Orphaned pages are pages on your website that aren’t linked to by any of your other pages. If no internal links are pointing at a page, not only does it make it unlikely a site user will ever find it, it also means web crawlers like Googlebot may not find it either, and it prevents link equity from being passed along.
Link equity helps to show search engines that a page is important, so if none is passed it could appear that your content isn’t important. If users can’t find the page, it won’t get read and won’t convert, so might as well not be there at all.
When adding new pages to your site it’s important to make sure you’re also adding internal links to pages from other related content, to avoid creating orphans.
If you need to identify and fix existing orphaned pages, or pages which have become orphaned as a result of other content or links being removed, there are straightforward ways you can do this.
1: Make sure your sitemaps are up-to-date
Aside from the obvious fact that your pages are unlikely to get indexed if they aren’t in your sitemap, having a sitemap that includes all the URLs on your site will make your life a lot easier when it comes to finding orphaned pages. To identify which pages aren’t being linked to, you need to have a full list of which pages exist on your site in the first place.
If you’re using Yoast SEO or a similar plug-in, your sitemaps will be updating automatically. If you’re still using a CMS that requires manual sitemap updates, check with your developers to ensure the most recent version is live.
2: Find the orphaned pages using a crawling tool
The easiest way to find orphaned pages is by using a straightforward SEO tool like DeepCrawl or SEMrush.
You can use the search bar to find the orphaned page list, or look under Source Gap > Sitemaps > Orphaned Sitemaps Pages.
SEMrush’s site audit tool files orphaned pages under ‘Issues’, and then ‘Notices’. Here, you’ll see a list of any URLs that appear in your sitemaps but which aren’t currently subject to internal linking.
Both of these tools can also be connected to your Google Analytics account. The ‘Orphaned Pages in Google Analytics’ section for both tools will show you any orphaned URLs that are still being crawled – these are pages that are still driving traffic to the site.
If you’re not sure that your sitemap contains all the URLs it should, in DeepCrawl you can also go to ‘Pages Not in Sitemaps’ and use filters to show only 200-code, indexable URLs with 0 links in from other site pages. These may be URLs that have been deliberately excluded, but you may also find URLs that need both internal linking and to be added to your sitemap.
3: Executing an internal link plan
Once you’ve downloaded a full list of all the orphaned pages on your site, it’s time to filter through and see which pages need linking, which need redirecting and which need deleting.
A common cause of orphaned pages is the creation of temporary pages such as seasonal sales or promotions, which aren’t removed once the event has ended. There may also be older versions of pages that should be redirecting to a newer version, which may put you at risk of keyword cannibalisation.
Low-quality or expired pages which aren’t ranking and bringing in traffic should be removed or redirected to suit, while useful pages that serve a purpose and offer value to the user should be linked wherever possible across your site.
Put together a link plan, listing which URLs need links pointing to them and which pages and anchor text these links can come from.
Once you’ve plotted out which pages should be linking to your orphans, get the links in and live as quickly as possible.
If you don’t have access to SEMrush or DeepCrawl, you can also find orphaned pages using a slightly more manual exercise through ScreamingFrog’s SEO Spider. Simply download the full URL list from your sitemap and then use ScreamingFrog to crawl your site from the homepage.
ScreamingFrog works in the same way as Google and Bing – by following the links it encounters as it goes along. If there are no links to a particular page, ScreamingFrog won’t find it.
Put your sitemap URL list and ScreamingFrog URL list into one spreadsheet and check for duplicates. Any URL it hasn’t found, and therefore is not duplicated, is an orphan.
Check for orphans regularly
Even if you’ve meticulously resolved all your orphaned pages and are moving forward with a thorough internal link plan, it’s still possible that a future audit will flag new or different orphaned URLs.
If you aren’t confident in doing your own site audits, Ad-Rank can help you monitor and resolve everything from orphaned pages to status code errors. Fill in this quick form to get a free SEO audit of your website.