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Google
Building Doorway Domains for Optimized Search Engine Positioning

Doorway pages have been around for a long time and most
people trying for search engine optimization are more or
less familiar with them. To recapitulate: a classical
doorway page is focused on a certain keyword or search
phrase, carrying highly optimized text, pertinent meta
tags, title, etc. It is submitted to the search engines
to achieve better rankings. When human visitors hit the
page, they are required to click a link to get to the
site proper.

More often than not, doorway pages are quite ugly.
That's because they are so highly optimized with the
search engines in mind, who happen to dislike graphics,
nested tables, Flash, Java applets, JavaScript, frames,
and the like. So while they may perform nicely in the
search engines' indices, many of them don't exactly
spell out cutting edge marketing skills from the human
visitors' (= clients'!) point of view. Granted that
quite a few webmasters have caught on, resorting to
generating more appealing pages featuring navigation
elements and blending better with their sites' overall
layout and design, but creating these can be a very time
consuming effort.

What's more, some search engines are regularly
conducting witch hunts to weed out discernible doorway
pages, one of the most notable examples being AltaVista.
The reason for this is the ongoing abuse the doorway
page technology has been subject to over the years. With
fairly cheap programs around generating hundreds of
doorways at one go, you can hardly blame the engines for
implementing some self-protective countermeasures.

Another major issue concerns the restrictions imposed on
volume of page submissions. Search engines tend to limit
the number of pages a domain may submit per day. While
such limits are seldom publicized and may vary widely
from one engine to another, a general guideline adhered
to by most search engine optimization professionals
is about 5 pages per day and domain.

For large web sites generating hundreds or thousands of
new pages (dynamic or static) per year, it is therefore
paramount to work around this limitation in order to get
as many pages indexed as possible. The more web pages
represent a web site in a search engine index, the
greater the chances of generating pre-qualified traffic.

Even if you're only selling a handful of products, any
web marketing expert will tell you that you are well
advised to feature each of them on a highly focused
mini-site because this will considerably increase your
search engine exposure and, hence, your chances of
driving visitors your way. The obvious drawback of this
strategy lies in the fact that while you may make a lot
of one-item sales this way, getting customers to buy
several products at one pop isn't quite that easy
without diluting your site's thematic focus again.

This is where Doorway Domains come in. They differ from
tread-of-the-mill doorway pages in that they constitute
dedicated web sites in their own right - highly focused,
very targeted and immensely positionable. On the other
hand, they are not identical with mini-sites because
human visitors will never get to see them!

Instead, they are search engine spider fodder at its
very best - optimized to the last byte, they can achieve
excellent rankings. They will usually consist of several
pages, each of which is optimized in a different manner:
meta tags, titles, keyword density, etc. With every page
following a slightly different basic optimization method
or algorithm, they can target all important search engines
and their various


references in an incredibly effective
buckshot strategy.

Search engines don't rank isolated pages very well, if
at all, so the various pages of a well constructed
Doorway Domain will all be interlinked with one another.
Neither should they be mere clones: duplicate content on
any given web site will usually be penalized.

But if, as I claimed above, human visitors don't ever
get to see them, how are they supposed to boost your
sales? The answer to this is redirection: surfers
hitting your Doorway Domain's well positioned link on an
engine's search results list will simply be forwarded to
the corresponding page on your main site.

"Hey," you may groan now, "hold it! Haven't I read
all over the place that search engines take a very dim
view of redirects and may actually ban sites from their
indices if detected? So what are you trying to propose
here - kamikaze optimization?"

You read right: search engines do indeed penalize web
sites for redirection! However, there's a fairly easy,
well established way out of this, and it goes under
various names ranging from "Cloaking" through "IP
Delivery" to "Stealth Technology", and others more.

Note that I said it is human visitors who will be
redirected, not the search engine spiders. The latter
will be served with their optimized "fodder" pages from
the Doorway Domain itself and will never know the
difference.

There are various technical methods to achieve this. You
can employ specialized software which will determine
automatically whether a site hit is generated by a
search engine spider or a human visitor. If you have
administrator rights on your system (most people
haven't, but if you're running your own dedicated server
this is normally a given), you can tweak your
configuration to achieve the same effect, etc.

So you may think of a Doorway Domain as a "cloaked
mini-site" fronting for your home page without annoying
visitors with that 'ol "Click here to enter" spiel.
Remember that many studies indicate that you have only
about 8-15 seconds to capture your visitors' attention
if you want them to actually stay on your site. If in
doubt, check your server's traffic logs! You shouldn't
make life more difficult for your visitors than
absolutely necessary - it's uncourteous, and it doesn't
particularly motivate buyers either!

The technical fineries of cloaking are, unfortunately,
beyond the scope of this introductory article, but
there's a lot of fine material around which will help you
get started if you're interested.

A detailed tutorial on the DOs and DONTs of cloaking can
be found on our site at:
< http://fantomaster.com/fafaqcloak1.html >
There's also a guided tour on cloaking available here
(JavaScript enabled browser required):
< http://fantomaster.com/fasmbgt0.html >

Note that cloaking is not without its risks! The
tutorial mentioned above will explain this in more
detail.)

While these risks are widely overrated, they do
indeed exist, so you should know exactly what you're
doing before you actually go for it. However, once you
have become familiar with the technology and seen its
fantastic ranking results, you'll hardly settle for less
again!

About the Author

Ralph Tegtmeier is the co-founder and principal of
fantomaster.com Ltd. (UK) and fantomaster.com GmbH
(Belgium), < http://fantomaster.com/ > a company
specializing in webmasters software development,
industrial-strength cloaking and search engine
positioning services. You can contact him at
mailto:fneditor@fantomaster.com