Google Penguin Update: Seriously, Avoid Doorway Pages

    May 15, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

If you want to avoid Google’s Penguin update (or recover from it), you’re going to have to make sure your site falls in line with Google’s quality guidelines. We’ve been posting various articles on these guidelines, such as:

Google Penguin Update: Don’t Forget About Duplicate Content

Google Penguin Update: A Lesson In Cloaking

Google Penguin Update Recovery: Hidden Text And Links

Recover From Google Penguin Update: Get Better At Links

Google Penguin Update: 12 Tips Directly From Google

Google Penguin Update Recovery: Getting Better At Keywords

One of Google’s guidelines is: “Avoid ‘doorway’ pages created just for search engines, or other ‘cookie cutter’ approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.”

So, let’s look at exactly what Google has to say about doorway pages (from Google’s help center):

Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination.

Whether deployed across many domains or established within one domain, doorway pages tend to frustrate users, and are in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines.

Google’s aim is to give our users the most valuable and relevant search results. Therefore, we frown on practices that are designed to manipulate search engines and deceive users by directing them to sites other than the ones they selected, and that provide content solely for the benefit of search engines. Google may take action on doorway sites and other sites making use of these deceptive practice, including removing these sites from the Google index.

Google’s Matt Cutts recently posted a video confirming that Google doesn’t consider tweets from Twitter accounts that post every article from a site to be doorway pages.

It might seem strange that someone would even ask about that:

@mattcutts Someone actually asked that? 6 days ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

@AnnieCushing *shrug* I can’t help what people ask. :) 5 days ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

…but, as Cutts has suggested more than once in recent memory, people shouldn’t have to be SEO experts or worry too much about SEO to still be found in Google, if the quality and relevance is there.

Also, as Google has admitted in the past, no algorithm is perfect, and when they launch a major update that impacts a lot of sites, webmasters who don’t know what they did wrong (if in fact they did do something wrong) are looking for any possible thing that Google’s imperfect algorithm might have found questionable.

They say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”

If it were all so simple, Cutts wouldn’t have any reason to record endless Webmaster Help videos.

Anyhow, Google views doorway pages as those who are deceptively leading users to low quality specifically-optimized pages, and that’s what you want to avoid doing. Just don’t use pages designed to take users to places they’re not trying to go. That’s where they’ll get you.

In that particular guideline, Google says to avoid appoaches with “little or no original content.” That’s an important thing to consider, as well. Whereas Penguin is designed to target sites violating the quality guidelines, this could get you in trouble there, but it could also get you in trouble with the ever-refreshing Panda update (2 refreshes in April alone), which is focused specifically on content quality.

Google actually has a help center article specifically defining “little or no original content,” where the company says, “One of the most important steps in improving your site’s ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content.”

“However, some webmasters attempt to improve their page’s ranking and attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little or no authentic content,” Google adds. “Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other auto-generated pages that don’t add any value to users. ”

Google goes on to give examples as being: thin affiliate sites (noting that being an affiliate is no problem as long as there’s added value), doorway pages, auto-generated content and scraped content.

Here’s a good piece of advice Cutts gave on his personal blog back in 2005: “Do not hire an assclown SEO that makes doorway pages with sneaky redirects.”

He also offered the following advice a few months later:

If someone came to you and said “I want to rent out your mail server. I’d like to send out some emails from your server, and I’ll give you $N to do it,” you’d be suspicious and probably say no–unless you wanted your mail server to end up on email blacklists. In the same way, if someone comes to you and says “I’ll give you $N to rent subdomains, subdirectories, or pages from you. Just link to my doorway pages from your content,” I would recommend to say no as well. It can affect the reputation of your domain if you host doorway pages for someone else and then that other person creates spam on the pages on your domain.

About a year and a half ago, Webmaster Tools started sending out notices about doorway pages.

Image: Batman Returns (Warner Bros.)

