Google has made another major announcement that has the potential to impact thousands or millions of websites in the coming weeks. The search engine giant has indicated their decision to lower or even effectively eliminate the rankings of so-called ‘doorway pages’ -- pages that have been built to rank highly for specific keywords without actually adding any value for the user. This change is expected to have far-reaching effects on websites that employ these tactics.
What is a doorway page?
According to Google, 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. Websites employ these types of sites because they can monopolize top slots in search engine results for multiple keywords without developing the supporting depth of content in the rest of the site to merit the ranking. This allows the site to drive more traffic without actually adding the breadth of value for the user. Google may consider any of the following types of pages to be ‘doorway pages’.
- Pages that are created for the sole purpose of funneling people to actionable parts of the website rather than actually serving a purpose within the site
- Pages that have been developed to rank for general terms even though the content on the page is actually very specific
- Pages that duplicate content from other parts of the site solely to attract a larger percentage of the search traffic
- Pages that have been developed to attract traffic for affiliates rather than provide value and answer the queries of users
- Pages that have been created only for search engines and are not integrated into the rest of the site - ‘island’ pages
Google wants to diminish the ranking of these sites because they disrupt the quality of the search results. When users enter the search terms and click on a doorway page, the site will lack the content that the user had been promised on the search results page and force the user to go looking for the information. Users will often return and try the second or third result on the SERP. With a well-developed doorway page campaign, often these subsequent sites will bring the user to the same or a similar website. The user then becomes frustrated with the search results and their inability to find an answer to their query. This is the problem that Google wants to fix with their latest algorithm update.
What is Google changing?
Google has announced that they will be adjusting the ranking portion of their algorithm to better find these doorway pages and reduce their ranking. Brian White of Google says that, “Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.” While this algorithm update is aimed at low quality sites that seek to capture traffic by using different ‘doorways’ for different locations or products without actually updating information, it remains to be seen how this update will impact local SEO. It is a common practice in local SEO to develop different pages for multiple locations. There have been some concerns from those who work with local businesses about how the changes will impact these sites.
For example, a nail salon with two branches that wants to bring in traffic for two cities may have pages targeted for each city that have the same or similar content and describe the same nail salon. Although the page may not be the spammy page that Google is seeking to eliminate, it could potentially be hit by this this ranking change.
What should businesses do if they fear they will be impacted by this algorithm change?
Businesses that use different pages to attract traffic for a few different keywords should focus primarily on value. In White’s announcement, he specifically mentioned pages that did not offer customers new information. That means websites that have different pages for various services areas or franchise areas should steer away from using duplicate content for different locations. That type of web development may be detrimental to the ranking of the website. A site audit, such as those offered by BrightEdge, can help businesses detect duplicate content so that they know where to focus their efforts. Google has not given a date for the algorithm changes, only indicating that they will happen soon.
Companies should use this time to develop content to add value to their different pages. If a page has been built to target a specific keyword or location, make sure that the content on the page addresses the needs of the users and not just the search engine. Keep in mind that Google will not be punishing landing pages. Landing pages are specifically designed to bring customers looking for a specific product or service to a page created to promote that product or service. There is one central difference between a landing page and a doorway page.
- A landing page makes it easier for customers to find the products or services they seek, creating a positive user experience
- A doorway page forces people to go looking for the content they were promised, resulting in a negative user experience
If a website suspects that they will be hit by the changes, using software such as the event tracking capabilities of BrightEdge can be valuable. This software will let website owners see how their sites perform throughout algorithm updates and other key events through a clear dashboard. Users can also use features, such as the ‘site comparison’ feature on BrightEdge’s Data Cube to compare how the pages within the website perform.
For example, the nail salon described above can compare the traffic to their different sites to judge the impact of the algorithm changes. The patented Share of Voice (SOV) technology produced by BrightEdge can also give business owners unique insight into their relevance and ranking with organic search. These various tools are excellent for tracking the potential impact of the algorithm change on a site’s performance and visibility. In its ongoing quest to improve user experience, Google’s latest algorithm update will seriously disrupt doorway page tactics employed by low-quality spam pages. Unfortunately it also has the potential to catch some local business sites in its net.
Businesses that fear they will face consequences when the new changes go into effect must focus on providing unique, quality content that serves the needs of their customers. When they combine this with careful monitoring tools like BrightEdge to judge their site’s performance, they will be well-equipped to address and respond to the coming changes.