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Google recently made an algorithm update that could change the way your site is indexed – and it’s not the “Mobilegeddon” update you’ve been hearing so much about. In an effort to limit web spam, Google has released a ranking adjustment that will alter the way it handles ‘doorway’ pages in its search results.
What does this mean to you? Potentially, a lot. Bloggers, affiliate marketers and any other business with GEO-targeted landing pages could see their search engine ranking negatively impacted.
So, what’s a doorway?
Page or sites created to improve search engine ranking on specific keywords or phrases are known as doorway pages. Doorways typically offer no value to the user, as they have been designed solely to catch the attention of the search engine. To quote Google: “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.”
Doorways that weren’t meant to be doorways.
This is where it gets tricky. Creating GEO targeted landing pages is a staple of smart SEO. These pages are developed by using geo-location data to speak directly to the nuances of potential customers in that location. Regional customization may include a nod to regional dialects and culture. For example, you might write about the varieties of ‘pop’ you serve on one targeted page, while discussing ‘soda’ options on another city’s page. You may also swap out graphics, languages, directions to that specific location and other details. Why do you do this? Studies show that such customization can improve conversion rates, which, after all, is what we’re all trying to achieve.
Yet, as beneficial as a GEO targeted landing page may be, it can be viewed as a doorway by Google if not handled properly. In fact, Google has laid out a set of five questions to determine whether a page would raise any doorway red flags. Even better, we’ve got five steps you can take to ensure your GEO targeted landing pages pass muster and don’t get penalized by Google.
1. Be unique
You’ve identified 5 different cities for which you want to create specific landing pages. You create sizzling copy and drop it into place on each of the five pages, altering only the name of the city. So now you’ve got effective GEO-targeted landing pages, right? No. What you have is duplicate content, a Google red flag, and you run the risk of being penalized for it.
While your basic information may remain the same, each GEO-targeted page should contain unique content. Get creative with these variables: Include localized customer testimonials; spotlight regional staff; highlight partner businesses or public organizations specific to each page’s city; you may want to consider offering regional discounts and incentives. Your goal is to offer unique value on each of your customized landing pages.
2. Be relevant.
Google will ask if this page is relevant and useful on its own, or is it merely there to get a search engine’s attention before funneling the human set of eyes to a more relevant page on your website. Visitors hitting your GEO-targeted web page should hit the ground running. If the landing page offers no applicable content, it’s going to be deemed a doorway and penalties will follow. In the same vein, thin content typically yields a brief visitor stay. If your site guests don’t find what they are looking for easily and quickly, they leave. They also likely return to Google for more search listings. When this happens often, Google notices and takes a closer look at your page to determine why. Don’t push the meat of your message to an internal page. Greet your visitors with relevant, real content as soon as they hit the targeted landing page.
3. Be connected.
Don’t be an island. Can your site visitors easily navigate from your landing page to other parts of your website? If not, you’re in danger of being penalized, and not just from Google. Frustrated customers will typically leave and seek a more easy-to-navigate site. Once you’ve got eyes on your page, make it easy for them to find what they want.
4. Be real.
Google wants to know if the page you’ve created is intended to rank on generic terms, particularly if the page is ultimately offering very specific material. Remember the old SEO days of keyword-stuffed content? That was back when companies wrote pages of nearly unreadable text crafted for the sole purpose of repeating identified keywords enough times for a search engine to take notice. Google will notice today, but not for the right reasons. Instead of creating a page just to keyword-drop, craft valuable content that incorporates keyword phrases, synonyms and other variants. Remember, working those searchable terms in is still beneficial, but your primary goal is good, quality content.
5. Be valuable.
Google is going to look at your landing pages and ask: “Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?” If you’ve checked the preceding four boxes off, this tip becomes easier to accomplish. As noted previously, your site visitors should find relevant information the moment they land on your site, and be able to navigate to other areas of your site with ease. Rule of thumb: write for humans not Google-bots. If your content is of value to your readers, relevant to your business and written in a clear, concise, professional manner, Google will be less likely to find fault with it.
Here’s the good news, if you have any of these potential issues with your GEO-targeted landing pages, you can fix them with the five tips above. Still have questions? It may be time to get in touch with an expert that can make these updates and other site enhancements to improve your SEO score. (By the way, you can check your website SEO score here.) If you decide you need help, I’d be happy to schedule a SEO strategy session with you to discuss this and much more.