Orphan pages are pretty much invisible to search engines and visitors.
They can hurt your SEO and have a negative effect on your website’s ranking.
In this post, we will give you a quick guide on how to find and fix orphan pages.
- What Are Orphan Pages?
- What Causes Orphan Pages?
- Why Are Orphan Pages Bad for SEO?
- How Can You Find Orphan Pages?
- How Can You Fix Orphan Pages?
What Are Orphan Pages?
Orphan pages are web pages that don’t have any links to them from other pages on your website.
It means the only way to visit them is by directly typing in the URL or through an external link.
For example, your website has a page about “blue widgets” but there are no links to that page from any other pages on your site.
As a result, the search engines have a hard time finding that page and it will have little to no traffic.
What Causes Orphan Pages?
There are a few reasons why you might have orphan pages on your website:
- You just created a new page and haven’t had a chance to link to it from other pages yet.
- You recently changed the URL of a page (e.g. from example.com/about to example.com/about-us) and didn’t set up a redirect from the old URL to the new one.
- Someone linked to a page on your website that doesn’t exist anymore (e.g. they linked to example.com/blue-widgets but that page was deleted or renamed).
- You just changed your site design and the links are pointing to pages that don’t exist anymore.
- You migrated your site to a new domain and didn’t set up redirects from the old URLs to the new ones.
- You have bad website architecture.
Why Are Orphan Pages Bad for SEO?
Orphan pages are bad for SEO because they:
- prevent search engines from indexing them (if they are not present on your sitemap);
- might take a portion of the crawl budget;
- can hurt the user experience.
Prevent Search Engines From Indexing Them
Google uses links to help find new content on the web.
If your orphan pages don’t have any links to them, they will have a hard time finding them.
In fact, read what is reported on Google Search Central:
For example, if you publish a new page on your site and don’t link to it from any other page, how will Google know the page exists?
If you do eventually want the page to rank in the SERPs, you need to take some action.
Might Take a Portion of the Crawl Budget
Googlebot has a limited crawl budget, which is the number of pages it can and wants to crawl on your site.
Every website has a different crawl budget based on many factors, such as the size of the website, the number of pages, the speed of the server, etc.
Google says that having many low-value-add URLs can negatively affect a site’s crawling and indexing:
If you have orphan pages on your site, they might take a portion of the crawl budget away from other pages that are more important and have a higher chance of ranking in Google.
Can Hurt the User Experience
Orphan pages can also hurt the user experience because if someone stumbles across one of them, they will have no way to navigate to other parts of your site.
For example, let’s say someone is looking for information about blue widgets and they find your orphan page about blue widgets.
But there are no links to any other pages on your site, so the user has no way of finding anything else.
As a result, they will likely leave your site immediately and go to a different website (sending your bounce rate through the roof).
How Can You Find Orphan Pages?
The best way to find orphan pages is by using Google Analytics.
Log in to your account and go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages:
This will show you a list of all the pages on your website, sorted by how many page views they got in a specific time range.
Now, click on “Pageviews”, so to have the pages with the least views at the top:
To have the most results possible, amplify the time range to cover many years:
Finally, you may want to expand the list of URLs by selecting up to “5000 rows“:
If you see any pages with 0 (or really low) pageviews, those are likely orphan pages.
To be 100% sure, you need to compare the list of your crawlable URLs with the list of your Analytics URLs (refer to this guide).
How Can You Fix Orphan Pages?
There are a few different options for dealing with orphan pages:
- Redirect the page to another relevant page on your website.
- Delete the orphan page and 404 errors.
- Find external websites that link to the orphan page.
- Add internal links to the orphan page.
For example, if you have a page about “blue widgets” but it’s getting no traffic, you can redirect it to a page about “widgets” that do get traffic.
If a page is orphaned and not getting any traffic, there’s no reason to keep it. Just delete it and set up a 404 error so people know they’ve reached a dead end.
Find and Replace the Link
If you have an orphan page that’s getting some traffic from external websites, try reaching out to the owner of the site that is linking to your orphan page and asking to replace the link with a more relevant of your web pages.
Add Internal Links
If you have an orphan page that has value and you think it could be useful for your users, try adding links to it from other pages on your website, to help Google find the orphan page and include it in the search rankings.
Orphan pages can hurt your website in a few different ways. They can take away from your crawl budget, hurt your SEO, and damage the user experience.
If you have orphan pages on your website, use Google Analytics to find them. Then decide whether to redirect, delete, or link to them from other websites.
Taking care of orphan pages is an important part of maintaining a healthy website and should be included in your SEO strategy.
Have you ever dealt with orphan pages on your website?
What did you do?
Let me know in the comments below!