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Google announced today that they will identify doorway pages better and penalize them more harshly.

I've always thought of a doorway pages as a page like:

Welcome to Blue Widgets

Click here to enter our site

Clearly Google has a broader view of what a doorway page is. Their guidelines say:

  • 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 don't find that very clear. How much content and functionality does a page targeted at a keyword have to have before it isn't considered a doorway page?

  • Your first link to Google blogspot does describe things better and the comments are interesting. The guidelines are rather scant. I sent a note saying so. I guess I would see them as pages that are not content but aggregation of content or another scheme designed to rank in search. Where I have trouble is that is normal for blogs and sites like this one. So where is the line drawn?? Who knows for sure. One reason for the up-vote! – closetnoc Mar 17 '15 at 21:02
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I'll answer each paragraph in order to try to be a "Rosetta Stone" for for Google are broadly labelling as Doorway Pages.

For example, searchers might get a list of results that all go to the same site.

This technique is colloquially referred to as 'Google Bombing', 'SERP Bombing' or some variation thereof amongst the SEO field.

This refers to targeting a low competition, high intent terms and optimising several pages, including external web properties, for the same goal or call to action.

Having the top half of the first page results return your webpage, blogspot post, tumblr and a youtube video would be an example of 'gaming the results' which is why Google have listed this as a bad practice.

I would argue this is merely content marketing to funnel traffic to your website, not what should be labelled as a doorway page and this terminology just confuses the community.

However I can see the idea of what Google is trying to solve.

Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site?

This is referring to the landing pages pages developed to convert and may or may not be part of a website's native navigation experience i.e. destination page for an AdWords campaign.

These particularly landing pages are referenced as 'squeeze pages', which are usually long-form copy that describes the pain, dream, solution and call-to-action for the audience.

Some companies have multiple landing pages for specific terms i.e. /best-blue-widgets, /awesome-blue-widgets that are structurally similar, serve the same purpose and funnel users to /products/blue/widgets.

Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?

I believe this is the principle reason behind doorway pages and its purpose - it is about quality control.

An affiliate marketer can create a single domain for a single search query.

All they do is create content for a squeeze page, providing compelling copy and provide a link to the product.

Google seems to believe that this isn't providing 'value' to the search user and they will adjust their algorithms based on this purpose.

I cannot possible comment on the SEO consequences until they actually have an update and measure the results based on these changes. I personally disagree with their broad labelling and wished they were much more specific.

  • How about the case where /best-blue-widgets and /awesome-blue-widgets both have the goal of having you add a blue widget to your shopping cart rather than funnel you to a product page? The pages might have some of the same content (like the official manufacturer product description) but might feature different user reviews that highlight different aspects of the product. Would those be considered "doorway pages"? – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 18 '15 at 9:38
  • As long as they provide value, they shouldn't be considered doorway page, especially if the structure is different, but I cannot possibly provide insight to what Google believe are an edge-case doorway page. Hopefully the type of content they target are specific and obvious - i.e. respun web pages - rather than different intended page. Otherwise you might have to do an unnecessary canonical link between the pages simply out of fear - which is not the way we should be building websites. – inkovic Mar 18 '15 at 23:04
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The blog post provides some guidance on what Google might consider to be a doorway page

Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?

If the main purpose is to optimize for search engines, I would assume that would be considered a doorway page

Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?

Make sure your content is relevant to any keywords on which it will rank high.

Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?

Make sure there is a reason you have that page, and not just to garner more search traffic.

Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?

Value is always key. Make sure there is a reason to that page. Would the user rather skip the page entirely? If that's the case, chances are you are using a doorway page.

Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

If you can't get back to that page, then chances are it serves little purpose.

Gist:

Make sure your pages are relevant and impact the user in a positive way. If the main purpose of a page is to pick up search traffic and offers no real value to the user, chances are it is a doorway page.

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I think the way to get hurt SEO wise here is if you had multiple worse-than-thin content kind of pages that all have some button along with only words crafted in a way to try to make search engines believe the site is different from the rest and they all link to one common page which is the real site.

For example, if the main website is about selling train tickets and provides a few paragraphs detailing the train and the ticket and the keywords the search engine picks up from it is train, then thats what the site should focus on, but if the webmaster decides to add supposedly new content on different domains that have maybe one sentence about train tickets with the link to the main site and then continues to perform a very similar task on several additional domains, then all those domains except for the main one with the few paragraphs would likely be viewed negatively by search engines to the point where they might not get indexed at all. Those extra pages with one-liners are still doorway pages because the amount of content is too little to qualify as an actual webpage.

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