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How To Find & Fix Orphan Pages on Your Website

How To Find & Fix Orphan Pages on Your Website

Orphan pages can occur deliberately or accidentally. In the second case, the page can remain unnoticed for a long time while you think it has been deleted. As the website owner, you want to make sure your content is accessible to search engines and users, so it is important to detect this page in time. Otherwise, it will hold back your SEO performance, as abandoned pages may consume your crawl budget and deliver a poor user experience.

What Does “Orphan Page” Mean?

Orphaned pages exist on your website; you can even see them in your sitemap. But besides you, not a single user can find it without a direct link. It means that there are no links to this page from any other part of your website. Site crawlers, however, may find it because it is listed in your sitemap, but this page will be indexed much less.

What Triggers This Issue?

It happens when a website’s owner wants to make an outdated or unwanted page invisible for users without completely deleting it. The page will be kept under various URLs, but no section of the website links to it.

Sometimes an orphan page is created for specific purposes. For example, perhaps it’s being tested by the development team, or it’s an exclusive subscriber-only offer. In this case, you don’t want this content to be available to anybody else, so there are no links to this page.

Orphan pages can also be born unintentionally:

  • You have deleted the page that was linking to another one, and it became orphaned.
  • You’re neglecting updates: some limited offers or announcements have expired, but you forgot to archive the pages.
  • An error occurred during the website migration.
  • A page has been removed, but the sitemap wasn’t updated.
  • There were mistakes while using a CMS.

Checking Orphaned Pages is important but not enough to rank good enough!

Check not only the issue but make a full audit to find out and fix your technical SEO.

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How To Find the Issue

Your task is to compare a list of all your URLs with a list containing only crawlable ones. Here are some ways to do that:

Sitemap

You can download a full list with your URLs from an XML sitemap or CMS (if you’re using WordPress, you’ll need a plugin called “Export All URLs”). Note that you should get the list of your canonical URLs without any duplicates. Export the results to a spreadsheet and filter a column by unique URLs.

Server log files

You can import your server log files into an SEO tool. Programs like SEMrush Site Audit, Screaming Frog, Netpeak Spider, and others will come in handy. They will help you get the list of your crawlable URLs. Once the job is done, you should apply an HTML filter to the column and export the list. It will be saved in .csv format.

Analytic data

If you use Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. You’ll see a list with all URLs from your website. Apply a “pageview” filter to sort the list from lowest to highest and export the received data to a spreadsheet. There, you can create another column with crawlable URLs that you got from one of the SEO tools. Compare columns: pages from Google Analytics that you cannot find in the crawlable list are orphaned. You may use the match function to speed up the process.

Why Is This Important?

Having pages on your website that cannot be reached by users has a negative impact on your SEO metrics. Orphaned pages never rank well. Moreover, Google may suspect that you’re hiding something in order to improve your keyword rankings. Besides, it can lead to a poor user experience: for instance, a user might have found a page, saved it for later, and then never managed to find it again.

How To Fix the Issue

Once detected, orphaned pages should be fixed. One way to do it is to adopt them by adding internal links to these pages. Make sure they are also submitted in your sitemap. This method works if you still find the orphan page’s content useful.

This video will explain in detail the importance of internal links to your SEO performance.

Sometimes, an orphan page has some external links. In this case, you may want to set up a 301 redirect to a similar page. Another way is to create an archive homepage that will contain unwanted links.

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