Orphan pages are the long-forgotten box of family ‘keepsakes’ that haven’t left storage for years of the digital realm. Often the result of new ideas, site-building, accidents and testing out different features, orphan pages happen when there’s no internal links between a page and the rest of the sitemap.
Like the box, these pages are abandoned and hidden from sight. You often don’t even realize they’re there until the time inevitably rolls around where you decide to spring clean. Your site audit is how you’ll discover just how many dead pages are weighing down your website, and don’t be surprised if you’re left feeling like you bit off a little more than you could chew.
Today, we’ll be looking at orphan pages, including what they are, why you probably don’t realize your sitemap even has them and how they’re killing your SEO. We’ll also examine how you can use Ahrefs to locate and remove orphan pages before looking at some of the orphan pages best practices to use going forward in 2022.
Feel like your website is a little overdue for a spring clean? At Embarque, we will teach you everything you need to know about finding and repairing orphan pages to improve your SEO today. Let’s begin.
What are orphan pages?
Orphan pages happen when you have website pages with good potential for ranking that aren’t a part of your site structure and vice versa. They can be a real headache for your SEO, as they decrease the chances of your site being able to pass link equity. In basic terms, if your website is a web for a spider to crawl on? The strings are broken, and the spider’s finding it difficult to move fluidly through your site.
When crawlers enter your webpage, they want to see how easy it is for users to navigate your website and find related content. Internal links are a vital component of basic SEO strategy, and can’t be overlooked when trying to create an algorithm-friendly, user-oriented website experience.
Are orphan pages bad?
Orphan pages aren’t fun for crawlers, users or business owners. They can make a website’s sitemap become convoluted and confusing. Most orphan pages are difficult to find during the user’s journey due to the lack of internal links, which means they’re usually just indexed as dead weight.
There are plenty of ways to assess your website’s SEO and improve it, and having dead pages floating around isn’t going to help. Orphan pages use up your ‘crawl budget,’ which means Google will waste time trawling these dead pages of your website rather than good, relevant content. This hinders your SEO, and can reduce the effectiveness of your content.
Are orphan pages ever useful?
Surprisingly, yes. Sometimes, orphan pages are useful for your website. If you’re running a one-off landing page on your site, using an orphan page can help drive traffic and conversions by having one clear CTA to encourage conversions.
How do orphaned sitemap pages impact SEO?
Any pages that you create for your website can be discovered by search engines, contrary to popular belief. It doesn’t matter if they were linked in the past, had external website links or were submitted for indexation; crawlers may still index the page as part of your sitemap.
No watch works effectively when the links in the strap are broken. It’s the same with orphan pages. Google sees these pages share no links with the rest of your site and effectively deem them useless.
But, how do these orphan pages impact SEO?
- Experience minimal traffic
- Difficult to find on user’s journey.
- Adds no value to your sitemap.
- Penalized by algorithm - assumes you’re hiding the page on purpose.
- They’re often overlooked, disrupting your SEO without you realising.
Here’s the thing, Google’s algorithm has been hand-designed to find and promote efficient, user-friendly websites that deliver valuable content to users. The algorithm wants websites that users will find relevant, easy to use and functional on the first page of any search query.
Thus, the algorithm wants websites that users will find relevant, easy to use and functional on the first page of any search query. Google has a penchant for penalizing websites that have pages that seemingly have no relevance to the other content on your website.
It doesn’t matter if your orphan pages have the potential to grow organic traffic, either. If there are no internal links, the algorithm assumes the page is supposed to be hidden from end-users.
This violates Google’s Guidelines and can tank your keyword rankings, as Google’s algorithm is renowned for heavily penalizing websites that use dodgy SEO tactics.
How to find orphan pages using Ahrefs
Orphan pages are bad news for any business, especially e-commerce stores and organizations that rely on search engine traffic to build brand awareness with their target audience.
