Some of my sites have recently been hit by a doorway page penalty. When reading about what Google considers to be a doorway page it can be confusing because ultimately a site setup to sell products or services as an affiliate partner of a company seems to be the definition of a doorway page.
If you look on the Google Forums of those complaining of the hit you discover that almost no one has been able to recover from the penalty and for the few that did recover no answer was given as to what it was they did to get back in Google’s good graces. Check out this Robin Good Google Nightmare post to see what I mean.
The typical definitions of a doorway page such as hiding keywords on a page that are seen by search engines although not by the users and then redirecting that page once the user hits it to another page is obvious sneaky bad behavior meant to trick the search engines.
The definition has broadened to apply to even sites where the only encouragement away from the page is a link in the article or an affiliate product offered on the sidebar with no programming used to send people off site.
If your site is not of the sneaky programming redirect and hidden key term text type you are likely dumb founded that you have been hit with a penalty as your site may simply be an affiliate website like many on the web. The problem has more to do with too many affiliate sites similar to each other taking up top search engine placements causing Google’s search engine to look like crap.
Because of Google’s inability to offer a good random selection of search results you may get slapped with a doorway penalty. If you are good enough at white hat SEO where the Google results for your niche are showing almost all your own websites you may get hit with a penalty if your sites are too oddly similar to each other.
Some of my sites were banned on Saturday August 13 2011 and not too far behind that ban a great SEO teacher by the name of Jeff Johnson had his Youtube channel banned that had several million channel views.
Jeff Johnson teaches a technique called the 3 blog network which I assume Youtube could have had a problem with as it could encourage website owners to fill up Google’s search results with what they consider doorway pages.
Of course Google goes on to say that many doorway pages offer very low quality cookie cutter content with no real value to the reader. Google\Youtube does not say the cookie cutter aspect to this is the main qualifier for a doorway page but just that it is a common sign of such a thing.
Google has offered some helpful guidelines to make it a little clearer on how to beat their penalties on low quality cookie cutter type website penalties: More guidance on building high quality
Another common aspect to a doorway page is keyword stuffing in pictures and over use of keywords throughout an article further making the article of much lesser quality. Again this does not seem to be the main qualifier of what a doorway page is according to Google\Youtube.
From what I can understand is that Google’s main definition of a Doorway page is simply where 2 or more very similar looking sites sell basically the same stuff that could just as easily all be featured on one domain only.
A doorway page basically is like a cookie cutter mini site often with the same design as many other sites like it that all lead to one main affiliate network where they make their money.
The main site is not necessarily a doorway site but all the sites linking to that one affiliate network could be considered doorway pages if they all look like the same site but with different domains.
What ends up happening is the first page of Google could get clogged up with different mini site “doorway sites” leading to this one main affiliate network.
The user experience given to Google search users would be really bad as each time someone clicked on a different search result in Google basically the same site comes up over and over again as the mini sites dominate most of the search engine rankings.
Unfortunately Google does not come right out and define a doorway page in this way so specifically so you have to figure it out for yourself.
If you think about it if Google were to just frankly admit that their search engine is filling up the first page of their search results with basically the same site they would be admitting to a huge failure.
It is up to site owners to read between the lines when it comes to doorway pages. Here are my suggestions especially for those who use the 3 blog network method.
For those that don’t know the 3 blog network, there is one main site that sells a product. Than there are 2 mini feeder sites that may or may not look like the main site that link to the first site.
Often times the mini sites will not just link to front page of main site but will link to individual posts on the main site. Many times these mini sites will also sell the same product sold on the main site.
The strategy of such a network is to popularize the main site but often the mini sites also become popular. In some cases the main site and mini sites out there may not even be linking to each other but yet they all look the same and monopolize the front page of Google for popular search results.
This doorway page penalty is not necessarily a penalty against sites linking to each other but more about sites looking too similar to each other and at the same time selling the exact same product.
Some suggestions to avoid this penalty are listed below:
- Always create really good unique content that offers something new when compared to other sites.
- Make each mini (feeder) site about a niche not exactly the same as your other mini (feeder) sites.
- Make each sites design a little different from the others including colors, logos, and CSS styles
- The main affiliate product sold on each site should be different from the other sites.
- The sub affiliate products on each mini site could all be the same provided this sub product did not come across in some way as being the main product sold.
- If you use an email newsletter opt-in form on the site make sure the opt-in is related to the niche of that site as the opt-in form could be seen as the main product being sold.
- Never install 2 Google Analytics accounts on one site as it could make Google think one company owns both sites even if this is not the case.
- Be careful about doing a 301 redirect from a feeder site to a main site. This basically tells Google one company likely owns both sites which may lead them to believe it is a doorway page site if they see no distinguishable difference.
- Never link two Google Analytics accounts to each other. This could potentially cause a flag with a search engine to see if the two sites have a doorway page type of thing going on.
These points may lead you to assume that these doorway page penalties are likely the result of user complaints combined with Google actually getting a person to physically investigate and take a look. I believe doorway page penalties are very likely given only after a Google Employee has actually looked into it with their own eyes rather than it being an algorithm change.
This is my theory on Google doorway page bans. Your input is greatly appreciated.
Read a more recent update where Google admits the penalty was more about not liking some inbound links from paid web directories and irrelevant content posts on sites we do not own.