I have a confession to make. I hate patents as I simply do not understand them and probably never will. Maybe it’s the lingo or maybe it’s the plain formatting or maybe it’s the unbelievably complicated language and words that are used to describe the simplest of statements or even worse, it is written in a language which is not English and I have not yet realized it. In any case, I have given up the hope that I will ever understand them. Google patents are no different in this regard and as most people in the internet marketing field would know, Google files patents on a pretty regular basis. Also it’s needless to say that these patents can provide plethora of information and some invaluable insights into Google’s thinking process and the direction in which they are headed, or at least are planning to move. But what about SEOs like me (I am making a blunt assumption here that there are others like me who also have problems in understanding the not so universal language of Patents). That’s when I refer to patent analysis by Bill Slawski who does an outstanding job of analyzing patents and providing his expertise which he has garnered after being in the internet marketing domain for so many years.
One such patent analysis by him caught my attention, the name of the patent is DOCUMENT SCORING BASED ON DOCUMENT CONTENT UPDATE. You can find the link to the patent here and the link to blog post here.
The Google patent application describes how it might identify pages that have been transformed into doorway pages to point searchers to other sites. As we all know that doorway pages are not at all recommended from an SEO perspective i.e. all the big guns (Google, Yahoo and Bing) hate them. Here’s Google’s definition of Doorway pages –
Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination.
Whether deployed across many domains or established within one domain, doorway pages tend to frustrate users, and are in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines.
Google’s aim is to give our users the most valuable and relevant search results. Therefore, we frown on practices that are designed to manipulate search engines and deceive users by directing them to sites other than the ones they selected, and that provide content solely for the benefit of search engines. Google may take action on doorway sites and other sites making use of these deceptive practice, including removing these sites from the Google index.
Pretty simple right? Ok now let’s get back to our patent analysis. They say examples are the best way to go so let me explain the gist of the patent with the help of an example.
Let say there is a website called www.the-most-awesome-stuff-ever.com which is dedicated to awesome stuff like ski diving, jumping from 21st floor of a building and only breaking 2 bones, hell it may also include you cooking food for your girlfriend and she actually liking it (yeah as if that’s ever going to happen). In simple words, content that belongs to anything that can be termed awesome \m/. The website is there for a very long time, gains lot of natural links and has very good PR. Life is good and seems to heading towards the “HAPPILY EVER AFTER” ending. But guess what, there’s a sudden and major twist to this tale. Welcome the mafia of link broker world, a billionaire btw who wants to buy this awesome domain.
Image Source – Hdgamewell
Probably bribing the webmaster or pointing an AK 47 to his head or probably it’s old school technique like threatening to kill his family (ok I seriously need to stop watching Godfather series over and over again), anyway by some suspicious and unknown means the broker is successful in actually buying the domain and sells the domain to a new Webmaster.
The new owner of this domain adds content related to trips and adventures. Maybe the new owner is an adventure junky and hence constantly writes about his escapades on a very regular basis. Everything looks good and then suddenly for some strange reason this new owner sells the domain to another webmaster. This new webmaster talks only about sports, please note that it can be any kind of sports right from Hockey to Soccer etc. He also does affiliate marketing with his newly found website. In all this sharing and trading the domain name remains the same.
Now according to the new patent this new website might be treated as a doorway page. (Please note the emphasis on the word MIGHT)
Surprised? Shocked? I guess one of the brokers probably had a heart attack after reading the previous line.
Image Source – Clipartguide
Ok enough of jokes and let’s get serious. According to the new patent, if the frequency by which the content on the page changes is very high and more importantly if the category of content changes more frequently the page will be treated as a doorway page. From a business perspective and someone who knows the importance of SEO and domain age, he or she will obviously root for an old domain and would want to buy an old domain. But this new patent will now force webmasters to think twice before taking any initiatives of buying an old domain.
Before we jump the gun here lets think about this patent more calmly. I mean we have to give credit to Google for the fact that most of the times it does give the right answers. It’s probably a step in the right direction to get rid of doorway pages but I believe the one category of websites that might get deeply affected are directory websites or websites that sell links on their home page.
High PR directories are still a huge hit among link builders and one such practice by Webmasters is to buy old domain and convert that domain into a directory. Since the old domain already has high PR the directory by default turns into a high PR directory. Also as Bill states in his post that one such case where content of the website could change would be when new services are introduced. In either case I believe that the new patent focuses more on the category of content in conjunction with the frequency and not just the change in category of content. I believe that incase the domain shifts owners only once then the probability of the new website being considered as a doorway page is less, however if the shift takes place like ten times then the domain might be considered as a doorway page.
Now a very wise geek might ask
“What if I 301 redirect the old URL to the new URL?”
My theory is that if the 301 redirect takes place once or maybe twice it should ideally not be considered as a doorway page. However if the redirects happen a lot of times say like 10 – 15 then you are probably challenging Google to take you down.
That was about websites which are involved in the business of “Transfers”. But what about websites that are planning to add content? Again let me explain this case with the help of an example (a more realistic one this time)
Consider a website that sells all types of electronic goods ranging from Televisions to Home Theatre Systems, Mobiles phones to laptops and accessories associated with it. In simple words it’s a one stop place for all your electronic needs. Note that this website is also involved in Affiliate marketing. Now just like any greedy businessman, the owner of the website decided to start a new division that sells wooden furniture to compliment the electronic goods. The business owner also decides to start selling table cloths. They add the products and the content on the main products page. To promote their new division they even replace the content on the home page with the content of their new products.
In simple words content related to electronic goods is now replaced with content on wooden furniture. After some days the business owner decides to promote table cloths and all cloth related accessories. The content related to wooden furniture is now replaced with content on Cloths.
In the eyes of the search engine spiders the category and frequency of content is changing pretty frequently and this is when the page might (please note the emphasis on the word might again) be considered as a doorway page.
Image Source – Seemslegit
To avoid such a situation some of the best ways to add new content that belongs to a whole different category would be –
- Create a new microsite (maybe a subdomain or a new domain itself)
- Create a new category and place all the content in that category
- Separate the new content from the rest of the content in the form of a folder structure in the URL
- To promote the new section, do not remove the old content from the home page completely but place the new content along with the existing content
Well this is it and I hope that this post could provide some insights into the patent, would love to hear your thoughts.
On another note, one of the worst mistakes that a Project Manager can make is to forget to give credit to his team. Trust me you would never want to do that.
But as they say, its never too late, I would like to thank Vineeth Nair (@VineethNair88) and Hemang Palicha for their invaluable support and helping me with my first and second post on Google Analytics.