Google has announced that they will soon be launching a ranking adjustment that will negatively impact doorway pages on websites, as well as potentially impacting an entire site if Google feels there are enough spam doorway pages on a site to warrant it. And this ranking change is coming into effect soon.
Doorway pages have been around since the early days of SEO, although they also worked much better back in the day. But with the rise of local search, there has definitely been a resurgence of websites with thousands of doorway pages so they can rank for any Small Town USA with the keyword of a business type.
Entire site could be impacted
It is important to note that if there are an abundance of these doorway pages, even if the rest of the site is high quality, that the entire site could be impacted by the change. Brian White, from the Google Webspam Team says “Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.”
As Google has been posting the updated doorway pages information and ranking adjustment notice on their non-English Webmaster Central Blogs, this change will be rolling out globally. But it isn’t known if they plan to start with one country or language, as they sometimes do first as they begin rolling something out.
Google is also taking a special look at pages that could be considered somewhat duplicate, where similar pages already exist on the website and these duplicate pages are created for the sole purpose of getting additional traffic, often done through longtail or similar keywords.
Lack of navigation
Google is also considering pages that are standalone, where it is next to impossible for a user to be able to navigate the rest of the website, as a doorway page. While there are plenty of legitimate reasons a website might have pages that are standalone, the fact that Google is looking at them algorithmically could mean that they could get caught in this new ranking factor and negatively impact those pages and perhaps the entire site.
Special note about pay per click landing pages
Pay per click landing pages – particularly ones that take a minimalist approach – can also be mistaken for doorway pages by search engines. And with this change having the potential to impact an entire site, you should definitely block Googlebot from these landing pages (but do allow the AdWords bot for quality score purposes).
Why is Google taking a stand against these now? Local is clearly playing a big role in this. But mobile is also likely a pretty big driving force between the change. Since so many Google searchers do local searches, if the search results are cluttered with spam doorway pages, making it harder to find actual businesses in any town or city, then that is a poor user experience for searchers and could drive those searchers to another search engine. And this is something that Google really doesn’t want to do, particularly with Yahoo chiseling away at Google’s search share thanks to the Firefox deal.
Unfortunately Google doesn’t say exactly when this ranking adjustment will come into play, other than “soon.” So if your site has a host of doorway pages, you should start removing them – or at the very least noindexing them – ASAP.
What is the nitty gritty word-for-word on exactly what changed?
For those of you that love to read into Google’s nuances of announcements and changes, here is both the old version of the doorway pages support page, followed by the new one.
The old version
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.
Therefore, Google frowns on practices that are designed to manipulate search engines and deceive users by directing them to sites other than the one they selected, and that provide content solely for the benefit of search engines. Google may take action on doorway sites and other sites making use of these deceptive practices, including removing these sites from Google’s index.
Some examples of doorways include:
- Having multiple domain names targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
- Templated pages made solely for affiliate linking
- Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names
And here is their new and improved version.
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
So if your site has doorway pages or simply pages that could be mistaken by Google’s algorithms as being doorway pages, you will want to ensure that you fix them as soon as possible, and before the “soon” arrives.
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