The following is taken from my Google Penalty newsletter. I don't publish all of my newsletter posts on my blog, but I thought that this was a good one to publish. If you want to sign up to receive updates from me on Google algorithm changes and penalty news you can sign up here.
I know that I recently sent you a newsletter, but I thought that it was important to send another given that Google has just announced a new algorithm update that could potentially have a big impact on many sites. They will soon be updating their doorway pages algorithm.
You can read the official announcement here:
What is a doorway page?
There are several types of pages that can be considered doorway pages. Some are more “blackhat” than others. For example, some sites will show one version of a page to search engines and then when the user lands on this page they will quickly redirect them to another page. The page that the search engines see may be one that is optimized for very specific keywords in an attempt to rank well for those keywords.
This type of technique is often used by “microniche” affiliate marketers. I would imagine, though, that for most of you who are reading this newsletter, you are not trying to trick Google in this way.
However, there are some possible implications for eCommerce sites who are using tricky techniques in order to try to capture specific searches and funnel them to a broad sales page.
There are two types of potential doorway pages that might be more of a concern for the average small business owner. In their announcement about this algo change, Google has listed the following as two possible targets:
- 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?
- 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?
Let’s start by looking at the concerns with #1:
Are Landing Pages Doorway Pages?
Let’s say you run a PPC (Adwords) campaign and you have created a landing page to capture a very specific audience. That page is probably optimized for very particular search queries and may not be accessible from other parts of your site via your site’s menu navigation. Could this be a problem?
I think that it’s possible that Google will demote these pages from the organic search listings. However, if you have landing pages like this they really should have a noindex tag on them so that they are not included in Google’s search results.
Now, what about #2? This is the question that has a lot of people concerned.
Are location pages doorway pages?
Let’s say that you are a plumber in Toronto and you service the entire city. In order to get more searches, you have pages entitled, “Plumber in Mississauga”, “Plumber in Richmond Hill”, “Plumber in Newmarket” and so on and so on. The hope is that each of these pages will rank well in each search location. However, if you’ve got a lot of these pages, there is a good chance that they’re all going to contain very similar information. Google probably would prefer to see you have one main landing page rather than trying to capture search traffic by using very similar pages for every neighborhood or city that you service.
The problem is, though, that we really don’t know what Google is expecting. Will they count pages like this as doorway pages? Is it ok to have these landing pages provided each has a significant amount of unique content? If they do get affected, will they stop ranking? Is it possible that this ranking change could affect your entire site?
Linda Buquet from Catalyst Local tweeted today of a great example that just adds to the confusion http://www.localsearchforum.com/google-local-important/29401-google-warns-about-doorway-page-algo-update-could-affect-local.html. Check out Google’s organic listings for their “Get Your Business Online” campaign:
Each of those pages are very similar and built to capture search traffic from individual cities. Will Google demote its own sites?
ADDED: Just as I was about to hit publish on this newsletter Linda Buquet pointed this link from Google out to me:
These are Google's guidelines for businesses who have multiple locations. The page includes the following quote:
"Each location's or branch's information should be readily available on a webpage. This means that each location needs to be accessible on a unique URL. Knowing the correct page for each location allows Google's algorithms to surface the page for the relevant queries."
It sounds to me like you are fine to have multiple location pages provided that you actually have offices in those locations. But, I'm not sure how Google will treat a business that has one physical location but services many others and tries to put up a landing page for all of those areas. My gut says that you are ok provided you are not really overdoing it...but what constitutes overdoing it? At this point, I don't know.
There have been some great posts written on doorway pages. If you would like to read more, I can recommend the following:
The Google Help Page for Doorway Pages:
Andrew Shotland with an interesting comment about Yelp:
Miriam Ellis on the Moz Q&A site:
We don’t know when this algorithm will be rolling out. We also don’t know what kind of an impact it will have. It’s possible that it will just be affecting the tricky cloaking/redirecting type of doorway pages. But, it’s also possible that it will greatly affect the face of the local search engine results.
We’re in for a crazy spring. There is a good chance that Google going to release the doorway page algorithm update, a Panda update, a Penguin update, and the mobile rankings update all very soon.
I'll update you when we have more information on any of these changes.
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