Google Offers a New Definition for Doorway Pages?

Sep 13th

In the past doorway pages could be loosely defined as "low-quality pages designed to rank for highly targeted search queries, typically designed to redirect searchers to a page with other advertisements."

The reason they are disliked is a click circus impact they have on web users as they keep clicking in an infinite loop of ads.

This would be a perfect example of that type of website:

However, ever since Google started to eat their "organic" search results, the definition of doorway pages has changed significantly.

A friend of mine told me that the reason CSN stores had to merge into a "brand" was not just because that was the direction of the algorithm, but also because they were hit with the "doorway page" penalty. I don't know if that is 100% accurate, but it sure sounds plausible, given that... (UPDATE: SEE COMMENTS BELOW)

  • recently multiple friends have told me they were hit with the "doorway page" issue
  • on WebmasterWorld there are multiple threads from small ecommerce players suggesting they were hit with the doorway page issue
    • "Today we received messages in our webmaster tools account, for all but 1 of our 20 domains, indicating that Google considers them doorway pages. We have also lost all of our SERP's for those sites." - Uncle_DK
    • "I was rather disappointed to see that before banning the site the rater visited a very drab and ordinary page on my site. Not a smoking gun of some incriminating evidence of a hacker break-in or some such I was looking for. Also disappointing is the fact that they visited one page only." - 1script
  • another friend today told me that one of their clients runs numerous websites & that ALL of the sites in the Google webmaster tools account blew up, getting hit with the "doorway page" label (and ALL the sites that were not in that webmaster tools account were missed by the Google engineers)


Like almost anything else Google offers, their webmaster tools are free, right up until Google changes their business objectives and one of their engineers decide that he should put you out of business.

I *knew* the point of the Panda update was not to kill content farms, but to use content farms as a convenient excuse to thin the herd of webmasters & consolidate markets. A couple obvious tells on that front were:

  • the update taking so long to happen
  • the first version of the Panda update embarrassingly missing eHow
  • the update hitting so many small ecommerce websites, even as it somehow missed eHow

Part of the brand bias in Google Panda allowed corporate branded doorway pages to rank higher than ever. Google's solution to this problem is, once again, to punish the victim - wiping independent webmasters off the web.

What is the new definition of doorway pages?

Pages on non-brand websites, that are not owned by a fortune 500 company, which aggressively monetizes web traffic without giving Google a piece of the action.

If you are not a brand you can be wiped out at any time with absolutely 0 recourse unless you can damage Google's brand or harm their standing before market regulators.

If you want to be an independent webmaster you better study public relations. Start here, with Edward Bernays.

Wal-Mart has received a bad reputation for how their dominant control of the supply chain sucked most the profits out of some markets & drove some of their suppliers into bankruptcy:

Young remembers begging Wal-Mart for relief. "They said, 'No way,' " says Young. "We said we'll increase the price"--even $3.49 would have helped tremendously--"and they said, 'If you do that, all the other products of yours we buy, we'll stop buying.' It was a clear threat."
...
Finally, Wal-Mart let Vlasic up for air. "The Wal-Mart guy's response was classic," Young recalls. "He said, 'Well, we've done to pickles what we did to orange juice. We've killed it. We can back off.' " Vlasic got to take it down to just over half a gallon of pickles, for $2.79. Not long after that, in January 2001, Vlasic filed for bankruptcy.

Such strong-arm business negotiation tactics might be sleazy, but you know one thing Wal-Mart does do? They tolerate multiple brands from a single manufacturer. In fact, many leading manufacturers are creating down market brands to compensate for the economic malaise we are going through:

P&G's roll out of Gain dish soap says a lot about the health of the American middle class: The world's largest maker of consumer products is now betting that the squeeze on middle America will be long lasting.

As far as publishing business models go, if Google starts calling ecommerce sites that are part of a network "doorway sites" then Google isn't really allow that sort of testing, unless the content comes from a fortune 500 or is content conveniently hosted on Google.com. As a publisher or merchant, how do you ever grow to scale if you are not allowed to test running multiple projects & products in parallel & keep reinvesting in whatever works best?