Unfortunately, finding orphan pages on your sitemap isn’t as easy as just crawling your own website. This is because Google’s crawlers still recognize these pages as part of your website, even if they’re orphaned.
One easy way to locate orphan pages is to conduct an SEO site audit using Ahrefs and the SERP information gathered from this audit to identify and remove any dead pages. Ahrefs offers one of the leading site audit tools on the market and will crawl every page on your website and flag any SEO issues, providing tailored advice on fixing them.
Here is your step-by-step guide to finding orphan pages using the Ahrefs Site Audit tool.
Here's how you check your orphan pages in a nutshell.
Log in > Site audit > Select project > Under Top issues, select Orphan page
Log-in to Ahrefs:
We recommend Ahrefs for performing any SEO site audits, because it’s one of the most efficient, robust tools available on the market.
Enter the Site Audit tool. Here, you’ll be able to see a comprehensive overview of the health of your website. The dashboard looks like this:
View your overview:
From here, you can navigate to the overview of your site audit. This page will provide you with your websites health, and provide some key insights into what’s impacting your SEO.
The dreaded ‘Orphan Page Error:’
One of the tabs of Ahref’s site audit tool allows you to see an overview of any issues or errors. If you have orphan pages, they’ll be listed here alongside other areas of concern.
The Ahrefs tool makes it easy to see the exact location of your orphan pages, which makes cleaning your website up hassle-free.
Correct your link architecture:
Now that you know exactly where your orphan pages are, you can begin the process of assessing your link architecture. You can revamp any orphan pages or scrap them completely, depending on your needs.
How do I get rid of orphan pages?
Thankfully, correcting orphan pages is often easier than trying to find them. Orphan pages are sneaky, and can be hidden throughout years of programming, testing and indexing throughout your website development.
Here’s some handy hints for repurposing your orphan pages:
- Create a keyword map that sends SEO juice across relevant pages
- Optimize any pages that are still relevant.
- Adopt quality, converting pages into your sitemap.
- Remove any dead pages that have minimal traffic.
- You can Error 404 any page you can’t be bothered re-linking.
Fixing orphan pages is pretty simple - all you have to do is add an internal link. The difficulty comes in deciding if it’s worth keeping the orphan page in the first place.
You don’t want your website to be filled with clunky, slow pages that don’t provide relevant content and aren’t user-friendly. Although it may seem like having more webpages will improve your SEO, it’s better to opt for some proven tricks and strategies that actually work in 2022.
Too many website pages can reduce your user-experience, impact your core web vitals and hinder your SEO. The key takeaway here is to be smart about what orphan pages you reintroduce into your website.Chances are if it ended up as an orphan page in the first place, it really wasn’t that relevant.
Sure, if it has winning content that you feel resonates with your target organic audience, then it’s worth restructuring the page into your sitemap. The key takeaway here is to be smart about what orphan pages you reintroduce into your website.
Do internal links count as backlinks?
A common misconception amongst business owners is what an internal link actually is. Do they count as backlinks?
Internal links are the signposts that help Google understand the flow of your website. They work as the treasure map of your website, and are the links that tie webpages together. Internal links are vital because they encourage the user’s journey through your site.
Internal links work to:
- Navigate the end-user through your site.
- Create links between relevant content and pages.
- Signpost your webflow for Google’s algorithm.
- Make it easier for Google to trawl your website.
If your page doesn’t have internal links, it’s hard to find for your user. That’s why orphan pages exist in the first place.
Backlinks, on the other hand:
- Are the incoming hyperlinks from external websites to your page.
- Work as the guest-blogging strategy that helps drive more traffic.
- Don’t tell Google the flow of your website, only aid in driving traffic to it.
How to avoid creating orphan pages in the future:
Now that you’ve cleaned up your website and removed any orphan pages that may be hampering your SEO, it’s time to but processes in place to reduce the amount of orphan pages you create going forward.
