In my previous blog post, I warned local businesses to think twice before hiring a search engine optimizer to build links to their company websites. That’s because you can’t always trust the SEO companies to be completely transparent with how they plan on executing their link building strategies, and many are far from trustworthy.
As a local business owner, the last thing you need (or want!) is to have Google slap a search engine penalty on your website – whether in the form of a manual action, or as the result of an algorithm update like Panda or Penguin.
But surprisingly, a large number of small businesses today are still willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars every month to SEO firms. And even though many are fully aware deceptive and manipulative black-hat SEO tactics are likely being employed, a large percentage will continue to shrug it off as something that’s not worth worrying about. Why? Because, hey… all of their competitors are doing it. And anything in the name of higher search rankings!
This goes beyond participating in shady link building activities. As someone who sees her fair share of local business websites on a daily basis, it’s safe to conclude a significant number of small businesses are willing to toe the line (if not go over it!) when it comes to the design, content, technical and quality best practices that Google has laid out for all webmasters to follow.
One of the biggest SEO faux-pas that’s commonly employed by local businesses, one that I see time and time again? The creation of doorway pages for the purposes of search.
Well, guess what? I’m not the only one who has observed this.
Google isn’t stupid.
Every single day, the Google Search Quality team is continually working on ways to minimize the impact of webspam on users. Which is why their official announcement yesterday of an imminent ranking adjustment to the way they handle doorway pages should come as no surprise to anyone.
We have a long-standing view that doorway pages created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.
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.
To summarize, a Google crackdown on doorway pages is in the works right now. So if your attitude towards employing black-hat SEO strategies is to shrug it off? You might want to rethink that!
Definition of a doorway page or site.
Some of you might be wondering, what exactly is a doorway page? Let me break it down for you.
According to Google, doorways are defined as “sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries,” and are thus bad for users. Why? Because doorways are generally built to “lead users to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination.” Alternatively, they can lead users to intermediate pages that are not useful or relevant in any way to the final destination.
Examples of a doorway page or site.
Let’s pretend you’re a local beekeeper, and you only have a single business location situated in Toronto, Ontario. However, you also provide mobile beekeeping services throughout Southern Ontario. In fact, the geographical areas that you serve range from Windsor to Ottawa and everything in between.
But instead of listing your service areas on a single webpage housed within your main business website, you thought it would be a good idea to do one of the following:
- Create doorway sites – By purchasing a dozen or more domain names like beekeepingwindsor.com or beekeepingottawa.com, specifically chosen to contain your primary target keyword (e.g. “beekeeping”) and with a geographical location tacked on to the end (“Windsor,” “Ottawa,” etc.), and then redirecting these domains to your main website.
- Create doorway pages – By building a dozen or more landing pages within your main website that are titled “Beekeeping Windsor” or “Beekeeping Ottawa,” and then writing closely similar (if not identical) content on each, with the text revolving around your primary target keyword. The only difference? Substituting a different geographical location for each page.
If either of the above is an accurate description of your current situation, then you are likely in danger of being penalized by Google’s upcoming algorithm update against doorway pages and sites.
Food for thought regarding doorways.
Consider the following for each and every page on your local business website:
- Were these pages created because they contain content that provides value to users? Or were they primarily built to be optimized for search engines, by targeting specific regions or cities in order to funnel users to a final destination?
- Were these pages generated to funnel visitors into actual usable or relevant portions of your site, and exist because they are integral to the website’s overall user experience? Or are visitors being led to hidden parts of your business website that act as “an island” – so that the ability to navigate to/from these webpages to everywhere else is difficult if not impossible?
My final message to those of you who are reading this as a local business owner is this: Don’t become a victim to Google’s upcoming ranking adjustment targeting doorway pages and sites! Fix the problems now before it’s too late.