How to Find & Fix Orphan Pages

SUSO 31 January 2023

Find out what orphan pages are as well as tips on how to find and fix them using a number of different methods to improve your SEO.

Author: Estelle Slabbert, Link Building Manager

Estelle Slabbert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you just imagined an isolated web page with a sad emoji face wiping away a lonely tear, you are well on your way to understanding orphan pages. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the cornerstone of any successful online business. One noteworthy aspect of SEO is dealing with orphaned pages. 

Recognising and rectifying such pages is critical for increasing your website’s visibility and ranking on the SERPs. This article outlines everything you need to know about orphaned pages in SEO, including why they are a problem, how to identify them, and how to fix them.

What Are Orphan Pages?

Orphan pages are web pages that are not linked to any other pages on the same website, effectively making them inaccessible to both users and search engine crawlers.

Search engine crawlers can only see pages listed in the sitemap file or if external backlinks are pointing to them. As a result, orphaned URLs are usually left undetected. A user needs to know and enter an exact URL to be able to visit an orphaned page.

As a site owner, you must understand orphan pages because they are more common than you might imagine. Particularly for websites that have; 

  1. Been around for a long time 
  2. Have grown substantially 
  3. Have undergone major redesigns
  4. Have migrated or re-platformed

Why Are Orphan Pages Bad for SEO?

Orphaned pages make it harder for search engine crawlers to discover, index, and rank your website. It’s important to understand that search engines can’t read content directly from a website’s pages. Instead, they need to rely on special software known as “spiders” to “crawl” your site and extract that content. 

These crawlers use links between web pages to create navigation pathways through your site, effectively mapping it out for the search engines. When a web page doesn’t have links to other pages on the website, it creates an obstacle for the crawler. 

Orphaned pages are a huge problem from an SEO perspective because they deprive crawlers of the information they need to determine your page’s relevance and ranking potential. When a web crawler cannot find a page on your website, it will assume that the page does not exist. This can result in a significant drop in search engine rankings and a decrease in website traffic if you ignore this issue. 

Pages without any links to them can consume a great deal of a website’s crawl budget. If there are a lot of low-value pages without any links, this could take away resources that could be used for crawling more important pages or new content. In this way, these orphan pages could be hindering the SEO performance of the website.

The exact impact they have on your site’s SEO will depend on various factors, but it can definitely be significant. The only solution is to either find the orphaned pages and link them to other pages or remove them from your website. 

  • Unfortunately, the former solution requires significant time and effort, which is why many businesses need help with it. 
  • Fortunately, various tools are available to help identify and fix orphaned pages. These tools are designed to help you identify issues with your website and ensure that all your pages are correctly linked.

Utilising these tools ensures that your website is fully optimised and ready to take advantage of the potential traffic and leads that come with a higher SERP ranking.

How to Find Orphan Pages Using Sitebulb

It is possible to locate orphan pages on a website by using a variety of tools. In this guide, we will demonstrate this process using Sitebulb, which needs a licence to operate and is especially helpful for identifying SEO problems.

Regardless of which tool you use to detect the orphan pages, it is essential to have an accurate XML sitemap. This is because the tool being used needs to be informed about the URLs on the website, and if it finds a URL that is not registered in the sitemap, it will label it as an orphan page. 

In other words, the crawl will only recognise the pages from the sitemap.

1. Set Up Your Project 

Start by creating a new project by entering a project name and your site’s root domain. 

You don’t have to change any of the other settings. Now click “Save and continue.”

set up your project on sitebulb

2. Connect Your XML Sitemap 

When you have finished setting up your project, go to the “Crawl Sources” page and pick “XML Sitemaps.” 

If your sitemap has a standard URL (e.g., domain.com/sitemap.xml), the program should be able to search for it without assistance, but if it has a custom URL, you need to enter it manually.

connect the xml sitemap

3. Run Your Crawl 

Enable the ‘Crawl Website’ option and run your crawl.

run your crawl

4. Go to the Orphan Pages Report 

When you have finished running the crawl, you will see that the “Links” category has a problem called “URL is orphaned and was not found by the crawler” listed under it.

orphan pages report on sitebulb

You can choose to either simply view or export the listed orphaned pages. Click on ‘Export URLs’ or ‘View URLs’ depending on your choice. 

Tip: You can also use tools like Ahrefs and Screaming Frog to find orphaned pages. 

How to Fix Orphan Pages?

Once you’ve identified which pages are affected, you can move on to fixing them. Ideally, you want to fix all of the orphans on your site before attracting new visitors and building your organic traffic. However, if you have an extensive website, you may need to address this issue gradually, which is okay. 

Add Internal Links to the Orphan Page

The best solution to remedy an orphan page that is important to your website, is to include an internal link from a related page to the orphan page. 

