What are Orphan Pages: How to Find & Fix Them

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Have you run an SEO audit on your website and found several orphan pages?

It’s not good to have orphan pages. But, in this post, you’ll learn what to do about them. We’ll answer all your questions, including:

  • What are orphan pages?
  • Are orphan pages bad for SEO?
  • What’s the intention behind orphan pages?

We’ll also explain:

  • How to find orphan pages
  • How to fix orphan pages
  • How to prevent orphan pages

Ready? Let’s begin!

What Are Orphan Pages?

In the SEO world, an orphan page is a page that’s invisible to search engines because it doesn’t have any backlinks.

Search engines find new pages in two ways:

  • The crawler follows links from other URLs
  • The crawler finds the URL listed in your sitemaps

So orphan pages often go unnoticed because:

  • There are no links leading to them
  • They’re excluded from your sitemaps by mistake

What’s the Intention Behind Orphan Pages?

Orphan pages are often unintentional – unless they are created automatically, as a black hat SEO tactic. But they may appear for several reasons.

Orphan pages are often the result of:

  • A poorly managed site migration
  • Navigation changes
  • Test pages being published by mistake
  • Out-of-stock products & deprecated content that’s not linkable
  • Programmatic SEO

Why are Orphaned Pages Bad For SEO?

In simple terms, orphan pages are bad for SEO due to the way bots crawl the web. Let us explain: Googlebots tend to find new URLs via hyperlinks on a page they are already crawling. This means that if a URL isn’t in any of the available sitemaps or linked to from a page in your domain, it won’t be found or indexed by Google. In short, if a page is not included in your sitemap and it doesn’t have any backlinks, it won’t exist in the eyes of the search engine.

How to Find Orphan Pages

To find orphan pages, you’ll need to:

  • Identify your website’s crawlable pages with a crawler tool
  • Identify your website’s existing URLs through an analytics tools

You can analyze your URLs and crawl your website with platforms such as:

The aforementioned tools are just four out of dozens you can use to detect orphan pages. At the end of the day, you can use any tool that will crawl your site and compare what it actually finds with what your sitemap shows.

In this section, we’ll explain how to get it done with Screaming Frog. Why? Because Screaming Frog is one of the most popular technical SEO tools out there, and it has a generous free tier.

Here’s how to find orphaned pages with Screaming Frog:

How to Find Orphan Pages with Screaming Frog

 Screaming frog platform screenshot

  1. Open Screaming Frog and enter your URL on the Enter URL to Spider field.
  2. Click StartHow to Find Orphan Pages with Screaming Frog
  3. Once your website has been crawled, you’ll find that your screen is populated with tons of information. Navigate to the Overview panel and scroll until you find the Sitemaps section. Click on Orphan URLs.
  4. Click on Crawl Analysis, on the application’s top bar. That will open a submenu. Click Start.

Once the analysis is done, you’ll be able to see how many orphan URLs are on your website. You can find orphan URLs with the free version of Screaming Frog for websites of up to 500 URLs.

How to Fix Orphan Pages

Before making a decision, visit each of your orphan pages and see if they have a purpose.

Sometimes, “fixing” the orphan page by linking to it on another URL isn’t the best approach. The reason’s simple: Most orphan pages are orphan because they provide no value. Otherwise, they would’ve already been linked. In those cases, deleting the page and setting up a permanent redirect is the best option.

On the contrary, if an orphan page is worth keeping, the way to fix it will depend on its purpose. Thus, you should consider:

  • Internal links. Incorporate the orphan page into your site’s internal linking structure, if it offers value to site visitors.
  • Delete. Deleting an orphan page and creating a 404 or 410 error page is only appropriate if the content is no longer available, offers no value, and redirecting would only confuse users.
  • Redirection. Creating a 301 redirect is great for an orphan page that’s a duplicate or that is similar to another page. Consider this option for URLs that are getting real traffic and/or have quality backlinks.
  • No-index. You can add a no-index tag to very specific types of content, such as landing pages for limited-time ads.

Here’s a flowchart you can use as a guide:

Alt text: How to fix orphan pages infographic

How to Prevent Orphan Pages

Now you know how to find and remove orphan pages. But, what if you could prevent them?

To minimize the chance of creating orphan pages, we recommend:

  • Preventing duplicate URLs
  • Organizing your website’s architecture
  • Removing obsolete product pages
  • Auditing your site regularly

Prevent duplicate URLs

Having a solid URL management strategy is key to preventing orphan pages.

Orphan pages can originate from very small details, such as:

  • Duplicate non-canonical URLs (http vs. https / www vs. no-www)
  • Duplicates created through the inconsistent use of trailing slashes (/Page1 vs /Page1/).

Whenever there is more than one version of the same URL, it must be redirected. This can be done consistently and automatically, via canonical tags.

Without these redirects, certain URLs won’t be linked and will end up orphaned. Plus, you’ll risk the chance of producing large volumes of duplicate pages.

Have a Clear Idea of Your Website’s Architecture

Orphan pages are often the result of creating content without really considering how it will connect to your website as a whole.

SEO isn’t only about quality content, but also about how that content is organized. So whether you use a CMS like WordPress or a custom solution, make sure your pages are organized in a way that makes sense for both users and search engines.

Remove Obsolete Product Pages

Over the years, a lot of your content will become outdated. Especially if you operate an online store.

Typically, this happens with products that are no longer available and content that’s no longer updateable. In those cases:

  • If the page is indeed useless, you should probably turn it into a 404.
  • If the page has valuable backlinks, you probably don’t want to delete it. Nevertheless, you should update the page with helpful content. For instance, explaining that the product is no longer available and linking to a similar item.

Audit Your Site Regularly

A good SEO strategy relies on regular audits. Only through regular auditing, you’ll be able to fix small technical SEO issues before they hurt your strategy.

Regular auditing is especially key if:

  • You have a large content library (whether it’s a store or a blog)
  • You have a large URL structure
  • Your website’s constantly experiencing changes
  • You’re planning a site migration or recently migrated your site

Key Takeaways – Keep An Eye On Your Site Structure!

As we saw in this post, finding and removing orphan pages can be a time-consuming and daunting task. But, by doing regular check-ups and staying on top of your website’s structure, you can prevent them from piling up. Think of it as keeping your house clean, doing a little cleaning every day is easier than doing an intense clean-up once every two years.

The key here is to keep your technical SEO audits up-to-date, so you’re always aware of any changes. That’s what SEORadar does.

Changes in your sitemaps? New canonical tags? Changes in your keywords or meta descriptions? Regardless of what elements of your site are evolving, you won’t need to worry. SEORadar will notify you instantly of any SEO related changes, so you can take action before your ranking drops.

Curious about SEORadar? Try it out for yourself: Start a free trial or schedule a demo today.

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