google doorway updateGoogle has announced an update to its algorithms which will impact sites using so-called doorway pages to rank for specific terms.

A doorway page is defined by Google as “sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries”. According to Google’s own description, “they are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination”.

As with all algorithm updates, Google’s intention is to improve the search experience by excluding any poor quality or irrelevant results.

What Does The Doorway Update Mean for My Business Website?

Google gives the following examples of what a doorway page is:

  • 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

Put simply, if you know there are pages on your site which have been created solely for the purpose of ranking on Google, or which push people through to content or pages they might not expect, you may have doorway pages. And you may find that these pages drop significantly in the search rankings over the coming weeks.

Does My Website Use Doorway Pages?

There are a few questions Google suggests you ask about the pages to identify whether or not they are in fact doorway pages:

  • Is the purpose of the content to please search engines and funnel traffic into your site, or are they a vital part of your site’s user experience?
  • Does the content deal with specific subject matter, yet is optimized for generic terms?
  • Do the pages reproduce information located elsewhere on the site for purpose of drawing in more organic 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?” Can you easily find them 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?

When a Doorway Page Isn’t a Doorway Page…

The important point in this update is that Google is making the change in order to improve the search results. As they say themselves, their focus is on the user experience and as such any page which aids the user experience (i.e. makes the site easier to use or content easier to get to) is fine.

One example of this might be category pages, which are commonly used on ecommerce sites. Perhaps you sell clothing online, and you might create a page that brings together all of your women’s dresses, let’s say. This page then links to further category pages, like ‘maxi dresses’ or ‘casual dresses’, where users can then select the specific product they wish the purchase and add it to their cart.

In this case, you’ve created what could be described as ‘doorway pages’ because they rank for more generic terms but deal with specific products. BUT, you’ve done so in a way which aids the user experience and it’s clear that your primary intention is to make it easier for users to find the product they want.

What to Do If Your Website is Affected

If your website is using doorway pages, chances are they’re ranking fairly well at the moment. But you can be sure that your rankings will drop in the coming months as Google works to devalue these pages and remove them from their results.

It’s unlikely you’ve created these pages with any malice of poor intent, though. And Google understands this, which is why you are unlikely to see your entire site affected. That said, there are a number of things you can do if you are affected by ranking drops:

Update the Pages to Improve the User Experience

If you have a page which you know has been created for the sole purpose of ranking for a particular keyword, now’s the time to review it. Doorway pages are, by definition, not useful to the reader, so consider what you can do to make it useful. What can you add to/take away from the page to make it a truly valuable resource?

Consider the Navigational Structure

Often, doorway pages don’t fit into the navigational structure of a website and we often see them listed in the footer or not reachable in any way other than through search.

Consider if these pages do have a place on your site, and if so, where. If the content is truly useful to your website visitors, it follows that you’ll be happy to promote those pages by linking to them from the main navigation or from a relevant page.

Redirect the Offending Pages

This is applicable only if you find the page is irrelevant or useless to the user. If you can’t improve the page, you may decide it’s better to permanently redirect it to another page on the site. This would be a last resort.

Understanding Google’s Algorithm Updates

Google is always developing and updating its algorithms (the rules that govern search rankings). Their intention is to deliver only the highest quality, most relevant results to searchers and as such, algorithm updates are designed to weed out any irrelevant or poor quality content.

Usually, these updates are made without announcement or fuss, but webmasters can stay up to date via the Google Webmaster Central Blog. It’s worth following this for all Google updates – sign up now if you haven’t already, and also follow us on Twitter @impressiontalk where we share update news and advice on what those updates mean for your business.

Laura Hampton

Head of Digital PR

Head of Digital PR at @impressiontalk specialising in user-centred SEO, digital PR, content marketing and digital strategy. My team won the Best Use of PR in an SEO Campaign award at the European Search Awards 2019. In my spare time, I jump out of planes.

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