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Google update on using doorway pages

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Grant Whiteside

Google has recently stated that websites that use doorway pages as a method of increasing their “search footprint” without adding clear, unique value” may soon be penalised. We’ve all seen them; these are the pages that you often see on a website or a number of domains that are used to help rank the website for a specific search phrase that may not be regularly used across the rest of the website and will regularly not be part of the standard navigational user experience.

Regularly used in the retail and B2B sector, especially with brands with an offline presence ran on a franchise model or with a centralised marketing budget; you’ll see these types of businesses being hit. They typically have local stores, concessions and outlets pages that will often be left presenting themselves with a close to identical content with a local map listing and a ‘unique’ heading tag and page title. I believe that these types of pages will be hit.

The digital marketing industry has been using doorway pages since before the start of this century. We’ve seen them used them for a number of reasons, not just for spam reasons; there has regularly been a lack of willingness to invest in local search in the retail sector, normally due to a lack of investment or understanding at board room level. Regardless of the reasons or excuses of why brand managers let this happen, it’s fair to say they doorway pages are used to create a larger search footprint without necessarily providing anything unique to the user experience.

Some of examples that Google cite are:

  • Using multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific locations that drive users to one specific page.
  • Pages generated to drive visitors into the usable or relevant portion of your website or websites.
  • Noticeably similar pages that are made for search engines that are too similar to anything that is the defined in the browseable, navigational hierarchy of the website.
  • Location /regional pages that are almost identical to each other or where the same information can also be found in another part of the website.

Regularly used by the affiliate industry for organic positioning or to provide the correct content or code for bots, search engines, agents or browsers; doorway pages have been seen as a way of getting pages indexed and ranked fairly quickly to drive traffic without too much effort. Unfortunately the knock on effects of this latest Google update may be as drastic as getting your web pages penalised on Google or your brand, trust and reputation being tarnished in front of your potential audience. Neither of them are ideal scenarios that you want to be left to deal with. As always, the economics of reputation far outweigh the benefit of using outdated black hat SEO techniques.

What’s the difference between a doorway page and a landing page?

The doorway page and the landing page are different entities, but it won’t stop agencies dressing up the wolf in sheep’s clothing, neither will it stop some confused in house marketers or less tactically qualified agencies from getting it all wrong. There will be casualties along the way, there always are.

Landing pages should be used to furnish and optimise your digital marketing campaign. Ideally they are used to convert. Commonly used in paid media campaigns, the landing page (or micro site) has all the relevant content close to hand to engage the user toward reaching a goal or a conversion. With the unstoppable rise in programmatic advertising and RTB, providing the most relevant landing page and supported content is a great way of ensuring that the correct advert and subsequent content is shown to support your goal of lead generation, sales, customer retention or brand advocacy.

In conclusion:

No date for the update has been released yet but it will happen soon. Drop your doorway pages if you’re still using them, they will come back and haunt you if you don’t. Ask yourself; what is the point of this page? am I putting this website at risk here?, what are the benefits of having these pages? If you are left in doubt, consider using a well crafted landing page strategy to reach and engage your audience. I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits in the long term if your audience see the value of what you’re trying to sell them. What you did in search 6 years ago and what you should be doing now to promote your business are two completely different things.

Recommended Reading:

Googles update on doorway pages

Time for a website / technical SEO marketing audit?

Grant Whiteside
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