Last month, Google announced that it's cracking down on doorway pages with a new ranking adjustment. At the time, the company said this would launch soon, but didn't give an exact time frame.
It appears that now, the update has already been rolled out. SEOs and webmasters have apparently been largely unable to tell if the the update ever launched, but the subject came up in a Webmaster hangout with Google's John Mueller, in which he said, "I believe that has rolled out, yea."
You never really get a firm answer on these things from Mueller. It's always "I think" or "I believe," and sometimes that has led to seemingly contradictory statements from Google, but unless we hear otherwise, we're just going to have to assume that Mueller is right.
Here's the video (via Search Engine Roundtable):
Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable, a known forum tracker, says he's been tracking a "ton of forums" (both whitehat and blackhat), and people are still asking if the update has really launched.
In case you're wondering what this update means exactly, doorway pages have historically been known as pages created specifically to get in search results for various queries, and then send users to a different page.
This practice has long been against Google’s quality guidelines, but that’s hardly stopped people from trying it. In 2005, Google’s Matt Cutts advised people not to hire an “assclown SEO that makes doorway pages with sneaky redirects,” and that advice still holds up today, apparently more than ever.
Five years ago, Google started sending webmasters messages when Webmaster Tools detected doorway pages on their sites.
“We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that [are] created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience,” says Brian White from Google’s Webspam team. “For example, searchers might get a list of results that all go to the same site. So if a user clicks on one result, doesn’t like it, and then tries the next result in the search results page and is taken to that same site that they didn’t like, that’s a really frustrating experience.”
Google has “freshened” its definition of doorway pages in the Quality Guidelines:
Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.
Here are some examples of doorways:
Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy.
Remember when Google launched the Panda update, and gave webmasters a list of questions they could ask themselves to determine if a page is high quality? Last month, they provided a list of questions to determine if your pages may be seen as doorway pages:
- Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
- Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?
- Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
- Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?
- Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?
“Over time, we’ve seen sites try to maximize their ‘search footprint’ without adding clear, unique value,” says White. “These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof.”
According to White, sites with “large and well-established doorway campaigns” may notice a significant impact from the adjustment.
This update hasn't received nearly as much as attention as another major Google update that started rolling out this week. Businesses who don't have mobile-friendly sites are going to start feeling the heat from that one if they haven't already.