You’ve probably heard that orphan pages are bad and must be fixed to avoid your SEO strategy crumbling down. But what exactly are orphaned pages? How do they occur? And most importantly, how can you find, identify and fix them?
Time to find out how to help them find their way back home and unite them with their parent pages!
What Are Orphan Pages?
Orphaned pages are just what they sound like – deserted, abandoned, and forsaken web pages.
Orphan pages are pages that aren’t linked to other pages on the website and don’t have links pointing to them. An orphan page is, thus, in complete isolation, meaning that the only way someone can visit this page is by typing in the direct URL.
Without links from your other website pages, a page has no connection to the “outside world.” These pages are siloed and lack links back to parent pages, hence the name.
What Causes Orphan Pages?
Orphan pages may be intentional, as with promotional and paid advertising landing pages, or when creating private pages to share with specific people.
However, more often than not, pages usually end up orphaned by mistake and fall through the cracks when performing SEO checks. The most common reasons for orphan pages include:
- Issues with the site architecture
- Pages missed in a site migration
- Lack of updating
How Do Orphan Pages Affect SEO?
As orphan pages don’t have any hyperlinks pointing to them, they exist on your website, but no human users or search engine crawlers will be able to find them.
Links communicate authority, relevancy, and quality to search engines. Without these, it’s unlikely that these pages will rank well, as no link equity can be passed. Even if orphan pages get indexed due to being linked to historically or from other sources, having no internal links will impact their ranking and organic performance.
Why Orphan Pages Are Bad for SEO
Because you’re not tapping into their full potential. The absence of links to a page means that no visitor or site crawler can access it – regardless of how well-optimized the content is, it’s a wasted ranking opportunity.
It leads to a frustrating user experience, poor crawl results, poor traffic, and low to non-existent PageRank. No authority is passed, and there’s no way for search engines to evaluate its relevance – this will diminish the organic search performance potential for that page and content.
How to Find Orphan Pages
To fix your orphaned pages, you need to locate them first.
There are several orphan page tools and methods you can use to identify what’s floating and missing during a site audit:
1. Check Your Site’s XML Sitemap
If you have an XML sitemap for your website, it’s a great place to start. An XML sitemap will contain a list of all the pages on your site, and you can find it in the root directory of your website.
Once you have located your sitemap file, look at the listed URLs. If any pages aren’t linked to from anywhere else on your site, they’ll be orphaned!
2. Use a Site Crawler / Audit Tools
If you’re using Google Analytics to track your website’s traffic, you can use it to find orphan pages as well. You can also use tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to help you discover orphaned pages.
3. Compare Crawlable URLs and Analytics URLs
Once you’ve got your data sources, you’ll need to compare the URLs from your external data sources and the URLs found from crawling your website. Some tools can do all the heavy lifting for you, like Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.
If you find Orphan pages by matching them with Google Search Console & Analytics data, the significance of this discovery may be a bit greater than through the sitemap alone. You can also use your server logs, as they are exact server-side data.
How to Fix Orphan Pages
Once you have gathered all the data and made a list of orphan pages on your site, it’s time to decide what to do with them.
Your final verdict should depend on the purpose of each orphaned page and how it can help with your SEO goals. It all comes down to accessing which orphan pages are worth resolving and which ones should be entirely removed.
- Is the page important? If yes, where should it exist in the sitemap? Adopt the pages into your site structure, add internal links to these pages, and ensure they are included in your XML sitemap. If not, simply get rid of it.
- Is the page ranking for any keywords? Does it contain useful content for your visitors? If yes, find a place for it on your website. If not, eliminate it.
- Is the page optimized? Does it offer a good opportunity to rank if you start fixing the missing links? If yes, keep it and optimize it. Otherwise, remove it.
How to Prevent Orphan Pages from Occurring
To avoid orphan pages making a mess in the future, take a closer look at why and how these pages became orphaned in the first place. To combat your enemies, you need to face them.
When you know what was the leading cause of orphan pages on your website, pay close attention to it in the future. This will benefit you in the long run by minimizing the likelihood of future orphan pages occurring.
It’s Clean-up Time!
Having orphan pages means that you are wasting potential or hurting your SEO efforts.
Don’t wait it out – start searching for orphan pages and linking them back to their parent pages to improve your visibility and ensure that your visitors don’t miss out on any valuable content on your site.