In the last month or 2, businesses that offer local services to customers have started to see local-specific ranking fluctuations. This seems to align with the rollout of Google’s helpful content and spam updates between August and late October this year.
The Facebook group, Google SEO Mastermind, discovered that pages called “doorway pages” were disappearing from Google’s SERP pages. A doorway page is essentially a location page built with the specific intent of improving search engine rankings, and not with the user in mind. This is directly against Google’s best practices, and it looks like businesses that aren’t considering this are paying the price.
Schieler Mew, the admin of the Google SEO Mastermind Facebook group, had a look at over 200 service-area businesses (SABs) and discovered that these doorway pages aren’t seeing drops in rankings, but are simply being removed from Google’s index completely.
Below is a screengrab of what he’s seen on the deindexing of these doorway pages:
And it’s interesting to note that these pages were deindexed seemingly overnight. And as these pages fell off Google’s index, the rankings that they achieved for local-specific search terms disappeared as well.
The most important thing to take away from this is that they discovered this mainly affected websites with low authority and pages with mostly duplicate content, which are the key identifiers of doorway pages.
How Do The Spam & Helpful Content Updates Fit In?
The mistake many SEOs made was in assuming that these updates were mainly targeting AI-generated content.
But Danny Sullivan made it clear that this is in fact not the case in a tweet saying:
“We haven’t said AI content is bad. We’ve said, pretty clearly, content written primarily for search engines rather than humans is the issue.”
It isn’t a coincidence that low-authority SAB websites using doorway pages seemed to be having these pages deindexed around the same time the helpful content and spam updates rolled out.
In the past few months, we’ve seen various inconsistencies in Google’s local space, specifically when it comes to:
- Google Business Profiles requiring video and photo verification.
- Reviews going missing.
- Complete profiles being suspended for seemingly no reason.
- Plummeting rankings.
Google mainly addressed these by saying that they were “bugs” and has mostly resolved these issues.
But why would there be so many instances of bugs all in the local space? The answer is that Google is seriously starting to take action against local businesses that are violating their spam policies.
Why do we care?
The enforcement of Google on SABs gaming the system or violating their spam policies is long overdue. But these businesses are now very much under Google’s magnifying glass, and the effects are clear.
Location pages can very much still work as a strategy, and the guidelines are clear – create pages that are of benefit to the user first and have unique, relevant and interesting content on them and the websites themselves have a good authority score and aren’t considered “spammy”.
We’ve abided by these principles from the start, and will continue to evolve our local strategies as Google’s algorithms evolve as well.
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