  • http://www.xn--5dbcabkcx4ae0h.co.il/ AD

    Great article. tx
    It woll take some time until we see the whole thing in Israel,
    Though we already start to see a lot of panic in the SEO industry

  • Dave B

    This is all good and well but I dont think Google have really covered all bases on this update.

    I have held the top spot for various keywords in my niche for over a year now and have been booted down to page 2 since the Penguin update. After researching some of my competitors backlinks it appears this is exactly what they have pointing to their site!! High PR Doorway pages?!

    I didn’t do any dodgy black hat, just high quality articles and press releases with relevant backlinks?

    I have also been pushed down by a 1 page site which just says ‘coming soon’ on it. How is that adding quality to the search results??

    Google really has got it wrong with this update. The quality of the first page results are now terrible!!!

  • Jez

    Dave B this is EXACTLY what I am seeing too. They have demoted my site, recently redesigned and a huge spend in interactive user stuff, and rewarded the spammers in the SERP. The exact opposite of combatting the gamers

  • Raj

    Hi team webpronews, you have told here good ideas about door way pages ,I have one question here.

    If a site has inbound links from 5-6 single page sites( only main page is build on those sites with same layout as the main site and all links coming from those sites to main site)

    But content is different at all sites then is this an issue for main site.

    pls reply



  • http://www.mogawk.com matt

    With this latest update it has really made sure that people use white hat methods which I think is a good thing.

  • http://whatswithjeff.com PC Enthusiast

    How are you going to get backlinks or get high PR with Penguin now?
    If you have an article on one site or page for example hub pages or squidoo and you have a link to your main site which has related content, is it considered as “door pages”? Does it violates Penguin?

  • http://www.neverpaintagain.co.uk The paint Editor

    hi guys.

    I would like to think out of the box here for a second.

    Many sites , good quality ones, vintage domains, and packed with original content, have been replaced by 3 or 4 page advert sites.

    That is NOT quality or improvement.

    How about this.

    Why can;t google punish the sites who allow spam to be posted on their site, instead of the destination url punished because as we know, now it seems to be easy to link and spam bomb your rivals website. It was done to us. But can i prove it to google? No!

    If someone has a site and their discussion settings are set to auto approve comments, (eg a small and irrelevant blog page, that shows 23,000 comments on the page) and then the fiverr.com link sellers spam it with a competitors url, surely it is the site allowing the spam to appear that should be punished, NOT the other way around? Remove these sites from serps and tell them remove all the spam comments and re adjust your approval settings. It would make sites better quality too.


  • william


    There are 12 GOOGLE “board of directors”
    3 are formerly affiliated with AMAZON.

    L. John Doerr: previously a director of Amazon.com

    Ann Mather: previously Zappos.com which was aquired by Amazon.com in 2009

    K. Ram Shriram: served as Vice President of Business Development at Amazon.comIT IS OVER!

    On April 24th 2012 GOOGLE, which accounts for almost 70% of all online search, released the PENGUIN update.
    While they say it was a “webspam” update it was really the change that exposes their relationship with AMAZON and now sends all PORN and PRODUCT searches to AMAZON and it’s subsudiaries to include the IMDB.com and Zappos.

    Not only does AMAZON control the #1 ranking on GOOGLE for “books”, it is #1 for almost every english word from “jewelry boxes” to “XXX” and “sex toys”.

    What Does This Mean?

    GOOGLE and AMAZON have cleverly manipulated you, the average person, into a direct buying path for basically every product in the world killing off their competition. Google controls 70% of all search online which now means AMAZON controls 70% of all online purchases. THAT’ IS ALOT OF MONEY!

  • internet

    You don’t own internet Mr. G. Just wait and see the curse for you from all around the globe. You only think about money. Beware.

  • http://www.grwebsites.com Greg

    I’ve noticed also that search results are bringing up OLD content. This doesn’t help, because if I ask Google a question about say, WordPress or Css, I don’t want results from 2008, which is what I’m getting. Definitely lower quality search results over the last 3 months or so.