What are Orphan Pages, and How Do They Impact SEO
Find out what orphan pages are, how to find them and what to do with them to improve your SEO performance in this post.
Have you ever encountered a page on your website that doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere? Or a page you can’t seem to find when you search for it? Chances are, your website contains “orphan pages”—pages with no links to them from other pages on your site.
Orphan pages can be a significant detriment to your SEO performance, as they can’t be accessed by search engine crawlers and are not seen by visitors. As such, it’s crucial to identify and fix any orphan pages on your website.
In this blog post, we will discuss what an orphan page is, the common characteristics of orphan pages, the impact of orphan pages on SEO, the most common causes behind orphan pages, and how to find and fix orphan pages.
What are Orphan Pages?
Orphan pages are web pages that aren’t linked to any other page on the website and are essentially isolated from the rest of the website. Orphan pages can’t be reached through other pages on the site; however, users can access them directly via the page’s URL.
They can be a major issue for businesses since orphan pages can’t be found through navigational means, which leads to poor user experience and lower search engine rankings. Therefore, it’s essential to identify and fix orphan pages to provide a better user experience and get the most out of your B2B SEO efforts.
However, not all orphan pages are bad. Some orphan pages may be intentional, like event pages, promotional landing pages, exclusive discount pages, or others that you don’t want to be a part of the typical customer’s journey.
Common Characteristics of Orphan Pages
An orphan page has no internal links.
Orphan pages don’t have any inbound links pointing to them. You wouldn’t be able to access these web pages through the typical navigation routes since they aren’t a part of your website’s internal link structure. The only way to access orphan pages is to enter the URL into your browser directly.
Internal linking is critical for SEO since it creates a hierarchy of web pages on a website. Without a proper internal linking structure, search engine crawlers and people alike won’t be able to find your web page. This will have a significant impact on your SERPs ranking.
Other than not having any inbound links, orphan pages may also not be a part of the website’s sitemap. Search engines like Google use sitemaps to identify web pages that exist on a website.
When web pages are missing from the sitemap of a website, they probably wouldn’t be crawled and indexed, reducing their chances of appearing on search engine results.
Lastly, since people can’t navigate to orphan pages from other pages on the website, it leads to a poor user experience which has a direct impact on the site’s SERPs ranking.
An orphan page is a live page
One of the most common characteristics of orphan pages is that while people can’t access them from the website’s navigation, they are still live and can be accessed directly by typing in the URL.
Orphan pages may still show up on search engine results, but they might be overlooked by users since they don’t seem to be a part of the main website.
This can be an issue since these pages may contain information or resources that are valuable to users and should be easily accessible. Or maybe they’re outdated pages that are no longer useful or necessary. They may have been created for an event, promotion, or product launch that was eventually removed or changed.
Regardless of the reason why these orphan pages were created, one common characteristic of an orphan page is that it’s still active.
A page may be an orphan even if it’s indexed
Web pages can be categorized as orphan pages even if they are indexed by search engines. If another website links to an orphan page or if it’s included within your sitemap, an orphan page can be indexed by search engines.
However, even if a web page appears on search results, it is an orphan page if it’s not linked to any other web pages on the main website. This could happen due to an outdated linking structure or simply because the web page has been forgotten.
Impact of Orphan Pages on SEO
Orphan pages have a negative impact on your SEO. Since orphan pages aren’t linked to any other web pages on your site, there is a high probability that they will be lost in the depths of your website. It’ll be improbable for them to be found by search engine crawlers.
Here are some major ways orphan pages can impact your website’s SEO:
- Poor performance. Orphan pages are a huge reason why websites don’t rank well or receive the organic traffic they deserve. When search engine bots crawl a website, they need a clear navigation path from your main webpage to your other pages. Orphan pages confuse search engine bots. Without any inbound links, your orphan pages are essentially “lost” within the search engine’s index and don’t get the same visibility as web pages with a proper internal linking structure. This results in lower rankings, fewer visits, decreased website traffic, lower click-through rate, and overall visibility.
