Do you have pages that have the potential for ranking and driving organic search traffic but aren’t part of your site’s structure? Or pages that aren’t supposed to be on your site, but Google finds them anyway?
The answer is almost certainly yes. At least, it is for a vast number of websites! These are called orphan pages.
In simple words, pages on a website with no inbound links are orphan pages.
In this post, you’ll learn what orphan pages are, why they’re important, how to find them, and how to incorporate them into your site structure for a successful SEO strategy.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Orphan Pages?
- Why Orphan Pages Are Bad For SEO?
- How To Find Orphan Pages?
1 What are Orphan Pages?
Orphan pages do not have any links to them. Visitors and site crawlers will not be able to find them because there are no links to them.
Orphan pages can appear for various reasons, including old pages that have been unlinked but remain published, site architectural issues, products that have sold out but are still available, and the CMS producing new unknown URLs as part of its page designs, etc.
These pages can’t be accessible from any place on your site without internal links. This makes it considerably more difficult, although not impossible, to locate certain pages.
So how do you find orphan pages?
One way is through referrals, such as when another website link to it or a newsletter refers to it. Another way is to use organic search when a page ranks for specific queries. Then there’s the scenario of redirects when other URLs are routed to these pages.
At times, users can’t find these pages quickly, and search engines can’t find them either, which isn’t helpful for your site.
2 Why Orphan Pages Are Bad For SEO?
Orphan pages are not good for users and crawlers both.
Because users can’t access those pages through the natural structure of your site, any critical or valuable content on those pages is wasted. This can lead to an unfavorable user experience.
No authority is transferred to the pages, and search engines have no semantic or structural context to evaluate the page. Hence, it can be more difficult to establish which queries the page is useful for as you don’t know where it fits within your site as a whole.
Below are some of the reasons why they are not good for SEO.
2.1 Orphan Pages Cannot Be Indexed
If a page no longer has any links pointing to it, it will have very little page authority, and search engines may opt to remove it entirely from the index.
This also implies that the Google bot won’t be able to find them. In other words, this URL (page) falls through the cracks. These pages cannot generate any organic traffic to your site.
“Orphaned pages may be noindexed.”
John Mueller, Google Webmaster Hangout, 2016
2.2 Orphan Pages Can Eat Up a Lot Of Crawl Budget
When low-quality pages consume up a substantial portion of your crawl budget, you’ll have to spend more resources to get Google to reach the pages that matter. Furthermore, Google’s crawl rate slows down if it does not find natural links between your website’s pages.
2.3 Orphan Pages Don’t Perform Well
Orphan pages don’t perform well even if they are found and indexed by search engines.
Links convey authority, relevance, and quality to search engines. Without this, pages will have low page authority, and it will be difficult for them to rank well.
Making orphan pages (again) a part of your site structure greatly improves their SEO effectiveness. The orphan page will perform better due to link authority from other site areas.
2.4 Orphan Pages Can Hurt User Experience
Orphan pages don’t give users the best experience.
If users find the page organically, it may contain out-of-date information, such as information about a previous event or a deal that has passed. Alternatively, if the page still includes useful content and the user wants to return to it later, they will have trouble finding it.
Of course, if you want users to find and visit this page, they won’t be able to do so from anywhere else on the site.
In either case, this makes it challenging and degrades the user experience.
3 How To Find Orphan Pages?
Most people believe that they only can be found if they were linked to in the past — or if external websites are linked to them.
On the other hand, search engines can find these pages in several ways. It’s also possible that they were submitted for indexation and then never linked to again. However, they are mostly indexed through the sitemap and updated once a page is created. Google finds the page and indexes it after crawling the sitemap.
3.1 Using Rank Math PRO
Rank Math PRO helps to find the orphan pages very easily. Rank Math lets you know the exact number of incoming links to your page. This is one reason that makes Rank Math the best SEO plugin for WordPress.
