How To Find And Fix Orphan Pages To Improve Your Website’s SEO

Brandon LazovicMarch 30, 2021

Orphan pages can be a serious detriment to your website’s organic health. 

The goal for webmasters is to ensure that all of their website pages are crawled and indexed by search engines like Google. 

If search engines can’t discover your site pages, they will never rank in the search results pages (SERPS). 

Read our latest guide to learn about orphan pages, how to find them, and taking the necessary steps to fix them. 

What Are Orphan Pages? 

In a nutshell, orphan pages are URLs or pages that cannot be reached by internal links and they are not connected at all in your website’s linking structure (menu, navigation, footer). 

Google uses internal links to find new content and site pages. If pages aren’t linked in any way on your website, Google’s search engine bots won’t find them when it performs a crawl of your site. 

Are Orphan Pages Bad For SEO? 

Yes, orphan pages are bad for SEO. Like I mentioned above, if Google can’t find and discover your web pages, it will never rank them in the search results. 

Because orphan pages are the result of no internal linkings being pointed to them on your website, they’ll never be discovered, and will never rank. 

This ultimately prevents you from driving more organic traffic to your website, which in turn, hurts your conversion rates of getting those searchers to transact on your site. 

Difference Between Orphan and Dead End Pages

While they have similarities, there is a key difference between orphan pages and dead end pages. 

Dead-end pages are simply pages that become a dead end for your visitors, with no prompts or direction to other pages they should visit, or ways to progress further in the customer journey on your site. 

A few examples of dead end pages include 404 error pages; author pages; and eCommerce checkout pages (what do you do when anyone buys something from your online store? If you don't give them any other opportunities, such as checking out similar items, they'll leave).

Be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to search engine optimization to learn more about SEO and what you should be considering for your website in 2021. 

How To Find Orphan Pages On Your Website

Below we’ll walk through a few different ways that you can find orphan pages on your website. 

SEMRush

The first method is to conduct a SEMRush technical audit of your website. First, create a project within SEMRush and enter your domain for the project. 

After creating a project, you can conduct a site audit, which will run a comprehensive technical audit uncovering any errors or warnings that are harming the organic health score of your site. 

Once the site audit has been conducted, you’ll want to select the “issues” tab and filter by “orphaned pages” - this will pull a list of pages that SEMRush discovered as being “orphaned” when running the audit of your website. 

For better results, it’s recommended that you connect your Google Analytics account to SEMRush. 

Yoast Plugin (WordPress)

If you’re a WordPress user and have the Yoast premium plugin installed, you can also discover orphaned content in the Post overview section of your WP dashboard. 

After clicking on the Orphaned Content tab, Yoast will show you all of the orphaned pages and blog posts on your WordPress website. 

Screaming Frog

My preferred method of discovering orphan pages is through the Screaming Frog SEO spider tool, one of the industry standards for conducting technical SEO audits for websites. 

First, you’ll want to assign the parameters for Screaming Frog before it crawls your website. You usually don’t have to do anything, but I make sure that it renders as “HTML only” and deselect CSS, Javascript, and Image elements to get a more accurate measure of what pages / URLs are orphaned. 

You’ll also want to enable “crawl outside starting folder” in the “configurations” tab. 

After entering your domain and conducting your crawl, you’ll filter the URLs to discover any orphan pages that Screaming Frog found during its audit. You can export that list of URLs and begin working to fix these orphan pages. 

For better results, you’ll also want to follow these steps: 

  • Crawl Linked XML Sitemaps
  • Connect To Google Analytics Via Configuration > API Access
  • Connect to Google Search Console Via Configuration > API Access

From there you’ll be able to view which URLs weren’t included in your site’s sitemap and other orphan pages that Search Console or Google Analytics have in their repositories. 

You can also filter your crawled URLs by HTML and search by any pages with a blank crawl depth. This means that URLs weren’t discovered naturally via internal linking, and won’t have a crawl depth associated with them. 

How To Fix Orphan Pages

Now that you’ve pulled a list of the orphan pages on your website, the next step will be to fix them. 

This part is easy - all you have to do is add internal links from other pages on your website that point to your orphan URLs. 

Sometimes it isn’t relevant from a business point of view to link to every single one of your site pages. But for the pages that are important, you want to point internal links to them. 

My biggest tip is to make sure that the internal links are relevant with optimized anchor text. If it doesn’t make sense to point a link from one page to another, then don’t brute force it. If it isn’t relevant to a user, it won’t be considered relevant to search engines crawling your website either. 

Should I Fix All Orphan Pages On My Website?

Having a handful of orphan pages won’t negatively affect your website’s organic performance, like if you have Thank You Pages set up after a client transacts. 

The biggest harm of orphan pages is when you have too many of them. This signals to Google that your website architecture is bad or that the user experience is suboptimal. It also means that these pages aren’t being found by Google, so they can’t rank, or they may be undiscovered by people visiting your website. 

Are Broken Links Considered Orphan Links? 

No. Orphan pages are URLs with no internal links pointing to them. Broken links are links that don’t exist anymore and result in 404 error status code pages. 

Can XML Sitemaps Help Google Find Orphan Pages On My Website? 

Yes. XML sitemaps make it easier for search engines to find and discover new pages on your site that may not be linked elsewhere, or if they have a higher crawl depth. A XML sitemap also help improve crawl budget and indirectly improve keyword rankings by increasing Google’s chances of finding your pages as you create new ones, or update old content regularly. 

What Should I Do To Avoid Orphan Links? 

The simplest way to avoid orphan links to ensure that you’re interlinking between all of your relevant and important pages. This has the added benefit of passing link juice (otherwise known as link equity) to your other pages, which will improve their keyword rankings. 

When you upload a new article, you should check to make sure that it’s being linked to from other relevant pages, and vice versa.

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