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What Are Orphan Pages And How to Find Them?

What Are Orphan Pages And How to Find Them

If you’ve been working in the digital marketing industry, chances are you’ve heard about the term “orphan pages”.

But what does it mean to refer to one of your pages as an orphan?

The answer is simple enough, yet ignites thoughts about the importance of internal linking.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What Are Orphan Pages?

Orphan pages are ones that have no other pages linking to them. This makes these pages unreachable unless you directly enter the URL.

It’s not only humans that cannot reach your page, but also crawlers, which means such pages are often not indexed, since crawlers cannot find a page, if it’s not linked to other pages.

Now the question is, why exactly do orphan pages affect your website negatively?

Why Are Orphan Pages Bad?

Orphan pages are considered to have a hugely negative impact on your general SEO, since they contribute to low traffic and rankings, and are a waste of crawl budget.

  • Low traffic and rankings. You may have written great content, but an orphan page usually gets very little organic traffic and performs poorly on search engine result pages.
  • Waste of crawl budget. Orphan pages are stealing precious crawl budget, due to the fact that Googlebot is spending time trying to find these pages, instead of crawling the more important pages you have on your website.

Also, consider that orphan pages are often left unindexed, leaving them unavailable in search results. However, crawl bots will continue to try to index them, without being able to do so. It’s like having a door, which leads to a wall. You open the door only to see it goes nowhere, but you continue opening the door every day, just to realize, once more, it serves no purpose.

In a nutshell: are orphan pages bad for SEO? Yes, they are, because they do not bring much, if any, traffic to your website, and they are generally not discoverable in organic search results.

How to Identify Orphan Pages?

There are a couple of ways you can choose to identify orphan pages on your website. Let’s take a look.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console

Google Analytics (GA) has the power to track all pages on your websites, regardless of their crawlability. GA can provide information for every page that has at least one view, thus allowing you to find orphan pages.

Here’s the process for Google Analytics.

  1. In GA, go to Behavior →Site Content →All Pages.
  2. Adjust the date range to as far back as possible.
  3. Export the list of URLs.
  4. Upload the list to a website crawling tool and run a crawl.
  5. Once the crawl is complete, check your unique internal links.
  6. Re-run the crawl without Google Analytics. If a URL shows up in the GA export, but not as a unique link, then it’s an orphan.

Here’s the process for Google Search Console.

  1. In GSC, go to Performance →Pages.
  2. Include Impressions in the data.
  3. Adjust the date range to as far back as possible.
  4. Export the list of URLs.
  5. Upload the list to a website crawling tool and run a crawl.
  6. Once the crawl is complete, check your unique internal links.
  7. Re-run the crawl without Google Search Console. If a URL shows up in the GSC export, but not as a unique link, then it’s an orphan.

Alternatively, you can use a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to help you find orphan pages easier. Furthermore, if your website is on WordPress, you can download plugins that can aid you to track your internal links.

How to Fix Orphan Pages?

You’ve found the orphan pages on your site, now the question is how to fix them, and should you fix them, at all?

When dealing with orphan pages, there are usually two paths you can follow.

  1. The page is unnecessary.
  2. The page has value.

In the first case, for one reason or another, you do not want the page to exist anymore. The easiest way to fix these unwanted orphan pages is to permanently redirect the URL to another page.

Of course, it’s a good idea to set the redirect to a page that is relevant to the orphan one. It would be a bad user experience to redirect a page about SEO to a new page, for example, about rapid application development.

The latter scenario is when the orphan page brings some kind of value to your website. It could be ranking keywords or great content, etc. It’s actually quite easy to fix the issue. Simply, place relevant internal links from another page on your website to your orphan page.

You can accomplish the same result if an external website links towards your orphan page, but that’s harder to achieve, as it requires interference from people outside your organization.

Internal Linking: How to Avoid Orphan Pages?

To begin with, avoiding orphan pages is the best way to go. In order to do so, you need to know and follow the internal linking best practices.

Internal linking best practices

1. Link to Relevant Pages

When writing new content, it’s always beneficial to think about relevant pages you can link to. It’s easier when you’ve already written tons of content yourself, and you know what you have, but that’s not always the case.

Still, there are ways to find out if you have contextual articles, without knowing all your content by heart.

The first one is to open the sitemap of your website, and then press CTRL+f to find the relevant keywords you’re looking for in the URLs.

Another option is to go to Google, and perform a site search like this – site: website.com + keyword. For example, site: devrix.com + SEO, and behold, all the results that feature SEO:

Link to Relevant Pages

2. Use rel=follow Links

Always make sure that your links are marked with a rel=follow tag, except for when you don’t want the link to be followed, of course. Sometimes, all your links are automatically tagged as ‘nofollow’, so be sure to double-check before you publish.

Following tags on links ensures that authority flows freely across your pages and that no pages are left orphaned.

3. Choose Relevant Anchor Texts

The anchor text is the text you use to place the link from one page to another. It’s a good practice to use keywords as anchor texts, however, avoid stuffing keywords for the sake of it, instead try to vary your anchor text whenever possible.

This helps search engines understand the contextual link between articles, and it also gives readers a clear direction where that link will take them.

However, be sure to avoid using the same anchor text in two different articles, as it may lead to the confusion of the crawlers who might think that both pages contain the same information.

4. Place a Few Internal Links on Every Page

Even though there’s no exact rule on what the number of links should be; as a general rule of thumb, try to include at least a few internal links on every page, or article.

Moreover, try to include internal links that naturally seem to be part of the text. Remember to place no more than one link for every 100 words.

5. Link High-Authority Pages to Newer Ones

A good way to ensure you avoid orphan pages is to link pages with high authority to newer ones you publish. This will bring more link juice to your new pages and improve your rankings.

Link authority is sent when you link to another page on your site. So, it makes sense you would like to boost a newer post by linking an established, authoritative post to it.

6. Internal Linking Should Go Deeper

One common mistake is to always direct internal links towards the home page of your website. Your home page will already have a lot of links coming its way.

The idea is to look deeper, as you’re bound to find other pages that could benefit from a link, instead of link spamming your Home or Contact Us pages.

Conclusion

Orphan pages are bad for SEO, bad for users, and bad for traffic. You need to avoid them in all cases, which you can do by following the best practices for internal linking.

Remember to never leave a page or post on your website without at least one or two internal links. Now go, check out whether your website has any orphan pages, and deal with them accordingly.

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