Some pages on your website just do not rank well — or at all. Sometimes, those pages do not get any traffic even if they contain valuable and well-made content. If this is the case, you may have orphan pages on your site.
Orphan pages cannot be crawled because bots do not know they exist. Pages that are not crawled fail to get indexed, which means they have no chance of ranking on search results.
If the search engine bots are not aware of their existence, then the users do not either. Users can only access such web pages if they have the link to them. And if users cannot find their way to your content, those pages are left to “float” through cyberspace and not serve their purpose.
So what exactly are orphan pages and how do you deal with them?
What are orphan pages?
Orphan pages or orphaned content are pages that aren’t linked to other pages on your website and don’t have links pointing to them.
They can occur intentionally or accidentally. There are times when webmasters create private pages to share with a specific person or this can be a seasonal promotional page. In some cases, orphan pages can be created by accident if a webmaster creates a web design or publishing mistake.
If a page doesn’t have any links to it, crawlers won’t be able to find, crawl, and index it which makes orphan pages bad news for SEO.
The way search engines work when it comes to finding a page is pretty simple. Crawlers or bots detect a link from a page and use it to go to the other page.
Another way is for a crawler to find the URL in your XML sitemap, but this isn’t enough because the page needs other elements to make it stand out and speed up content discovery.
How do you deal with orphaned pages?
Creating high-quality content involves a lot of research and resources. If you’re creating a lot of content, then you would want to make sure that your target readers or audience can access them. However, this isn’t the case most of the time.
Sometimes, content creators, marketers, or SEO specialists tend to overlook building internal links to their pages. That’s OK. Everyone can miss a thing or two when it comes to SEO on-page optimization.
The good thing is that this is fixable.
Below are some tips that you can use to fix orphan pages and release their full potential.
- Find orphaned pages on your website or those with no incoming links to them
- Analyze all the audited orphaned pages
- Fix the orphaned pages found
1. Find orphaned pages on your website
To fix your orphaned pages, locate them first. You’ll need a site crawler to help you find those linkless pages in your site.
You can use a number of web crawlers to detect orphaned pages. Two of the most recommended by SEO professionals are:
- Screaming Frog
- Yoast (for WordPress)
If you have a WordPress website, then Yoast is an excellent tool since it has a feature that can arrange pages depending on how many internal links they have in the post and how many internal links they have from that post.
In the image above, the blue box is emphasizing the number of pages linking to the particular post.
Orphan posts typically have zero links to them. With this feature, you can immediately take the necessary steps to fix that issue. Aim to have more than one article linking to that particular post to strengthen its link value.
2. Analyze all the audited orphaned pages
Once you have detected the orphaned pages, create a list using your preferred sheet and audit which ones are important and which ones don’t serve any purpose. The important pages are the ones driving traffic, sales, or referrals.
Check if they have quality backlinks as well or links that are coming from third-party websites. Use Google Analytics to help you look into the data and performance of a page.
Make sure that you’re fixing orphaned pages that are important to your website and then removing or revamping content that doesn’t have any value.
3. Fix the orphaned pages found
The way to fix an orphaned page is to put that link into your other pages and make sure that they have related content.
It’s important that the content you’re planning to link it to is related to any section of the page because Google has improved its understanding of the intent and context of the page. This rings true with anchor texts as well or the text that you use to attach the link to.
Google’s advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities mean that its algorithm understands even the most complex human expression. Although not yet perfect, it can comprehend syntactic rules, semantic relationships, slang, abbreviations, quotes, and intent.
So you can’t just link random pages to one another.
It can be tempting to link a page with a high link value or link juice to a new page for it to rank. But if they have nothing to do with each other, this won’t help your cause. After all, link juice is just one of over 200 Webmaster Guidelines that Google uses to determine the value and ranking capacity of a page.
One way to know which page you should link to the orphan page is to figure out which posts contain content that is related to the content on your orphan page.
For example, if your orphan page is talking about “vegan skincare products,” find all content on your website that contains those words or words that relate to it.
Do this by going to Google Search and typing the following:
“Keyphrase” + nameofwebsite.com
Google is then going to show you all the articles on your site that have mentioned the keyphrase you’re looking for.
Let’s try looking for articles talking about “vegan skincare products” on the women’s health magazine website.
Ideally, you’re going to see results that are good to use as articles to link back to your orphaned page.
Once you have decided on the articles, list and edit them. Find a page where it makes sense to insert the words or link that you want to add. Insert the link and you now have a link pointing back to your orphaned post.
Why are orphan pages a problem?
When you build a page you want search engines to crawl it so that they can bring it up on search results when users look for content that is related to your page. If search engines can’t find pages through links, it will go unindexed, which means little to no traffic on that page.
Orphan pages are also rarely stumbled upon by visitors who don’t know the exact link address of the page. They could visit or look for it via sitemap, but a user exerting that much effort in finding a page doesn’t always happen.
It’s not enough to have these pages listed on your XML sitemap.
Having internal links will help add value to the page because the link juice will boost the page’s value. Link juice is what is used to describe the power or value that a backlink or internal link can pass from one page to another, which then strengthens the page that a high-value link is connected to.
Since orphaned pages don’t have any links in them, no link juice can be passed. So there is less ranking potential.
An orphan page is a big problem for SEO because:
- Prevents a page from ranking – Even with high-quality content, an orphan page will not organically rank well on search results without links. Organic means unpaid traffic, unlike paid ads where you pay Google Ads to rank a page and charges, will be made per click.
