The term “zombie pages” is not some clever acronym or some quirky name given to something that doesn’t work. Zombie pages are a bit of a threat for every website, and their name describes their function – or lack thereof – perfectly.
But what are they, exactly?
The best way for me to answer that question would be a visual representation. So, let’s assume that you hop on Google and that you search for your indexed pages:
If that number at the bottom seems to be too high, maybe you’re in for a small surprise that could harm your SEO efforts. Luckily, this is not uncommon, as more than most websites have this “too high a number” of indexed pages.
Also known as zombie pages, these extra ones serve no purpose and are “living dead pages” that nobody is searching for, and have no content that could prove to be useful or engaging. This results in nobody viewing these pages, granting them the title of “Dead”, but it’s not like they’re empty and just sitting there, making them at least a little “Alive”.
Does this mean that you can’t use zombie pages in your favor? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean that you can rely on zombie pages to rank for specific keywords? Not likely, as this plan could very well backfire.
Since there is no user intent behind these pages, there is zero value. Zero value brings useless content, and useless content gives no useful information to the users nor valuable interactions to the website itself.
So, zombie pages are just sitting there, harming nobody. Right? Well, not quite. Since most visitors won’t see any value in those pages – evident or otherwise – they’ll bounce off, which can affect your SEO efforts and, ultimately, your growth marketing strategy as a whole.
You see, Google knows when your content doesn’t perform well, and Google doesn’t fancy thin content.
But what can you do with zombie pages, exactly? Can you optimize them? Do you need to straight-up dump them?
Well… Maybe you need to identify them first.
Ways to Identify a Zombie Page
It wouldn’t be prudent to continue with telling you how to improve or destroy your zombie pages to boost your SEO and growth marketing efforts as a whole without telling you all about the different types of zombie pages first.
Even more so, without telling you how to identify them before making important decisions. And since a page that is void of value and/or content is not the only type of zombie page around, let’s see what other kinds we’ve got.
Explaining All the Types of Zombie Pages
There are four different types of zombie pages:
- The ones with low-quality or thin content
- The ones with no SEO
- Those that are non-indexed or non-responsive
- The orphan and annex pages
These are the pages for which you should be looking if you want a foolproof SEO strategy. Now, for some more detail.
Pages With Low Quality or Thin Content
The pages that haven’t been optimized in terms of cohesion, coherence, have little to no value, and aren’t aligned with your content strategy as a whole are the ones you need to tackle first.
The internet is a vast space, sure, but it’s an overly crowded one. There is no business or service in the world that doesn’t have a web page. And all of these services compete for a place on the first page of SERPs.
This is where quality beats quantity. Ending up on the first page of any keyword or search query is very difficult.
What is more, every search engine competes for the attention of the users. The one that can deliver the best results wins.
If you put two and two together, you’ll see that content that is thin and of low-quality can only weigh down your efforts.
Aim for the pages with content of 300 words or less, pages that don’t answer a question or help users in any way, and, of course, pages that you haven’t updated for a long, long time.
The Ones With No SEO
Bad content doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of SEO and vice-versa. A copywriter or a marketer can write content that will rank for a specific keyword but won’t serve any other purpose down the line.
On the other hand, they can also come up with an interesting page that satisfies the user’s intent but won’t work from an SEO perspective.
These zombie pages don’t satisfy some of the core SEO criteria:
- They lack headlines and H tags (H1, H2, etc.)
- The page title is too long or not optimized for keywords
- The content itself isn’t optimized for keywords
- There is no alt text
SEO is the tactic all marketers use to perform as well as possible and have a great ranking on SERPs.
Whether your content is useful or informative or not, SERPs need more than merely “good content”, making pages that have no SEO become zombie pages.
Non-Indexed or Non-Responsive Pages
As we all know, Google indexes your website’s content and pages. When Google’s engines crawl your website, they can determine how long it takes for them to do so per page.
Non-indexed pages are those that slow these engines down.
