“Avoid doorway pages.”
– from the Google webmaster guidelines 1
What are Doorway Pages?
Doorway pages are webpages that are “optimized” for particular keyword phrases and only exist to capture that keyword phrase in search engine results.
The most common use of doorway pages is when a website is trying to rank for the names of cities and have pages or domains names like “chicago widget”, “new york widget”, etc. and those pages are basically just there to enter the words “chicago” and “new york” so search engines will rank them for those terms.
Google actions taken on doorway pages
Google defines 1 doorway pages as “sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries”. Google has taken many actions to make sure webmasters understand not to use doorway pages and to make sure they will not rank well in their results…
- Google announces a “ranking adjustment” for doorway sites / pages
- Google defines doorway pages giving them their own help page
- Google includes “avoid doorway pages” as an official Google webmaster guideline
Google offers further guidance by providing 2 questions that webmasters should ask themselves to determine if their pages are doorway pages…
- 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?
- 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 site 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 site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?
The reason that Google doesn’t like to rank these pages / domains is because users do not like them. If someone is searching for “chicago dinnerware” they are likely looking for place in Chicago to buy dinnerware.
Just because you can ship your product to a city doesn’t mean you should rank high for that city. This frustrates many businesses whose products are available to be shipped nationwide.
Just because you can ship there, doesn’t mean you can rank there.
Many businesses have trouble ranking for local queries (e.g. [chicago widgets]) because they don’t have a physical location in every city. How can they tell Google that they’re relevant for these queries?”
In all honesty you can’t rank equally well for every city in the world because your services are not equally useful for all those cities.
Creating doorway pages that are all the same with just the city name changed will not be effective, in fact it will be detrimental to your Google rankings. If you are a business person, then you know complaining about it won’t help. What will help is moving forward productively.
Productive steps you can take to rank for other cities – even if you are making affiliate pages
As this guideline states, making doorway pages won’t help you, it will hurt you. What should you do?
- Understand you can not rank in all cities equally, don’t complain about it, overcome it.
- Have a product or service so fabulous that people don’t care where they are, they just have to have it. Apple doesn’t have pages like “chicago ipads” because they don’t need them, people want an ipad wherever they live.
- Start with one city.
- Concetrate your efforts on being a useful place for people in that city to buy or use your products
- If the only difference in the title of your different city pages is the name of the city, you are in trouble. Stop thinking “Chicago widgets” is an ideal title. It is not. There are a million other pages with that title. Get creative, what is a compelling title for that city?
- Advertise in the city you chose to rank for. Consider classified ads, local papers, or radio spots in those cities.
- Create useful, compelling and engaging pages for the city you chose.
- Interact with people from that city. Consider targeted offers like “New York orders get 10 percent off”.
- Research, know and understand the city you are targeting.
- Consider targeting cities which are not normally targeted, if someone put as much effort into “Newark, New Jersey widgets” as they did for “New York City Widgets” then they would likely enjoy more success. This is because everyone and their brother is targeting New York city, but considerably less are targeting Newark.
- If these efforts help you gain orders from that city, and the orders are profitable, start on your next city.
- Remember that taking these steps are considerably cheaper than opening a physical store front in every city you are targeting. Stop complaining, you can make it happen. Every one else is complaining, this is a great opportunity to be better than your competitors and take productive steps forward that will be profitable.
How to tell if you have doorway pages on your website
If the only difference between the titles of your city pages is the name of the city, you have doorway pages.
If the only difference in the content of your city pages is the name of the city, you have doorway pages.