Robert_Charlton - 8:14 pm on Oct 21, 2012 (gmt 0)
I would not have categorized "Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names" as "doorway pages" either.
deadsea, I would agree if this were all they said about doorways. I think, though, that, in the sentence above, you may be taking this out of context and interpreting it too restrictively. I believe that it's all about intent and the use of the page on the site, and you go on to say as much yourself.
Here's what Google says (my emphasis added)...
Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination.
...as long as the pages are useful and don't just funnel you into a single destination.
So, I'm not understanding what the issue is.
I've optimized geo-targeted sites in the million+ page range, and, so long as those geo-targeted landing pages lead to good quality, geo-relevant content that is unique, there have been no problems. All of Google's usual quality signals of course apply, and that's a long discussion in itself.
Where these landing pages become doorway pages, though, is where they exist simply to catch localized queries but funnel users to unrelated content. IMO, Google is extremely clear on this when you read the doorway article as a whole.
Under "keyword stuffing" they give the example "Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for". Under "keyword stuffing" they give the example "Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for". Its very common to find local webpages in my area doing this for their service/delivery area. I see it for plumbers, contractors, firewood delivery and such.
I've had a similar take on this, and, in the past, I have used the blocks of text approach for metro area and regional service area specifics myself. I was careful also, though, to keep the list down to a reasonable number of prioritized places... reasonable at that time being 10 or 15.
Generally, though, with any phrase/location combination that's even slightly competitive, this approach no longer works. It's clear from results I've checked that Google does prefer metro-area pages with the keywords in context, not stuffed, and you are limited to the number of word combinations you can go after. Hard to say how much this is an algo change, and how much it simply reflects a much higher level of competition overall.
I suspect that you've got to reach a long list before Google dings you for keyword stuffing, as such lists have been a common practice, originally intended for site visitors. Depends, I suppose, on whether the list is short enough to be easily readable.
It's interesting to observe that site owners who think they know a little SEO will often add to the lists over time, until they finally do get to be stuffed.