What Are SEO Doorway Pages?

Back when SEO was relatively new and not a huge amount was understood on the subject, lots of websites used underhand tactics such as doorway pages to manipulate rankings.

While today Google and other search engines have developed more sophisticated algorithms, it has left a certain amount of mystery around the term ‘doorway pages’.

And if you’re currently trying to improve your SEO, it pays to understand as much about the subject as possible. Including what doorway pages are, how they impact your rankings and how you can be penalised for these.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Below, we’re going to answer the following questions:

  • What is a doorway page?
  • What are some examples of doorway pages?
  • Am I creating doorway pages?
  • Why is this kind of page a bad idea?
  • How do doorway pages affect your search rankings?
  • How can you avoid being penalised by search engines?

So let’s get started. In the first section, we’re going to take a look at what a doorway page actually is.

What is a doorway page?

In a nutshell, a doorway page is a web page that has been created for the sole purpose of ranking well for a particular keyword or phrase in search engine results pages (SERPs). They don’t actually offer a great deal (if any) value to the searcher, they are usually just an attempt by a webmaster to create a larger online presence.

In fact, on their blog, Google states:

They {doorway pages} 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”.

Typically, these doorway pages are just used as a “doorway” to the main content on your website, hence the name.

In most cases, these doorway pages just lead to the same or a similar destination. However, there were also some tactics that involved redirection to another page, meaning that the content that came up on the screen was actually not related to the original search query at all.

That said, Google has done a pretty good job at countering these type of tactics in recent years.

Still, the term ‘doorway pages’ is often thought of as one of the most malicious black hat SEO techniques.

SEO Doorway Pages Example

What are some examples of doorway pages?

In order to keep developing your understanding of doorway pages, we’ve pulled together some of the most common examples of this type of SEO tactic.

The most classic use of a doorway page is a page that has been created with plain HTML code containing lots of text filled with the relevant keyword they want to rank for.

That said, this plain text page is not usually visible to website user as most of the time they are redirected to the intended page that contains the actual content. So it is a very underhand tactic for keyword ranking.

Other examples of doorway pages include:

  • Multiple web pages, each with only slight variations in the content, yet these are all indexed individually
  • Separate domains that target specific locations yet reroute visitors to the same single page
  • Pages that have a lot of keyword variations, links and adverts but exist only to redirect users to another key webpage
  • Similar webpages that are close to the original search results but are generated to lead visitors to a different part of the website
The famous BMW example

A very famous example of how doorway pages were used many years ago – and incidentally one of the reasons that Google decided to clamp down on this behaviour – is the infamous BMW case.

The brand created lots of doorway pages that used a slight variation on the techniques we’ve mentioned above.

Instead of redirecting from a doorway page to their target, they actually hid the doorway page within another page. This meant any user visiting their site on a standard browser would just see pictures of cars and not much text at all.

However, if you disabled JavaScript, you were able to see the true page, one full of text with the term “Gebrauchtwagen” (meaning “used car” in German), continuously used throughout. In fact, it appeared as many as 42 times.

Not only is this a famous example but it’s a good one too because it demonstrates how webmasters or website owners try to manipulate their pages to mislead users and search engines.

So are landing pages doorway pages?

There is often a concern when it comes to creating landing pages to capture leads, that this will be deemed a doorway page. This is because these are typically optimised for specific keyword or phrase but are unlikely to be accessible from your website’s main navigation page.

However, there is a key distinguishable difference between the two. A regular landing page is just one page with its own URL or tracked link, whereas a doorway page is multiple landing pages that all lead to the same place.

There is a way to combat this and stop your landing pages from being interpreted as a doorway page. Using a noindex tag, you can stop these from being included in Google’s SERPs.

So essentially you need to be careful with your landing pages to ensure these aren’t mistaken for doorway pages.

And are location specific pages doorway pages?

We mentioned above that some location-specific pages are used as doorway pages. However, this doesn’t mean all are culprits.

If you have different locations and want to create landing pages for each of these, it’s likely that they’re going to contain a lot of the same information.

So rather than creating location-specific pages, you could instead just include information about your different business locations on your main landing page.

Remember, Google and other search engines are smart. They are designed to support local SEO. They take location into consideration so as long as you optimise for your chosen locations, you don’t need to make a new page for each one.

Am I creating doorway pages?

If you’re concerned that you’re going to be creating doorway pages even by accident, don’t panic. Google has set out a series of questions you can ask yourself to help determine if your page is a doorway page or not.

