Does your website have ranked pages with organic search traffic potential, but they are absent from your site structure? Or do you have pages that you’ve intentionally made missing from your site structure, but Google is able to find them anyways? For most websites, the answer is probably yes! These pages are known as orphan pages which are often ignored when it comes to Search Engine Optimization despite the help they can provide in improving your site’s SEO performance. Re-attaching good orphan pages to your website structure and blocking search engine bots from your low-value ones enables you to tap into their full potential.
If you’re new to this term and you have no idea about what are orphan pages, you’ll learn everything in this article, including what they are, their significance in SEO, how you can find them, and ways of adopting them into your site structure for a clever SEO strategy.
What Are Orphan Pages?
Orphan pages can be defined as web pages that can be indexed but have no internal links. They live outside the site structure, and due to the absence of internal links, they can not be accessed from anywhere on your site. This means these pages have no links or tabs to be accessed from anywhere on your website, making it much harder to find these pages. Still, it’s not impossible, and you can still access orphan pages in several ways. One of the most prevalent ways of accessing orphan pages is through referrals. For example, if they are linked to another site or if they are linked to a newsletter. If the page is ranking for certain queries, accessing them via organic search can be another efficient way. They can also be accessed through redirects if other URLs are redirected to these pages. Although it’s possible to find and access orphan pages, it’s not a piece of cake, and users generally find it challenging to get to these pages, and so do search engines. This, in short, is not ideal for your website and its SEO. We’ll dive into this more below.
Common Reasons Orphan Pages Exist
Having non-indexable orphan pages is completely normal in some cases, such as for a landing page for PPC (Pay per click) or for a campaign targeting a specific audience. However, in most cases, the existence of orphan pages is by mistake. They fall through the cracks during SEO checks. Here is a list of reasons why orphan pages can be present on your site:
- Bad housekeeping:
If you remove the page that linked to the orphan page.
- Trouble tracking
If you lose track of pages and where they are linked while regularly updating your site and doing site migrations.
- Lack of updating
If you keep obsolete campaign or landing pages long after they turn useless and do not move them to another part of the site, like an archive page. e.g., pages of past event discontinued products and limited-time sales.
What Makes Orphan Pages Bad For SEO?
For most sites, orphan pages are a loss. They are neither great for users nor for crawlers.
These pages can not be accessed with a direct link, so users are unable to reach them through your website’s natural structure. If any important or useful information is kept on those pages, it will get wasted. Not only will it frustrate your users but will confuse the search engine algorithm in evaluation. In easy words, due to the absence of internal links, no authority is enabled to access the pages, and search engines find no relevant or structural context to evaluate where the page fits into your site as a whole. Due to the lack of this knowledge, it can become much difficult to ascertain which queries the page is relevant for. The most common reasons for this are:
- Orphan pages might not be indexed (anymore)
- Orphan pages can take up a lot of crawl budget
- Orphan pages generally don’t perform well
- Orphan pages can hurt user experience
1. They might not be indexed (anymore)
If a page is not indexed and has no links directing to it anymore, It neither ranks, nor it generates any organic traffic. In turn, its page authority is going to decrease drastically, and it may just get dropped from the index altogether by search engines.
2. They can waste a lot of crawl budget:
If your site has large amounts of low-value orphan pages, it can waste a significant amount of precious crawl budget, which could be used for crawling your more crucial pages and new content on your site. If you have no idea what crawl budget is, you should know that Crawl budget is the limit of pages any search engine crawls on any particular website. Google determines the crawl budget by weighing the crawl rate limit and crawl demand. Keeping all this in mind, these orphan pages can hold back your SEO performance, becoming a hurdle in the optimal performance of your website.
3. Their performance is generally not well:
Even if the orphan pages get found and indexed by search engines, they generally don’t perform very well. Links are required to communicate with the search engine’s authority, relevancy, and quality. Without this, pages are unlikely to rank well and will have little page authority. If you include these orphan pages in your site structure (again), it will really help you in improving the SEO performance of your website. It will perform better after getting link authority flowing from other parts of the site.
