What's Changed in Google's Definition of 'Doorway Pages'?

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Yesterday, Google announced a new algorithm to tackle 'doorway pages'. And at the same time, it updated its definition of what constitutes a doorway page.

For those who haven't heard the news, here's the quick version:

  • Doorway pages are created solely to widen a brands search visibility, without adding value to the user.
  • Google wants to see these pages down-ranked or removed from search results, so is adjusting its ranking algorithm to do this.
  • These changes will take place "soon", and will have a "broad impact" on "sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns".

But to really understand what's happening, we have to look at Google's updated definition of doorway pages in Webmaster Tools help.

Comparing the updated document with the latest archived version on Wayback Machine, it seems that Google is significantly 'widening the net' for what constitutes a doorway page. The previously SEO-centric description has been replaced by a shorter, more general description of "sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries".

Here's a summary of some of the most notable changes:

  • Google no longer focusses on doorway pages, but makes clear that 'doorways' can be individual pages, or entire sites.
  • The new definition removes mention of "poor-quality pages". Now, it seems, perceived 'quality' doesn't factor into Google's thinking - although what this means exactly is hard to guess. (Surely, for example, the quality of the content will play a role?)
  • Both definitions mention funneling users to a single destination as being a key facet of doorway pages, but the new version also refers to pages that "lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination".
  • The original definition mentions that "Google may take action" on doorway sites "including removing these sites from Google's index. Specific actions, or even Google's disapproval, are not mentioned in the new definition.
  • Google no longer gives "templated pages made solely for affiliate linking" as an example.
  • It has added, as an example, "substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy".

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