You can then use the Filter to look for the orphan pages. Once you’ve installed the PRO version of Rank Math, navigate to the posts/pages section from your WordPress dashboard to find the orphan pages. Select Orphan Posts from the drop-down menu and click on Filter as shown below.
Rank Math will display all the orphan posts, pages, and custom posts within seconds on your screen.
3.2 Using Audit Tools
You can also use tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to help you discover orphaned pages. SEMrush’s Site Audit tool helps detect orphan pages and informs you how to fix them.
4 How To Fix Orphan Pages?
Once you have found the orphan pages on your site, it’s time to decide what to do with them.
To fix these pages, start with determining if these orphan pages still serve a purpose. So, the first thing to do when you see a high volume of orphan pages is to check what they look like and if they are important or not.
Ask yourself the following set of questions:
- Is this an important page? If so, where should it exist in the sitemap? If not, get rid of it.
- Is there a keyword/s ranking for this page? If so, find the place on your website for it. If not, get rid of it.
- Is the page well-designed? Is there a chance of ranking if you start fixing links? If so, keep it and improve it. If it isn’t, get rid of it.
Below are some of the common orphan page issues and how to fix them.
4.1 Page Doesn’t Exist, But Other Site Links To It
Getting an external link to a page that you then remove or redirect rather than usual. Google will still detect the old link because it still exists on the other website.
How to fix: If the page does not exist but has been linked to from another site, there’s no other way to fix this but to reach out to the external site’s owner and request them to update their link to your new spot.
4.2 Page Generates Non-200 Status Codes
Even after your site has been fixed, Google will crawl pages that return with 4xx codes for some time.
How to fix: There’s no need to worry about these, as bots will soon quit crawling them.
4.3 Page Is Abandoned After a Site Migration
These are pages that are not redirected and therefore old content might still be available.
How to fix: If you have pages that have been abandoned following migration, the quickest approach is to redirect old URLs to your new website (provided that the content is similar). Until Google stops scanning such pages, they should be set to return 410 or 404 status codes.
4.4 Page Exists, And Other Site Links To It
There is a possibility that the page has been linked to a high-quality external website or receives a lot of traffic.
How to fix: If that’s the case, consider enhancing the content, repurposing it, and linking to it from another page on your site. If you don’t think it needs to be updated, consider redirecting it to pages like the homepage or categories.
4.5 Page Is Not A Major Concern
Another possibility is that the orphan page is not typically a major cause of concern. If the page has minimal authority, you should probably remove it.
How to fix: A 404 or 410 HTTP status code can be used to do this. These tags indicate that a page no longer exists, allowing you to use your crawl budget efficiently.
5 Frequently Asked Questions
5.1 Can Google Find Orphan Pages?
This is dependent on whether the pages are included on the XML sitemap and whether there are any other references to the orphan pages, such as incoming canonicals, redirects, and hreflang. If they’re in the XML sitemap and/or there are any other references to them, Google is likely to find the orphan page.
That’s not to suggest Google won’t index the pages. If Google does not consider the pages important enough, they may be excluded from indexing.
5.2 Does Orphan Pages Hurt SEO?
The answer is yes. Orphan pages often don’t rank highly in SERPs or receive a lot of organic search traffic, even if they have amazing content. Low-value orphan pages (for example, duplicate pages) can steal crawl budget away from your valuable pages.
5.3 Are Orphan Pages and Dead Pages the Same?
Orphan pages and dead pages are not same.
A webpage that isn’t linked to or reachable from any other page on the same website is an orphan page. On the other hand, a dead page is a web page that has no links to other internal or external pages, resulting in a “dead end.”
5.4 Is Having An Orphan Page Bad?
Orphan pages result in a poor user experience and crawl results. There is no authority passed, and search engines have no means of evaluating the page’s relevance without an identity or a sense of how it integrates into the rest of your site.
We hope this post successfully armed you with the knowledge to make orphan pages work for you…
You need to nurture most of the orphan pages back to life. Link to them…Ensure that the search engines index them and utilize them to grow your organic traffic.
If you like this post let us know by tweeting @rankmathseo. 💬