Q and A: What’s the difference between a Doorway Page and a Landing Page?

Question

Hi Kalena,

We’re having a debate here – what’s the difference between a (bad) doorway page and a (good) landing page? Is hosting an informative 1 page on a topic (eg:www.bluewidgets.com) and having that point to multiple pages on a related, parent site (e.: www.widgetes.com) frowned upon by Google, and does that technique fall under the landing or doorway page title?

Thanks for your help!

Cindy

An excellent question Cindy.

At their extremes, the differences between a spammy doorway page and a good landing page are usually pretty obvious to us humans. A “doorway” page has been designed specifically to appeal to search engines and rank well for a particular keyword phrase (or phrases) is typically stuffed with keywords, makes little real sense when you read it, and adds no real value to the user experience, whereas a “landing page” has been optimised for search rankings, but also aims to be useful and appealing to human visitors, and encourage them to take an appropriate call to action.

It can be much more difficult to determine the difference between a well crafted doorway page and an over-optimised landing page – not only for humans- but also for Google.

Google has to algorithmically determine the difference between these types of pages and uses a whole variety of factors to decide whether or not a particular page deserves a good ranking or a penalty. The types of factors taken into account could include – keyword density, duplicate content, inbound and outbound links, number of similar pages,

Ultimately the difference is probably a matter of intent – If a page has been created to be useful to visitors it will probably be treated by Google as a landing page, if the page has been over-optimised to a point that it becomes of little real benefit to users, then it will be treated by Google accordingly. This is one of the dangers associated with over-optimising a page or even an entire site. Even though it may have started out with a clear and useful purpose, over-optimisation could result in reduced rankings.

In the example you’ve provided I think the important word is “informative”. It is quite legitimate (and in fact encouraged) to link from a useful page on one site to relevant pages on another site.

Hope that helps.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting Web Optimisation & Design

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Q and A: Is it spam to have multiple domains forwarded to one site?

QuestionDear Kalena

I’m currently taking your SEO 101 class for certification.  I’ve been looking over some of the recommended reading and I am confused about something.  Can you tell me if it is SPAM if you have multiple domain names forwarded to one website?

Thanks for your assistance.

Laura

Dear Laura

No, not necessarily. It depends how they are forwarded and the original purpose of the forwarding. For example, if you have a main site e.g. site.com but also own regional domains for the site e.g. site.com.au or site.co.uk and you wish to forward people typing in those regional domains to your main domain, then that is a legitmate use of forwarding.

Same with domains for branding purposes, for example, I own both www.ask-kalena.com and www.askkalena.com but I prefer to use the first one for branding as it is easier to read the site name. However I don’t want to miss any persons who type in the second version of the domain, so I forward the latter one to the former one automatically. You’ll see if you type in the second version it will automatically redirect you to the hyphenated version. This is also a correct use of domain forwarding and the correct server redirection technique to use (not META refresh or similar).

The only time it gets spammy is if you are deliberately redirecting people from one domain to another in a direct attempt to mislead them and trick search engines, for example if you click on a domain in the search results that looks like www.baby-strollers.com and it takes you instead to a porn domain or something. Also the redirection of hundreds or thousands of domains to a single domain is likely very dodgy.

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Q and A: Why is my client’s site no longer ranking in Google?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’ve been reading your articles and find your answers to many people very helpful. So, here is my issue.

I am helping a friend with his website that I built. I felt like we did a pretty decent job with SEO and we had some fairly high ranking in some key terms like “lasik in chicago” 6th and “lasik in Oakbrook” 2nd.

All of a sudden I was changing the index page to put up a larger flash video. I also added some additional text that looks similiar to some of the higher ranking sites that are competitors of my friend Dr. Sloane. Since then I have noticed he has been moved down to page three for the same ranking. When I went into Google Webmaster Tools, I noticed that it shows that Googlebot hasn’t accessed the homepage since 2007. Also, I see all my pages rank very low on PageRank.

I’m just a little bit confused and was hoping that you could give me a little advice on getting his site on the right track. He has been around on the net since mid 90’s, so the domain has some age.

