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How to Find and Fix Orphaned Pages on your Website?

Learn about orphan pages, pages without internal links in your site structure. These pages can negatively impact your search engine rankings and user experience. Discover how to find them using Google Search Console or a website crawler, and learn why fixing them is crucial for SEO performance.
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Published on
May 29, 2023
Updated on
November 4, 2023
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Pages that are indexable but lack internal links are called orphan pages. If there are no links to them from any other pages on your website, those pages are considered orphans and are outside the site structure. Orphan pages cannot be visited from anywhere on your website without internal links. Finding these pages will now be much more difficult yet still feasible.

Orphaned pages refer to website pages that are not linked to other pages on the website, making them difficult or impossible for users and search engines to find. These pages can negatively impact website performance and user experience, as well as hurt search engine rankings

There are still a few ways to view orphan pages. One is by referrals, such as when a website links to it or when a newsletter contains a link to the page. If the page is ranked for particular queries, another method is through organic search. Moreover, could other URLs be redirected to these pages via redirects? Because people may access a page only if they know the URL and search engine crawlers can only find pages through the sitemap file or external backlinks, these URLs frequently go unnoticed.

Why Do Orphan Pages Exist?

Orphan pages typically appear by accident for a variety of reasons. The lack of procedures for site migrations, navigational changes, site redesigns, out-of-stock items, testing, or development pages is the primary factor. Instances where you don't want the page to be a part of the user experience, such as promotional and paid advertising landing pages, can also result in orphan pages.

Error page
Error page

Why Is SEO Detrimental For Orphan Pages?

Orphan pages are a squandered opportunity for the majority of websites. This is why:

  • Not all orphan pages will be indexed (anymore): A page will have very little page authority if no links are pointing to it anymore, and search engines may opt to completely remove it from the index. Without being indexed, a page cannot rank, which prevents it from bringing in organic visitors.
  • It can cost a lot to crawl orphan pages: Large numbers of low-value orphan pages can consume valuable crawl money that could be used to crawl your site's more crucial pages and fresh material. So, these orphan pages can be hindering your SEO efforts.
  • In general, orphan pages don't perform well: Orphan pages typically perform poorly, even if search engines find and index them. Links convey the legitimacy, usefulness, and excellence of search engines. Pages without it won't possess the same page authority and will have a lower chance of ranking highly. If you restructure orphan pages into your site's structure, it helps you to increase SEO performance. The orphan page will perform better thanks to links from other areas of the website that have link authority. Additionally, if the orphan page is a landing page or campaign page with a condensed navigation menu, including that navigation will enhance the performance of all other pages as well.
  • User experience might be harmed by orphan pages: User experience can be harmed by orphan pages because they don't offer the best user experience. If people come across the website naturally, it can contain out-of-date information like a previous event or a closed sale. Alternatively, the user will have trouble accessing the page if it still contains relevant information and they wish to return to it later. Naturally, users won't be able to access this page from anywhere else on the website if it is one you want them to locate and visit. This makes things difficult and degrades the user experience in either case.

The Most Common Causes of Orphan Pages

Non-indexable orphan pages are quite acceptable in some circumstances, especially for a PPC landing page or a particular campaign that targets a niche population. Orphan pages can also exist accidentally and elude SEO inspections in other situations. Common reasons for orphan pages include the following:

  1. Cheap Housekeeping:  deleting the page that had a link to the abandoned page.
  2. Difficulty Tracking: You risk losing track of pages and their links if your team often migrates and updates your website.
  3. Absence of updates: Keeping out-of-date campaigns or landing pages after they are no longer required, such as pages for past events, discontinued products, and one-time deals, and not relocating them such as a records page, to another section of the website.

How to Find Orphaned Pages?

Any page on your website without any internal links is referred to being an orphaned page. These pages are often created during website redesigns or content updates but are not connected to any other pages on the site, making them difficult to find for search engines and users. Having orphaned pages can hurt your website's search engine rankings and user experience. In this article, we will discuss how to find orphaned pages on your website.

Use Google Search Console

Website owners can track how well their website performs in Google search results using the free Google Search Console service. It provides valuable information about website errors, indexing, and ranking. To find orphaned pages, go to Google Search Console and click on "Coverage" in the left-hand menu. This will show you a list of all the pages that Google has crawled and indexed on your website. Look for pages with zero "Total Indexed" and "Valid" pages. These pages are likely orphaned pages that need to be fixed.

Use a website crawler

A website crawler is a tool that crawls your website to gather information about its pages, links, and structure. There are many website crawlers available online, such as Screaming Frog and Ahrefs. These tools can help you find orphaned pages by crawling your website and identifying pages with no internal links pointing to them. The reports generated by these tools will also provide additional information about each page, such as its status code, meta tags, and content.

Use website analytics

Website analytics tools like Google Analytics can also help you find orphaned pages. To do this, go to the "Behavior" section in Google Analytics and click on "Site Content" and then "All Pages." This report will show you a list of all the pages on your website and their metrics, such as page views, bounce rates, and exit rates. Look for pages with zero or very low page views, as these pages may be orphaned pages that are not being found by users.

