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Old 07-07-2004   #1
dannysullivan
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The Great Doorway Debate

Are doorway pages evil? If you look at the type of nonsensical copy shown in this thread, many are probably inclined to say yes. That's especially so when you consider how many pages like this are taking up time and resources to be indexed.

But now qualify things. As NFFC points out in that thread, does it make a difference how a searcher got to a page, as long as it delivers what is promised? That seems fine at Google for NPR to do. And in the past, when I've looked at paid inclusion programs, I've seen low quality doorway-like pages be deemed acceptable.

Such things confuse what at first may seem like a clear cut issue. So have at it (politely). Are doorway pages a black-and-white issue, or can you color shades of gray?

By the way, if you need some more background on doorways, I did this long article covering some of the issues they raise last year.

Last edited by dannysullivan : 07-07-2004 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 07-07-2004   #2
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We used to use doorway pages way, way back because they were effective. Then Google came on the scene with PageRank and all of a sudden orphaned doorway pages were no longer effective. Rather it is better to optimize the 'existing' internal pages of a site.

Funny thing is that I still have some doorway pages out there and although we have used the technique for years, they are still ranking well so "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." With these clients that still have doorway pages online, we have since optimized their existing sub pages and closely monitor when and if the doorways no longer rank well and bring in traffic at which time they are pulled.

There still is special cases where doorway pages may be necessary IMO but they are not the doorway pages of old that are orphaned, full of ugly text, etc. or machine generated pages that are linked into link farms with hidden links and JavaScript mouseover redirects. Rather these pages may be used for dynamic sites in which SEs have trouble indexing the dynamic content so "more information" pages are created but linked into site with 'visible' links, or maybe they are html versions of their all Flash counterparts ... situations like that. For us, they would always be a last resort as there are many other solutions these days (mod re-writes, noscript and noembed tags, well designed site maps, etc.).

The problem with ugly machine generated link farm linked doorways is that they do litter the Internet IMO and using a mouseover redirect to hide them is a sneaky tactic. I would not buy from a company that used such methods but then again I am not a regular person using the Internet but rather a savvy Internet marketer so I don't know how the regular population would view them.
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Old 07-07-2004   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dannysullivan
Are doorway pages evil?
I do not think good or evil is a good way to describe most SEO techniques.

I think it is more important to think effective or not effective.

I do not like the idea of creating automated content because I feel it clutters up the knowledge base of the world for my personal gain. I feel that is greed, though I suppose everyone has their own definintion of right and wrong.

Other people look at things in different ways though. I can't fault another person for finding a functional business model, I just think there is so much in the world to learn that I see no need to add fake info to the expanding knowledge base.
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Old 07-07-2004   #4
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>Are doorway pages evil?

A question that begs for a yes or no answer, for me at least, really throws up an incredible range of conflicting issues, or as Google would say "signals".

I think the main problem lies with each of the parties involved in the "deal" having their own agenda, each promoting their own view of how things should be instead of looking at the bigger picture. I personally think the doorway debate has gotten out of control, people are taking entrenched positions based on what is a very narrow view of the www, they will always and only take a position based on their on self interest/skill set.

Take me as an example, I'm an ex-SEO who now runs a small portfolio of B2C ecommerce sites. I believe my forte lies in building fast loading, search engine friendly sites that are very pleasing to the eye. That takes a lot of time. Our typical time from concept to launch is 12 months [we manufacture a lot of our own products, that takes time to impliment too], and as a newbie to this game that leaves me with a very small number of sites. We cannot afford to spend 12 months on a site and have it nuked, we wear a great big white hat and wear it with pride. We build our sites with care, looking to make the user experience the best we can and at the same time make the sites rank in the SE's.

Where does that leave us in the great doorway debate, in truth we are hypocrites. The reason we build the sites the way we do is simply that it is the only way we know how to do it. If we came from a more technical background we would probably be cloaking, its quicker, its easier and most importantly the user gets the best experiance that we can deliver. But you have to face the facts, if you buy cloaking software and spend 3 days designing a logo that only spiders will see you have to accept that that is not the way forward for you

So we have our own view, doorways are evil, all those people generating pages are just not as good as us, we care more...we work harder than them...we should get the rankings. OF COURSE WE SHOULD.

If truth be told the reason we do things the way we do them is because we think that is the best way we can rank. Our limited skillset limits us as to how we approuch the challenge but that doesn't mean it is the only way to go.

