Google Doorway Pages Algorithm Update — March 2015

Google has recently announced an update to their Doorway Pages Algorithm which have a big impact on webmasters using that SEO strategy including local SEO.

Google recently announced on the 16th March a Doorway Pages Update to their algorithm to enable them to detect a larger number of pages that are created solely for the purpose of search engines, without adding unique value.

Google have listed some examples of common doorway pages:

  • 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 website(s)
  • Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy

Further details revealed

Thankfully, the announcement post goes further than this, as even we find the doorway page examples above not overly clear. It specifies some questions that you can ask yourself to help determine if you might be caught by the new Doorway Page Algorithm:

  • Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your website, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
  • Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?
  • Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the website for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
  • Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?
  • Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your website? Are links to such pages from other pages within the website or network of websites created just for search engines?

We think this list is much more helpful, and could go a long way to stopping spammy and mostly duplicated pages from ranking. It will make webmasters think much more carefully how they construct their SEO campaigns, and we believe will result in better quality websites showing in the search engines. For local SEO, where duplicating pages with different locations mentioned it will be interesting to see how the community adapts as this is a very popular method of SEO.

Not only that, but it should also help the situation where one website may rank for many different but similar terms and show multiple entries in the search results. Google specifically mentioned that it does not look good when a reader visits one website in the Google results and then doesn’t like it … then clicks the next result and it takes them to the same website. So, as you can see, Google clearly have their sights on some pretty cool changes here.

Are Category Pages Doorway Pages?

Laura Hampton on Impression makes quite a valid point concerning category pages, especially on e-commerce websites where you may have all your dress for example collated on one page, which may link to another category page called “red dresses.” This might be described as a doorway page because they rank for generic terms, but deal with specific products. Laura argues (and we agree) that because it has been done to aid user experience legitimately that it should not be caught.

This is in direct contrast to a website have pages “Driving lessons Washington”, “Driving Lessons London” as well as 50 other versions of the same page. Nor is it a top level page advertising “books” on driving lessons, but ranking for “driving lessons London”.

Hopefully, that adds a little extra clarification.

How the community is taking these changes

Looking around the web, there is a mix of skepticism, confusion, and uncertainty on what exactly would count as a doorway page, despite the updated guidelines. People are legitimately worried whether it will hit certain types of websites, or whether Google will legitimately be able to detect doorway pages:

I wonder if this will impact microsites

Another example that perhaps is not so obvious comes from Blackhatworld:

I dont know that i understand this correct for example i have a website about”how to get rid of acne” and my website has got 25 indexed pages. 5 of them are 2000 words articles with informations how to get rid of acne and there is a affiliate backlink. the rest of them are only general articles.

my webiste is safe or i have to change it to be safe?

With other users stating that the above example would not be caught because “Your website isn’t doorway so seems to me everything will be okay.” We think however that it is not that easy to determine at the moment. Are there any shades of gray to be taken into account. Are those articles very similar, and only vary a little? Or are they widely different in approach? Are the general articles low-quality spam that is broadly the same, only written for search purposes? Is this change incorporated into Panda or a separate algorithm in its own right?

Most of the other seemingly knowledgeable posts simply refer to the Google Announcement or posts that pretty much duplicate the guidelines in the announcement, but they don’t help expand on it. The problem is that until it is released, we do not have much information to go on.

You can find further discussion on Blackhatworld, Twitter, and Google+, as well as in the comments on the announcement itself.

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.

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