SEO Basics: What Are Doorway Pages And How Do They Affect Your Rankings in Google?

11 Nov, 2020

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Why People Are Still Talking About Doorway Pages

A decade ago, major newspapers like The New York Times reported on corporations using ‘dirty tricks such as doorway pages’ to manipulate the search rankings. As a result, the term, doorway page has taken on an air of mystery, leading to many thinking of doorway pages as a kind of ‘magic trick’ for getting top rankings.

If you are someone who is chasing this trick, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Doorway pages may be built for the purpose of getting top rankings, but these days, they are far more likely to be a way down the rankings than a way up them. Even in those early days, BMW was given the zero page rank of death for using them. If you are looking for a way of getting top rankings on Google, Doorway Pages are not the solution. This article will show you why. 

Bad Examples of Doorway Pages

Another popular misconception about doorway pages is that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types: most doorway pages are’ bad’ BlackHat doorway pages but there are special ‘good’ WhiteHat doorway pages that can be used without risk and really work! 

This misconception is fueled by articles from ‘marketing experts’ trying to rank well for the term doorway pages. These ‘click chasers’ shoehorn another digital marketing technique into an article with the title such as how I used doorway pages to boost my rankings. What these articles normally show is a series of pages that are similar to each other but have nothing to do with doorway pages. You can boil all these articles down to this one poor example:

These pages for the term ‘swimming shorts’ and ‘summer shorts’ are similar but they both rank well, this must be a doorway page!

Looking at two pages in the search results that both rank and saying this must be doorway pages is certainly jumping to conclusions. This isn’t what makes a page a doorway page. 

The key feature of what makes a page a doorway page is their use of misdirection. In this so-called ‘example’ of a doorway page. It is perfectly logical that a search engine would see summer shorts and swimming shorts as having different and equal value for the user, perhaps they need shorts for swimming perhaps they need them for the summer. This is a case of semantics, not deception. Without deception, the question of how similar pages rank is: what counts as duplicate content? Not: what is an example of a doorway page? 

So What Is A Doorway Page? 

The classic example of a doorway page is plain HTML code with lots of text filled with keywords. These doorway pages are not visible to website visitors as they are usually automatically redirected to the intended page that has actual content.

For BMW’s infamous doorway pages they used a slight variation on this technique, instead of redirecting from a doorway page, they hid the doorway page in the page. A visitor viewing the site with normal browser settings would see a page with pictures of cars on it and very little text, but if you disabled JavaScript, you would see a page full of text with the term “Gebrauchtwagen” meaning “used car” in German weaved into a long boring text 42 times. This is a good example of a doorway page because it shows how they attempt to mislead users and search engines into attributing values from one page onto another. 

Why This Kind of Doorway Page Is A Bad Idea 

The Google Search Engine has changed so much since the BMW incident. that this type of doorway page, no matter how heavily disguised, simply won’t work. This is because Googlebot, which sorts and indexes page content, is way more sophisticated than it used to be. Readability is a crucial ranking factor for content. These days when a search engine sees keywords 42 times on a dense piece of text, it isn’t likely to rank that page well, it will see it as keyword-stuffed content that the user won’t enjoy and likely won’t rank it at all.

Google’s Take On Doorway Pages

If you hadn’t already guessed, Google doesn’t like doorway pages. In their quality guidelines, they describe doorway pages as

‘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.’

As I showed you above, doorway pages involve deception which goes against a core Google commandment: never to mislead the user. For the purpose of training its webmasters, Google created this list of questions for webmasters to ask themselves in order to identify a potential doorway page:

Does the page solely exist for search engines and it only directs traffic to a relevant part of your site, or is it an integral part of the visitors’ experience on your website? 

Is the page a duplicate of another page or elements from another page and it only exists to have multiple keyword hits for search engines? 

Are these pages an "island"? In that, they are really hard to navigate to or from? 

Are links on the page only intended for search engines? 

In conclusion, doorway pages

  • Are made to direct traffic but don’t offer any value to the user 

  • Involve deception of the user and search engines

  • Many high-profile websites used them decades ago and got punished

  • The classic examples of doorway pages won’t work today. 

Finally, If you are that one computer-genius kid who has invented a new type of doorway page, know that Google will be doing everything it can to find and spoil your trick, and when they do, it will hurt your rankings.  

The real way to get top rankings

If you really want to get those top rankings you need to create a long-term SEO strategy for your business. The rankingCoach Digital Marketing App offers a complete Digital Marketing solution for small businesses. Using it for a few minutes each week will improve your rankings.


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