“If you’re working on your On-page SEO, beware of orphan pages. If not every page on your site is linked to at least one (or a few) different pages, it will be considered an orphan page.” – Semrush.
Did you know that there could be orphan pages on your website that neither you (nor any human) nor a bot may have noticed? It would help if you found them out immediately and set them right, for they could mess up your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.
In this post, you will learn what an orphan page is and how to identify them on your website.
So, What are Orphan Pages?
Google partner and Drum recommended agency Loom Digital on Twitter spoke of orphan pages as follows: “Any webpage that is not linked to internally is known as an orphan. Orphaned pages are bad news from a crawlability POV. Use a tool like SEMRush or Deepcrawl to find all orphaned pages & link to them from other relevant pages on your site.”
Here is how you can understand orphan pages:
- Orphan pages contain zero internal links to the other web pages.
- If visitors must access an orphan page, they must have a direct link or know its URL.
- Search engines find it difficult to find because they need to be interlinked and, thus, are isolated pages.
- Also, if they are found, they can affect the SEO Ranking of a website.
So, the orphan page may have optimized content. But as your website does not recognize its value by adding links, the content on the orphan page becomes valueless. Also, as the search engine does not find its URL listing on the sitemap or as an internal link on another webpage, it will be difficult to access.
The most significant danger of having orphan pages on your website is when Google or other search engines accuse you of ignoring SEO guidelines and working on black hat techniques to improve website ranking. The penalty in such cases will mean a fall in ranking.
How to Find and Fix Orphan Pages?
You must maintain your hard-earned ranking and should not lose it because of the orphan pages. However, as they are neither visible on the site map nor the search results, they are challenging to find. One way of finding them is to use a site crawler to list all the files available in the site structure and back it up with a log file analysis to point out the orphan pages. Finding and fixing orphan pages is thus essential for websites, and here is how you can do it.
Obtain a Comprehensive List Of The Current Website Pages
You can get the complete URL list if you run a homepage audit. But that will not crawl the orphan pages as the homepage has no links to the page, and the crawler can spot them unless it is on the to-crawl list. Here is how you can compile the complete list for the crawler to check for orphan pages:
Use Sitemap Files
The search engine recognizes the website content type, update frequency, and most valuable content to list on the SERPs through the sitemap files. These files are generally available at the domain’s root and automatically update each new post or webpage on the CMS. Choose a crawler to audit the website and report orphan files. However, this technique will work only if the sitemap files have the complete URL list.
Here’s how you can find orphan files by crawling the sitemap files:
- Choose an SEO spider to crawl only the search engine-indexed webpages and set the crawler to start from the domain page.
- The files may have canonical names in the following variations: WWW or non-WWW files, starting with HTTPS or HTTP.
- The crawler will thus skip non-indexed files and hidden files.
- Export the crawled results to an excel file.
Use a Lightweight Plugin to Download URLs
If the sitemap does not contain the complete list of URLs, you can install a lightweight plugin. Such a technique works exceptionally well if it is a WordPress website where you can use ‘List URL,’ a lightweight plugin. It will output the entire URL list as an exportable .csv file. You can now find the orphan pages by cutting and pasting the whole URL list to the configuration of your favorite crawler.
You can choose a crawler like the following to do the job of locating and fixing orphan files:
If you have installed Google Analytics (GA), you can use it to find orphan files as follows –
- Use the sidebar on the left and click on the “Behavior” tab and select “site content” from the drop menu.
- It will open up to another drop menu, and you will see the “All pages” option. You need to click on it.
- GA offers “page view” options where it displays the URL list with their pageviews. You will see some URLs with the least views, likely orphan pages.
Semrush is an ideal tool with its “Site Audit” feature for finding orphan pages. Here is how you can use it:
- Use Semrush for website audit
- Click on “Site Audit” on the dashboard and choose “Issues.”
- Enable the “Orphaned Pages” in the “Notices” tab.
- The system will generate a report depending on details from GA.
- Now refresh the browser.
- You will find orphaned pages under the “notices” tab. Click on it and select “orphaned pages (GA)” from the drop menu.
Get Rid of the Duplicate Pages
There is a need to eliminate duplicate pages on the website, resulting in orphan pages. That is especially true if you redirect more than one link to an identical page.
Notice the difference in the position of the trailing slashes in the following:
The misplacement of the trailing slashes make the URL differ from each other, but they must redirect to the same site. If you are not consistently using trailing slashes and the URL redirects to different sites, they could result in orphan pages.
The user may type the URL as HTTP//www.website.com or as HTTP://www.website.com. They can also type the URL as HTTPS://website.com or HTTP://website.com. However, the redirection should be to the same site regardless of usage. But if different variation redirects more than one webpage, there is a need to check it up to eliminate them from resulting in orphaned pages.
Check the Objectives of the Orphan Pages
Find out if it is necessary to retain these pages by interlinking them. But how will you know that? One method is to check if the webpage has views despite zero links, and the second is to find out if the page is optimized and essential to the website.
Fix Orphan Pages
After you find orphan pages, discover the reasons to eliminate the problem in the future. Once you do that, you can do the following to fix the orphan page:
- Resurrect the page by linking it to another website or another webpage on your website.
- Archive the orphan page.
- Redirect the orphan page to a new page, preferably the one you want users to see.
Set up a Recurring Audit
If it has happened in the past, it can occur in the future too. The content team could miss linking the page to another website or webpage on the same site. It is thus essential to schedule the recurring audit to eliminate problems in the future.
Orphan pages can lower the website’s SEO ranking and cause Google to penalize you. However, it is not the end, as they are several methods to find out, as listed in the article. Get in touch with a local SEO services company to help you, and with the expertise they possess, they can find and fix orphan pages for you quickly.