So moving on, lets talk about the "deal":

Webmasters create content, SE's take that content, searchers are looking to find that content. Done right everybody wins.

I honestly thing that the current adversorial relationship between SEO's and the SE's is hurting the searcher. Imho the "adversorial" part comes from the SE's, they seem to have a very limited view of what a website should be, that to a large part is restricting web masters from offering the users the best experience. The mantra of same content to the searcher as to the search engine has passed its sell by date imho, they need to take a "bigger picture" view of the needs of the users. Saying that, "we accept that some content is hard to index or may not accurately reflect the page and if you pay us enough money we will happily index your doorway pages" isn't right.

By the same token neither is the statement "There still is special cases where doorway pages may be necessary", thats just an SEO looking to justify their exsistance.

To sum up, yes doorway pages are evil but only because they conflict with our business model.

That makes us hypocrites, the search engines too. The only people that seem to come out well from this is the searchers themselves.

I would suggest focusing less on what the search engines say they want, less on what the webmaster wants and much much more on what the searcher wants.

And remember, when push comes to shove *every* page is a doorway.
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Old 07-07-2004   #5
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I like to think of "good" vs "evil" in SEO more as a difference in methods.

Quote:
I would suggest focusing less on what the search engines say they want, less on what the webmaster wants and much much more on what the searcher wants.
If the search engines are focusing on the experience of the searcher, then it makes sense to focus on what the searcher needs. Most importantly, you should serve the needs of the visitor coming to your website. The most general concept of doorway pages is one of little content. Having so many low content pages in the search engine results does not serve the searcher. Whatever page you create will matter more to the searcher when it contains the relevant content they are looking for.
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Old 07-07-2004   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
We used to use doorway pages way, way back because they were effective. Then Google came on the scene with PageRank and all of a sudden orphaned doorway pages were no longer effective. Rather it is better to optimize the 'existing' internal pages of a site.
So you're saying it's only better to optimize the existing pages of a site because it's more effective? If doorway pages were still effective, then would they be fine by you?

There are companies that still use doorway pages which work nicely for them. Very effective. They use them because the client doesn't want to change things on the page.

Right or wrong in your opinion?
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Old 07-08-2004   #7
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Originally Posted by Fear The Pie
So you're saying it's only better to optimize the existing pages of a site because it's more effective? If doorway pages were still effective, then would they be fine by you?
Part of their past 'effectiveness' was due to the fact that search engines didn't necessarily take a stand against them as they do today. So because they do, even though some are effective, they are not fine with me because I do not want to do anything that would jeopardize a client's site.

Look at Traffic Power for example. Were their machine generated doorway pages working? Absolutely they were. But look what happened - they got busted and now thousands of their clients are suffering because of it.

Let me also say this that not every doorway page is the same. There are the machine generated doorway pages that companies like Traffic Power use which are so ugly and useless to searchers, that they have to hide them with a JavaScript mouseover redirect. Then there are pages that in my example above may be created as a "more information" page for a product page that is not getting indexed or something along those lines.

So in essence, not all doorway pages are created equal and as NFFC posted above:

And remember, when push comes to shove *every* page is a doorway.
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Old 07-08-2004   #8
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>So in essence, not all doorway pages are created equal and as NFFC posted above

With respect that is the exact opposite of what I meant.

To me all SEO is spam and every page that an SEO touches is a doorway. In truth I don't see any difference between my stuff and machine generated doorway pages, the intent is exactly the same. In truth some of those machine generated pages read better than mine

>Part of their past 'effectiveness' was due to the fact that search engines didn't necessarily take a stand against them as they do today.

I don't think that is a true statement [see Black Monday as an example], because of the incresed weighting of external factors they simply don't work as well as they used to. Its in the nature of an SEO to look for things that justify their tactics, I don't know why it just is, the "my doorway is better than your doorway" exemplifies this, imho.
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Old 07-08-2004   #9
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Quoted fron the Google Guidelines
Quote:
Quality Guidelines - Specific recommendations:

Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
Don't send automated queries to Google.
Don't load pages with irrelevant words.
Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
IMHO one should not use moralistic platitudes as to whether dooraway pages are good or evil. Simply, they are frowned upon by Google, and whether we like G's rules or not has no bearing on the matter. G has chosen to state, and at times implement and enforce their rules. It is their choice. We as SEO/SEMs also have a choice. We can either abide by their rules or not. If we chose not to abide by their rules then we have no reason to complain when they are enforced.

