As the seasons change once more, so do Google's ranking’s and algorithm’s adjust. In this case, any website owner, webmaster or search professional that is striving to maintain their SEO credibility and website’s rankings should take the time to review Google's doorway page update.
The update is a new algorithm adjustment affecting any website with so-called "doorway pages" that Google's Search Quality Team finds harmful to the user's search experience. Google has stated "Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.", which most SEO professionals would consider a "warning".
The definition of a "doorway page" can be broad, but to help figure out whether or not your website is at risk, let's break it down.
Doorway pages, in their most basic form, are any number of pages that rank a website based on generic keywords or phrases that have little to do with the content found on the linked page. These doorways are intended for search engines only and are primarily used to increase web traffic for a main domain or website. A lot of the time, doorway pages do not serve a huge purpose for the human audience. Any click on these doorways allows an increase in traffic for the main page of the website. It's a sneaky way of aggravating search engine users and tricking them into viewing content they don't want to see.
Let's say a person types "Animal-shaped cookies" in Google's search engine and hits enter. They click on a link and somehow end up on a webpage full of very specific information about the recommended diet for an exotic pet. Where did that come from? General keywords can bring up these doorway pages on the search engine and send frustrated searchers in the wrong direction. It's like walking into what looks like a nice restaurant and opening the door to see that it's actually the city dump! It's a "doorway" page because you can't really see what's on the other side of the door until you open it.
Doorway pages can be easily spotted by their isolation on a website. The external links that are found on search engine results are almost impossible to find linked anywhere on the actual site. Google calls these "island" pages. You can see the island in the search results, but you can't get to it anywhere on the site. That's a sure sign that your website has a doorway page.
Often, websites will operate multiple doorway pages, in some cases in the thousands. Many links will lead a searcher to slight variations of the same page. These businesses are likely to be hit hardest by Google's update. If you have multiple pages that you think are important to keep, you should consider doing some reconstruction on each page to make sure the content is unique enough to stand on its own in comparison with the other pages, and further make sure these are not “island” or “orphaned pages”.
So, general keywords leading to very specific pages, multiple links leading to the same (or almost the same) page, or "island or orphaned" pages are all big, flashing, red signs that you have happened across a doorway page. Google doesn't want these pages to deceive users anymore, just for the sake of web traffic. Neither should you, if you're serious about maintaining a user-friendly website and your current search traffic. If you want to take a look at Google's announcement, they have a list of questions you can ask yourself if you're still not quite sure whether you fall into the "doorway page" category: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2015/03/an-update-on-doorway-pages.html
Now that you have a better understanding of doorway pages, hopefully you feel a bit more inclined to throw them out before Google beats you to it. Any websites that are currently operating with doorway pages should deeply consider the consequences that result from maintaining such pages.
Almost everything in the world can generally be seen in two ways: good or bad. There are superheroes and there are villains. There are good SEO strategies and there are bad SEO strategies, often referred to as Black Hat SEO. One very good reason doorway pages could be hurting you more than anything is they tend to fall under the "Black Hat" route. Black Hat SEO is the use of aggressive SEO strategies to get high ranking web traffic. Rather than focusing on the important things like quality, searcher-friendly content, Black Hat SEO tactics send potential customers/clients the wrong message. It's best to get rid of any potential doorway pages, before they make your website feel "spammy" to users, and before you get penalized by Google.
Any up-and-coming businesses that are beginning to dip their toes into the SEO pool should be cautious of accidentally (or intentionally) creating doorway pages. The risks involved with the use of doorways are only increasing and the penalties becoming more severe. As far as good SEO strategy goes, businesses should concentrate on the human audience. At the end of the day, there will be plenty of web traffic on a site that is well designed, professionally optimized for search, and has unique quality content from page to page.