Even the biggest publishers are breaking some of their core brands into multiple sites (eg: Boston.com vs BostonGlobe.com) to test different business models. If you have scale that is fine, but if you are smaller that same strategy might soon be considered a black hat doorway strategy.

Meanwhile...

Published: September 13, 2011

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Comments

September 13, 2011 - 6:51pm

...another friend mentioned that there wasn't a doorway issue with CSN stores & that the other person had some bad intel there.

That is ultimately part of the big issue with the "doorway page" penalty on a network of ecommerce websites stuff...you can't be certain if a site is dampened, penalized or nuked without looking closely at the before & after traffic (and even then sometimes email promotions and other forms of marketing can sorta paper over the data...so it really helps to be able to see the data from inside the company...something that isn't public & can be hard to notice using 3rd party tools for networks of small niche websites).

September 13, 2011 - 11:56pm

Sorry, but I'm not going to cry a tear because Vlasic can't compete and needed Wal-mart to charge me more for their pickles. If I can buy from someone else that's cheaper with comparable taste, then I'm going to do it regardless of how successful they are at lobbying a corporate giant to price fix. They could always lobby the government to force me to buy their product. That would save Vlasic jobs. How many unseen jobs would it kill though?

September 14, 2011 - 3:29am

...just look at how well that worked out with our banking cartel & its influence on our "democracy."

I wasn't saying government intervention is desirable on that front either (once again, look at how over the past 30 years government and finance have merged as an interest against citizens).

More to the point I was trying to make, companies like Microsoft & Wal-Mart had got their brand torched for their business practices, while Google is arguably even more anti-competitive.

September 14, 2011 - 12:43pm

...just the article that you quoted. Corporatism doesn't work for the good of society regardless of whether it's in banking or retail. Google doesn't get torched because it's not seen as a capitalist pig by the ignorant elitists that tend to do the mainstream torching. Apple enjoys the same type of pass. I can't tell if the pass is political, aesthetic, savvy PR, or all the above.

September 14, 2011 - 11:09am

Hi,

i read in between lines, that it could be a precaution measure to split sites from a network in different Google Webmastertools Accounts. It is a misinterpretation of mine?

September 14, 2011 - 12:52pm

Some of the data they offer is nice, but anything that risks burning your livelihood completely is probably far too expensive even at far.

Also note that Google leaves public footprints with Google AdSense & Google Analytics as well. Tools like SpyOnWeb.com make it easy to connect such data & you know Google has *far* more data at their fingertips than the lightweight 3rd party competitive analysis tools offer.

September 14, 2011 - 1:03pm

... in regards to Panda. Google continues to make things all screwy.

Also, Aaron - you may want to change the Title tag of this page. I was sharing it on Google+ and the link title just doesn't do this page justice of what its about: a good topic.

September 14, 2011 - 11:43pm

...pointing out that an internal change in perception by some search engineers at Google is "creating" a massive amount of doorway pages.

The lead example screenshot also shows how low the bar is set on AdWords, while the bar is getting lifted for organic search.

September 15, 2011 - 4:29pm

I think maybe its more of a dis-service to your article. Seems spammy from a social link POV. I didnt want to link to it, nor would I want to click to it.

Thats all. No biggie ;) You might as well put up a tool now that you are ranking for it LOL

October 2, 2011 - 3:07pm

Aaron, you say "You might want to explore PPC a bit more than you have in the past for more visibility, if the margins are available" which in the short term may help clients but in the long term just puts more money in Google's pocket an enables them to do more of this.

Ps, good link to Bernays.

October 2, 2011 - 8:55pm

...gives you more volume, which can give you more pricing power over the supply chain & allow for fatter margins. It also gives you another channel that you can lean into if SEO dries up for a while.

I am not saying paid search is the only solution (or even that it is longterm...you can get driven out of it just like SEO) but by having 2 different channels you can mix-n-match them to generally lower the overall risk profile a bit.

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