“The more indexed pages you have, the better SEO you’ll have on your website.”
I hope you didn’t stop reading at the quote above, because if you did, you’d have bought into a common misconception about search engine optimization—that more pages are better for SEO. While you may have gained rankings using that strategy years ago, continuing down this path will cripple your marketing efforts going forward. It’s time for an update if you’re still using this strategy today.
Google Is Going to Start Penalizing “Doorway Pages”
One out-of-date strategy commonly used on websites in the past was to build “doorway pages,” which were pieces of content designed to manipulate a search engine’s need to satisfy local search intent. By creating pages that tied your product or service to a particular geography, you were able to rank for search terms like “[your product] + [town].” After some successful testing on search engines, you could take that formula and build a system to “spin” content—basically, using certain geographic or keyword variables to build thousands of pages with very similar content designed to maximize your “digital footprint.” In this strategy, quantity rules over quality. That’s not what Google wants.
So what’s a search engine to do? Evolve to a level where Google can detect doorway pages and redefine their standards for quality content. In an effort to determine what quality actually means to search, Google has applied machine learning that takes signals from hundreds of places. The quest for quality is endless, and so are the inputs Google uses to determine it—so much so that I doubt Google’s engineers can even tell you what exactly is happening on a SERP today.
How to Shift Your Outdated Strategy
The good news is, you don’t have to know what all the signals are if you know that the end goal is quality. In an excellent video about doorway pages, Joe Chura gives some good advice to modern marketers:
“You want to build quality content that adds new value to search engines, with new opinions that are unique [and] that consumers are going to get to and appreciate…”
Focus on quality and you’ll do just fine. You can’t go wrong if your marketing strategy delivers content that speaks to the uniqueness of your product, answers customer questions, and provides genuine value. This is quality over quantity, and it’s what both search engines and consumers are looking for. Here’s a real-world example:
At the end of March in 2014, we launched a new website for an automotive dealer. They had a doorway strategy in place, and on the day of the launch their old website platform had 8,409 pages in Google’s index. A year (and a strategy change) later, that number dropped to 3,218. There was a 62% drop for that domain in Google’s index.
Yikes! This might be cause for alarm! We better check Google Analytics to see how badly this affected the business…
Wait… how could this be? How can the number of pages in Google’s index drop 62% and yet the site’s organic traffic increases 115%? This can’t be correct…can it?
Yes, it is correct. The reason is that many of those pages were of very low quality and didn’t rank well, or that the searches they were trying to rank for were not that popular to begin with. We cleared out the junk, optimized pages that were ranking for valuable terms, and focused on quality—and as a result the relevant organic traffic increased. This is just one example of many websites that showed and continue to show similar results.
Unless your goal is to have the most low-quality pages on the internet, stay away from the outdated “doorway page” strategy. If you’re serious about your dealership and want to be relevant, change your strategy today! Modern search engines are not trying to provide the most results on a topic, they’re striving to deliver the best result. Focus on quality and search engines will reward you.