This will enable Google to re-crawl the page and discover the new internal link, helping it to crawl and index the orphan page.

Noindex the Orphan Page

If there are any web pages that you purposely did not link internally, you can add a noindex tag to them. 

This will stop them from being visible in search engine results. 

To do this, insert the line of code: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”/> on the page.

Make sure these pages aren’t blocked in your robots.txt file, or else Google won’t be aware that the page should not be indexed.

Merging & Consolidation of Content

Suppose your website has pages with identical or nearly identical content to other indexed pages. 

In that case, the best course of action is to merge both pages and then implement a 301 redirect to direct traffic from the page without a parent page to the other URL.

Delete the Orphan Page  

If you find orphan pages that are of no benefit to visitors, it is best to delete them entirely from your website and then implement a 301 redirect from the URL to another relevant page on your site.

In a nutshell: To enhance your organic rankings, you must ensure that the pages on your website are accessible to Google. Applying the measures mentioned above will help you minimise (or eliminate) the orphan pages on your website that search engines can’t find.

Business Benefits of Fixing Orphaned Pages

  • Improved Rankings: One of the most significant benefits of fixing orphaned pages is improving your SERP rankings. When you properly link pages on your website, it tells the web crawlers that you have created more content, which can increase your site’s authority. This will help you rank higher than before, which can increase website traffic and leads. It can even lead to an increase in sales, as an increase in conversion rates often accompanies higher SERP rankings. 
  • Improved Traffic: If many of your pages are not linked to other pages, this can cause a drop in traffic. By fixing your orphaned pages, you can restore the traffic to your website and significantly increase your website’s revenue potential. 
  • Improved Lead Conversion: When you have a high SERP ranking, you can expect a significant increase in website leads. This results from people clicking on your website whenever it appears in the first few results. However, if you have a considerable number of unlinked pages, this can cause a drop in lead potential. You can restore your website’s leads and ultimately increase revenue by fixing your orphaned pages.

Creating an Effective Internal Linking structure

Make sure your internal linking structure is logical. If it’s not, you’ll make it more difficult for Google to understand what your website is about.

It’s essential to include a link to your homepage on every page of your website. This will help boost your overall linking profile and avoid the potential creation of orphaned pages. You should also try to link to your most essential pages from other important pages. The more important pages link to a particular page, the more important that page is likely to become. 

FAQs About Orphan Pages

1. What Causes Orphan Pages?

The leading cause of orphan pages is poor internal link management. Internal links are an essential part of a website’s architecture, as they provide a structure and visitors with a way to navigate the website. When internal links are not appropriately managed, orphan pages can quickly occur. 

Here are some other common causes of orphan pages:

  • When content is moved from one page to another without updating the internal links to the new page. This can leave the old page without any links pointing to it, making it an orphan page.
  • If a website is built using dynamic content, such as a content management system (CMS), it may be difficult to track the internal links and ensure they are up-to-date. 
  • When a page is created and not linked to anywhere else on the website. This can occur when new pages are not correctly included in the website’s navigation structure or are not linked to other pages. 
  • Old pages can also be forgotten and become orphans when the website’s navigation structure is updated. 
  • By broken internal links that point to a page that no longer exists, such as when content is removed from the website. This can leave visitors and search engine bots stuck on a page without getting to other pages. 

2. How Can I Prevent Orphan Pages?

One way to do this is to ensure all your pages are linked at least once from a different page on your website. 

You should also include a link to your homepage on every single page, which will help boost your overall linking profile and prevent the creation of orphaned pages. Ensure that any pages with a high traffic volume are linked to other pages. You can do this manually, but it can be time-consuming and significantly slow down the overall process of updating your website. 

We recommend using a linking tool like Yoast to manage your internal linking structure. This way, you can schedule tasks, add links, and make changes to your entire linking structure at once.

3. Can Google Index Orphan Pages?

The chances of Google discovering orphan pages depend on whether they are included on the XML sitemap and if any other connections exist, such as inbound canonicals, redirects, and hreflang. 

If they are on the XML sitemap or have any other references, Google will probably find them. But, according to John Mueller, “Orphaned pages may be noindexed.” Should there be no backlinks connecting to a page, it will experience a severe decrease in its page authority and may even be taken out of the index by search engines. This means Googlebot will no longer be able to discover it, resulting in the page being unable to drive any organic traffic to the website.

The Bottom Line

Orphaned pages are a huge problem from an SEO perspective. However, they’re not difficult to identify and fix and are even easier to prevent. With the proper knowledge and tools, you can ensure your website’s internal linking structure is sound and that your pages aren’t falling through the cracks. You can maximise your website’s visibility and search engine rankings with an effective internal linking strategy.

Follow these easy guidelines we shared, and feel free to contact us if you need more information or a helping hand.

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