A key part of being an SEO professional is keeping up with changes in the industry. A simple change in Google’s algorithm can have a huge effect on the effectiveness of certain campaigns. A lot of website owners will need to modify their website page structure following the recent announcement of a change by Google. Google has stated that they will start considering certain doorway pages as web spam.
Many sites use doorway pages that target certain keywords for SEO purposes. For example, a retailer could have a page that targets keywords related to a specific brand they carry, but after the doorway page, leads the searcher to the regular site. It was a way to get a content targeted to more keywords than you normally would be able to without really creating anything substantive or new. Google will now classify a lot of ages as this as web spam.
“Over time, we’ve seen sites try to maximize their “search footprint” without adding clear, unique value,” wrote Brian White, from the Google Webspam Team, in a blog post. “These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof. To improve the quality of search results for our users, we’ll soon launch a ranking adjustment to better address these types of pages. Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.”
As White indicated, this change will have a large impact on a lot of sites. Doorway pages and domains have been used by a lot of sites to target different keywords and audiences. In fact, many content management systems have themes that create doorway pages automatically. For example, a category page that aggregates all the products or pages within the category. Google won’t penalize sites for such a page, but they will if marketers duplicate such a page for SEO purposes. Though this was once considered a legitimate marketing practice, Google says that doorway pages hurt the user experience.
Though the change is frustrating to website owners and marketers who have built an SEO plan that features doorway pages, Google makes a reasonable point. Doorway pages lead to a situation where a Google user can get a search result with a list of sites and webpages that all lead to the same general content. Google used the same reasoning when they started targeting splash pages (which are functionally similar) years ago.
Defining what is, or isn’t, an offending doorway page can be challenging, but it’s important for business owners to make sure their sites aren’t being penalized by the upcoming change.
Here are a few things Google said they would consider when deciding what pages qualify 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?
The change to the algorithm will go into effect soon, so business owners and marketers have time to change their sites and remove unnecessary doorway pages before they can hurt the site’s SEO. As was stated in a previous article on this site, the only sure fire tactic for Google-penalty proof SEO is to create good content that is useful to consumers.
For another upcoming change that marketers should be prepared for, read this article on changes to the Google’s algorithm for mobile.