Google Death Penalty for BMW close

Mark McDermott
Mark McDermott
In Musings
10th February 2006
Google Death Penalty for BMW

Google Death Penalty for BMW

It appears that Google has handed out the harshest punishment to BMW for breaching its technical guidelines. Whether this is 'fair' or not is a moot point: the fact is, if Google doesn't like the way you do something then there is no authority you can report them to. Even if their actions have a negative impact on your business.

So what did BMW do that riled Google so badly? They allegedly created "doorway" pages. The way these work is that you create a page that is well-optimised for a group of keywords. It could even be a page that is nonsense as long as it has a healthy smattering of keywords. In BMW's case they apparently optimised a doorway page for the term "used car". The reason the actual content can be nonsense is that the user never actually sees the page. As soon as they arrive at the doorway page, they are instantly redirected to another page with different content on.

Understandably, Google hates this. The whole value of Google is its accuracy on giving people relevant content. BMW say that they were just mirroring what was on the actual redirected page because the actual page was using code that Google cannot read.  (Incidentally, a doorway page is different to a splash page - the real "crime" here is the redirection. You are perfectly free to create a page that is well optimised and perhaps summarises what is on subsequent pages, just ensure that the user chooses whether or not they want to read on further.)

So what does this mean to us? I've seen some really lame and unsophisticated attempts to fool Google. Our advice is always DON'T EVEN TRY IT. The main guiding principal is this:

Make sure that what you show Google is the same as what you show the user.

Burying keywords at a tiny point size on a background colour that is the same as the font colour might seem clever, but you will get caught and if you get penalised you'll be in a much worse position. 

Oh - one thing that many people won't know is Google's position on automated software to measure ranks of pages based on specific keyword terms. It seems some search engines don't mind, while others, such as Google really hate it. This means that for Google, measuring the success of particular words should be done manually. Just in case you were wondering.

- David