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BMW back in with Google

Doorway page 'not misleading users'

Following the restoration of its German site to the Google index, BMW has denied it used misleading practices and criticised the search company for excluding the site.

On Saturday, Matt Cutts, a software engineer in the quality group at Google, wrote on his blog that BMW.de had been removed from the index for violating Google's webmaster guidelines. He wrote that BMW was deceiving users by showing visitors a different page to the one displayed to the search engine.

On Tuesday evening, Cutts wrote in his blog that BMW.de had been re-included in the Google database after removing the redirect pages.

BMW defended its practices and criticised how Google handled the matter. "There are many other suppliers of web content on the net using doorway pages in a misleading way," said Markus Sagemann, a spokesman for BMW. "We see that and we recognise the efforts of Google to do something against this but we also say that one has to [see the] difference in how the doorway page is used."

He said that BMW created the doorway – also known as gateway, redirect, or cloaking – pages because some items on its site were created using Java, so those items weren't being detected by search engines. "The doorway page is only designed to give a search engine an idea of what's on the page behind it," he said.

Sagemann claimed the content on the doorway was the same as the content on the page that visitors were redirected to. "Not all doorway page techniques are misleading users," he said.

Search companies often choose not to index content that is written in Java and certain types of JavaScript because some sites use those languages in a way that can crash the search engine, said Shari Thurow, marketing manager at GrantasticDesigns.com, a company that offers website design and site optimisation services. Site designers can use HTML instead or they can use cloaking techniques, which present a different version of the content to the search engine and to the user.

Thurow added that engineers at Google and other large search engines are sophisticated enough to recognise when a company is cloaking but using the same content. "A software engineer at Google would not ban a site for cloaking like that if the content were the same," she said.

BMW did not fill out a formal re-inclusion request, as Cutts suggested on his blog it might be asked to do, in order to be added to the database once again.

BMW said it wishes it had been notified that Google found its practices offensive before removing the site and announcing that to the public. "I think one should have the chance to react before this is spread publicly because the damage from this in terms of public opinion is something one could question," Sagemann said.

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