Rapidly expanding your website without having a clear strategy for doing so could lead to multiple stand-alone pages. These are known as orphan pages. While you may have heard of these, you may lack knowledge of precisely what they are or how they could hinder your SEO efforts.
In today’s post, we will cover crucial details on orphan pages as well as explore how to find them, fix them and prevent them from reoccurring.
Orphan pages are indexable pages in a website without links from anywhere else on that site. They have no ‘parent pages.’ As such, they live outside the site structure. As orphan pages lack internal links, they are challenging, yet not wholly impossible, to find. Users may navigate their way to such pages either from an external link from a referring website or via organic search, but they won’t be able to get there from anywhere inside your site.
Pages typically are or become orphaned by accident. While creating content for your site, you forget to include them in the site structure. Alternately, you may add a page for a particular purpose, such as for a one-off event or sale, and then simply fail to delete it afterward. Having a system in place for managing your website’s various pages is crucial so you don’t accrue these pages that could go on to harm your SEO.
Without appropriate pointers, search engines often have a great deal of trouble tracking orphan pages down. This means that even if orphan pages have excellent content, they can easily fall through the cracks. Yet, even when indexed, orphan pages don’t typically perform well on the SERPs. One of the key reasons for this is that without those crucial internal links, crawlers find such pages tough to understand and generally perceive them as having very little importance.
Another way orphan pages could damage your SEO performance is by eating into your crawl budget. The crawl budget refers to the number of pages search engines will gather indexing information on from a single website within a specific timeframe. While their crawler bots are kept busy with low-value orphan pages, more important ones and newer content can get overlooked.
Beyond this, search engines also tend to look unfavorably on the presence of such content. This is due to the fact that people have used these kinds of hidden pages, alongside other black hat SEO tricks, to improve their keyword rankings. For all these reasons, orphan pages are considered negative SEO and should be avoided wherever possible.
When it comes to tracking down pages on your site that may be or may have become orphaned, you have a few options. These include:
- Checking your XML sitemap to find all the URLs present in your site’s database
- Making use of online tools like Screaming Frog to check your server log files
- Tracking your analytics to see where all referrals, paid, direct and organic traffic is going
From there, what you choose to do with the orphan pages depends very much on the value of their content for your site.
Obviously, the easiest thing would be simply to delete them. However, as the page might still be indexed on the SERPs and actually attracting organic traffic or have earned external links, you might consider using a 301 redirect. In this way, you can continue making use of these pages, and site users will not be confronted with the off-putting 404 error page, which could impact their UX.
However, if the page was orphaned by mistake but is still relevant, adding at least three internal links that point back to it from other places on your site will help with getting it found and back on the site map. In doing this, aim to identify the primary keyword(s) you want the page to rank for, then use these (or some variation of) as the anchor text. This will help make it absolutely clear to users and search engines alike just what the page is about.
Auditing orphan pages on a precasting website, especially if it’s been around for a while, can be a very time-intensive task. That’s why it pays to put procedures in place for creating new content and linking it in with what is already there. This way, you can avoid orphan pages and all the issues they bring. Above that, internal linking is vital for boosting the navigability of your site, and it’s also a critical factor for SEO in its own right.
Tips for making sure all pages are linked include:
- Identify your site’s hub pages which refer to the ones that target your main keywords and as such, will drive the most valuable traffic to your site.
- Create topic clusters that link back to these main hubs and act as supporting content to add depth and related keyword possibilities.
- Keep an eye out for possible contextual and navigational links between the pages that could send your users in helpful directions.
- Developing a spreadsheet for each hub page to keep track of the various links between them to ensure none get left out in the cold.
- Consistently monitor your site and check for both pages that lead to nowhere and that can’t be accessed from anywhere.
Orphan pages are an often overlooked technical issue that could hold back your SEO efforts. If you think this might be the case for your website but don’t feel you have the time or expertise to resolve the issue, let us take care of it for you.
Comprehensive search engine optimization, which includes the ongoing management of your website with the aim of improving the quality of your website traffic and accomplishing significant organic growth, is one of the things that Firon Marketing does best. If in doubt, leave it to the pros.