- Lowers the traffic volume – As the page won’t be visible, there will be fewer readers or visitors landing on it.
- Duplicate pages – low-value orphan pages tend to be duplicate content or another version of existing content that‘s already on your website. This is a problem because this can lead to crawl waste as crawlers could crawl these pages instead of the original content.
Why is it important to find orphaned pages?
Your goal is to increase the visibility and rankings of your pages on search results, which won’t happen with orphaned pages.
Finding orphan pages is important when diagnosing any site architecture issues because it will show you underperforming pages without internal links.
Users will find it hard to find a page that isn’t connected or linked to other pages on your site. On top of that, there will be a poor distribution of link juice which will affect the orphaned page’s ability to rank.
Orphaned pages no longer serve any purpose. These can be temporary pages like summer sales or expired promotional pages. If users somehow find these pages, their experience is diminished because the content has no value for them.
Here are some questions to help you evaluate the importance of a particular orphan page:
- Is it evergreen content or content that will be relevant for a long time? Evergreen content is useful because users will find value in them for years to come and they are content that you wouldn’t need to constantly worry about. You can build its link value, continue to update it, and use it to serve as a page that can attract traffic.
- Is it a page that drives traffic to your site? If it is, find out what pages you can add it to. Otherwise, it would be better to remove it.
- Where does the page exist in your website’s structure? Evaluating where an orphaned page falls in your website architecture is important because it will allow you to put it in the right section and optimize it.
- Is the page optimized and can it be optimized? If yes, then you can build the page up and strengthen it so that you can use it as a page that other pages can link from.
- Does the page have a healthy backlink history? Backlinks or links from third-party sites are important as well as they tell search engines that third-party sites find your resources valuable. Make sure to preserve pages that have a healthy backlink history, especially if they’re evergreen content.
The value of an effective internal linking strategy
The goal of fixing an orphan page is not just to make the page visible on search results, but to create a more cohesive and organized site structure. You want all of your pages and articles to be mapped out and connected to each other in a way that makes sense for your site, users, and Google.
This is where a good internal linking strategy and habit comes in.
Internal linking is when you link a page on your website to another page on the same site. It’s an effective strategy that uses content from your own site to increase the value of other pages on your site.
Not only does internal linking make pages more visible, but the link juice coming from a powerful page can influence the ranking capabilities of a weaker page.
The right internal linking strategy allows you to properly group and categorize content according to their topics. This tactic gives Google a better idea of your website structure. A smart internal linking strategy also boosts the link value of an important page rather than having a less relevant page accidentally rank.
Internal Linking: How to Do it Right
- Audit the pages on your website
To formulate an effective internal linking strategy, you must know what pages you have on your website. This way, you can evaluate which pages are valuable and which ones don’t have much value.
To audit all the pages on your website, use tools like Google Analytics.
Once you get into the Google Analytics dashboard, go to the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Then, export to CSV or Google Sheets.
Set the dates you want to take into account and that the page shows all the rows containing the page URL before you export to make sure that all your site pages are included.
You can then study the data which includes pageviews, clicks, impressions, bounce rate, and exit rate, among others, to determine which pages are valuable.
- Build an internal linking hierarchy
Not all pages are the same when it comes to internal linking. Analyze all of your audited pages and create an internal linking hierarchy that you can share with your team.
- Determine your most important pages
Prioritize pages that will bring your website more conversion. For example, you want a product page to rank higher than a particular blog post. What you need to do is drop a link of that product page on more pages on your site.
Think of this as a promotional tactic as users with no intention of going to that particular product page may stumble upon that link and click it which may then compel them to buy the product.
- Choose an effective anchor text
Since search engines now have an advanced understanding of the human language, they can understand how an anchor text relates to the actual content of a page and the pages that are linked to it.
Craft your anchor texts to be as descriptive and as natural sounding as possible.
Here are some examples:
- Some fat-free strawberry yogurts can cause…
- A recent study on the effects of consuming chia seeds every day suggests that…
- Choose only relevant links
Google has never indicated the number of links a webpage should have to be considered “good.” It used to be about 100 links per post or page, but they have stated that there’s no limit anymore.
Never stuff your page with links. Unnatural links aren’t going to do your page any good as Google’s Penguin algorithm can detect spammy links.
- Make sure that you’re always linking to new pages or most updated posts
We have talked about link juice in this article and how it passes from a high-value page to a weaker page. This makes internal linking an effective way to promote new pages or recent posts, which also helps old content or orphaned pages rank.
If you have a new article published, always update your old posts so that they’re also linking to that page.
- Remove or fix duplicate links
Duplicate linking occurs when a page has more than one link using the same URL in it. This isn’t a good practice and will hurt your ranking efforts. Similar to keyword stuffing, Google will see similar links as irrelevant which can garner you a penalty from Google.
There are instances where duplicate links are unavoidable. Some examples include multiple links on a page connecting it to the homepage or your main blog page, as these are unavoidable, they can be an exemption.
Audit Your Website for Orphan Pages
Nobody wants an orphan page on their website. In some cases, orphan pages become missed opportunities that can help you engage and convert customers. The important thing is to detect these orphan pages and see which ones are useful for you and which ones should be removed.
The good news is that you can stop losing traffic, revenue, and clicks because orphaned pages can be fixed. Following the tips above can help guide you through the process.
Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com, a global SEO Packages and digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies and their local clients all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).