How many of you think the best and/or only way to get top placements on the search engines is to create gateway pages (aka doorway pages or bridge pages)? If you raised your hand, you are certainly not alone, but you are also mistaken!

If you check out most search engine positioning companies' Web sites, you will find that most of them promise to get you high rankings by creating gateway pages for your site. These are pages that the positioning companies create independently of your current pages, which they load with keyword phrases then submit to the search engines.

Many of these companies use automated programs such as WebPosition Gold (WPG), which features a template that the company fills in with the "proper" amount of keywords and other text. The program's Page Generator function then generates a page that supposedly will rank high for a particular engine.

These positioning companies will even go to the trouble to create different gateway pages for each search engine, using the WPG Page Critic function. This tool tells Webmasters what keyword density each engine supposedly wants to see (based on past results), and how many times you should put particular keyword phrases into the text and metatags of the gateway pages.

Worth the Effort?

Sounds like a lot of unnecessary trouble, if you ask me. Consider this: Each and every search engine wants to see the same thing -- Web sites that are filled with good, useful content. All engines base their ranking algorithms on this.

For certain, there are slight variations in the number of times a keyword should appear and/or how many words should be on a page, as WPG's Page Critic tells us. But generally speaking, these numbers are not going to make or break your ranking.

If I paid attention to these automated programs, I'm sure I'd find out that most of my clients' sites have an "incorrect" keyword density for specific engines. The program would tell me that certain pages have too many keywords, and that others don't have enough. My answer to that is: hogwash!

In reality, these pages rank high for numerous keyword phrases, regardless of the "proper" keyword density, because they are filled with great content.

If you already have a Web site, and it's more than one page, then you have your own built-in, natural gateway pages. Each and every page of your current site is a doorway to the rest of your site.

To be sure, there are sometimes technical reasons why each page of a site cannot be a gateway. However, there's no excuse for having your main page be so technically challenged that the search engines can't find it and read it.

With your main page as your jumping-off place, you simply create other informative (static HTML) pages that link from the main page to the rest of the site. These are not gateway pages in the original sense of the word, because you're linking to them from your main page, and you actually want people to visit them. These pages should give useful information about your site, your business, and the people who run it; and of course, these pages should be easy to navigate.

A Costly Lesson

Creating gateway pages that are not linked to the rest of your site and don't provide important information about your site are unnecessary, and may even harm your site's rankings.

The main thing typical gateway pages do is create clutter in the engines. What? A search engine optimization specialist who is worried about cluttering the engines? You bet!

I have to use the engines as much as the next person, and I'm as frustrated by the lack of good content and by hard-to-find Web sites as everyone else is. There's no way that I want to contribute to that, and for this reason, I have always advocated against using gateway pages.

I'm probably one of the few search engine placement experts who is extremely happy that many search engines such as AltaVista are starting to take a stand against gateway pages by not allowing them and by deleting them from their databases. Believe it or not, this development has put a number of search engine placement companies suddenly out of business. However, if they were doing it "the right way" from the outset, or were willing to learn the right way, they'd still have a lucrative business.

Repeating My Mantra ... Again!

Those who know me and my other articles on this subject know my mantra, which always bears repeating:

If your site has content that naturally uses your relevant keyword phrases, and you follow simple guidelines on how to create your titles and metatags, your Web site will rank high.

No gateway pages necessary. No separate pages for separate engines. No keyword density percentage numbers to give you a headache. (They always give me one!) Simply put, you do not need to reinvent the wheel! Use your current site's pages to the greatest advantage, and high rankings will come to you on a silver platter!

I'm sure some of you are shaking your heads and asking, "What if my site doesn't have much useful content or doesn't use my keyword phrases effectively? Shouldn't I create gateway pages that do this?"

My advice is: Fix your site! If your site doesn't have useful content that naturally utilizes the keyword phrases for which you should be ranking high, then it's missing the essential elements of a good Web site, and it needs to be altered accordingly. Not only is this a solid strategy, but it's also important for getting people to click further into your site, and, ideally, for making some sales.

When it comes to providing good content for high rankings, you should focus on your main page. However, all the inside pages should be edited in order that each key area of your business is well represented in the search engines. If you design your Web pages with these things in mind, high rankings will be sure to follow.

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