‘Doorway’ websites dilute local searches

A Sydney-based online camera retailer, Camera Warehouse, is expanding its online presence by using a sophisticated search engine optimisation technique to pull in customers from regional areas.

Camera Warehouse has an outlet in Sydney, and describes itself as ‘Australia’s largest online digital camera and accessory shop.’ It has been established since 2003 and is an authorised distributor for a range of leading brands including Canon and Nikon. It ranks well in customer reviews.

It’s use of ‘doorway pages’ gives it access to potential customers it would otherwise have to use other approaches, such as paid online advertising, to reach.

Key in, say, ‘Camera retailers’ and ‘Newcastle’, and Camera House Newcastle will appear at the top of the Google Search front page of unpaid listings. But second is the following website:
A customer would assume they were dealing with an entity called Newcastle Camera Warehouse, which offers ‘Newcastle-wide delivery’.

But click on the listing and we jump to what Google calls a ‘Doorway Page’. Apparently Google takes a dim view of Doorway Pages: Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.

Here are some examples of ‘Doorways’:
– Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities (our emphasis) that funnel users to one page;
– Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
– from Google

If we ran the ‘camera retailer’ search again but changed our region to, say, Coffs Harbour, this is where we would land – or at least ‘the door’ we would arrive at:

Camera Warehouse has targeted a number of larger regional towns in NSW with its ‘Doorway Pages’. Note that there are no products for sale – the customer needs to click again and arrives at the Camera Warehouse homepage. The Coffs Harbour doorway to Camera Warehouse even has a bit if a spiel about Coffs Harbour and photography.

Doorway pages put another step between the Google link and the information the user is looking for, as opposed to a ‘landing page’, which takes them direct to more relevant information. In this case, it appears they are being used to increase Camera Warehouse’s ranking in specifically local searches where it doesn’t have a physical presence.

Each of the Camera Warehouse ‘locality pages’ PhotoCounter has seen is similar, with some text and keyword variations. It has doorway pages for the capital cities as well as major country towns.

It’s all in the metadata. Right click on a web homepage, click on View Page Info and the Coffs Harbour version of the Camera Warehouse doorway page tells us – and, more importantly, Google – that the title of the page is
Coffs Harbour Camera Online | Online Store | Camera-Warehouse,
the Description  is:
‘Coffs Harbour Camera Warehouse: Online deals for DSLR Cameras and lenses. Coffs Harbour-wide delivery. Australian Warranty. Overnight shipping’;
and the Keywords are
‘Coffs Harbour Camera Sales | Online Store | Camera-Warehouse’.

In the past year or so Google has actually increased the weighting it gives to the locality factor in web searches, to reduce the dominance of big players and, well, make searches more geographically relevant. So regionalising a website – even if it doesn’t have a regional presence – is particularly effective under the new formula.

– But back to Camera House! How does it get to the top of the rankings? For a start, it has a nationwide profile – it ‘organically’ attracts a lot of traffic. Google actually recommends that in the case of chains, each store in a group has its own website and Camera House has followed that advice. So the Google search listing takes us direct to a site with the title: Our Coffs Harbour Store | Camera House Store in New South Wales and the URL: https://www.camerahouse.com.au/store/coffs-harbour. This integrates pretty seamlessly to the ‘master’ Camera House website.

Retailers like DigiDirect and Ted’s Cameras probably rank high in location-based searches to a large extent because they are long-established, popular websites which attract a lot of traffic.

Google rankings aren’t as critical as they once were in online marketing terms, with paid advertising and social media activity such as lively and dynamic Facebook (etc) pages, playing a greater role. Nonetheless organic rankings remain one of the most powerful tools for retailers to connect with new customers.

It’s worth checking out how you rank in a local search. Tweaking your website’s title, keywords and description might help push you up the rankings. It’s also interesting to see how your competitors handle this very basic form of search engine optimisation. Is there something to learn from them? For instance, this is DD Photographics array of keywords for its homepage: ‘camera sydney, cameras sydney, camera in sydney, cameras in sydney, camera shop sydney, camera store sydney, camera shops sydney, camera stores sydney, digital camera sydney, digital cameras sydney, digital cameras australia, cheap digital camera, cheap’.  (Apparently Google isn’t too keen on this kind of keyword stuffing either, but it clearly happens.)

If you feel there is a competitor putting their doorway between you and your prospective local customers, PhotoCounter has been informed that Google will, albeit with a little prodding, enact some form of Google-like bastardry on the perp. All you have to do is spend an hour or so tracking down the complaints page!

(We contacted Camers Warehouse for comment on this story but received no response.)

 

 

 

 

 

 


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