Shannon

Hi Shannon

First of all, thank you for the caffeine donation, that helps a lot when I’m answering these questions in the wee hours. As for your issue, I’ve taken a look and wow, where do I start? How about here:

1) The first major content on your client’s home page HTML is a huge Flash file. Quite apart from the fact that it’s visually distracting and goes against every web site usability rule possible, you’ve stuck it right after the header tags, meaning it’s the first thing search engines are going to try and index. The file isn’t optimized so it doesn’t tell Googlebot and others anything about your page, it simply pushes the meatier content further down the code.

2) You seem to have some weird link to the iFrance site embedded in an iframe. What’s that about? It looks dodgy and search engines don’t like iframes so it’s probably triggered a red flag or two.

3) Your current home page looks and smells like a doorway page. There’s no obvious formatting, no navigation menu, the design is not consistent with the rest of the site and it doesn’t load properly in Firefox. I was half expecting to see user-agent sniffer code in the HTML, but perhaps it’s just really poor design.

4) We’re up to number 4 already, and this is probably your main problem: there seems to be some type of delayed meta refresh that kicks in after 5 seconds and redirects people to a different URL on the same domain. This is retro spam at it’s finest and is like waving a huge red flag at Google saying “HEY, I’M DOING SOMETHING DODGY OVER HERE! PENALIZE ME QUICK”

Spammers like to use meta refreshes in order to bait and switch i.e. show Googlebot a family safe DVD page like Driving Miss Daisy and then redirect human searchers to a porn site of the… ahem… same name. Ditch the redirect pronto. Decide which home page you want to show both users and search engines and stick with it.

Surprisingly, your Title and META tags check out ok, although there’s a bit of excessive keyword repetition in your META Keywords tag. Googlebot last cached your home page on 13 April so check your Webmaster Tools account again.

That’s it for now, I hate to say it but my coffee’s run out.


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Cloaking by Major Aussie Travel Site Exposed at SMX Sydney

SEO ClinicIf you haven’t already heard the news, the final and highly amusing session at SMX Sydney revealed a not-so funny situation for large travel site Flight Centre Australia.

Late Friday afternoon, Rand Fishkin and Danny Sullivan were teamed up for the SEO Clinic session, where audience members offer their sites up for SEO advice to the three teams of two SEO experts each, fetchingly outfitted in doctor’s lab coats. During Rand and Danny’s review of the Discover Tasmania site, a standard code snippet grab to check for duplicate content in Google came back with some strange referrer link to this page. Straight dupe content right? Well not quite. A view source check didn’t show the phrase up anywhere in the HTML for that page. “Smells like cloaking!” said Danny excitedly as he shared his find with Rand live on stage.

Then followed the hilarious scenario where Danny tried to install the Firefox plug-in that allows code lookups using different user-agents. Lost windows, a non co-operating mouse and constant old married couple bickering between Danny and Rand kept the audience in stitches until they finally got the plug-in to install. Finally disguised as Googlebot, a quick look at the page code confirmed what Danny suspected: Flight Centre was indeed cloaking and using content from Discover Tasmania in the process.

With Google’s spam fighter Adam Lasnik sitting right there on the panel, it was only a matter of time before the consequences kicked in for Flight Centre. A search today for the same snippet used by Rand: “Tasmania’s capital lies in the south-east of the state” no longer brings up a Flight Centre page. Plus their subdomain catalogues.flightcentre.com.au shows no cache and a PageRank of zero. Looks like the whole sub-domain has been delisted – ouch! The moral of the story? Cloaking is easily detectable by both your competitors and anyone with a few programming smarts. The risks rarely outweigh the short term benefits.

Interestingly, Flight Centre didn’t attend SMX this year, but they were at a similar conference in Sydney last year and I recall having a conversation with the Marketing Manager about them seeking to hire some SEO young guns. Looks like whoever they hired shot themselves in the foot! Shame.

More information on cloaking and the session is available from Neerav’s blog. Photo courtesy of the SMX Sydney mozzers.

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