- Crawl Budget. Another key SEO issue with orphan pages is that they can take up a significant portion of your crawl budget. Crawl budget is the time and resources search engines allocate to crawl and index a particular website. If a substantial amount of your crawl budget is spent on web pages that can’t be found, it isn’t being used significantly, leaving fewer resources for web pages that may be more important.
- Crawl Rate. Orphan pages also affect Google’s crawl rate as it takes significantly longer to crawl web pages that can’t be found easily. This may increase website load times, which will increase the impact it has on your SEO.
- User Experience. Orphan pages can hurt your user experience. Since they typically have slow load times and fail to provide users with a clear idea about what they’re trying to achieve, they generally don’t perform well from a user experience standpoint. Orphan pages can also lead to broken link errors that create a negative user experience. This can be incredibly jarring and may lead to higher bounce rates, lower average session duration, and fewer conversions.
The Most Common Causes Behind Orphan Pages
1. Internal Linking Ignorance
Internal linking is critical for SEO since it helps search engines like Google and Bing discover, crawl, index, and comprehend your site’s content. When internal linking is overlooked, webmasters are essentially disregarding significant sections of the website.
When you restructure your website or move or delete content from your site, it’s vital to update your internal linking structure to ensure that you don’t have any broken links. If not, this can lead to the web page no longer being indexed and may even lead to a 404 error, generating orphan pages.
2. Issues With Website Migration
The second most common reason for orphan pages is problems with website migration. When websites are migrated without proper planning and consideration, there is a high probability of generating orphan pages that are no longer indexed or accessible.
Moving your site from one server to another may lead to issues with links that are still pointing to an older version of the site. To avoid this, it’s critical to update your internal links before migration.
3. Poor Website Management
Poor website management can be another major cause behind orphan pages. If websites aren’t monitored and managed accurately, there is a chance for web pages to be left out of the site’s structure. This will inevitably lead to orphan pages without inbound links, and with incorrect redirects and broken links.
Therefore, it’s vital to periodically audit your site to ensure that everything is in the right place.
SEO audits help to identify any issues with a website’s structure and design that may be preventing it from achieving high rankings. Without regular SEO audits, it’s possible for orphan pages to slip through the cracks and be released into the wild.
4. Site redesigns
When businesses completely revamp the design and layout of their website, there is a possibility for some pages to become orphaned. This is especially common for extremely old web pages that have been removed or replaced over time.
Therefore, when you plan to undergo a website redesign, it’s essential to ensure that the revamped design stays consistent with the proper structure and linking system.
5. Navigation changes
Lastly, poorly planned navigation changes can lead to orphan pages if businesses don’t maintain the appropriate hierarchy. It’s vital to ensure that the site’s navigation is updated correctly and that all the relevant web pages are linked together for visitors to easily find the content they’re looking for.
6. Page Testing.
Page testing is an excellent way for businesses to improve their user experience. However, developers may create unintentional orphan pages when new content is constantly being created and tested on a live website. They may make changes that leave existing pages without links to other web pages.
It’s a good practice to test new page designs and features on a staging website and only publish updates when you are through with the testing phase.
7. Products That Are Out-of-Stock
Lastly, this is majorly for eCommerce websites with a wide range of products. It’s not uncommon for products to go out of stock. Even when the products are removed from the site, the links to these pages may still be a part of the site’s navigation.
Businesses must keep track of the inventory and ensure that all out-of-stock products are appropriately removed from the website, including their associated links.
How To Find Orphan Pages
There are a few different ways to locate orphan pages from your website. We’ll discuss how you can use Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and site auditing tools like Screaming Frog to do it.
Use Google Analytics (GA4) to find Orphan Pages
Google Analytics is a great tool to help identify orphan pages. Here’s how you can find and remove them:
1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and navigate to the “Reports” section.
2. Select “Engagement” from the Lifecycle drop-down menu. Then go to “Pages and Screens” to see all the pages on your website and their metrics.
3. Edit the date, and navigate to the pages that have the least amount of views. These are typically your “orphan pages” – pages that are not linked to from any other page on your website.