4. They can hurt user experience:
For an ideal user experience, Orphan pages are just not the right thing. They can frustrate your users and cause them a lot of hassle if they’re trying to access it. If they find it organically, the page could possibly have obsolete content, e.g., a past event or sale that expired. In the worse case, your page might still have valuable and relevant content, and the user wants to come back to it at a later time, they’ll have to face the difficulty of finding it again through a direct URL.
Also, if you want users to find that particular page and go to it, they won’t be able to access it from any direct link or tab on the site. Either way, it will make it difficult for the users and hurt their experience.
How to find orphan pages
You’ll need a site crawler to help you find pages in your site structure. Then you’ll need a log file analysis tool that will help you find orphan pages that aren’t in your site structure. To find all the orphan pages on your website, you’ll need both. Here is an easy 5-step strategy for you that you can adopt to identify and address any orphan pages on your site:
- Get a list of current pages of your site.
- Find pages with zero internal inbound links by running a website crawl
- Analyze the audit results
- Resolve the identified orphan pages
- Re-run the audit periodically to identify new orphan pages
Here is a complete explanation of all these steps:
1) Get a list of current pages of your site:
Since orphan pages, by definition, are not linked to any domain page, pointing your crawler to your home page and expecting it to work is just a waste of time. Instead, you’ll have to specify the full list of site URLs for the crawler to examine, or it will never be able to identify orphan site pages. Here are some common ways to get the URL list:
Through the sitemap file
The sitemap file is usually placed at the root of your domain and helps search engine bots with understanding the content of your website, how often it is updated, and how to surface your website’s content on SERPs (search engine results pages ). Your sitemap is dynamically updated every time a new page or post is added to your Content Management System (CMS). However, before using this method, you will have to make sure that your sitemap contains the full list of your pages.
Download a site URL list
If You’re not successful with the sitemap method for any reason or if your sitemap does not contain the full page list, you can try generating the list from your CMS ( Content Management System) on WordPress. For this, you can start with installing a lightweight plugin (such as List URLs) and exporting a list of site URLs as a CSV(Comma-separated values) file. Also, you can ask for a copy of the CMS log from your IT that lists all the pages that your visitors accessed. You’ll have to filter on unique URLs after you’ve loaded the list into Excel. After you have the full list, paste it into your crawl configuration:
2) Find pages with zero internal inbound links by running a website crawl
The second step in the process of identifying orphan pages is setting up the audit rule to catch pages with zero internal inbound links. Set up a periodic crawl to catch any new unlinked pages in the future while configuring the audit. Note that you’ll need an updated list from your CMS if you are relying on a URL list.
3) Analyze the audit results
Once you’re done with the audit, check the results of your audit and Identify the orphan pages. Determine their objectives and make the following checks:
- Are they driving traffic (referral, paid, or social campaign)?
- Whether they have quality backlinks or not?
- Are they extensively visited via onsite search?
Assess traffic sources, entry, and exit behaviors, visits, and page views, using your log file analysis tool.
4) Resolve the identified orphan pages
After you’ve grasped the idea of what is an orphaned page, what purpose the orphan pages serve, and how they help in driving your website and marketing goals, you can determine what step to take with the page:
- Make it accessible through a link from other internal pages if it’s vital for site visitors and you want them to find it via browsing
- If it’s no longer necessary, you can archive it
- If it’s serving a business requirement that doesn’t need internal linking to the page, Leave it as it is.
5) Rerun the audit periodically to identify new orphan pages:
Pages can often become orphaned over time due to several reasons and might go unnoticed if you don’t check your site from time to time. Adding new content and forgetting to link to it or accidental removal of links to pages nestled deep in the site structure are some reasons behind the creation of orphan pages. It is highly recommended that you make periodic checks on your website for new issues.
To wrap up:
It’s vital that you have a deep understanding of orphan pages for SEO and the ideal performance of your website. They can become an obstacle when it comes to search engine optimization. It’s Make sure you check your website regularly to find them and resolve if there are any. We hope this guide was enough to give you an insight but still, if you find yourself puzzled, there is no need to worry because SEO HUB has you covered. You can contact us now for all SEO-related services.