So if you’re unsure or you just want to double-check, ask yourself the following:

  • Have I created this page simply to rank higher in SERPs or is it to improve the user experience in some way?
  • Have I optimised the content for a generic keyword or phrase even though the content is actually very specific?
  • Can you navigate to these pages from other areas of the site or are they near enough impossible to find?
  • Have I created the links just to get better rankings and appear higher on SERPs?
  • Do multiple pages repeat the same locations or products and link back to the same page?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions and found that actually, your pages offer little value to the user and are simply for SEO purposes, this is a sign you might be creating doorway pages. This also means your site could be penalised for this on SERPs.

Why is this kind of page a bad idea?

You might be thinking, why is a doorway page such a bad idea if it helps you to rank for relevant keywords? Well, basically it’s a bad idea because since the BMW incident Google has hugely cracked down on this as a black hat tactic and no matter how hard you try to disguise a doorway page, it won’t work.

This is because, as we said, Google’s bots are much more sophisticated than they used to be and they take readability very seriously when ranking webpages. Therefore, if they see the same keyword being overly used (often referred to as keyword stuffing), this will actually reflect on the content in a negative way.

And this can affect your rankings negatively too but we’ll look at this in more detail below.

How do doorway pages affect your search rankings?

Whether you’re knowingly or unknowingly creating doorway pages doesn’t matter, Google will penalise these either way for something called spamdexing. This is essentially the manipulation of spam indexing by trying to trick the search engine.

This means that not only will your webpages be ranked lower on SERPs but Google won’t provide you with as much traffic to your website as a whole. As such, it’s vital that you don’t create doorway pages for the sake of keyword or link building. Instead, do this legitimately by creating useful and valuable content for your visitors.

How can you avoid being penalised by search engines?

If after all this you’re still concerned that your content might be construed as a doorway page, we’re here to help.

The good news is, there are several things you can do to improve your technical SEO and avoid your pages being mistaken for spam. Other than the advice we’ve given for landing and location pages above that is.

Below, we’ve pulled together some tips for how you can avoid creating doorway pages and being penalised by search engines. These are:

1. Create bigger, more insightful guides

Don’t create five pages on the same subject. Instead, if you’ve got content with a lot of overlap, you could pull this all together to create one larger, helpful guide aimed at bringing real value to the user.

2. Avoid duplicate content

Although sharing the same content across different sites (for example, a blog post) isn’t always bad, it’s best to try and avoid duplicate content as much as possible. Google doesn’t like it when lots of your pages contain the same information and targets the same keywords.

So try to ensure you’re always creating fresh, unique content or follow our tips above to creating extensive guides rather than multiple pages.

3. Don’t add pages for the sake of it

You should only ever add a new page to your website if it is unique and offers real value to your visitors. Don’t just do it for the sake of it or to target one specific keyword through stuffing techniques.

4. Be careful with your navigation

You need to make sure that your website is easy to navigate and that it offers the best possible user experience. Avoid creating pages that are hard to find and could be mistaken as hidden by search engines.

5. Choose the most relevant keywords

Make sure that your keywords relate specifically to the content on the page. Don’t just try to rank for broader terms because you think it will bring you more traffic. This isn’t helpful to the user and could actually impact your rankings in a negative way.

In fact, ranking for more unique and less competitive keywords will actually achieve better results.

6. Create high-quality pages

Finally, you may or may not be familiar with the E-A-T method but this can help you to create high-quality pages. This is a guideline set out by Google and these are among the three biggest considerations for page quality and therefore ranking.

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. So whenever you create a new page or piece of content you should ask yourself, doesn’t it tick these three boxes.

In conclusion

The term doorway page is often spoken in hushed tones in the SEO world but it’s important to know what it is to ensure you don’t inadvertently create these pages and hurt your rankings.

Here are some of the key points that you should take away from this guide:

  • Doorway pages are created for the sole purpose of ranking well for a particular keyword or phrase
  • They are also used to build links and direct traffic but they don’t offer any real value to the visitor
  • As such, this is seen as one of the worst black hat SEO techniques
  • Lots of high profile websites like BMW used to use these techniques, forcing Google and other search engines to clamp down on this behaviour
  • Google’s bots have become increasingly sophisticated and can quickly recognise keyword stuffing and doorway pages
  • This leads to these webpages ranking poorly (if at all) and Google sending less traffic to your website
  • Therefore, it’s vital that you’re careful not to create content that aims to manipulate algorithms and instead build your SEO legitimately through a strong SEO strategy