Surely, that has to be a worthwhile consideration?
Keywords that offer value to your business
In our experience business owners are often surprised at the keywords people actually use in Google. They are often not the ones they considered important. Then, of course, if you don't think about how difficult it is to rank for those keywords you could be wasting time and effort targeting keywords you won't be able to get to the first page of Google. That's a big mistake.
Lollipop Local don't do doorway pages but we can sort out the keywords that offer value to your business. This means we can identify the words and phrases people are using to try to find suppliers or services in your industry. We don't do poor content either...!
So if you're interested in finding out about the keywords that are useful for your business give us a call or use the contact page.
Heed the 2015 Google Update and move away from horrible Doorway Pages
Barry Schwarz has pointed out that Google are releasing a new ranking adjustment to their doorway page classifier to better handle doorway pages.
Now I'm very much in favour of this. If you've read my masterpiece above you'll realise that I'm not a fan. These gateway pages are shoddy, lazy attempts to rank. As Google say
we've seen sites try to maximize their “search footprint” without adding clear, unique value
The bold part in that quote is very important. Google are all about adding value, your own value. At Lollipop Local, we have ways of achieving this without resorting to tons of Gateway pages all over the internet and especially on your website. Because we're Google fans, after all she's only trying to ensure the internet has useful material to help us make informed decisions. We're fans of informed decisions.