Orphan pages are web pages that do not have any hyperlinks pointing to them. They exist on your website, but no human reader or bot has paid them any attention. Because housing orphan web pages can weaken your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, you need to identify where they are and resolve them immediately.
In this article, we discuss what they are, what causes orphaned pages, and how to fix the most common orphan issues.
What is an Orphan Page?
An orphan page is a page without any links from anywhere on your website. The absence of links means that no visitor or site crawler can access it, too.
Search engine crawlers typically find pages either by following a link from another page or by seeing their URLs listed in your sitemap. If your page does not show up through these channels, regardless of how optimized the content is, then it’s a wasted ranking opportunity.
Is Having an Orphan Page Bad?
Orphan pages lead to a frustrating user experience and poor crawl results. Without an identity or a sense of how the page fits into the entirety of your site, no authority is passed, and there’s no way for search engines to evaluate its relevance.
Why is an Orphan Page a Problem for SEO?
Orphan pages are serious SEO problems because they lead to crawl wastage, poor traffic, and low to nonexistent PageRank.
When low-quality pages eat up a large chunk of your crawl budget, you end up spending more resources just to get Google to reach the pages that are actually important. In addition, Google’s crawl rate tends to slow down if it doesn’t find natural connections between the pages on your website. That said, even if you have awesome content, it won’t be a ranking factor.
Orphan Page vs. Dead-End Page
Orphan pages and dead-end pages are usually thought of as one and the same. They are not.
Orphan pages are those that aren’t linked FROM another page on the same site, whereas dead-end pages are those that do not link TO any other page on the site. The effect on UX and Googlebot is the same: there’s nowhere to go, no link equity is passed, and the page stays invisible. That said, if you want to know how to make an orphan page, it’s simple: create a page and forget about it.
How to Find Orphan Pages on Your Site
There are several orphan page tools you can use to identify what’s floating and missing during a site audit.
You can start finding orphan pages through Google Analytics, provided you have it installed. Get the full list of URLs on your website by checking the left sidebar of GA, clicking “Behavior,” selecting “Site Content,” and then “All Pages.” By looking at the “Pageviews” option, you’ll see a list of URLs with the least to the most number of views. The ones at the top will most likely be the orphans.
To use Screaming Frog, be sure that you have both Google Search Console and Google Analytics connected to your account. Under the “General” tab of the API, see that “Crawl New URLs Discovered in Google Analytics” is checked. When that’s settled, go to “Spider,” check “Crawl Linked XML Sitemaps,” tick “Crawl These Sitemaps,” then enter your sitemap’s URL. When the crawl log analysis comes out, you will have all the Orphan URLs on your site.
You can find orphan pages through SEMRush’s Site Audit feature. Once you have set up SEMRush to crawl your website, go to “Site Audit,” then “Issues.” Under “Notices,” check to see if the orphaned page report is enabled. The system will then generate data from Google Analytics. After a few minutes, refresh your browser, and you will see your orphaned pages under “Notices”>”Orphaned Pages (Google Analytics).”
How to Fix Orphan Page Issues
The most basic SEO tip for ranking is this: if a page does not show up on your sitemap, it can’t be indexed by Google. Here are the common orphan page issues and how to fix them.
Page doesn’t exist but another site is linking to it
An external link is linking to a page on your site that you have already redirected or removed. There’s no other way to fix this but to reach out to the external site’s owner and ask them to update their link to your new location.
Page generates non-200 status codes
Pages that return with 4xx codes will still be crawled for a time, even after they’ve been corrected. There’s no real need to worry about these, though, as bots will stop crawling these eventually.
Page is abandoned after a site migration
If you have pages abandoned after a migration, the immediate fix would be to redirect old URLs to your new website (provided that the content is similar). Otherwise, such pages should be set to return 410 or 404 status codes until Google stops crawling them.
Syntax errors on a canonical URL or sitemap
If your canonical URL or sitemap is generating an error message, you should contact your web developer right away to identify a solution.
So You Found Your Orphan Pages, What Now?
When you have your list of orphan pages, the next step is to decide what to do with them. Ask yourself these questions.
- Is the page important? If yes, where should it exist in the sitemap? If not, get rid of it.
- Is the page ranking for any keyword/s? If yes, find a place for it on your website. If not, get rid of it.
- Is the page optimized? Does it offer an opportunity to rank if you start fixing links? If yes, keep it and optimize. If not, remove it.
The Bottom Line
Orphan pages are an SEO problem, but the good news is that these issues can be identified and fixed. You can use orphan page checkers and tools to find them or, better yet, tap the expertise of those who specialize in handling orphan pages and technical SEO errors and blockers.
Contact Markitors to learn more about how we can assist your small business in handling orphan pages and improving your search engine ranking.