What are doorway pages in SEO?

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The simplest way to describe doorway pages is as poor quality pages or websites featuring highly-targeted, relevant keywords. Such pages act as a gateway between users and a website’s sub-par content and offer no value whatsoever to the user. 

They are created to be easily found by users when they search for a particular phrase, often misdirecting the user to the content they had no intention or interest in seeing.

Other popular names for doorway pages include: 

  • Gateway pages
  • Portal pages
  • Entry pages
  • Jump pages
  • Bridge pages

Google can easily identify a doorway page because the page is created for search engines and not for human reading. Users, however, may not know or immediately identify what a doorway page is.

Identifying doorway pages

When looking for doorway pages one is looking for pages that when clicked upon takes the user to another section of the website like the blog or a landing page. For example, when shopping online and an individual clicks on a product, if they are routed to another page of the store that has more products instead of the specific product they clicked on, they have encountered a doorway page.

Such steps are used to lead users to see more of the content or products of the company, but in reality, they ruin the user’s buying experience because he/she has to sift through content that’s unrelated to what they are looking for. Plus, these pages clog up search results and make them far less reliable.

Google has decided to come down hard on websites featuring doorway pages because such antics are disruptive and time consuming for users. It is also a dishonest and unprofessional practice. 

Examples of a doorway page

  1. They contain HTML pages. The HTML is part of the hidden text found in the doorway pages that redirects the user’s search to the page it wants you to land on. The code is also programmed to be difficult for Google to read.
  2. These pages do not have any elements of design from graphics to video content in them.
  3. The URL is typically long with jumbled up text and relevant keywords injected among the words.
  4. Its sole purpose is to funnel users to other pages without offering any value in the process.
  5. It makes it impossible to move to any other pages on the site. This is because they have been created to exist as an island, so one cannot maneuver around or out of them.

Isn’t this an SEO tactic?

It is. Now, it’s important to understand that this is an SEO technique that is meant to capture the attention of the search engine, but it is unethical. It is one of the popular techniques used by people knowledgeable in SEO who are trying to boost traffic to websites that have low-quality content that is poorly written or has a poor design dynamic and even empty pages. 

These pages are shortcuts to getting recognition without having put in the work required by search engines. There are a few different ways that doorway pages appear – often unexpectedly from the website owner/vendors side.

Installed by an unethical webmaster

The webmaster or SEO expert can easily install a doorway page using low-tech delivery. This means that they essentially create and put up the page with a targeted keyword or phrase to attract traffic.  They can even create a specific page for every keyword/phrase and specific search engines. Because the many pages are all very similar, search engines will flag them and remove them from search engine listings.

By page cloaking

This is another unethical SEO practice where the content given to the search engine is different from the one that is actually presented on the user’s browser. The difference can be achieved when the content for either is delivered by decoying an IP address.

As a result, the search engine bots will see the decoyed optimized age that gives the impression of high-value content, but the end-user will see something very different. Cloaking is a black hat technique and is completely forbidden by Google.

How to Protect your Website from Doorway pages 

Doorway pages will prove costly and embarrassing for many website owners. To protect against hosting them and getting flagged by Google:

Get rid of the empty pages

Empty pages may get flagged by Google as gateway pages and make you subject to penalties. There are three main ways a website ends up with empty pages

1. A network issue

Sometimes when loading a page the network server may just upload part of the content because of an error. Or, the blank page may be as a result of migrating to new servers so the cache from the display Name System may be showing older content. The good news with this is that such network issues can be resolved reasonably fast so that one doesn’t incur penalties. 

2. Uncreated pages

If the website owner is in the process of creating or redesigning pages and the page did not effect the redirect script attached to it, then it will remain blank and pose a risk with Google. This can be resolved by the webmaster monitoring and fixing such issues fast.

3. Poor loading

Websites with extremely slow loading times can flag Google, because the crawler may not detect any content (much less what was expected)..

Duplicate content

Duplicate content is a red flag to Google, telling the search engine that the website has a doorway page. Duplication is easy to avoid by reconfiguring the pages to read very specific, different content from each other. Other options are to canonicalize pages.

Add pages to navigation menu

As mentioned above, doorway pages don’t have any design elements or visuals. By improving the overall navigation of the website it shows Google that the website and pages are real. Also, make sure the navigation is easy for the user so that they can move in and out of the pages with ease. Tightly integrate the page into the website’s navigation.

Google’s algorithm

Websites with doorway pages have scrambled to remove and cease the practice. In fact, not removing doorway pages can significantly reduce the performance of the website.

Understandably there are pages one may not want to delete, instead preferring to archive. To prevent Google from accessing those during indexing, block all the search engines from accessing them when they crawl through.

Conclusion

As website owners look at ways to ensure that their content is reaching their relevant leads and keep their ranking on Google and other search engines, it’s crucial to understand better, more scrupulous ways of getting strong rankings. 

  1. Understand that you cannot rank highly everywhere and it is okay. Being at peace with this prevents desperate attempts like using doorway pages which come with many consequences.
  2. Start small. Having a scalable ranking plan will aid website owners in keeping their perspective. Starting small helps one enjoy their effort and strive for better by improving themselves.
  3. Creating a winning product or service definitely motivates one to keep their operations clean. There is no point in creating an excellent product and then using black hat SEO tactics that may risk your success.
  4. Get creative with your content so that search engines flag it as value-adding content. Use SEO tools like SERPs to analyze your competition and find better keywords that will help your content rank better compared to them.

All the above may be slower, but they’ll keep you away from trouble with the Google Algorithm. At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts to good, well-earned SEO.

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