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Google doorway pages update – impact on local businesses

This week Google announced An update on doorway pages revealing that they will soon launch a ranking adjustment that could impact on ‘Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns’. So what could this mean for small service area businesses and franchises?

Of course, it’s impossible to know until the adjustment is released but lets look in more detail at what Google are trying to achieve and this in turn may help to understand the outcome.

Firstly, what is a Doorway Page?

Generally Doorway pages are designed for search engines, not for human beings. Sometimes they automatically redirect to the desired page using Javascript and server side redirection.

Other Doorway pages are more like landing pages in that they have navigation, design and minimal content similar to normal website.

For more detailed information check out

In the announcement Google say, “We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that are created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.”

They give the following as examples:

  • Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
  • Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
  • Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browsable hierarchy

Their definition of Doorway Pages can be found here

The problem is, the Google examples cause confusion for service area businesses and franchises as they highlight “pages targeted at specific regions or cities”. It has long been a common practise for this type of business to build location specific pages covering the areas that they service.

If a company has multiple branches or locations with their own unique address and phone number details, then these ‘Location Pages’ are quite straight forward and valid. In fact Google provides clear advice and technical recommendations for this here – Location pages for local businesses and organizations

They encourage that “each location’s or branch’s information should be readily available on a webpage” and the information should include the address, phone number and opening hours and presented in an easy-to-understand format utilising structured data markup.

So what happens when a business has a single location but has a service area that includes other nearby towns? Again, it is common practise to build specific landing pages focusing on the areas or towns/cities that they cover. This could be seen as slightly spammy but is a practical solution for local services to be found in organic search.

Will these single location websites be penalised with the release of the Google doorway pages update? It is highly likely that websites that have cynically produced multiple cookie-cutter location pages, with no regard to duplicate content or relevancy to the visitor, will be affected.


We hope that the new Google doorway pages update will not affect your average small service area business such as plumbers and electricians. The key will be to keep service area landing pages to a minimum, just the main towns in the area and make sure that the content is unique, relevant and tailored to that specific location.

The location area pages should be linked clearly from the top level navigation using a title such as “areas we service” (do not put a big list of links to locations or postcodes on each page).

Coming up with relevant content for each page is difficult but worth the extra time and effort. Things to consider are local testimonials, articles on completed projects in that area with photos and local staff information.

Franchises – How to improve your local search performance

Franchises – Tips on how to improve your local search presence.

More than 50% (and growing) of all web queries are now performed on a mobile device.

Why is this significant for franchises?

Well if someone uses a mobile device to search for services, the results are tailored to their immediate location. This is called Local Search. Most franchise businesses are “local”.

Local search is different to conventional web search as it is influenced by your address and phone number more than your website. In fact, a business without a website but is listed on local business listing sites can appear higher in local search than a business with just a website.

The implications are huge, a business with a local physical presence has a strategic advantage over web only business.

Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) Consistency is king.

For local search, Google, Bing and other search engines look for NAP data (Name, Address and Phone Number) on local listing sites to verify that a business exists in a given location. The more consistent your NAP details on local listing sites, the greater your chance of appearing higher in local search. Inconsistent NAP data, for example same name but different telephone numbers listed at the same address, or different names but same telephone number listed at the same address will confuse search engines. As important as NAP consistency, is Category consistency. A miss categorised business will not appear in local search for its category.

You should also add rich brand content to the listing sites including photos, logo, opening hours, business descriptions, weblinks, etc. which further enhances your search performance and raises your brand profile.

The process of cleaning and adding content to local listing sites is known as “Local Listing Optimisation” LLO and is an essential part of Local SEO.

Finally, customer reviews written in Google + Local and other local listing sites (associated with your NAP) can further enhance your search performance.

Most franchises operate as a local businesses, and as such, need to have a local search strategy.