Use manual checks

Manual checks involve looking at your website's pages one by one to identify orphaned pages. This method can be time-consuming, but it can also help you identify pages that may have been missed by website crawlers or analytics tools. To do this, start by opening each page on your website and looking for links to other pages on the site. If you can't find any links, the page is likely orphaned.

Use an XML sitemap

The collection of all the web pages on your website that you want search engines to crawl and index is contained in an XML sitemap file. By creating and submitting an XML sitemap to search engines like Google, you can ensure that all your pages are being indexed and crawled. If you have orphaned pages on your website, they will not be included in the XML sitemap, and you will need to add them manually.

In conclusion, finding orphaned pages on your website is important for improving your website's search engine rankings and user experience. By using tools like Google Search Console, website crawlers, website analytics, manual checks, and XML sitemaps, you can identify and fix orphaned pages on your website. This will help you improve your website's overall performance and make it easier for users to find the content they are looking for.

Steps to find Orphaned Pages
Steps to find Orphaned Pages

How to Fix Orphaned Pages?

Orphaned pages on your website refer to pages that are not linked to any other page on your site. This means that they are not accessible to users or search engines through normal navigation, making them difficult to find and decreasing their visibility. These pages can be detrimental to the overall user experience and SEO of your website, so it's important to address them as soon as possible. Here are some steps to fix orphaned pages on your website :

  1. Identify the orphaned pages: The first step to fixing orphaned pages is to identify them. You can use a tool like Google Search Console or a website crawler like Screaming Frog to find all the pages on your website. Once you have a list of all the pages, you can look for pages that have no inbound links. You can also look for pages that have a high bounce rate or low engagement, as these may be indicators of orphaned pages.
  2. Determine if the pages are necessary: Once you have identified the orphaned pages, you need to determine if they are necessary. Some pages may have been created as part of a previous marketing campaign or as a test page, and may no longer be relevant to your website. If the page is no longer relevant or necessary, it's best to delete it.
  3. Create internal links: if the orphaned page is necessary, the next step is to create internal links to it. This can be done by adding links to the page from other pages on your website. You can add links to related pages, product pages, or your homepage. Internal linking not only helps users find the page but also helps search engines understand the importance of the page.
  4. Create external links: External links to the orphaned page can also help increase its visibility. You can reach out to other websites in your industry and ask them to link to the page. You can also share the page on social media and in email newsletters to drive traffic to it.
  5. Create a sitemap: A sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website, including orphaned pages. Creating a sitemap and submitting it to search engines can help them find and index the page. To make a sitemap, you can utilize programs like XML Sitemap Generator.
  6. Create a 301 redirect: if the orphaned page is no longer necessary and you want to remove it, you should create a 301 redirect to a relevant page. A 301 redirect tells search engines and users that the page has permanently moved to a new URL. This can help preserve any SEO value the page may have had and prevent users from encountering a 404 error.
  7. Monitor the page: Once you have taken steps to fix the orphaned page, it's important to monitor it. Keep an eye on its engagement and bounce rate to ensure that users are finding the page and finding it useful. You can also use tools like Google Analytics to track the page's performance.

In conclusion, orphaned pages on your website can harm your SEO and user experience, so it's important to address them. Identify the pages, determine if they are necessary, and create internal and external links to them. Create a sitemap and consider creating a 301 redirect if the page is no longer necessary. Finally, monitor the page's performance to ensure it meets its intended purpose. By taking these steps, you can ensure that all pages on your website are accessible and contribute to your online presence.

Steps to fix Orphaned Pages
Steps to fix Orphaned Pages

Why Do We Use Orphaned Pages?

However, there are some cases where orphaned pages can be useful for a website.

One reason to use orphaned pages is to create landing pages for specific campaigns or promotions. These pages can be designed to be highly focused on a specific offer or product and can be used in targeted advertising campaigns. Keeping these pages separate from the rest of the website, allows for more control over the messaging and design of the page, which can lead to higher conversion rates.

Another reason to use orphaned pages is for testing and experimentation. By creating isolated pages, website owners and developers can test new design elements, content, and calls to action without affecting the rest of the website. This allows for a more controlled and accurate testing environment, which can lead to better insights and improvements for the website overall.

Additionally, orphaned pages can be used for archiving old content that is no longer relevant or useful for the website's audience. Rather than deleting these pages entirely, they can be kept as orphaned pages for archival purposes. This can be useful for maintaining historical content or for compliance reasons.

However, it is important to note that too many orphaned pages can hurt a website's SEO. Search engines prefer websites that have a clear and organized structure, with all pages linked together logically. Orphaned pages can make it more difficult for search engines to crawl and index a website, which can result in lower search engine rankings.

In conclusion, while orphaned pages can serve useful purposes for a website, they should be used sparingly and with intention. Website owners and developers should consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of creating orphaned pages, and ensure that they do not negatively impact the overall SEO of the website.

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