Building Doorway Domains for Optimized Search Engine Positio

Doorway pages have been around for a long time and mostpeople trying for search engine optimization are more orless familiar with them. To recapitulate: a classicaldoorway page is focused on a certain keyword or searchphrase, carrying highly optimized text, pertinent metatags, title, etc. It is submitted to the search enginesto achieve better rankings. When human visitors hit thepage, they are required to click a link to get to thesite proper.

More often than not, doorway pages are quite ugly.That's because they are so highly optimized with thesearch 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 thesearch engines' indices, many of them don't exactlyspell out cutting edge marketing skills from the humanvisitors' (= clients'!) point of view. Granted thatquite a few webmasters have caught on, resorting togenerating more appealing pages featuring navigationelements and blending better with their sites' overalllayout and design, but creating these can be a very timeconsuming effort.

What's more, some search engines are regularlyconducting witch hunts to weed out discernible doorwaypages, one of the most notable examples being AltaVista.The reason for this is the ongoing abuse the doorwaypage technology has been subject to over the years. Withfairly cheap programs around generating hundreds ofdoorways at one go, you can hardly blame the engines forimplementing some self-protective countermeasures.

Another major issue concerns the restrictions imposed onvolume of page submissions. Search engines tend to limitthe number of pages a domain may submit per day. Whilesuch limits are seldom publicized and may vary widelyfrom one engine to another, a general guideline adheredto by most search engine optimization professionalsis about 5 pages per day and domain.

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

Even if you're only selling a handful of products, anyweb marketing expert will tell you that you are welladvised to feature each of them on a highly focusedmini-site because this will considerably increase yoursearch engine exposure and, hence, your chances ofdriving visitors your way. The obvious drawback of thisstrategy lies in the fact that while you may make a lotof one-item sales this way, getting customers to buyseveral products at one pop isn't quite that easywithout diluting your site's thematic focus again.

This is where Doorway Domains come in. They differ fromtread-of-the-mill doorway pages in that they constitutededicated web sites in their own right - highly focused,very targeted and immensely positionable. On the otherhand, they are not identical with mini-sites becausehuman visitors will never get to see them!

Instead, they are search engine spider fodder at itsvery best - optimized to the last byte, they can achieveexcellent rankings. They will usually consist of severalpages, each of which is optimized in a different manner:meta tags, titles, keyword density, etc. With every pagefollowing a slightly different basic optimization methodor algorithm, they can target all important search enginesand their various references in an incredibly effectivebuckshot strategy.

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

But if, as I claimed above, human visitors don't everget to see them, how are they supposed to boost yoursales? The answer to this is redirection: surfershitting your Doorway Domain's well positioned link on anengine's search results list will simply be forwarded tothe corresponding page on your main site.

"Hey," you may groan now, "hold it! Haven't I readall over the place that search engines take a very dimview of redirects and may actually ban sites from theirindices if detected? So what are you trying to proposehere - kamikaze optimization?"

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

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

There are various technical methods to achieve this. Youcan employ specialized software which will determineautomatically whether a site hit is generated by asearch engine spider or a human visitor. If you haveadministrator rights on your system (most peoplehaven't, but if you're running your own dedicated serverthis is normally a given), you can tweak yourconfiguration to achieve the same effect, etc.

So you may think of a Doorway Domain as a "cloakedmini-site" fronting for your home page without annoyingvisitors with that 'ol "Click here to enter" spiel.Remember that many studies indicate that you have onlyabout 8-15 seconds to capture your visitors' attentionif you want them to actually stay on your site. If indoubt, check your server's traffic logs! You shouldn'tmake life more difficult for your visitors thanabsolutely necessary - it's uncourteous, and it doesn'tparticularly motivate buyers either!

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

A detailed tutorial on the DOs and DONTs of cloaking canbe found on our site at:< >There's also a guided tour on cloaking available here(JavaScript enabled browser required):< >

Note that cloaking is not without its risks! Thetutorial mentioned above will explain this in moredetail.)

While these risks are widely overrated, they doindeed exist, so you should know exactly what you'redoing before you actually go for it. However, once youhave become familiar with the technology and seen itsfantastic ranking results, you'll hardly settle for lessagain!

Ralph Tegtmeier is the co-founder and principal of Ltd. (UK) and GmbH (Belgium), a company specializing in webmasters software development, industrial-strength cloaking and search engine positioning services. You can contact him at