4. Now that you’ve identified the orphan pages, you can decide what to do with them. You can either delete the pages entirely or redirect them to a relevant page on your website.
By using Google Analytics to find and remove orphan pages, you can improve your website’s performance and boost your organic search rankings. This can help increase the visibility of your website and attract more visitors.
Use Google Search Console to find Orphan Pages
- Log into your Google Search Console (GSC) account and select the website you want to check.
- Click on the “Crawl” tab from the left-side menu.
- Go to the “Crawl Errors” report to see a list of errors that Google has encountered while crawling your site. This report will give you an overview of URLs that Google has tried to crawl but could not find.
- Look for errors marked under “URL not found (404)”. These are the orphan pages that you’re looking for.
- Select “Fetch as Google” to preview each web page to ensure that they’re orphan pages you don’t need now.
- Depending on the purpose of the web page, you can redirect them to an existing page on your site, delete them from your website, or add them to your internal linking structure.
Use Screaming Frog to find Orphan Pages
Before starting your crawl, there are a few steps to set things up so that Screaming Frog has access to everything it needs.
1. To crawl URLs that are only discoverable under the XML Sitemap, click on “Crawl Linked XML Sitemaps” under “Configuration > Spider > Crawl.”
2. Next, integrate your Google Analytics to Screaming Frog under “Configuration > API Access.”
3. Navigate to the “General” tab of the Google Analytics configuration window, which can be found under “Configuration > API Access > Google Analytics.”
4. Enable “Crawl New URLs Discovered In Google Analytics”
5. Similarly, connect your Google Search Console with Screaming Frog under “Configuration > API Access.”
6. Enable “Crawl New URLs Discovered In Google Search Console” under the “Search Analytics” section of the Google Search Console configuration window. You can find the GSC window via “Configuration > API Access > Google Search Console.”
7. The next step is to start the crawl.
8. Once the crawling is complete, navigate to “Reports” and select “Orphan Pages”.
9. Export the file as a CSV or Google Sheets
10. Now you have a list of all the orphan pages that Screaming Frog can pull from your website!
How To Fix Orphan Pages
1. Identity Orphan Pages
We’ve already discussed different ways to identify orphan pages on your website using GA4, Search Console, and crawling tools like Screaming Frog.
After identifying orphan pages, the next step is understanding why they aren’t linked to any other pages on your site. If you discover that the web pages are irrelevant or outdated, the best option is to delete them. However, if the orphan pages are essential for your site, ensure that the page is linked correctly.
One of the easiest ways to fix orphan pages is to simply link them from other web pages on your site. You can use plugins like Yoast SEO or do this manually by leveraging the Google Search Console to optimize your internal linking. You can also use tools like Broken Link Checker to spot broken links on your site.
You can create a breadcrumb navigation system to link orphan pages to your site. This will make it easier for visitors to navigate from one web page to another.
2. Utilize a sitemap.
XML sitemaps are an excellent way to make it easier for search engine crawlers to discover and index your websites. If you don’t already have a sitemap, create and submit one to Google Webmaster Tools.
3. Redirect orphaned pages.
If you find orphan pages that aren’t useful or relevant any longer, you can create a 301 redirect to other pages that are valuable to your site. This will ensure that any visitors or search engine crawlers who land on the orphan page are redirected to the correct page, preventing any potential loss of customers or search engine rankings. It will also prevent search engines from indexing them and help you avoid SEO penalties.
However, if you have multiple redirects that are pointing to the same web page, it may cause issues for search engine crawlers while they’re trying to index the page.
Therefore, eliminate redirect chains that aren’t needed to ensure the search engines can efficiently crawl your site.
Orphan pages have a significant impact on SEO and should be swiftly dealt with to ensure you get the most out of your SEO efforts.
In this blog, we’ve outlined how orphan pages affect user experience and search engine rankings and discussed the common characteristics and key causes behind orphan pages. You now know precisely how you can identify orphan pages and the steps you can take to deal with them.