Step by step doorways
Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.
Take a wander around some of the more commercialised (and less scrupulous) websites offering search engine related services, and you’ll come across a wide variety of impressive claims, promises and guarantees. Some of them like to dazzle you with their abundance of insider knowledge and specialised techniques, and one of the more common phrases you’re likely to come across is the doorway page.
Take away the hype, mystique and apparent science, and a doorway page is simply a page on your website that’s designed to rank well for a particular phrase. That’s all there is to it. If you’re selling a bulk emailer, you may wish to setup separate pages targeting the phrases bulk email, mass mailing, stay in touch, product announcements, group mailing and so on.
While there are many different forms that the doorway page can take, there are, for the purpose of this article, two different kinds – basic content pages and advanced voodoo-type tricks. The latter involves use of particular techniques, gimmicks, black magic and anything else needed to ensure that your site is found, but we’ll look at these at some point in the future.
It’s All About Content
For now we’ll stick with the basic content pages, designed to draw in those eagerly crawling spiders, and make them see the content you have on your site, and where they can find it. Note the significant point here. Content. Trying to lure visitors and spiders to your site under false pretences is a totally pointless exercise, unless the only thing you’re interested in is page views and banner exposures. Assuming that you’re selling something more than this, the safest and most reliable strategy is to only target keywords and phrases that are relevant to what you’re selling.
There are only a few things that a good content doorway page needs. A title, a description, some keywords, and some good solid content are the most important ones. The title should effectively be a very short summary of the page, the description a slightly longer version of the same information, and the content should be rich in relevant material, words and phrases.
The content itself should be built around the base idea of the doorway page. If, going back to the bulk mailer example, you want a doorway page to target the phrase “product announcements”, the page could be a short article on the importance of staying in touch with your clients. There could be reasons for doing so, how to find content for a newsletter, numbering systems for software versions and so on. Some of these can then be included in the META tags.
Use Common Sense
While it’s certainly possible to use software and reference sources to get the exact right number of characters and/or words in each, it’s really not worth the time and effort required to do so. Use common sense. Make sure that your targeted keyword or phrase is in all three META tags, and as near to the start as possible. If the search engine only lists the first five words in title, make sure it’s there. Don’t go for mass-repetition – it doesn’t work, but don’t be afraid of what I call natural repetition either. Using the keywords “mail, email, emailer, emailing, bulk mailing” will not get you banned for repeating the word mail. Getting banned is considerably harder than that, and in 99.99% of cases, you will not be banned for setting-up legitimate content pages.
The next obvious question is how to choose your keywords and phrases. The answer is carefully – bearing in mind that they will be used throughout the META tags and actual page content, their selection is critical.
A commonly used technique is checking on your competition. We all do it, and there’s nothing wrong with having a look what they’re using, what works and what doesn’t. But don’t go copying them word for word. Although it’s a legal grey area, it’s morally questionable, and is almost certain not to get you as high a listing as your competitor. Also bear in mind that actions like this may carry a real risk of getting removed from an engine.
Another grey area is the use of your competitor’s company or product name. A legal precedent of sorts was recently set by Playboy, but there are, as always, clearly legitimate ways of using this strategy. While eyebrows may be raised if your root page META tags consists of nothing more than the names of your competing companies and products, it’s perfectly reasonable to have a page that compares the respective features of your own products with theirs. Just be careful to ensure that the information you present is accurate.
Getting Those Keywords
By now most of us will be aware of GoTo’s keyword popularity feature, but this method does have its limitations. A far better and more advanced service is available at www.wordtracker.com. Apart from the fact that they use a far more diverse database, they also include critical information such as the number of sites that are competing for a keyword. They also offer invaluable information for finding keyword combinations, many of which you probably hadn’t even considered before. The service isn’t free, but if you’re serious about your search engine performance then it’s well worth the money. At the time of writing there were a range of pricing options from $20 for one week’s access to around $200 for the year. Money well spent.
Once you have your keywords selected, it’s then simply a case of laying out your page accordingly. At this point it’s worth remembering that although the primary purpose of the doorway page is to attract the search engines, this doesn’t mean that a visitor who comes across the page should be mystified beyond belief. The page can be presentable, and should always offer clear and obvious access to your main site. More of that later.
Don’t clutter your code
Avoid the & symbol, apostrophes and excessive use of case, and don’t over-use non-breaking spaces. If you don’t even know what these are, then you don’t need to worry about them!
Once the page is setup, the next decision is going to be how to take the human visitor who ends up there to your main site, where you can dazzle him/her with your design skills, animated graphics and artwork. The two legitimate options are manually or automatically.
However, the manual option may well be the safest method of all. Simply having one or more visible and prominent links to your main site carries no risk of search-engine penalty, but may of course mean that you lose an impatient visitor. The decision will have to be yours – just weigh up the relative pros and cons and take it from there.
A third option involves setting up a legitimate content page, waiting for it to do well in the search engines, and then substituting it for a simple forwarding page. I can’t overstress how bad an idea this is. A growing number of “expert” companies are singing this is as the “new technique” but it’s clumsy and dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs.
So now you have it. A well thought-out, well structured and 100% legitimate doorway page. Now all you need to do is go back and start the whole thing all over again for your other keywords and phrases! A few last hints and tips. If you’re going to do this, you may as well do it properly. So don’t simply copy the same page over and over again, merely changing the META tags. It’s a waste of time. And finally, don’t forget that many engines insist on only submitting the root URL. Make sure that a spider visiting your main page has links to follow to your doorways. You can use discrete links, invisible links, or simply label them for what they are in a “quiet” part of the page. More of these techniques later. Be seen, be sold.