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Are Doorway Pages Hurting Your Site’s SEO?

Matt Brady
#Digital Marketing, #Inbound Marketing, #SEO
Published on April 14, 2015

Learn about doorway pages, how they differ from landing pages, and how to make sure they aren't negatively affecting your site's SEO.

“Where Google goes, so goes the Internet.” That may not be strictly true, since other options such as Bing and Yahoo exist for online search, and other companies provide alternatives to most of Google’s services. But Google is so immersed in so many aspects of what most people do online, from email, to advertising, to web browsers and smartphones, that anyone wanting to avoid them will have to work to seek out any alternatives.

This effectively means that any organization’s digital strategy will need to take Google into account and make sure that people can find their website through Google search. That’s why every move that Google makes to update their search algorithms is scrutinized by Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts, and the recommendations for how to boost search rankings and avoid penalties are constantly changing and evolving.

Right now, the topic on everyone’s mind is mobile-friendliness, since Google is about to put a change into effect that will consider a site’s mobile experience in search results. Due to this major update, one other recent announcement that may have been overlooked is that Google is updating their definition of one particular type of negative ranking signal: doorway pages. Read on to learn how to avoid a penalty resulting from this change:

What Are Doorway Pages?

Doorway pages are something of an “old-fashioned” SEO technique, in which a page would be created that contained all of the keywords people were expected to search for when looking for the site, but this page wasn’t actually intended to be a part of the actual website. Instead, it was meant to rank high in searches, tricking people into clicking on it, and then directing visitors to the actual website.

This might seem like an unintuitive way to build a site, but it was once a way to game Google’s search results, especially if one site was able to create several doorway pages that would all lead to their site, possibly even claiming several of the top results for a certain search query. However, Google frowns on this sort of “black hat” attempt to increase search rankings, and they’ve classified doorway pages as “webspam,” since they end up hurting the experience of people searching for information. In fact, this technique can even be used to steal traffic from legitimate search results and send people to unrelated sites.

How Can I Avoid a Penalty?

Doorway pages are meant to funnel people from search results into the actual website. Since they exist as an interim step between search results and the relevant content people are searching for, they represent an unnecessary step for users, which is why Google wants to eliminate them. Instead of trying to get these doorway pages ranked in search results for a variety of keywords, you should focus instead on directing search traffic to the relevant page on your website for each individual keyword.

One particular hallmark of doorway pages is that they act as an “island” in a website’s structure, with no way to reach them from the rest of the site. They exist only to be found in search results and direct traffic to the actual website. If you have any pages that meet this criteria, you’ll want to eliminate them and work on promoting your actual content, since that is the information the people will be searching for.

What Is the Difference Between a Doorway Page and a Landing Page?

The description of a doorway page as an “island” may sound similar to a landing page, which is a common lead generation tactic in which visitors are directed to a page in which they can fill out a form to download an offer like an eBook or tip sheet. Landing pages are often structured to eliminate the navigation that is present on other website pages, so as to encourage visitors to fill out the form and download the offer.

However, landing pages differ from doorway pages in that they provide actual content to visitors rather than simply redirecting them to a more relevant section of the website. They are also linked to throughout the website through calls-to-action (CTAs), which indicates that they are a part of the site’s structure rather than something that stands by itself. Rather than a technique that only exists to generate traffic by manipulating search results, they are a vital part of a website’s inbound marketing strategy.

SEO the Right Way

As this example shows, the world of SEO can be complicated and full of unforeseen and unintended errors, technical issues, and difficulties. Luckily, Diagram's SEO experts are always available to help you resolve any issues with your site and make sure you are configured for the best possible search results. If you would like us to take a look at your site and determine whether it has any areas that need to be addressed, please sign up for our Free SEO Health Check. If you have any other questions, please contact us to speak to an SEO expert, or leave a comment below.