If you want to be making money through your blog or website, you need pages that will make Google’s crawlers get in and out quickly. If a machine doesn’t like them enough to index them, guess what users will do.
That’s right, bounce away from those pages. This means that Google won’t rank them, as they’re of zero use. Therefore, your website or blog will receive little to no traffic from those.
The same can be said for non-responsive pages. Pages that take too long to load or are not optimized for mobile won’t end up doing your website any favors. Search engines consider those to be zombie pages as well, as the bad User Experience (UX) they can cause won’t sit well with them.
Orphan and Annex Pages
Orphan zombie pages… That sounds ominous!
An orphan page is a page with parentage that can’t be determined by crawlers. Simply put, we can’t understand how this page came to exist, as there is not an internal link that leads to it. Obviously, there is little to no chance for users to access these pages if there is no link.
And if a user doesn’t visit a page, it might as well cease to exist.
Now, annex pages are a little different – or rather, the exact opposite. Annex pages are the pages that contain information on GDPR, the brand’s or company’s preferred contact methods, and so on. Just imagine anything one would see at the bottom of the page.
I know what you’re thinking. These pages are of no interest to the user. However, annex pages show that a website – and therefore, the information it carries – is trustworthy. No annex pages means no legal information, and no legal information about a site means poor rankings.
Facebook Zombie Pages: A Special Category
Yes, there are social media zombie pages as well, and they’re every bit as dangerous as the regular ones. A Facebook zombie page is what one would call an unofficial business page.
They’re usually created automatically by Facebook when a person wants to review your brand or product or check-in to your location, but there is no official page, to begin with.
Facebook’s zombie pages look harmless – too harmless. Well, don’t be fooled, as they’re a menace.
- They’re unofficial – This is the first thing you need to remember about a Facebook zombie page. And anything unofficial can harm you down the line, as you don’t exactly control it. Let’s assume that your audience finds that zombie page and starts tagging it and using it. Where does all that engagement go? Where does all the conversion from that engagement go? Not somewhere beneficial for you, that’s for sure.
- They’re off-brand – Imagine you’ve got a product with your logo on it, but the craftsmanship is just not there, and people are buying it and have this completely wrong perception of your product. That’s what a zombie page on Facebook is. Something that creates a false idea, a page that you can’t control, and, in the end, a page that could be filled with engagement – reviews, questions, and so on – that you won’t be able to use to your benefit.
- What about your website? – Social media marketing is beneficial for several reasons, and brand awareness is the main one. That’s why social media marketing is something every brand needs, and that’s what brings traffic to your website in the end. A zombie page on Facebook won’t do you any favors, as prospects won’t be able – or even willing, in the end – to go to your website, as the page won’t look enticing enough.
How to Find Zombie Pages
Finding whether or not you have zombie pages isn’t too tricky if you’ve got the proper attitude for them.
First of all, you can trust the search:yourwebsitename method. This will show you how many extra pages there are, more or less. If, for example, you’ve had a blog for exactly a year now, and you know that you publish one blog post per week, your posts are no more than 52. Seeing eight result pages would be strange, considering each page contains ten results.
So, you’ve got an extra two pages – six pages of blog posts, and let’s add annex pages as well – that carry zombie pages.
Next in order of business needs to be the trusted Google Search Console. This console carries the tools that help you determine which pages don’t perform as well as they should.
Visit the “performance” tab to see the traffic on each page – you don’t need pages with little to no traffic – or the “excluded” tab to see which pages are unindexed – you don’t need those either.
If an unindexed page has weak content, make sure to go forth with a rewrite. But if there is a technical issue that made Google not index this specific page, you will need to “kill” this page. Especially if it makes your website load slow.
If you’re looking for any Facebook zombie pages, make sure to type your brand’s name on the Google search bar and the word “Facebook” next to it. Works like a charm!
How to Deal With a Zombie Page
There are a couple of ways you can deal with a zombie page and improve your performance and SERP rankings.
When I say “a couple”, please do take it literally. You either improve or kill the zombie pages; there is no way around that.