Orphan pages happen because:
- Lousy housekeeping - developing your website is complex, and it can be pretty easy to get lost in a variety of pages, indexes and trials. Failing to keep on top of orphan pages from the get-go may result in you accruing a fair few in your website journey.
- No site audits - Keeping on top of your SEO site audit using a tool like Ahrefs will help you keep on top of orphan pages. You want to run a site audit every few months, just to double check no new orphan pages have slipped through the cracks.
- Complicated maintenance - You need to ensure your website is easy to maintain and keep track of, especially if there are many collaborators. Complicated maintenance improves the risk of you losing track of your webpages.
Thankfully, you can take steps to reduce your risk of creating orphan pages. Here are some simple, actionable steps you can take right now to reduce the creation of orphan pages:
- Ensure all new pages you create for your site have internal links. If your web page doesn’t require internal links, evaluate if it’s content is the right fit for your site.
- Regularly perform site audits. Staying on top of your website is the key to making sure it doesn’t get out of control. Maintain your SEO site audits, trust us on this one.
- Go back and double-check all internal links are valid. Technology isn’t perfect and sometimes links break. Once you get your site audit report back, investigate which pages get flagged. Can you re-link them to new content?
- Don’t be afraid to scrap pages. Website development is definitely a labor of love. Nothing can be more crushing than having to delete a landing page or content page that took your hours to create, design and index. Be ruthless when it comes to orphan pages. You can always create new content.
- Analyze your orphan pages. Sometimes you’re sitting on a content goldmine without even realizing it. Has one of your orphan pages got potential to draw in traffic? Focus on breathing new life into these pages and building your internal links.
Boosting organic traffic with internal links:
Strong internal linking strategy that prevents orphan pages can rapidly boost your websites organic traffic. In a case study by Ninja Outreach, they reported organic traffic growth of over 40%.
Clearly, internal linking is great for SEO, especially when it is organized in a tiered strategy. But, how do you improve your internal linking strategy? Here are some actionable steps:
- Use Google Search Console to download your articles for your internal SEO linking campaign. From here, you can use Google Analytics to see which website pages have higher levels of traffic and engagement.
- Create a spreadsheet of all article titles and URLs. You can use Ahrefs to view the SEO statistics of each page and organize accordingly.
- Analyze which articles deserve to be categorized as Tier 1. These are your high-ticket articles that receive the most traffic and conversions.
- VLOOKUP - Activate the VLOOKUP formula. This will allow you to categorize your articles into the correct Tiers.
Google also crawls automatic internal links now as well, as long as you follow the guidelines. If you’re looking to achieve maximum ROI on your internal linking strategy, this may be a good option for you.
InLinks found that deploying 70% of internal links right away and deploying the other 30% over time using an automatic linking strategy helped to improve their clients’ SEO. They managed to move one article from 18th to 3rd using this strategy.
Focusing on automatic internal links also allowed InLinks to move one of their 400 word articles from 18th place to 8th place with no backlinks to it, even though competitor articles had an average of 46 backlinks.
Thus, it is clear that internal links have a role to play in SEO. By using the above tips, you can vastly improve the internal linking strategy of your website. In doing this, you can help drive more traffic and conversions to your website.
Orphan pages are a hassle for any business owner. Reducing the user-experience, making your sitemap overly complex and wasting your crawl budget, orphan pages are likely impacting your SEO without you realising.
Luckily, finding and repairing orphan pages isn’t hard. Like a spider, you can carefully interlink your once-forgotten webpages, and can abandon any that don’t serve your website anymore.
Today, we’ve taken an in-depth look into what orphan pages are, how they impact your website’s SEO and how you can find them using Ahrefs. We’ve discussed some actionable steps you can take right now to spring clean your website and tie-up any loose orphaned pages.
We’ve also shared some handy tips for avoiding creating orphan pages in the future, so that you can continue to operate with a seamless, user-friendly sitemap.
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