Avoid Google Penalties by Designing Sites for Users not Search Engines

By The Black Fin Team

Posted:

Category: Understanding Google


On March 19, 2015, Google announced that it will soon launch a “ranking adjustment” that will punish websites that use doorway pages to take up top spots in search engine rankings, funnel users to redundant content, or delay users from accessing useful content. This algorithm update will likely affect anyone who uses doorway pages to improve their SEO or to organize pages for multiple locations, such as franchises and law offices.

If you are an attorney with multiple office locations or multiple websites for specific cities, this is not an article to skip or skim. 

What are doorway pages, anyway?

Doorway pages are web pages that are search engine optimized for very specific keywords. Multiple doorway pages often funnel users to a single destination page that contains general but relevant information. In many cases, doorway pages are not linked to main websites, but are only visible to search engine spiders.

Doorway pages are considered a borderline black hat marketing technique at best and just plain spammy at worst. However, there are a few good reasons that one might use doorway pages. For example, businesses with multiple locations – including chains, franchises, and law offices – may use doorway pages to get more traffic and to direct potential clients and customers to the correct information.

Search engines like Google do not like doorway pages because they can often make the search process less fruitful and more frustrating for users. For example, doorway pages can make multiple search results lead to the same page, rendering it difficult for users to find what they are looking for. At the same time, doorway pages may get traffic from users who are not searching for the information that they ultimately find on their screen.

Will my website’s doorway pages and page rank be affected?

Since the algorithm update has not taken place yet, we can’t be sure of the extent of the adjustment or how many pages will be hit. However, Google has warned that the update will have a “broad impact” on sites that rely heavily on doorway pages. Specifically, Google has warned against campaigns that:

  • Use high numbers of doorway pages to funnel users to pages with more relevant content.
  • Have doorway pages that rank for generic keywords but send users to pages with specific information.
  • Use doorway pages with duplicate content to capture more search traffic.
  • Have doorway that are not linked to the rest of the website.
  • Utilize doorway pages simply to capture more traffic and not to add information and value to the site.

What am I supposed to do about my doorway pages? 

We know that a large number of attorneys and law firms use doorway pages, especially if they serve multiple geographic areas or if they have multiple locations. If you have doorway pages, or if you are worried that your SEO tactics could be punished by Google, here’s what you need to do:

  • Design your site for users, not search engines. If you are exerting too much effort to make search engines happy, you are almost certainly ignoring your actual users. The best SEO techniques are by far the same techniques that make it easier for your ideal client to find and use your website. If you are designing your site with spiders in mind instead of real people, you will get burned by a Google algorithm update sooner or later. I promise.
  • Banish all duplicate content right now. Often doorway pages and duplicate content go hand in hand. Both are potentially harmful to your SEO and both annoy users. I can’t tell you how often we discover that our new clients unknowingly have large amounts of duplicate content or even plagiarized content on their website. Invest in original, unique content for all of your locations and all of your services.
  • Think twice before taking SEO shortcuts. If you are taking shortcuts to the number one spot on Google, you are likely bending or breaking Google guidelines. Even if Google doesn’t know how to find and punish your black hat ways now, they may know how in the near future. It is always safer to simply play by the rules and produce content that is of high quality, unique, and interesting.

Who can protect my website from these Google updates in the future? 

Black Fin marketing can. We create user-friendly, effective, and great looking websites for our clients. Yes, these websites take a little more time to create and take a little more time to rank well on Google than spammy, black hat marketing websites. But you will get long-lasting results and a website that will serve its users well, both now and in the future. You’ll also get a website that will never be adversely affected by a Google algorithm adjustment. To learn more about our services, or to ask a question about your website, contact us today. Call 888-810-3163 or fill out our contact form to meet our team.

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