Finding and Fixing Orphan Pages for SEO: The A-Z Guide
SEO isn’t rocket science.
But it’s not a piece of cake either.
Within the boundaries of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO, several critical yet often overlooked issues can significantly impact your site’s search ranking potential.
Managing orphan pages is one such issue.
Never heard of them before? No problem.
In this article, we’ll discuss why orphan pages are bad for SEO and how to find and fix them easily.
Let’s dive in.
What Are Orphan Pages?
Orphan pages are pages without internal links from any other web pages of your site. They exist in complete isolation and cannot be discovered by users unless they know the exact URL.
They are indexable, but search engines rarely find them because they’re often not included in your sitemap, and no other pages of your site help search engine crawlers find them.
As a result, the content of these pages cannot drive any SEO benefit to your site and often goes to waste.
Why Are Orphan Pages Bad For SEO
Orphan pages are not good for your site’s SEO health. They’re not a huge problem for smaller sites with a few dozen pages. However, they can seriously impact your site’s rankings if it consists of hundreds of pages, dozens of categories, and numerous URLs.
Here are a few ways they hurt your site’s rankings.
Search Engines Find It Hard To Index Them
Search engines primarily use internal links and sitemaps to discover and index a site’s content. Since orphan pages don’t have internal links or sitemap listings, search engine crawlers find it hard to locate them. They’re indexable pages, so search engines can still find them through external backlinks or direct crawling, but that rarely happens without internal links.
They Hurt User Experience
Users can only find orphan pages if they have the direct URL. So if an orphan page contains essential information that you want users to see, there’s no way they can discover it organically. And even if they somehow find it once, they’ll need to remember the URL to access it again (which rarely happens).
They Don’t Receive Page Authority
Since orphan pages have no internal links, they don’t receive their site’s page rank and authority. As a result, even if Google somehow indexes them, they won’t be able to rank for any competitive keywords.
They Consume Your Crawl Budget
Google assigns a crawl budget to every website based on which it crawls a specific number of its pages every day. Having too many orphan pages can eat up your site’s crawl budget and prevent Google spiders from indexing the more important pages.
The Most Common Causes Behind Orphan Pages
Okay, so we know orphan pages are bad for SEO. But how are they created?
Here are some of the causes.
Ignoring Internal Linking
Website owners who do not prioritize internal linking often have the most number of orphan pages. To prevent this, you should have a manual SOP or an automated system to add relevant internal links to every new page of your site.
Problems In Website Migration
Inefficient website migration is another common reason behind orphan pages. When migrating a large website (especially eCommerce sites), ensure the URLs are adequately tracked, so there are no broken internal links and lost pages.
Poor Website Management
Orphan pages are generally a result of careless website management. For example, sometimes website owners intentionally create them in the form of campaign-specific landing pages or private pages of your site not meant for regular users. But they forget to remove these pages once they serve their purpose. Similarly, eCommerce sites unlink out of stock or discontinued product pages but forget to remove them altogether. As a result, these pages stay on your site as orphan pages.
Lack Of SEO Audits
Regular SEO housekeeping is critical to preventing orphan pages. So make sure you run regular SEO audits and have the necessary tools and filters in place to detect them the moment they’re created. Otherwise, they’ll sit quietly in the corner of your site and hurt your site’s SEO health without anyone noticing.
How To Find Orphan Pages
Most websites can find orphan pages by using any reputable website SEO audit tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Moz, etc. Using any of these tools, you can find your site’s crawlable pages.
Most tools use internal links, sitemaps, and Google search index to find crawlable pages. However, these pages don’t have any internal links, and in many cases, they’re also not included in the sitemap or Google’s index. Which means some of them may go undetected.
This is why we prefer using Ahrefs since it’s ahead of the other tools in this regard.
Ahrefs can also track orphan pages that aren’t a part of your sitemap or indexed pages but have backlinks from other sites.
This would help you find abandoned pages such as campaign-specific landing pages, inactive eCommerce product pages, etc.
Once you run Ahrefs Site Audit, it gives you a complete report of your site’s SEO health and a list of orphan pages.
Analyze the list of these pages, determine why they exist, and see if any of them have valuable backlinks from other high-authority sites.
How To Find Orphan Pages – Advanced Method
For larger sites, the above method might not be enough to detect all the orphan pages. In such cases, follow this alternate method.
Step 1: Export the list of crawlable URLs generated in the first method. You can generate this list with Ahrefs Site Audit or any other site crawler.
Step 2: Go to your Google Search Console account → Coverage → Submitted and Indexed. Export this report in a CSV file
Step 3: Go to Google Analytics → Behavior → Site Content → All Pages. Export this data in a CSV file.
Step 4: Match the data from Step 1 with the CSV files in Step 3 and 4, respectively.
Step 5: The pages that appear in Steps 3 and 4 but do not appear in the report from Step 1 are your targets.
This method will help you detect these pages with much more efficiency. However, if you have a large site with thousands of pages and have never run an SEO audit before, you might still need to consult an SEO expert to find any other remaining ones.
How To Fix Orphan Pages
Once you find orphan pages on your site, use one of the following ways to handle them.
1. Add Internal Links
If an orphan page is valuable, give it an internal link from any other relevant page of your site. In the case of a large website, you can use automated tools to add relevant internal links. If you’re a WordPress user, you can easily find a plugin to do the job for you.
If an orphan page doesn’t add any value and you think you won’t need it in the future as well, simply delete it from your site.
3. Combine Or Redirect
If an orphan page has content that can add value to another page on your site with a similar topic, combine them and add a permanent redirect from the orphan page. In some cases, you might have an orphan page that will be used in the future again, for example, a discontinued product page or a landing page. In such cases, add a redirection from these pages to another relevant page of your site.
Keep An Eye On Your Site’s Orphan Pages
Handling your site’s orphan pages is an ongoing process. It’ll be more extensive the first time you do it. But after that., you’ll need to constantly monitor them through regular site audits using an SEO tool. Plus, you’ll need to run periodic manual audits to ensure there are no undetected orphan pages on your site.