An orphan page is a web page with no inbound links from other pages on your website.
This can be a big problem for SEO.
Because there are no internal links for crawlers to follow, orphan pages are rarely indexed by search engines.
That means no ranking and no organic traffic.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What orphan pages are
- How they can hurt your SEO
- How to find and fix them
What Is an Orphan Page?
An orphan page is a page on a website that has no internal links pointing to it. It’s a solitary page disconnected from the rest of the website’s internal linking structure.
So, how do these orphan pages come into existence?
It usually happens when a website undergoes a redesign.
Pages may get moved, renamed, or deleted without updating the internal links.
As a result, some pages can become isolated and lose their connection to other web pages.
Why Are Orphan Pages an SEO Issue?
Orphan pages can be problematic for a few reasons.
Search engine crawlers rely on internal links to explore websites. These links allow Googlebot to crawl from one page to another.
Here’s how the process is described in the Google Help Center:
Without internal links, Google can struggle to discover orphaned pages.
That means the page won’t be indexed in search engine results.
No indexing = no organic traffic.
Orphan pages can contain valuable content that deserves to be seen by your audience.
But with no internal links and no search ranking, the only way for anyone to find the page is to type in the exact URL.
That limits page visibility.
Your valuable content will be overlooked.
Internal links play a crucial role in distributing link equity across your website.
When a high authority page links to another page, it passes on a portion of its influence. This boosts the perceived importance and relevance of the receiving page.
Orphan pages miss out on this flow of authority.
Orphan pages don’t perform well even if they are found and indexed by search engines. Links convey authority, relevance, and quality to search engines. Without this, pages will have low page authority and will be difficult to rank well.
— Shadrack Mutuku (@Itsshadrack_) February 16, 2023
As a result, search engines usually perceive orphan pages as less significant. This lowers the chance of the page ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Wasted Crawl Budget
Orphan pages can have an impact on crawl budget.
Crawl budget refers to the resources search engine bots are willing to use to crawl a website within a given timeframe.
If a page is isolated without any inbound links, Googlebot needs to spend more time and resources crawling the page.
A Botify study found that orphan pages steal 26% of Google’s crawl resources:
Googlebot might spend time crawling orphan pages instead of the other pages on your website.
That can result in wasted crawl budget and missed opportunities for ranking.
Check out our crawl budget guide to learn more ways to maximize the time Google spends crawling your website.
How Do You Find Orphan Pages On Your Website?
Finding orphan pages is an important task for technical SEO.
You need to compare the URLs Google can find with the pages on your site that visitors can access.
It might sound very technical, but it’s pretty easy to do with the right tools.
Screaming Frog Spider
The first method is to use the Screaming Frog Spider.
We’ve mentioned this tool lots of times before on the FATJOE blog. It’s super helpful for technical SEO tasks.
You can discover more tools to make your life as an SEO easier in our ultimate list of free and paid SEO tools.
Open Screaming Frog and go to “Configure Spider.”
First, you need to add the XML sitemaps for your website by clicking on “Crawl > Sitemaps.”
Enter the URLs of your different sitemaps:
Next, you need to add Google Search Console and Google Analytics API access to Screaming Frog.
Google Analytics data is the best place to find orphan pages.
If a user accessed the page before while Analytics was enabled, you’ll be able to see the page in your data.
Once you’ve connected Google Search Console and Google Analytics, run a crawl of your website.
Next, you need to configure the Crawl Analysis.
Click on ‘Crawl Analysis’ in the top menu and then ‘Configure.’
Check the boxes for Sitemaps, Analytics, and Search Console in the Crawl Analysis Configuration.
Go back to the previous menu and click ‘Start!’ to perform a crawl analysis.
Screaming Frog needs to pull information from multiple data sources, which can take a while.
When the analysis is complete, you’ll be able to switch between data from Sitemaps, Analytics, and Search Console using the tabs at the top of the page.
You can use the dropdown menu to filter results for orphan pages.
You’ll be able to see all the orphan pages on your website that the tool has identified.
Semrush Site Audit
You can also use Semrush to find orphan pages.
Like Screaming Frog, you’ll need to connect your Google Analytics API to Semrush. This connection allows Semrush to access data from your Analytics account.
Once you’ve connected the Google Analytics API, run a Site Audit.
When Semrush has finished crawling your site, click ‘Issues’ and then ‘Orphaned pages.’
This will show you any pages in your sitemap and Google Analytics data with no inbound internal links.
How Do You Fix Orphan Pages?
Once you’ve found an orphan page, you need to take action and make it easier for users and search engines to discover the page.
Here are some practical solutions to fix orphan pages:
The simplest way to fix orphan pages is to reconnect them to the rest of your website using internal links.
Orphan pages are sad, alone, and get no traffic.
They have 0 internal links pointing to them.
You can either:
– delete the orphan page if you don’t care about it or
– keep it and start mentioning it more in your content.
Improve your internal linking! 🔥
— Mia Kiraki 🎭 (@MiaKiraki) April 12, 2021
Evaluate your website’s existing internal linking structure and identify relevant pages to link to the orphan page.
The goal is to find relevant and contextually appropriate pages. Look for pages that discuss similar topics where the information on the orphan page can provide additional value.
Reintegrating the orphan page into your internal linking structure provides search engine crawlers with clear paths to discover and index the content.
It’s also important to use internal linking to prevent orphan pages when you publish new content. Make sure you add internal links to relevant internal pages pointing to the new content to avoid unwanted orphan pages.
Delete the Page
In some cases, the best solution is to delete the orphan page.
For example, you may have redundant landing pages or outdated product pages that don’t serve a purpose or offer value to site visitors.
Orphan pages covering similar topics to other pages can cause keyword cannibalization issues. If that’s the case, the best option is usually to delete the page.
You can discover more ways to deal with duplicate content in our keyword cannibalization guide.
Before you delete the page, check if it has any backlinks. You may want to set up a redirect instead of deleting the page to preserve your link profile.
Use ‘Noindex’ Tags
Some pages intentionally have no internal links.
For example, you may have a dedicated landing page for an ad campaign.
The best way to deal with these types of orphan pages is to use a “noindex” tag. This tag tells search engines that you don’t want the page to be included in search results.
You can implement the “noindex” tag by adding the following HTML code to the head section of your orphan page:
Update Your XML Sitemap
Your XML sitemap serves as a roadmap for search engine crawlers. It helps them find and index all of your web pages.
Adding orphan pages to your XML sitemap tells Google that the page exists and that you want it to be indexed.
Here’s an example of the XML sitemap for Yoast:
You can see all the different sitemaps on yoast.com.
Organizing your sitemap like this helps Google understand your site structure.
Make sure that your sitemap is accurate and includes all the pages you want to be found and indexed.
Once you’ve updated your sitemap, you can submit it to Google in your Search Console dashboard.
If an orphan page contains valuable content, you may want to consider promoting it to attract backlinks. This will help Google find and index the page.
The more authoritative external links that point to your page, the more likely it is to rank high in search results.
You can learn more about how to build links in our expert link building guide.
Key Takeaways: Orphan Pages in SEO
Orphan pages can damage your SEO efforts and limit the reach of your content.
By understanding what orphan pages are and how to identify and fix them, you can optimize your website performance and improve visibility in search results.
It’s about improving your internal linking structure so search engines and users can easily access your content.
You’ve already done the hard work creating great content. Make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
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