Doorway pages often come up in the list of ‘things to avoid’ for search engine optimisation, yet they’re only something that sits in front of your homepage, or other pages of your website. For such a potentially innocuous page, it may seem strange that SEO pros warn so frequently against them. As usual, most of the blame lies with shady operators.
The problem is that doorway pages and splash pages are easily confused, and where splash pages are bad for SEO – doorway pages are used by black hat SEO companies to devastating effect; usually with the results of a website being penalised.
Most companies would come across a splash page as an innocent part of website design. There was a strong trend for corporate sites to feature a splash page as a sort of foyer, a way of introducing and impressing the Internet user.
The doorway of doom
Doorway pages came to be on the SEO bad list with the usual story. Spammers noticed that the search engines paid lots of attention to the opening page of a site, and to any page that was heavily optimised, and maximised on this by jamming keywords into doorway pages – splash pages included. Internet users would click on the resulting listing for their keyword, but be drawn through the doorway and redirected to the spam site. Essentially, doorway pages were used to kidnap Internet users and fling them into websites they had no interest in visiting.
This was only one of the misuses of doorway pages. SEO companies also used them to rank for keywords as well, without ‘kidnapping’ users. These pages would then be used to link to other sites to improve their rankings. The search engines came to view them as a menace.
Why you should let your doorway pages go
If your splash page is a genuine page on your site, not being used for SEO purposes, you might well decide to hang on to it. A lot of design goes into splash pages – which cannot be thrown away lightly.
However, there are more than SEO reasons to let go of your splash page, if you have one. Although there is a risk that your page will annoy the search engines, the risk that it will annoy your site’s users is even stronger. A lot of SEO focuses on increasing usability, and splash pages diminish it.