Doorway Pages or Advertising Pages - What's The Difference?
This article takes a look at how black hat SEOs continue to try to use the flawed doorway page technique to gain high rankings in the search engines.
I recently responded to a post in a popular search engine marketing forum that asked the question, "What is the difference between doorway pages and advertising pages?" In fact there have been quite a number of similar posts so far in the month of March. Therefore I decided that it would be a timely subject to write on.
Doorway Page Techniques Are Nothing New
If you have been around the search engine optimization (SEO) world for any length of time, you have most likely heard of "doorway" pages and questioned whether they are good or bad. Doorway pages have been around for awhile and because of the bad reputation they have, are often called by other names such as attraction pages, gateway pages, bridge pages and even more recently advertising pages. Their use, whether good or bad, ethical or non-ethical has been constantly debated since they were first employed.
What is a Doorway Page
A doorway page is typically a page created by a SEO or webmaster for the exclusive purpose of ranking well in the search engines. They usually consists of a lot of text that is stuffed with the keyword or phrases they are intended to promote and are not linked in to the regular navigational structure of the site. The basic idea is that they will rank well in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and a visitor will enter the site through that page, thus the reason why they are called doorways.
A Dinosaur Tactic
Since the inception of Google's PageRank system of measuring a site's link popularity and its factor in their ranking algorithm, doorway pages have become all but useless. This is mostly due to the fact that there are no hyperlinks pointing to these pages. This makes them nothing more than orphaned pages that usually do not rank well in the SERPs like they once did. Therefore their use has pretty much diminished over the last few years, at least by more experienced SEO firms. I still come across "newbie" SEOs using them who just don't know any better but for the most part, it seems as if they have gone by the way side, or at least I thought so.
Doorway Pages Reinvented?
I recently came across a SEO who cranks out hundreds and hundreds of doorway pages in their positioning strategy. They refer to them as "advertising pages." This "Black Hat SEO" company, whom will not call by their real name, currently has couple hundred telemarketers on staff whose sole purpose is to make cold calls all day long selling their SEO packages to unsuspecting victims.
The individual who made the post I mentioned above was called by one of these sales people. They have a slick sales pitch, guaranteeing top rankings in the search engines with their proven methods. Their pitch is so convincing to those who are not all that familiar with SEO that they are literally signing up dozens and dozens of new customers on a daily basis.
One might then ask, "What good is 20-100 orphaned pages going to do when good link popularity is such a necessary ingredient for success?" They aren't orphaned. They link to one another using hidden links. Not only that but they link to all the other thousands of advertising pages they have created as well thus creating a rather large link popularity farm.
Investigating the Method
I discovered one of their "advertising pages" which contained hundreds of links not only to the sites that the Black Hat SEO has secured as clients but all their advertising pages as well. Therefore I thought I'd do some investigating and see for myself if these sites really did show up well in the SERPs. I only had time to dig through five of them. I checked their rankings on the top ten search properties and from the links I found on the page, I gathered that each company is trying to rank well for 20 keyword phrases. Here is a summary of what I found. (the exact web sites have been removed to protect the companies' names.)
- Telephone Systems Company - Only 2 first page positions on Google (# 2 and #9). Only 28 first page rankings overall, 2 of which are number 1 spots on Wisenut. However WiseNut is not a very popular search engine so 2 number one positions is nothing to get too excited about.
The site itself contains a series of hidden links to its advertising pages. The sub pages of the site are not optimized at all. The source code of the home page reveals that it is definitely in danger of being penalized because of all of the spam techniques employed. It will probably take a tattle tale to get it done but the potential is there. It probably hasn't happened yet because the site doesn't rank well enough to be a threat to anyone.
- Trucking Fleet Management Company - Does not show up in the first 50 results of Google for any of the keywords they are targeting. Found only 32 first page rankings, 6 of which are number 1 spots (5 for "managed fleet insurance").
The site itself is a framed site which typically do not rank well in search engines. There are ways to optimize a framed site but it is not being done with this site. It also has a Google PageRank of 0 which typically means the site has been penalized by Google.
- Online Jewelry Store - Does not show up in the first 50 results of Google for any of the keywords. Only 3 first page rankings overall and nothing better than a number 8 spot. Absolutely horrible results.
Many of the sub pages of site are in frames which are not optimized.
- PDA Accessories Store - Found 5 first page rankings on Google, one of which is number 1 (#1, #5, #6, #7 & #9). Before we get excited over the number 1 spot for "pda hardcase" understand that it is hardly searched for (only 130 searches on Overture and their partner sites in February 2004). Only 23 first page rankings overall, 3 of which are number 1 spots. 2 of those are on WiseNut which again, is not a popular search engine.
This site did a little better than the others I checked but it is also in danger of being penalized because of all the hidden links to their advertising pages on the home page. Someone tattles on them, a human at the search engines gets involved and then - bam! Penalty time. It already looks like Yahoo doesn't like the site. Didn't show up in the first 50 results for any keywords. Who cares about Yahoo? Everyone should now that they have their own crawler effective March 2004. They also power All The Web, Alta Vista and all the sites that currently use Inktomi, the main ones being MSN and HotBot.
- Box Making Machine Company - The best this one did on Google was a number 30 spot for "box making machine" which by the way only generated 40 searches on Overture and its partners in February 2004. Only 26 first page rankings overall, 4 of which are number 1 spots on MSN. I was surprised that it got 4 first places on MSN so I went and checked manually and did not find it there as the report stated. I did see one pay per click Overture ad. Don't know why the report picked up 4 number one spots - could have been PPC ads that popped in there.
The site has hidden links on home page and may have already been penalized by Google as if has a PageRank of only 1.
If I was any of these five companies, I would not be happy, especially if I was one of the companies whose site had been penalized!
Something Fishy Here!
I was always taught that if it looks like a fish, smells like a fish and feels like a fish, then it is most likely a fish. If this Black Hat SEO had put half the effort into optimizing the existing pages on each of the sites mentioned above, they would have seen far better results. They are using a cannon to kill a mouse instead of a simple mouse trap in my opinion, and an old cannon at that! Their "highly advanced techniques" that they boasted about over the phone just didn't stand up to my test. To tell you the truth, I am glad they didn't as I am a firm believer in employing SEO techniques that conform to each search engines' guidelines. Even if they do get some good results, they are sitting ducks for a huge black eye when a search engine decides to penalize their entire network of sites and doorway pages. I have seen it happen before and it is nasty for all involved (SEO and clients).
So what is the difference between a doorway page and an advertising page? Only the way they are spelled. It is still a spam technique. It doesn't work. If by chance it does, it won't for the long term. The one thing this strategy is successful at is to keep engineers at search engines employed discovering ways they can combat them. It is also successful in that it makes for an easy sale to unsuspecting victims because it sounds like Black Hat SEO has an advantage that others don't.