Every franchise is different, with different local search challenges, for example, some have multiple branches, others operate out of a van, or have a call centre with one number, etc. There is no one solution fits all, however it is true to say that every local search strategy must have a NAP policy and ideally local listing optimisation. Without this, franchisee listings will be inconsistent resulting in sub-optimal search performance and the brand compromised. Local Listing Optimisation is a highly effective way of raising your brand profile across hundreds of free local listing sites, but if it is done incorrectly, it can look amateurish and even damage the brand. You must control your brand in local search.

An effective local search strategy needs to include the franchisee.

Franchises that leverage their local network can significantly improve their overall search performance. This means that the franchisees play an important part in the franchise search strategy and need to be included in every aspect of the local search optimisation process.

Here are a few tips on how to improve your franchisees local search performance:

The 5 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation

1. Consistent NAP

NAP is King! Ensure your branch Name Address and Phone number are consistently listed across all local listing sites. The more consistent the NAP the better.

2. Categories

Ensure you are categorised correctly on the listing sites. If you are a plumber you need to be categorised as a plumber. Use listing sites that specialises in your sector.

3. Content

Enhance the listings with content including:

  • A logo
  • Photos
  • Business descriptions
  • Opening Hours
  • Weblinks – this should link to the branch specific landing page on the website
  • Social media links (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
  • Products and services
  • Email

4. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews written on local listing sites are permanent and also have a big influence on your local search performance. Encourage customers to write reviews in Google + Local and the listing sites.
Monitor the reviews and respond to them; it shows that you care.

5. Continue

Occasionally refresh the content with new images and wording. If you must change your NAP, make sure this is done across all the listings. (However, avoid changing your NAP unless it is absolutely necessary)… remember consistency is king!

These simple tips can go a very long way to improving your local search performance.

How to create high performing local franchise websites

Local Franchisee websites can perform better in local search, be more engaging and drive customer conversion.

Franchises operate locally and as such need an online presence that captures and engages consumers locally. Locally optimised websites can perform better in local search than traditional location finders or landing pages on corporate websites.

Small locally focused franchisee websites can perform better in local search than big franchise websites that use ‘franchise locators’ and franchisee landing pages.   They can also be more effective in driving customer conversion.

What makes a high performing local franchisee website?

Locally optimised URL

for example;

Locally optimised title tag:

Local franchise + keyword + cit

For example:  ‘Your Franchise Name’, plumber, plumbing services, Brighton.

Mobile optimised (Mobile Responsive):

Over 50% of web search is now done on mobile devices.  Non-responsive websites are penalised by search engines as they do not provide a favourable user experience.

NAP Anchor:

(NAP = name, address, and phone) should be consistent with all local listing sites and presented in schema micro-format.

Local Phone Number for “Click to Call”:

Customers searching for a local business online show a strong preference for local phone numbers. More people are using “click to call” when using their mobile phone to search for local services. However, our research shows that 78% will not call a 0800 number (or any number beginning with 08) using their mobile phone.  Far better to use a local number to get the customer to call you there and then.

Local content:

Use local content to differentiate local franchisee sites.

It is difficult to create totally unique content for every franchisee website particularly when they should all be ‘on brand’.  It is easier to intersperse brand content with local references such as locations, points of interest, news or social events.  This not only avoids the issue of duplicate content, but will improve your local search performance.

Call to action and simple lead forms:

Goes directly to the franchisee or franchise lead management system.

 Service Area Businesses (SAB):

Business such as plumbing, cleaning, home care, etc, should offer “service area location pages” on the website and optimise them for key locations.

The temptation is to just list lots of towns in the service area, but this isn’t very effective.  You need to create locally optimised pages for the key locations that you service. (Call us for more advice on websites for Service Area Businesses).

As franchises grow, the tendency is to move towards a centralised ‘corporate’ site that tries to serve every franchisee.  This is perfectly understandable, however it does not necessarily serve the franchisees.  A corporate sites tries to be “everything to everyone”, but in doing so, this can diminish the very strength that all franchisees have –local presence and knowledge.