Google SEO: Penguin kicks doorway pages… again

Apr 22, 2015

Just one week after  Google warned it would deprecate rankings for non-mobile-friendly websites, the mother of all search engines has made another announcement that hardly got noticed, stating its all-mighty Penguin algorithm would soon take another jab at what it considers bad SEO practice : doorway pages.

This important update from Google has largely gone under the radar despite major disruptions from the latest similar changes that occurred almost exactly one year ago. Back then, Google rolled out a Panda 4.0 update that penalized doorway pages and sneaky redirects, costing eBay 33% of its traffic in the process. So should you panic this time around? Do not fear the Penguin reaper, say our SEO experts, as SeoSamba tells you the whole story about this new Google algorithm update.

Before you let fire rush to your head, let’s clear one thing up about what exactly are doorway pages. Doorway pages ARE NOT landing pages, so if you’ve handed your SEO to SeoSamba you already know we are 100% white-hat, Google-approved SEO provider.

Yes, now you can relax and read on to see exactly what is going to happen to Google’s search rankings and why this might actually a good news for you. And if you’re not one of the many happy SeoSamba clients, rest assured we forgive you nonetheless, and we’ll even give you a few valuable tips on how to avoid utter punishment from the fearsome Penguin.

Google announces upcoming doorway-pages ban

First, let’s read together the most important excerpt from Google’s latest announcement on the official Google blog:

“Over time, we've seen sites try to maximize their “search footprint” without adding clear, unique value. These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof. To improve the quality of search results for our users, we’ll soon launch a ranking adjustment to better address these types of pages. Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change..”

With this announcement, it’s pretty clear that Google is about to take action against websites that abuse the ‘doorway page’ trick to lure users and gain undeserved traffic, be it to gain general exposure, pump their ad display count for a fraction of a cent a pop, or just pump up the number of visitors for SEO purposes.

Ok, but what are doorway pages exactly?

With that in mind, let’s first clear up the smoke about what exactly landing pages are, and who better to define it than  Google itself :

“Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. 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.”

Google also gives examples of doorways, which include multiple geolocated domain names with duplicated content, where only the geographic target would change. For instance, generating domains or subdomains such as nyc.seoblackhat.com, sf.seoblackhat.com and boston.seoblackhat.com where each subdomains would display the exact same content, save for the location parameter.

You will also often encounter comparison shopping sites that actually ranked high for very specific product names or references, only to find a page that tells you that well, they don’t have that specific product (although its reference pops up in numerous occurrences on the page) but that you can buy another, similar one, that they actually carry.

And of course you will also occasionally land on pages that have little or nothing to do with your initial search, but that managed to trick the search engine with some convoluted black hat SEO trick. These usually don’t last long in search rankings, but the number of targeted keywords and generated doorways is so huge that they will somehow profit from it nonetheless until the entire site is blacklisted.

Why this might be good news for you… or not!

As you can see the above examples are nowhere near what we call ‘landing pages” which in contrast are highly relevant and well optimized pages that do answer user’s search query with original, non-duplicated content.

For SEO experts and optimized sites that have always valued white hat strategies, the elimination of unethical doorway tactics in search rankings will often mechanically move up a few notches as parasitic but well-ranked websites will gradually be eliminated from results pages.

So for once this Google announcement does have a very comforting silver lining: if you’ve done things right and/or trusted SeoSamba to build and optimize your websites on our unique distributed Hub & Spoke architecture as opposed to single server solutions such as ​WordPress multisite​Iapps ElementsLocal, or ​Empowerkit to name a few, you will soon reap additional fruits from your ethical efforts.

For that, you may thank the naughty, scary Penguin and look forward for more of those much-needed and most welcomed adjustments that punish the bad guys and reward the good ones. 

For your sake we just hope you are indeed one of them. If not, our doorway is always open so we can all be on the same page.

GO FURTHER WITH SEOSAMBA: ​5 tips to avoid mayhem from Google’s doorway pages ban!


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About the author

Michel Leconte
Michel Leconte

Omnivorous mammal & SEO Samba CEO, I'm a regular speaker at search engine marketing conferences around the world, including Search Engine Strategies London & New York, and a contributor to a number of publications, including Website Magazine, and Feedfront Magazine. I enjoy strategy, coaching, and motivating both customers & staff.

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