Google just announced that it is cracking down on doorway pages with a new ranking adjustment, which will launch soon.
Doorway pages have historically been known as pages created specifically to get in search results for various queries, and then send users to a different page. Here’s Google’s instant answer for what they are:
This practice has long been against Google’s quality guidelines, but that’s hardly stopped people from trying it. In 2005, Google’s Matt Cutts advised people not to hire an “assclown SEO that makes doorway pages with sneaky redirects,” and that advice still holds up today, apparently more than ever.
Five years ago, Google started sending webmasters messages when Webmaster Tools detected doorway pages on their sites.
“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,” says Brian White from Google’s Webspam team. “For example, searchers might get a list of results that all go to the same site. So if a user clicks on one result, doesn’t like it, and then tries the next result in the search results page and is taken to that same site that they didn’t like, that’s a really frustrating experience.”
Google has “freshened” its definition of doorway pages in the Quality Guidelines. It’s not exactly the same as the definition from the Wikipedia-based instant answer, so this is the one you’ll really want to pay attention to:
- Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They 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. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.
- Here are some examples of doorways:
- 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
Remember when Google launched the Panda update, and gave webmasters a list of questions they could ask themselves to determine if a page is high quality? Well, they’ve provided a list of questions to determine if your pages may be seen as doorway pages now. Luckily this list isn’t as long:
- 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 think this is mostly common sense stuff for those familiar with Google’s guidance throughout the years, but it never hurts to have clear, concise language to refer to. Some must have been having success with this type of content anyway to have Google implement a new ranking adjustment.
“Over time, we’ve seen sites try to maximize their ‘search footprint’ without adding clear, unique value,” says White. “These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof.”
According to White, sites with “large and well-established doorway campaigns” may notice a significant impact from the adjustment.
It’s nice to see Google announcing algorithm changes these days. They don’t always do that. There for a while, they were releasing monthly lists of changes, but eventually stopped doing so, claiming people had grown bored with them.
Last month, Google announced that a new mobile ranking signal had gone in to effect, and that another one would take hold in April.