In the early days of baseball, the spitball was permitted. Some pitchers did extremely well and were highly successful using that tactic.Then it was outlawed. Nearly a hundred years since its ban, some have continued to use this type pitch. A few have been succesful and have gotten away with it, however, when batters complain, and these pitchers are caught by the umpire, there is no warning. They are thrown from the game. Were they evil? I do not think so. Did they try to cheat? Absolutely. Did they deserve to be tossed from the game. Yes, I think they did. They broke the rules as set forth, and well knew the consequences. They chose to use that style pirtch because it was highly effective.

Likewise, doorway pages also can be effective, and if one wants to use them it is their choice. Just keep in mind, there could be consequences. Now, if one chooses to use doorway pages with out full disclosure being made to a client then that may be construed as deceitful and evil.

I fail to understand the difficulty in abiding by the rules when playing in someone elses game. If one feels the need to cheat then it merely demonstrates to me a lack of confidence in their skills and methodology. If one is good then there is no need to try and game the system. Just my opinion, and more than likely in the minority as usual.

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Old 07-08-2004   #10
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All pages are doorway pages...ohhhh please!

And all SEO is spam...

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Old 07-08-2004   #11
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>>because of the incresed weighting of external factors they simply don't work as well as they used to.

I can't altogether agree with that; they're just done differently. Without considering cloaked doorways, which I choose to disregard, the ones on the site might not work as well, but because of the weighting of off-page factors it's evolved to using doorways that are *not* on the site, but are placed on other sites to move the PR over and provide deep-linked anchor text. I've seen some that are part of SEO *networks* - doorway pages on other sites done in conjunction with additional types of sites put up specifically for the purpose, and they aren't even effectively hidden - in fact it was child's play to find them.

They sure do seem to have worked just fine with Google, but for how long, who knows? The ironic part is that the linking out doorways rank well because they're very well optimized and not only have appropriate inbound anchor text (hidden on homepages for maximum PR boost) but also have the anchor text in outbound links that link to relevant pages - the client pages that are meant to be "optimized."

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Old 07-08-2004   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dannysullivan
Such things confuse what at first may seem like a clear cut issue. So have at it (politely). Are doorway pages a black-and-white issue, or can you color shades of gray?
I've seen companys use the term "doorways" to mean any manner of things which is why I encourage people not to use that term in their marketing. It only confuses the issue because one man's DWP is anothers content. IMO, it has almost become a marketing term for SEO's that add and mange optimized content.

IMO, the relationship to the rest of the site is a key determining factor. If it isn't in the natural navigation of the site (orphaned) then chances are it is also using other techniques to get indexed that are even spammier than the DWP, namely hidden links and networks. I believe if an engine allows it then it isn't spam. SE determine what's spam and you know it is spam when it is removed from the index. You can interpret the guidelines but... that can be scary business at times. Been there, done that, and got the T!
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Old 07-08-2004   #13
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Sorry about the double post but I had a few more minutes so...

Upon visiting NPR I noticed one thing I think makes a big difference. The text version supplies an alternative for those with hearing problems. "Accessability" should IMO, be on your checklist if your worried about something possibly being "inappropriate". In NPR's case it seems to add significantly to the "accessability" of the site, near as I could tell with a quick look.

IMO, accessability improvements almost always translate into good SE techniques and better indexing of some types of content. The NPR example is similar to a flash site adding an html version to the link structure outside of the flash file for users without the plugin, or, like me, a user who prefers the non flash version. (what can I say I'm just an old school type a guy)

I agree with Daria, enhancing the user experience, is always a win win for eveyone, SE and users. I think the quality of the NPR content is pretty good or at least isn't just a "KW driftnet" which I heard the TP stuff was/is. IMO, you should judge the "risk" of doorways in the context of the user and/or intent when they are using nasty techniques to get the DWP's indexed.

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Old 07-08-2004   #14
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> Are doorway pages evil?

No, and making them is not criminal either - and probably never will be. The same thing, by the way, goes for any kind of spam. It's not evil, in my oppinion. It's just a marketing techniques.

