NOTE: SEE BELOW FOR RELATED ARTICLES ON THE SUBJECT OF DOORWAY PAGES FROM FEBRUARY 2000 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2004. FOR DOORWAY PAGES ARTICLES FROM OCTOBER 2004 ONWARD, SEE THE SEO: DOORWAY PAGES CATEGORY OF SEARCH TOPICS IN SEARCH ENGINE WATCH.
Doorway pages, as explained in the What Are Doorway Pages? article, are a tactic some have used on their quests to attain good search engine rankings. Not all search engines ban doorway pages. However, even those that allow them may consider it spam if the doorway pages violate certain criteria. The tips below are designed to help keep you from stumbling into trouble.
Play Safe With Low Impact
Sites that use many doorway pages in relation to "normal" pages are setting themselves up for potential trouble. For instance, consider a site with 20 doorway pages. If that site has 200 normal pages, then doorway pages are a low 10 percent of the normal number. In contrast, if the site has only 10 normal pages, then doorway pages make up an extremely high 200 percent of the normal number. The higher the percentage, the more likely your doorway pages may be viewed as spam.
Sometimes pages are created that make little or no sense to the human reader but seem extremely relevant to a search engine algorithm. For instance, such a page trying to rank well for "fish food" might have paragraphs like this:
fish food best place to locate our store is
fish food is at our fish food store fish food
best place to locate our store is fish food
is at our fish food store
These types of pages are gibberish, or what one search engine once called "spamglish." They present information of little value to the reader. Whether or not they are cloaked, such pages are likely to be considered spam.
Cloaking is when you send a search engine spider a page that is different than a human reader would see. This is described more fully on Cloaking page.
In general, the more similar the cloaked page is to the "real" page, the less likely you'll encounter problems. For instance, "basic" cloaking would be hiding your exact meta tags, delivering search engine-specific meta tags, or serving a text-only version of your pages to search engine spiders. None of these are likely to cause you problems. In contrast, cloaking a page of gibberish or a page that is radically different from the actual page that users see may be considered spamming. And always be aware, any type of cloaking, if caught, may get you banned on Google.
Webmasters that use doorway pages would generally prefer that users never actually see these pages and instead be delivered to a "real" page within their sites. To achieve this goal, redirection is sometimes used. This may be as simple as installing a meta refresh tag on the doorway pages. An advanced system might make use of cloaking. In either case, such redirection may make your doorway pages unacceptable to search engines.
By the way, should you come across a page that is using a fast meta refresh command, you can stop it in its tracks and view the source code by inserting "view-source" before the URL in your browser's address field, such as:
You may be tempted to take someone's high ranking page and submit it as your own, especially if you are using a page cloaking system. Don't do this.
It's illegal, for one -- you're violating someone else's copyright. Nor are you as safe as you might expect, because a smart site owner may search for unusual or unique phrases on their pages. If they discover your pages are being listed in response to their searches, it may cause them to investigate further and contact the search engines -- or a lawyer.
Using someone else's pages is also misleading, and one of the few common rules for all the major search engines is that the submission of misleading pages is considered spamming.
Finally, you may be surprised to discover that a page taken from someone else's site won't perform as well from your site. That is because other criteria, such as link popularity and reviewed site status, may have influenced the page's ranking. Put that page in a new setting, and it may lose some of its relevancy.
Will Google ban Microsoft?
Search Engine Watch Forums, Sept. 19, 2004
Doorway pages on behalf of Microsoft on Google -- will they last long?
Ending The Debate Over Cloaking
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 4, 2003
A look at why people have traditionally cloaked, how XML feeds these days provide a form of approved cloaking and why the bigger issue to focus on isn't whether cloaking is allowed but instead whether paid content gets more liberal rules about acceptability.
Doorways Not Always Bad, At Inktomi
The Search Engine Update, Feb. 4, 2003
In my Ending The Debate Over Cloaking article above, I discuss the fact that XML feeds provide a way for search engine marketers to essentially cloak doorway page-style content with approval. In this article, we take a closer look at exactly how this is so, at Inktomi.
Repositioning the Doorway: Part 2
ClickZ, Jan. 24, 2001
An argument that the search engine optimization industry needs standards to survive and thrive. One difficulty here, especially in terms of pricing and approach, is that different companies have different needs. If you have a great web site with lots of wonderful copy, a search engine optimization consultant that works directly with your page titles and meta tags may be able to significantly boost traffic over time, for a one time fee. If you are an adult web site with all of your content hidden behind a password system, those pitching doorway page services are far more likely to be of help. Where your site falls between these ends of the spectrum is impossible to predict, and you might even find that employing different companies, with different approaches, makes sense. In short, there's no one size fits all solution. When you hear different companies give different pitches, this isn't so much because one is "right" while the other is "wrong." Instead, they've each evolved different models based on the clients they serve and the skills they possess. Ask for references, talk to their clients and go with the ones that serve companies similar to yours.
Repositioning the Doorway: Part 1
ClickZ, Jan. 17, 2001
Within the search engine optimization industry, the definition of terms such as "doorway pages" vary depending on who you ask. Given this, how can outsiders trust SEO specialists, this article asks.
In Pursuit Of The Perfect Page
The Search Engine Update, Feb. 22, 2000
A look at various doorway page building tools and other services that aim to help you produce the perfect page for crawler-based services.