Zombie pages don’t carry any real value and won’t bring any amount of discernible traffic to your website. Keeping them there without optimizing them won’t do you any real favors.
- Make your zombie pages relevant, useful, and change their content in a way that will, eventually, boost your website as a whole. Creating new types of content, making graphs, and providing insights are good ways to go.
- Create visual content that will be eye-catching and beneficial. Make sure it’s responsive and can be viewed on all screen types. You wouldn’t want people to bounce off of your spanking new and improved ex-zombie page.
- Optimize for keywords and make sure to link them to relevant content on your website that gets a lot of traffic. It could be a video, a blog post, or a product page. So long as it’s contextually relevant, it will provide your smaller pages with tremendous value, and search engines will consider this an authority page.
- Is it on Facebook? If so, you can claim it by clicking on the “Is this your business?” button at the top right-hand side, or you can merge it with your already existing page.
Now, let’s assume that we cannot hold on to those pages. Their content is sub-par, they won’t load, and the way they visually communicate the brand’s information, mission statement, or identity isn’t that great.
These need to be deleted. Hands down.
However, you shouldn’t go about that without being absolutely sure that it’s what will benefit you. And don’t think that your pages – even the zombie ones – are a “one size fits all” type of case. It’s best if you view them one by one and make decisions for each one separately.
If you think that deleting all the pages that seem to have zero interest and even less traffic, by all means, do it. Fewer pages mean fewer chances of failure.
So long as they don’t carry important, specific data, of course. Such pages are the annex pages mentioned above, pages with essential data that help users navigate your website, even though they may be of no interest, and so on.
Zombie pages with zero conversion need to go. Zombie pages with some conversion need to be updated. And annex pages are not zombie pages.
This may sound like too much trouble to go through, especially if they offer just the benefit of SEO and better ranking on SERPs, right?
Not exactly. There are plenty of benefits that come with hunting down and improving or killing off your zombie pages. Let’s talk about those now, shall we?
Why Go Through All the Trouble?
We already talk about how Google and other search engines can harm your rankings if you’ve got zombie pages lurking around in your website.
Search engines don’t take individual pages into account when calculating a website’s positioning. Instead, this score is calculated as a whole, meaning that zombie pages harm your website overall. Fewer zombie pages are equal to a better ranking.
But what other benefits can there be?
- Better UX. The users won’t bounce as quickly, won’t get bored by thin content, and won’t find something that isn’t conversion-worthy. Remember, you’re on the internet, a space where everyone competes for the users’ attention. If your content is top-notch, you’re bound to stand out and beat competitors in your niche.
- Better indexing. Fewer zombie pages means better indexing. Search engines and their crawlers will manage to understand your content better and crawl your website’s pages more quickly if they’re not that many, to begin with.
Zombie pages that keep on existing are the best way to make your metrics plummet. I don’t think this is something anyone would want. This is why “setting them and forgetting them” is the worst thing you could do in that case.
Perhaps Google won’t mind pages that people bounce away from, pages that perform poorly, even pages with no content, or unresponsive pages, right away. But Google, and all search engines for that matter, will mind eventually.
The poor performance of those pages will worsen your site’s rankings as a whole, harming your SEO for more or less no reason.
Make sure to get rid of 404 pages, improve the content on pages that still get some visitors, and use internal linking wherever possible. And if nothing else works, just kill all zombie pages that “just exist” rather than do something useful for your blog, company, and, in the end, the holy grail of metrics: Conversion.
At best, resolving the zombie pages issue will give you better SERP rankings and will boost your SEO efforts as a whole, giving you more visibility and interactions.
At worst, it won’t make any difference. At best, it will improve the overall quality and ranking of your website. The faster those little crawlers go from one side of your website to another, the better!
Téa Liarokapi is a content writer working for the email marketing software company Moosend and an obsessive writer in general. In her free time, she tries to find new ways to stuff more books in her bookcase and content ideas-and cats-to play with.