The Internet is many things to many people: information superhighway, shopping mall, reference library, a singles bar where we tirelessly left swipe until we find the perfect right swipe. But the Internet is also a forgotten graveyard of old technology and forgotten content. If you know where to look you can often find the fossils of the work of SEO companies whose names have been erased from history, lingering below the surface of the World Wide Web.
Every so often, however, these fossils still have a certain lethal power to kill a website. They are like the powerful relics and rings in a fantasy novel, forgotten in time, but able to bring down website empires unless their power is contained. You already no the threat posed by “spammy” links built in the pre-Penguin era. Now a new threat is rising… the threat of old pages.
What the Heck Are Doorway Pages?
2. Who uses those anymore?
Doorway pages are a technique that most SEO companies and Internet marketing agencies had abandoned back in the Alta Vista era. Or thought they had abandoned. Many people, particular those who started a career in search marketing post-2004 did not even know that doorway pages existed in the first place.
On the Search and Deploy podcast, Loren Baker aptly described doorway pages as a “something that sorta hangs off the site “and is divorced from the rest of a website.
Here is another way to think about doorway pages. A water damage restoration company wants to rank for “water damage Los Angeles”, so they create a page on their site called “Water Damage Los Angeles”. They jam that particular page full of the keyword “Water Damage Los Angeles” and try to structure the page in such so that it looks credible to search engine crawlers. The page is designed to rank well for one keyword and has no reason to exist other than to rank well on Google. These pages are an empty promise that give no value to the visitor, which is why Google dislikes them.
Most SEO agencies abandoned these types of spam tactics years and years ago. The few that didn’t will most assuredly be swept into the fossil bin of history once Google’s Doorway page update roles out.
So what is the real concern?
Concern #1: Legacy
If you are an active and engaged Webmaster, or a hip SEO Specialist you no doubt take a pretty active role in controlling and pruning the pages on your site. No doubt you have specific pages for specific tasks. For instance, you have landing pages for your PPC and Email campaign, but those pages are properly set to NOFOLLOW or NOINDEX. Old pages you no longer need are properly deleted and 410’ed. Your sitemap is like the most organized shoe rack in the world.
However, if you aren’t a particularly engaged Webmaster or you are an SEO specialist inheriting an old, legacy site you will oftentimes find pages and pages of content from a bygone era. In the case of Enterprise SEO you may be dealing with technical limitations created by your CMS that simply won’t let you add a proper canonical tag or NOINDEX a page.
The doorway page update will most likely have a disproportionate effect on older sites that have a lot of old pages that were built for one purpose, and then abandoned but never deleted.
Concern 2: The Unknown Knowns
Google’s coming doorway update seems like it will be big, may be as big as the April 21st Mobile Apocalypse, but no one quite knows … what it will do?
The devil here really rests in the unknown details. On one hand, if you read Google’s Five Questions, and ask yourself, is this a doorway page? The answer seems clear. But when you stop and think about it those answers seem as clear as mud. What exactly makes a page useable and relevant in the eyes of the Great G?
No one seems to know until the Doorway page update is in the wild.
How should you prepare for Google’s Doorway Page update? The first thing you should do is a complete content and technical audit of your site. Or if you do a yearly, or quarterly site audit, pull the last one you did and ask yourself, How many pages do I have that could be, or will be, classified as doorway pages?
Once you have a solid idea on the number of doorway pages your site has then it is time to develop a plan of action. The best course of action is to consolidate and delete unnecessary and low quality pages. If you are a service based business and your old SEO company has stuck you with a ton of those “water damage Los Angeles” and “water damage in Tampa Bay” pages, delete them and refocus your SEO on local SEO, like Google Places optimization, that gets results and doesn’t attract the eye of Google’s Webspam team.
But what if you are an ecommerce site with thousands of pages? Each page a representation of a product. Or a large enterprise level company with tons of legacy content. Now is a great time to go in and clean up those pages by applying proper canonicalization tags and NOINDEX tags. You should also take time to recheck your Robots.txt file and make sure that it is properly formatted. This will not stop Googlebots from crawling your doorway pages but it will send a signal that says, Hey this doorway page isn’t an attempt to game the search landscape.