Why People Are Still Talking About Doorway Pages
A decade ago, major newspapers like The New York Times reported on corporations using dirty tricks such as doorway pages to manipulate the search rankings. As a result, the term, doorway page has taken on an air of mystery, leading to many thinking of doorway pages as a kind of ‘magic trick’ for getting top rankings.
If you are someone who is chasing this trick, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Doorway pages may be built for the purpose of getting top rankings, but these days, they are far more likely to be a way down the rankings rather than a way up them. Even in those early days, BMW was given the zero-page rank of death for using them. If you are looking for a way of getting top rankings on Google, Doorway Pages are not the solution. This article will show why you won't find any tasks for doorway pages in the rankingCoach FREE digital marketing app and why you should avoid them altogether.
Bad Examples of Doorway Pages
Another popular misconception about doorway pages is that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types: most doorway pages are’ bad’ BlackHat doorway pages but there are special ‘good’ WhiteHat doorway pages that can be used without risk and really work!
This misconception is fueled by articles from ‘marketing experts’ trying to rank well for the term doorway pages. These ‘click chasers’ shoehorn another digital marketing technique into an article with the title such as how I used doorway pages to boost my rankings. What these articles normally show is a series of pages that are similar to each other but have nothing to do with doorway pages.
You can boil all these articles down to two misleading arguments. One page is ranking well for multiple similar terms, e.g — These pages for the term ‘swimming shorts’ and ‘summer shorts’ are similar but they both rank well, this must be a doorway page!
The key feature of what makes a page a doorway page is its use of misdirection.
In this so-called ‘example’ of a doorway page, it is perfectly logical that a search engine would see summer shorts and swimming shorts as having different and equal value for the user, perhaps they need shorts for swimming perhaps they need them for the summer. This is a case of semantics, not deception. Without deception, the question of how similar pages rank is: what counts as duplicate content? Not: what is an example of a doorway page?
Looking at two pages in the search results that both rank and saying this must be doorway pages is certainly jumping to conclusions. More importantly, it doesn’t take into consideration how advanced the Google Algorithm has become. Ten years ago a page ranking well on Google for a similar term may have been evidence of a doorway page. These days it’s more likely that Google has identified these terms as similar or interchangeable and is showing the same content because it believes this is what the user wants to see.
The second common false example of a doorway page is of multiple locations with the same content like on this menu screen from the HERZ website. This is another false example of a doorway page because even if the information on each of the Van Hire pages is similar they serve a very different purpose for each user.
The content on the rental page for vans in London is going to be very similar to one for vans in Manchester, but the latter is going to be of very little use to someone moving house in London, so having multiple landing pages for these different purposes is logical and not deceptive, in fact, it's creating more clarity.
So What Is A Doorway Page?
The classic example of a doorway page is plain HTML code with lots of text filled with keywords. These doorway pages are not visible to website visitors as they are usually automatically redirected to the intended page that has actual content.
For BMW’s infamous doorway pages they used a slight variation on this technique, instead of redirecting from a doorway page, they hid the doorway page in the page. A visitor viewing the site with normal browser settings would see a page with pictures of cars on it and very little text,
This is a good example of a doorway page because it shows how they attempt to mislead users and search engines into attributing values from one page onto another.
Why This Kind of Doorway Page Is A Bad Idea
The Google Search Engine has changed so much since the BMW incident. that this type of doorway page, no matter how heavily disguised, simply won’t work. This is because Googlebot, which sorts and indexes page content, is way more sophisticated than it used to be. Readability is a crucial ranking factor for content. These days when a search engine sees keywords 42 times on a dense piece of text, it isn’t likely to rank that page well, it will see it as keyword-stuffed content that the user won’t enjoy and likely won’t rank it at all.
SMB TIP: Digital Marketing today is all about keyword precision, not keyword stuffing. If you need help finding the best keywords you should try the keyword tools featured in rankingCoach FREE
Google’s Take on What a Doorway Page Means
If you hadn’t already guessed, Google doesn’t like doorway pages. In their quality guidelines, they describe doorway pages as
‘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.’
As I showed you above, doorway pages involve deception which goes against a core Google commandment: never to mislead the user. For the purpose of training its webmasters, Google created this list of questions for webmasters to ask themselves in order to identify a potential doorway page:
Does the page solely exist for search engines and it only directs traffic to a relevant part of your site, or is it an integral part of the visitors’ experience on your website?
Is the page a duplicate of another page or elements from another page and it only exists to have multiple keyword hits for search engines?
Are these pages an "island"? In that, they are really hard to navigate to or from?
Are links on the page only intended for search engines?
In conclusion, doorway pages
Are made to direct traffic but don’t offer any value to the user
Involve deception of the user and search engines
Many high-profile websites used them decades ago and got punished
The classic examples of doorway pages won’t work today.
Finally, If you are that one computer-genius kid who has invented a new type of doorway page, know that Google will be doing everything it can to find and spoil your trick, and when they do, it will hurt your rankings.
The Best Alternative to Doorway Pages
If you really want to get those top rankings and bring more visitors to your site, instead of deceiving Google you should focus on improving your website’s SEO so it’s as easy as possible for Google to scan and index your website’s content. You should also focus on creating top-quality content informed by keyword tools like those found in rankingCoach FREE. This will bring more visitors to your site without needing any doorway pages.