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Locked Doorways?
By Andrew Gerhart - October 11, 2001

Introduction
The trends within the search engine optimization industry are ever changing, as is the case with every field within the technology industry. What works great today may not work at all tomorrow. A lot of the search engine optimization companies will optimize their clients' websites by simply building doorway pages that target each keyword. The search engines have taken a stance against doorway pages which has in turn given them a bad name, as well as giving the industry a bad name. We will discuss why the search engines don't like doorway pages, how this is affecting the SEO industry, and what the best way to optimize your website is.

So, why don't the search engines like doorway pages?
A doorway page is simply an additional page on your website that is created to target a specific keyword and then submitted to the search engines. This is an excerpt directly from Google's reasons why your site may not be included in their database: "You employ doorway pages. Google does not encourage the use of doorway pages. We want to point users to content pages, not to doorways or splash screens." The search engines are a business, with the essence of their business being to provide the user with the best, most relevant, results pertaining to their search. The problem that search engines see with doorway pages is that they can be designed to target a keyword that is not related to the website. If a website sells winter jackets, they could build a doorway page that targets winter pants. These two are similar, the website is not about winter pants. So, the search engines feel that they are being manipulated into converting sales for the webmasters and site owners by directing this traffic to their website. At the same time they are doing their customers a disservice by bringing back off-topic results on their results page.

How does this affect the Search Engine Optimization industry?
The use of doorway pages in an illegitimate fashion has taken a toll on the SEO industry within the search engines as well as outside of them. Doorway pages are seen as a bad word by some, which does not only include the search engines. The strategy of building doorway pages to optimize a site is seen as spam in some eyes, and carries over to the feelings toward the industry. A lot of people have been burned by SEO companies that have built them doorway pages for their keywords and are now having these doorway pages dropped from the search engines' databases. This strategy worked in the past, but as the policies are changing and the algorithms are becoming more complex, the search engines are penalizing and sometimes dropping doorway pages that are used unethically.

Although this is understandable, this is not the way that it is has to be. The term doorway page does not have to have a direct correlation with spam. It is the unethical and inappropriate use of the doorway pages by some companies and individuals that is giving them, and the industry, a bad rap.

A proper doorway page should adhere to the same methods that are applied to optimizing any part of your site. The pages should be rich in content, have the correct amount of keywords, be linked correctly within the site, and should not be over-submitted to the search engines. If your page is really that good, search engines like Google will find it without submission to their database.

What is the Best Way To Optimize a Website?
Although the trends change, and there are always new tips and tricks that can be applied to a website to increase the ranking, the process of client-side, complete website optimization is the most effective strategy. This form of SEO strategy has tremendous positive effects, and won't trigger any of the search engine's alarms.

The client side, overall optimization of a website has numerous effects:

  • Has long lasting effects
  • Does not offend search engines
  • Works across the board
  • Keeps website themed and structured

Let's say a year and half ago you built some doorways pages to rank well for different keywords within a few search engines. Now come back to the present time. The chances are that some of these doorway pages do not rank well for the same keywords, which means that you will have to go back and redo the whole thing or do some major tweaking. This is not the case with client side, overall optimization. Once the website is completely optimized the effects can be seen long term as the optimization was done legitimately and honestly. There were no cheap tricks involved. If the search engines change their algorithms, which is usually minor, then the optimizer only has minor changes to make to the website.

The creation of doorway pages is usually done with a specific keyword in mind as well as a specific search engine in mind. This extra work is almost eliminated when the website is completely optimized. With overall optimization the website will gain ground across the board. Only minor changes are needed to have the website rank well in the different search engines, as they are all looking for the same thing in a website: relevant content and an on-topic website to feed their users.

When a website is properly structured and themed it will help with the organization of the site as well as the ranking and positioning of the website's pages within the search engines. The site structure will have an effect on the spidering of your website by the search engines and in turn will affect how many of your pages are indexed within their database. With a proper themed structure to your website the search engines will deep crawl your website, picking up each page for that specific keyword and keyword variation. If your index page is targeting "baseball shirts", then the next pages could be "national league shirts", and the following pages could be "Team 1 shirts."

Conclusion
The way that the SEO industry has received a bad name within some circles is a shame, as SEO is a valuable and legitimate source of online marketing and website promotion. The value is not questionable, but rather some of the companies that offer SEO, and the methods that they use, are.