Some engines may have editorial guidelines, publically available or not, that filter out doorway pages. So be it. It's still not evil. It's not evil if the local library reject to put your latest poetry release on the shelfs - it's just tuff luck.

If we compare SEO with PR for a minute ...
PR companies send out press releases that they trust (by experience) will get their clients good coverage in the medias they target. If newspapers was honering press releases that looks like the bad kind of doorway pages we sometimes still see gain top rankings, they would write press releases that looks like that, for sure. But they don't. Newspaper editors are (usually) better filters than search engines and would (hopefully) not print a press release like the most ugly machine generated doorways we see. But search engines (sometimes) honor such pages and give them top rankings. As long as they do that people will make them.

Now who is evil? The stupid editor that honor trash or the creative marketing person that creates it?
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Old 07-08-2004   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikkel deMib Svendsen
No, and making them is not criminal either - and probably never will be. The same thing, by the way, goes for any kind of spam. It's not evil, in my oppinion. It's just a marketing techniques.
I agree, I edited my post to reflect that. In my defence, Danny, said it first. just joking!

It is stretching it a bit when you you give human traits to SEO techniques or assume they reflect much, if anything, about the person. No bad people, just bad decisions, sometimes made because they didn't know any better. I may not always seem that way but... the debate gets heated and I am a little passionate about these things because I think it's important.

Quote:
Now who is evil? The stupid editor that honor trash or the creative marketing person that creates it?
Neither, there is no "evil" just a bad decision. Sorry Mikkel, I couldn't resist.

IMO, it's not creative to create what you described. It's the opposite because it wouldn't achieve the marketers goal. Create an action that's followed. Gettem' at any cost isn't accepted by many users any longer. Now there's just too much good content out there. They don't have to settle! There was a day when they did. "Build it and they will come" was a very true statement even 5 years ago, not any longer, they may come, they are less likely to buy, or return. Traffic, is step one, in a 3 step process. If one step is missing you have nothing to show for it.

Which is why DWP, are not "evil", but are, IMO, a bad marketing decision.

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Old 07-09-2004   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikkel deMib Svendsen
If we compare SEO with PR for a minute ...
PR companies send out press releases that they trust (by experience) will get their clients good coverage in the medias they target.
There was an article about this analogy in the High Rankings Advisor not too long ago.


Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
Funny thing is that I still have some doorway pages out there and although we have used the technique for years, they are still ranking well so "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
Part of their past 'effectiveness' was due to the fact that search engines didn't necessarily take a stand against them as they do today. So because they do, even though some are effective, they are not fine with me because I do not want to do anything that would jeopardize a client's site.
By leaving doorway pages on a client site, aren't you currently jeopardizing their site? But as long as it works now? That's what Traffic Power thought too.

Last edited by donut : 07-09-2004 at 02:29 AM.
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Old 07-09-2004   #17
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The only thing that makes an information page a doorway is the linking structure. If it's a good page that people can see, you link to it from the site somewhere, visibly.

It it's only made for search engines, you hide it with no links from your site, or you put inivisble links to it.

Easy enough to make them "real" pages- just include them in your site navigation. For almost every "questionable" tactic out there, there is a way to do the same thing legitimately. Lazy people hide things, creative people find a way to make spider-friendly content a part of the site.
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Old 07-09-2004   #18
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By leaving doorway pages on a client site, aren't you currently jeopardizing their site? But as long as it works now? That's what Traffic Power thought too.
If they were the same kind of doorway pages that TP used, then yes.

However they aren't. Yes, the pages we created were for the sole purpose of ranking well which IMO constitutes a doorway page but they never took on the same characteristics that TP's did. They were not machine generated, they did not use sneaky JavaScript mouseover redirects, they were not hyperlinked with hidden links into a link farm system and they are not deceptive like TP's are. They were hand created, well written and many times took on the appearance of the original site it self.

That being said, nowadays with link popularity and all, it just makes a lot more sense to optimize pages that are already part of the web site structure rather than try to create new ones.

Last edited by David Wallace : 07-09-2004 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 07-09-2004   #19
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Lazy people hide things, creative people find a way to make spider-friendly content a part of the site.
Well written Donut. Good SEO is a blend of art and science.
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Old 07-10-2004   #20
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I'm still curious as to why you would leave them as doorway pages? Why not link them to the rest of the site and remove all risk?

Cheers, Jeff. Glad you dodged that Britney bullet.
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