Many online businesses lose out on leads due to simple SEO errors on their websites. This article will talk about orphan pages. Orphan pages are pieces of content on your site with no internal links pointing to them.
Orphan pages are also less likely to rank high on Google. That explains why a good percentage of SEO experts spend a considerable amount of time optimizing internal links to avoid orphan pages and spread domain authority across a site.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about orphan pages. You’ll learn how to identify orphan pages and how to optimize your internal link structure. Let’s start by getting our definitions in order.
What are orphan pages, and why are they an issue?
An orphan page is a website page with zero internal links. These pages are inaccessible from the rest of your site, and that’s bad for several reasons.
Firstly, by failing to link to an orphan page, you indicate to Google that the content is not that important.
At the risk of oversimplifying things, you naturally link to the most important content on your site through the main menu, footer, sidebar, and from various posts. These internal links are an indication of the importance of the content to your site.
The graphic below provides a simplified overview of how authority flows around a site.
As orphan pages have no internal links, they don’t get any of the benefits of that additional page authority. The higher your page authority, the better the chance of content ranking in the SERPs.
The second important consideration is user experience. If you are not linking to content on your site, that content becomes inaccessible unless the person arrives on that page. That could happen because they entered the URL, arrived on the page from the search results, or a third-party site, for example, social media or a paid ad.
Finally, orphan pages are a problem for search engine crawlers because they are a little harder to find. Search engines crawl through a website using internal links.
The crawlers will probably find your orphan pages (through the sitemap XML file for example), but you’re more likely to encounter indexing issues with an orphan page than you are with a page that is easily accessible.
For example, a newly published blog post appears on the archive page. Google understands this, and so these pages are crawled frequently. However, if your new piece of content doesn’t appear on an archive page or no internal links point to the page, it’s harder for the crawler to find your content.
That is a vast oversimplification of how page authority and crawlers work, but it will hopefully make sense if this is all new to you. So, with that out of the way, let’s discuss how to identify orphan pages.
How can you identify orphan pages?
There are various approaches you can take to identify orphan pages on your site.
The easiest way to identify orphan pages is to run a site crawl of your site. There are various popular site crawlers you can use to review your site. For example, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz, and Screaming Frog are all tools that SEO professionals use.
A site crawler will go through all of the content on your site in the same way that a search engine crawler does. Following the site crawl, all of these tools generate reports that you can review. These technical SEO reports share a lot of valuable information about your site.
One output is the number of orphan pages on your site and the page URL. Here’s an example of such a report by Ahrefs.
Below the “indexable” heading, you have a column for orphan pages. Click on this link, and you’ll see a list of orphan pages.
You can do a site audit for any web property that you own with Ahrefs for free. However, some tools charge a fee to access their software.
It’s possible to find orphan pages via Google Analytics, using a site: search in Google, reviewing your sitemap XML file, and also reviewing your websites pages and posts (via the backend).
How can you fix orphan pages?
At this point, you know two things: that orphan pages are something you generally want to fix and that you can identify them using suitable SEO tools and techniques. So now the question is this: How can you fix orphan pages?
There are three primary things you can do with orphan pages:
- Delete the page: if the content isn’t relevant, you can just delete the content.
- Do nothing: there might be a good reason why the page is an orphan. If that’s the case, you don’t need to do anything.
- Optimize the page: find internal links to point to the page.
The first two options are pretty straightforward. I’ll discuss how you could optimize the page below.
1. Link to the page from your footer, sidebar, or menu
One of the easiest ways to add internal links to a page is to provide a site wide link. You can add a site wide link by including a link to the orphan page from your menu, footer, or sidebar.
Site wide links are a great way to highlight key content on your site—for example, category pages or important resources. You’ll find that many sites add a limited number of links to the menu, which is the primary means of site wide navigation, and a larger number of links to the footer.
For example, the SEO tool Ahrefs has 44 internal links in the footer and 11 internal links accessible through the menu. Those footer links make it easy to access the core parts of the site in just a few clicks.
You should only add an orphan page link to your footer, menu, or sidebar if it’s really important. Don’t add content to your footer for the sake of it.
2. Add links from your content
The second solution is to add links pointing to your orphan pages from individual pieces of content. You can link to the content from your blog posts, product pages, or anything else as appropriate.
The internal links you add should always be thematically relevant. For example, using appropriate anchor text and incorporating links into content in a way that would add value to a person visiting your site. For more information about conducting an internal linking strategy, I suggest you read this guide from SEMrush.
An orphan page is any page with zero internal links. They can appear unintentionally or intentionally. Whatever the case, it’s critical to fix them where needed.
You can use a crawler and other techniques to identify orphan pages. Once you’ve identified these pages, you have three options; do nothing, delete the content or link to the content from other places on your site. You should do regular reviews of your site to identify orphan pages. It’s good practice to perform regular audits and fix the issues as they occur.