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Google Algorithm Update: Targeting “Doorway Pages”

Why not jump into the frenzy and declare the end of the world or the “death of SEO” like everyone else does when a slight announcement is made? Okay, so I’m not going to be dramatic and fear mongering in this post, just sharing some information with you to give you a heads up.

Many of us are already anxiously waiting for April 21st when the new mobile algorithm is supposed to be released, but quite frankly, that one is a bit boring for my liking. All my client sites are responsive, and there has been no indication this would affect local SERPs just yet. Either way, it makes no difference to me.

The real issue though:

Google Penalizing or Targeting Doorway Pages

So while everyone is panicking and freaking out about their landing pages, duplicate content, directories, silo structure, etc. I’m thinking that this is really going to be more hype than actual changes. Take this with a grain of salt though, I thought Panda and Penguin were all hype as well… so maybe my view on it doesn’t matter.

Today Google made a statement about their disdain of “Doorway pages”, as you can see here:

Google’s Search Quality team is continually working on ways in which to minimize the impact of webspam on users. This includes doorway pages.

We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.

For example, searchers might get a list of results that all go to the same site. So if a user clicks on one result, doesn’t like it, and then tries the next result in the search results page and is taken to that same site that they didn’t like, that’s a really frustrating experience.

Over time, we’ve seen sites try to maximize their “search footprint” without adding clear, unique value. These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof. To improve the quality of search results for our users, we’ll soon launch a ranking adjustment to better address these types of pages. Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.

Care for my take on it? Of course you do.

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Google has been “against” these mean, evil, doorway pages for years. Ever since I started learning about SEO years ago, they have been against doorway pages. However, to give such an announcement, stating they will “soon launch a ranking adjustment” makes me wonder if this is going to be a small and under the radar update, if this is an add-on to Panda, or hell, even hummingbird or if this is something that’s going to be a brand new introduction.

Before continuing further into this break down…

What is a doorway page, and why is it bad?

Google has been kind enough to give a couple examples.

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

I’m not one to preach about doing everything 100% white hat, in fact if you read my tutorial on ranking city specific landing pages you can tell I’m a frequent user of smart, “grey” area SEO tactics.

However, bullet point #1 kindly suggests that having multiple pages targeted at specific cities or regions that funnel users to one page is a doorway page. That’s kind of scary since this is a tactic I’ve used for a long time with great success. It is also something I’ve recommended to YOU GUYS and GIRLS in my blog post about doing SEO for clients in the boonies. But don’t freak yet….

This is going to be me, if I’m wrong about all this (Watch out Google):



Looking more carefully at what Google is saying, I don’t believe I’m at risk when it comes to local search, nor do I believe anything about this whole “doorway” penalty or ranking adjustment is going to be a big deal for local SEO consultants and companies.

Why do I have confidence? I believe what is talked about is organic search. At first I was thinking this could effect my clients, but I think this is 100% about organic search and since local search is based on location relevance + keyword/industry relevance I don’t believe we’ll be penalized for city specific landing pages.

Are they made for search engines? Okay, yes, they are made for search engines but they’re also made for people. We’re also not trying to funnel the traffic from the landing pages to one single page, heck most of my landing pages for clients are made to generate a call, not a form submission. The final destination, or funnel flow is irrelevant for many of my clients.

(Important Note: If you have city specific landing pages that link to the same “free estimate” form/page you may want to start duplicating the hell out of those forms to create a city specific estimate page to not be caught in the crossfire.)

Then Who Will This Effect?

This is purely speculation but I predict that Yelp will take a hit, along with quite a few other directories or citation sources. This doesn’t mean those citations will be less relevant, I just think the dominance of certain directories will be hit in this update.

Another site I can see being hit is Forbes. If you click on a forbes link in the SERPs you’re always taken to what I consider to be a “doorway” page where you have to click another link to see the content or wait for the redirect.

A group of sites I believe that are at risk for exposure will be nationwide or multi-location businesses. This can make SEO difficult for them if they have location based pages and more than one location in the city or cluster of cities. Think big chain franchises, big stores, local entrepreneurs.

I also see this as a potential threat for many ecommerce sites and expect to see pretty big changes for those types of keywords.

Overall most local businesses shouldn’t be at risk.

There’s a lot of talk about duplicate content being penalized but guys, duplicate content already “is penalized”. It seems to be the issue is one of search experience where Google thinks certain sites shouldn’t dominate the SERPs.

The ones that will take the biggest hit seem to be national brands and franchises along with ecommerce sites. I believe most of your normal local businesses will be perfectly fine.

What are your thoughts? Are you worried?  Let me know in the comments below.

This is me when I come out ahead after an algorithm “adjustment”.



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