They might not sound like a big issue but orphan pages, pages that aren’t linked to anywhere else on your site are bad for SEO. Fortunately, finding orphan pages is a simple and straightforward process. In this post, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to fix orphan pages and maximise your SEO efforts.
What is an Orphan Page?
Orphan pages are pages on your website that aren’t linked from any other pages on your site. These pages live outside of your site structure, a bit like this:
Remember, orphan pages are not beneficial for web pages because a search engine’s crawling principle is based on following hyperlinks. So if a page doesn’t have internal links going point to it, web crawlers are going to struggle to find it.
Users also can’t find orphan pages through the website as there are no links on the site pointing to those pages. However, despite what many people think orphan pages can be found by search engines, normally via the sitemap. Most sites have a sitemap that is automatically updated when new content has been created. Therefore, when Google crawls the sitemap, it can find any orphan pages and indexes them. However, The only way that orphan pages can be accessed by users is if they know the direct URL of the page, or if you (or another website) link directly to it.
And that’s basically what an orphan page is: although it exists on the web, there are no links provided from its own website (other than the sitemap). As a result, the website does not pay any attention to these pages and they become what in the SEO world is called Orphan or Orphaned Pages.
Why Are Orphan Pages Bad for SEO?
Orphan Pages are bad for SEO. Search engines like Google assume that a page that doesn’t get any links from its own website has no importance. However, they can also have a negative effect on the entire website from an SEO standpoint, as Google may punish the entire website because of their existence and they have 2 clear impacts on SEO
- Low Rankings & Low Traffic – Because orphan pages aren’t linked internally, it makes it much harder for Google’s crawlers to discover that page and add it into their index. This means these pages won’t show up in search results and they often have low rankings and low traffic. That’s a real shame if you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into page content because by not adding some internal links you are jeopardising your own efforts. Remember, even if an orphan page gets indexed (through external links or XML sitemaps) they don’t get any internal link juice. This means they don’t rank well in search engines and if they’re not ranking in SERPs, they’re not bringing in much organic traffic from search (if any at all).
- Wasting Crawl Budget – Search engines have a ‘crawl budget’, which is the number of pages that they will crawl on a website within a given timeframe. If you’re using up this precious budget on low-value orphan pages, it means other more important pages might not be getting crawled and indexed. However, this does tend to only be an issue on much larger sites.
Finding Orphan Pages with SEMrush
Firstly, it’s important to realise that there are 2 types of orphan pages, those you meant to create and those you didn’t. You may have deliberately created an orphan page as a landing page for a PPC to social media campaign or for a time-sensitive sales event. However, you may well find plenty of orphan pages you didn’t mean to create, for example after a site migration when an internal link may have been removed or by sampling forgetting to link to a new page or your site or adding it to your menu.
SEMRush is one of the most popular SEO tools out there, so it’s no surprise that it comes with a tool to find orphan pages. Simply set up a Site Audit project and wait until your website is crawled. When the audit is complete, hover on “Issues” and click Select an issue > Orphaned pages. SEMRush will identify any orphan pages that are in your XML sitemap, as well as any pages that have been recorded in Google Analytics within a 30-day date range that don’t have inbound internal links.
How to Fix Orphan Pages
If you have orphan pages, you need to decide what to do with them. To do this, we recommend checking if the page has been linked from an external website of high quality or if it has a large volume of traffic. In this case, you may consider improving its content, reusing it, and linking to it from an existing page on your website. If you think it doesn’t need an update, you can redirect it to pages such as the homepage or the next best page.
Another opposite option would be in the case that we evaluate the orphan page as being useless. If the page has little authority, you’ll probably want to get rid of it. To do this, you can implement a 404 or 410 HTTP status code. These codes indicate that a page no longer exists, which will help your crawl budget be used more efficiently.
Get More Out of Your SEO
Orphan pages hurt your rankings and revenue, which is why it’s important to find and fix these pages as soon as possible. But these aren’t the only part of your SEO strategy that matter. SEO is ever-changing and there are multiple elements that should be addressed if you want to maximise your organic performance. Find out more about GlowMetrics’ SEO Services or check out our blog to keep up to date with SEO and digital marketing news.