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Building Doorway Domains for Optimized Search Engine Positioning

Doorway domains

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 program 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 run-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. 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 the Fantomaster site. There's also a guided tour on cloaking available (JavaScript enabled browser required).

Note that cloaking is not without its risks! (The tutorial mentioned above is quite clear about this issue.) While these 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!

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. He has been a web marketer since 1994 and is editor-in-chief of fantomNews, a free newsletter focusing on search engine optimization, available at: < > You can contact him at (c) copyright 2000 by

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