Marketing tips

Orphan Pages: How to Find and Fix Them in 5 Steps

Pamela Obeid

Imagine spending hours filling a massive bucket with water, and after so long, you realize the bucket has holes in the bottom. It’s impossible to fill the bucket, even after you’ve been trying for so long. Doesn’t feel good, does it?

Picture yourself crossing a net bridge, and you look to the distance to see huge holes that mean you have to retreat. An experience like this would make it so that you’d never want to try again, right?

Orphan Pages Are Those Holes!

The same is the case with orphan pages. Yes, those holes or hurdles make it quite challenging for you to achieve your SEO goals. Failure to detect them, however, can result in massive drainage of your resources, which of course should be avoided at all costs.

What's more, an orphan page on your website acts as a barrier that pushes you away from reaching out to your potential customers. Even worse, orphan pages can seriously hinder the ability your site has to rank on Google.

Luckily, you can easily find and fix orphan pages through five simple steps. Fear not - patch that bucket up and stitch that net.

Read on to explore what orphan pages are, and the five steps you can use to make sure they don't become a problem for you.

What are orphan pages?

According to Anthony J. D'Angelo, the man who sparked a revolution in higher education, "when solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves."

So with Sir D'Angelo's words in mind, let's explore what orphan pages are, before finally finding ways to get rid of them.

An orphan page is defined as an indexable page without any internal links. This implies that no web pages in your website have links that lead to this page, excluding it from your entire site structure.

It is impossible to access this page from anywhere on your website without a link, which is why it can be challenging to detect orphan pages.

In simple terms, an orphan page has no connections, friends, or family – they're all alone in your site world. Even search engines can’t discover these pages – meaning that they can easily drive away traffic – the opposite of what we want.

Having orphan pages on your website can lead to many lost opportunities and dollars. That's quite a concerning thing for a business that might be putting all its resources into achieving excellent visibility on the internet.

Orphan pages are NOT good for SEO

In case this hasn’t been made clear yet – orphan pages are not good for SEO. There are many reasons as to why this is the case, and never fear – we’ve highlighted them for you down below.

They are unindexed pages

Google utilises spiders to explore a website for any new content This process is known as crawling, and it helps to add all the webpages on any given site to a centrally-controlled index.

So, when someone searches a particular keyword, the search engine scans the entire index to find the most appropriate data that matches the query of the user.

An orphan page that has no connection to your webpage has no authority, meaning that search engines don’t recognise the page as valuable content. Because of this, Google doesn’t add these sites to their index list.

The more orphan sites your website has, the less that Google picks up on them, which results in a drop in traffic, conversions, and all that good stuff.

Orphan pages are excluded from ranking well

Picture this. You’ve created a page with carefully curated content, optimized images, and keywords galore. You’ve used internal linking to your power, and overall, the page is strong.

Imagine you forget to create an internal link for the page. Now, this page plays no role in your site structure. No matter how powerful the page is, Google won’t recognise the page unless it links back to your main page somehow. The solution? Getting rid of those pesky orphan pages.

They consume your crawl budget

Your crawl budget refers to the number of pages that a search engine will crawl within a set timeframe. The more orphan pages, the more time that is taken out from your crawl.

This could mean that more essential pages are left untouched, which will harm your overall SEO performance.

But why do orphan pages exist anyway?

Orphan pages are a burden that is best avoided. To do this, it helps to understand how exactly these pages are created.

Are they from negligence? Internal errors? The cruel fate of the universe?

In reality, the reasons are quite common. It’s easy for pages here and there to slip through the cracks with SEO, even with the most precise care.

Poor housekeeping

Sometimes while updating or renewing a website, you may mistakenly remove a page containing a link to the orphan page. This is an error that even the finest make sometimes!

It is crucial to be vigilant while making any changes to your website. There is no harm in utilizing external services (like us!) to ensure the overall maintenance of your site.

Site migration

When migrating sites, it is commonplace to find yourself wrapped up in more pressing tasks, resulting in overlooking some webpages without meaning to.

Again, remaining as vigilant as possible is crucial to try and avoid these errors as much as possible. Did we mention that our team of SEO experts can ensure this won't happen for you?

Old pages

Professionals often design time-sensitive pages for their campaigns, discontinued products, or events. Once the campaign is over, however, most people forget to take them down, which inevitably turns them into the dreaded orphan pages we’ve been droning on about.

To stop this from happening, your best bet is to archive these pages as soon as a campaign is over – avoiding any traces, and successfully avoiding orphan pages.

How to find and fix orphan pages in five steps

You’ve been diligent in maintaining your website. You deleted old pages. Still, you find that your SEO is struggling. Could orphan pages be the answer?

Take these five steps and use them to find and fix your orphan pages. With our expert knowledge behind you, failure isn’t an option.

Create a list of all the webpages on your website

Since orphan pages aren’t linked to any domain page, you won’t be able to find them without getting a complete list of web pages on your website. This is the easiest way to locate webpages, and allow a crawl to pick up on them.

There are two different ways to obtain this list.

Sitemap File

Before you use this technique, make sure that your sitemap file contains a complete list of all the pages on your website. A sitemap is typically a file located on the domain's root and allows search engines to evaluate your site's content and understand the number of times you update it.

Your sitemap file automatically gets updated as soon as you add a post or a new page to your Content Management System (CMS).

Download a list of URLs

If, for some reason, your sitemap doesn't contain a complete list of pages, you can opt to download this list through your CMS. Then, you can ask your IT team to place a request for CMS log files, or you can use a plugin to generate the required list.

The standard way you’ll receive your URLs is through a spreadsheet, which you’d then paste into the crawler configuration.

Initiate and set a website crawl

Once you have gathered all the necessary data, you can now take measures to locate the pages that have no internal links – by using a site crawl.

When doing this, you can also set up a recurring crawl. This will help you to identify future orphan pages that may turn up in the future.

Review and analyse your results

Once the crawl is completed, take a look at the results. Look for pages with orphan URLs, and figure out where to go from here.

A good way to do this is using analytical data to determine page traffic and how valuable this page may be to your overall site.

Resolve and fix the page found

Now that you have detected your orphan pages and decided which ones get the boot, it’s time to archive. If you’ve found orphan pages that you feel hold value to your site, add internal links from the rest of the website. The choice is yours!

Rerun audit when possible

Running these crawls periodically can make sure that these pages are removed before they can impact your SEO performance.

Well, what now?

You did it! You’ve successfully crawled your site for orphan pages, and removed the ones that you didn’t need.

Make sure to regularly maintain your website crawls, especially during a migration or short-term campaign. Of course, if you need that little bit of extra help, get a free proposal with us to see how our team of experts can turn your website into an orphan page ghost town.

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What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

Static and dynamic content editing

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Pamela Obeid
Pamela is the Digital Marketing & Podcast Coordinator at Local Digital. A self-proclaimed nerd, she thrives off all things social media, podcast, and video, propelling the LD brand to brand new heights.

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