Google: City Landing Pages Can Be Doorway Pages & Against Guidelines

djbaxter

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Google Warns: City Landing Pages Can Be Doorway Pages & Against Guidelines
by Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Roundtable
Dec 12, 2019

Google's John Mueller had to warn one SEO that he should not go ahead and build out 1,300 city based landing pages, with the strategy of trying to rank for your keyword phrase + city name. He said that would be a doorway page and against Google's guidelines.

Google's help document defines doorway pages as:
Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.
One example Google gives is "Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy."

Since 2008, Google has said city/state landing pages are doorway pages and Google reinforced it twice in 2015.

Read more...
 

Wirenut

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I always thought that city base landing pages aren't considered doorway pages.

I am a service area business with 15 very small towns in my service area. Having a separate and unique pages for each one of those towns is the only way to come up in the search listings for those towns, as far as I understand it.

I wonder if they will start penalizing sites with town based landing pages? If so, how else would companies like mine get business outside of our own town?
 

UKSBD

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I always thought that city base landing pages aren't considered doorway pages.

I am a service area business with 15 very small towns in my service area. Having a separate and unique pages for each one of those towns is the only way to come up in the search listings for those towns, as far as I understand it.

I wonder if they will start penalizing sites with town based landing pages? If so, how else would companies like mine get business outside of our own town?
I would say there is a difference between 15 pages for local towns with unique content and 1,300 pages with very similar content.

I think they are referring to when the content is very similar but just the town/city name changes on every page.
 

Mindquest

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Had a thread asking this same question a couple months ago.


@JoyHawkins @Marie Haynes Joy & Marie have you seen an increase in sites getting penalized for doorway pages?
 

Eric Rohrback

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I think the key phrase we need to pay attention to as it relates to how Google determines whether these are doorway pages is "Substantially similar pages." With local landing pages you really need to be creating unique content that is related not only to the area, but to the specific office for the business. If you're a service-business, then you can still talk about things like past case studies of jobs you did in the area, common issues that you've seen that are local-specific (and how you solved them), and a ton of other creative content.

Local pages could be doorway pages if they all have the same content, but you're spinning the location. MOST websites aren't doing this, but there are quite a few offenders out there. The site COULD get penalized, but as long as you make the page valuable to potential users then you're going to be OK.
 

keyserholiday

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I consult for a company that optimized for several of the surrounding areas. The problem was the client turned down all of the leads that were too far away from his home. It actually had negative effects on his GMB listing as he kept getting negative reviews for turning down these leads.
If you are going to do it a SAB business make sure that you are willing to capitalize on those leads or it’s all for not.
Joy said you should dominate your city for all of your terms before you branch out and attempt to rank in other cities and areas.
 

Wirenut

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I consult for a company that optimized for several of the surrounding areas. The problem was the client turned down all of the leads that were too far away from his home. It actually had negative effects on his GMB listing as he kept getting negative reviews for turning down these leads.
I don't know why he would promote his business to areas then turn down the leads, seems counter productive.

FWIW, I get calls from outside of my service area on a daily basis and have never received a negative review from turning any of them down. Maybe it's because I don't advertise to those areas. Or maybe I am just more polite than your client. Seems odd for him to get so many negative reviews...

Joy said you should dominate your city for all of your terms before you branch out and attempt to rank in other cities and areas.
Many areas don't have "cities" in the conventional sense. The areas are made up of lots of very small towns. Ranking first for everything in 1 town isn't going to bring in enough leads. It's also a lot harder (ie. more expensive) to do than making many town based landing pages, which have a 1 time cost and then continue to bring in new work indefinitely.
 
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I think the key phrase we need to pay attention to as it relates to how Google determines whether these are doorway pages is "Substantially similar pages." With local landing pages you really need to be creating unique content that is related not only to the area, but to the specific office for the business. If you're a service-business, then you can still talk about things like past case studies of jobs you did in the area, common issues that you've seen that are local-specific (and how you solved them), and a ton of other creative content.

Local pages could be doorway pages if they all have the same content, but you're spinning the location. MOST websites aren't doing this, but there are quite a few offenders out there. The site COULD get penalized, but as long as you make the page valuable to potential users then you're going to be OK.
100%.

The defining characteristic of a doorway page is it doesn't deliver on its promise in the SERP. So if your plumber near sheboygan page was a wall of dummy Sheboygan text with nothing unique and a big green button to click funneling your users to your plumber in milwaukee page (with your Milwaukee address), boom - doorway. Bad, because 1) users are duped 2) if they bounce back to the SERP and find your stupid page targeting Sheboygan Falls ranking right after the user is out of luck again.

This is more a query fulfillment issue than an "am I going to get smacked with a manual action" issue IMO. But if I was a Google rep I'd be spreading the fear as this kind of thing makes their product worse.
 

JoshuaMackens

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They are doorway pages. You won't know if you have a penalty. Algorithmic penalties are hard to diagnose. The traditional ones (panda, penguin) are easy because so many people were affected and so many case studies and successes from fixes have been seen. However, with an algorithm like doorway pages, it's much harder to tell. About the only way would be to a) have before/after ranking reports from before you added the doorway pages and then after the results. If there's a significant drop it could be doorway pages. b) have an SEO professional look at your rankings and try to determine if you should be ranking higher than you are. Even then, that's a best guess.

I would agree there's a difference between a few city landing pages vs 1,300 of them. However, where does that number stop? 5? 15? 100? There's no way to tell.

If you're doing city landing pages I would recommend a) don't do a lot of them b) vary the content as much as possible with the helpful tips people have already given.
 

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