First Thing Monday 23 Mar ’15

This week: Google reworks its Doorway Page Penalty Algorithm; YouTube introduces Interactive Cards; Facebook gets ready for e-commerce; Google Now to open up to all third party content…

  1. Google launching new Doorway Page Penalty Algorithm
  2. YouTube introduces Interactive Cards
  3. Facebook sets up shop: Look out Google, Apple & Amazon
  4. Google Now opens up to third party content

The latest news about web marketing, SEO, PPC Advertising & Web Analytics. But only the stuff that matters from a New Zealand perspective. Less noise, more signal!

1.Google launching new Doorway Page Penalty Algorithm


Last week Google announced they will be releasing an algorithmic update designed to remove “doorway pages” from search results. Doorway pages, in case you’re wondering, are web pages built for search engines, rather than people. Their prime purpose is to rank highly in search results and thus act as doorways that funnel people into a website, rather than providing useful information or functionality in their own right.

Google doesn’t like them because multiple doorway pages are often built, each optimised for a different keyword, but all ultimately leading to the same destination and so undermining the quality of Google’s search results.

Doorway pages were used as an SEO technique by many sites in the early 2000’s, but progressively became less effective as Google’s algorithms got smarter. The Panda algorithm in particular had a big impact, penalising pages with thin or unoriginal content.

It seems from Google’s announcement last week that doorway pages are still an issue they intend addressing with this algorithmic update. Of note was Google’s statement that “Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.”

Why should you care?

In theory this algorithm change won’t affect you if you don’t have doorway pages on your site, and it may even help if you have a competitor who does.

But there is concern that Google may have broadened the definition of what constitutes doorway pages, meaning innocent sites could become collateral damage, as has happened previously with other algorithm role outs.

How do you know if your web pages are classified as a “doorway page?” Google says you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the purpose to optimise for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
  • Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?
  • Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
  • Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?
  • Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

Sites that might be caught up in this could be franchises and businesses that service multiple locations. Typically these sites feature multiple landing pages for each of the different locations serviced & frequently these pages contain minimal content that are fundamentally identical – bar location details. If that’s you, it would be a good move to beef up and differentiate the content on those pages.

2. YouTube introduces Interactive Cards

Last week YouTube introduced a new tool called Interactive Cards to complement, and eventually replace, annotations.

As with YouTube annotations,  you can layer text, links, and hotspots over videos you upload to YouTube, potentially enriching the video experience by adding information, interactivity and engagement. However a key difference with interactive cards is that, unlike annotations, they can be viewed on mobile devices. The massive growth in mobile viewing of YouTube videos is probably the main driver behind Interactive Cards being introduced.


There are currently six card types covering merchandise, fundraising, video links, playlist links, associated websites and fan funding. Cards show up first as a small pop-up. Users can then click on the teaser to see more information.​

Whilst replacing annotations is the eventual goal, cards can’t quite do everything annotations can. For instance, you can’t choose their size or exactly where to put them (they all show up on the right edge), they’re limited to five per video and you can’t set your own colours.

Why should you care?

Every month YouTube gets over 1 billion unique visitors and more than 6 billion hours of video are watched. If you have the right video content to attract a relevant audience, YouTube provides a massive opportunity. In order to tap into this torrential traffic stream you need to do more than simply upload videos. You need to apply SEO techniques to maximise their visibility in YouTube.

Although title/description/tags are essential parts of the ranking equation there are other important factors to rank well in YouTube. The most important is known as “Watch Time”. YouTube wants to keep people on its site for as long as possible because this maximises advertising opportunities. If your video helps people spend more time on YouTube, then this works in your favour. Creating content that keeps the viewer hooked all the way through – and beyond – is now the most important factor in that video’s success.

Anything you can do to maximise user engagement with your YouTube videos is beneficial. Interactive Cards provide you with a new way to increase engagement.

3. Facebook sets up shop: Look out Google, Apple & Amazon

Facebook continues to stake its claim in mobile e-commerce and mobile advertising, announcing friend-to-friend payments, and steps to improve ad relevancy and reporting.

Paving the way for future e-commerce opportunities, Facebook has announced that Messenger now allows making free friend-to-friend debit card payments. That’s not it for Messenger, though – with Facebook’s F8 developers conference starting this week, speculation is that the chat utility is set to become its own platform.


According to developers briefed ahead of the annual conference, Messenger will initially allow third parties access so that they may build ways for content and information to be shared on the platform. If those initiatives are successful, it’s likely that e-commerce integrations will follow.

F8 is also to be the venue for Facebook’s announcement of a new measurement tool enabling brands to see if their ads resulted in app downloads. Based on Atlas ad tracking technology acquired from Microsoft in 2013, reporting capabilities will not be limited to the Facebook ad platform should other ad networks sign up.

Facebook is also allowing advertisers (initially just those in the UK and US) access to “topic data” – information as to what people are talking about on Facebook in public and privately shared posts. This data, gathered by partner DataSift, will be anonymised, and is intended to help companies produce more relevant ads. Facebook is not charging for the data, in the belief that access to this information will encourage advertisers to run more ads.

Finally, in a move intended to improve the relevancy of ads appearing in consumer News Feeds, Facebook has acquired shopping comparison engine The Find. The Find can personalise the shopping experience for users who have signed in via their Facebook account based on their “likes”.

Why should you care?

Cade Metz, writing at Wired.com this past week, observed that “Facebook…wants to be the place where you spend not only your time but your money”. And that’s true for Facebook advertisers as much as Facebook users.

Facebook’s new friend-to-friend payments require providing Facebook with debit card details, and is currently being rolled out to the US market only. Once that information is stored with Facebook it becomes much easier for users to purchase products shown in their News Feed, and to pay for other products and services that Facebook might add. And, if successful in the US, we’d expect the payment system to be made available in other countries.

As for advertisers, not only will they be able to sell their products through Facebook, but they now have more reasons to advertise with Facebook. Of note, Facebook has rebuilt Atlas to make use of Facebook user data for targeting consumers on other sites. And Atlas uses Facebook’s persistent ID rather than a cookie, improving tracking of mobile and desktop activity.

4. Google Now opens up to third party content

Google’s predictive search application Google Now is set to increase its usefulness, with news that all app developers and publishers will soon be able to integrate their content.

Google Now Cards

Google Now Director of Product Management, Aparna Chennapragada, announced at the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) expo in Austin, Texas, that Google is currently developing an API for Google Now. The API is likely to be released in the next six to 12 months.

Why should you care?

Google Now is what Google wants search and search engines to become. Users won’t actually need to search – instead they’re provided the answers to what they need even before they’ve thought to ask the question.

Likely to be more familiar to Android and iOS than desktop users, Google Now currently tracks commute times, local weather, your reminders and appointments, and makes recommendations (such as restaurants) based on your browser activity.

Google already partners with over 40 third party providers – including Trip Advisor, Airbnb, The Guardian, Uber rival Lyft, and eBay – and development of an openly available API opens the door to other companies. Companies and organisations wanting to get location-specific information to users on mobile devices, and those providing content or notifications suited for on-the-go consumption, should embrace the opportunity.

OK, that’s what we think. We’re keen to hear your thoughts on any of the above – please comment below. 

Click here to read previous editions of “First Thing Monday” web marketing news.

Want this delivered to your inbox each Monday?


If you found this useful, please tell your friends.

About the Author Jeremy Templer & Mark Sceats

Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.