Orphaned Pages: How to Recognize and What to Do with Them

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In technical terms, orphan pages are URLs that cannot be found through the act of internal linking. This is because they are sub-pages that are not linked to at all. Because it’s not linked to internally, it’s considered to be floating within the domain.

It can’t be found by the standard website crawler, nor will they be found by the Google bot either. Many an SEO Company in the Philippines don’t put any focus on them, but in actuality, they can be good opportunities for them.

That being said these pages still exist within the website. It’s just that it won’t be found by users or the many search engine crawling tools.

What are Orphaned Pages

To put it simply, orphaned pages are pages that don’t have any links to them.

Orphaned pages are created due to a variety of reasons. Some common examples include old pages that were already unlinked to but were left as published, cracks in the site’s architecture or even the webmaster simply forgetting about linking to the page.

Orphaned pages are different from dead-end pages mainly by the direction of the links that they have.

Orphaned pages can have links that lead to different pages, both internally and externally, however, they don’t have any links that point to them.

Dead-end pages, on the other hand, are pages that only have links that point towards them. If search engine bots were to crawl to a dead-end page, they will have nowhere else to go, resulting in no link equity being passed on.

Are Orphaned Pages Important?

The importance of orphaned pages depends a lot on the function of the page when it was created. Although in general, orphaned pages are a problem, or more accurately, missed opportunities for SEO, there are some of them that are relatively alright to leave as is.

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One example here is test pages of different websites. These pages are usually the grounds for different experiments regarding design and structure. They’re meant to not have any links pointing to them so that they’ll stay out of sight.

In this case, the orphaned page isn’t really important to SEO as it’s meant to be hidden away.

There might also be some orphaned pages that consist of now irrelevant information such as old products and services that are no longer being offered, or very updated content or information about certain data. In this case, it’s alright for you to delete the page altogether as they’re already completely irrelevant to the current status of your website. Keep in mind that you don’t need to redirect these because technically, they don’t carry any link value at all.

Everything will be different, however, if the orphaned page is one that was meant to be searched for by users. A great example would be old product pages that are still in stock. They might have already fallen out of demand, but they’re being sold anyway. When a site cleanup leads to the links to the product page disappearing, then you effectively prevent the page from being found by users and search engine bots.

How do You Look for Orphaned Pages

As of now, there are two ways in which you can look for orphaned pages within your website. While there are numerous SEO tools on the Internet that will allow you to do so, it’s through the process provided by Screaming Frog and SEMrush that you can get the most out of your website crawler. The process of using them is detailed below:

Using Screaming Frog

You can use this process as long as you have an SEO Spider License from Screaming Frog.

  1. Select Crawl Linked XML Sitemaps under Configuration and then Spider.
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You can choose whether to auto-discover pages through robots.txt, or manually input the destination of the XML Sitemap

You can find the URLs orphaned pages that can only be found via the XML sitemap

  1. Connect to Google Analytics under Configuration and then API Access.

By connecting to your Google Analytics API, you’ll be able to pull in data for specific accounts, properties, views and segments during a crawl.

Remember to select Organic Traffic on the Segment box so that it will focus on finding orphaned pages from organic search.

You can set date ranges to be analyzed as well as metrics and dimensions that can usually be left as default.

You can change the segment to All Users or Paid Traffic if you want to try to find orphan pages through other sources.

  1. Select Crawl New URLs Discovered in Google Analytics

Under the General tab of the Google Analytics configuration window, you’ll find this option. Make sure that this is enabled so that you’ll be able to find the URLs along with the whole website analysis.

  1. Connect to Google Search Console under Configuration and the API Access.

By doing so, you’ll be able to pull in other data that is important to your website.

  1. Select Crawl New URLs Discovered in Google Search Console.

This can be found in the General tab of the Google Search Console Configuration window.

  1. Start Crawling your Website

Using SEMrush

There are two ways in which you can use SEMrush in identifying orphaned pages.

  1. Through Site Audit

Go to one of your projects that you’ve set up and then click the re-run campaign button found at the top right corner.

After the audit, go to the Issues tab, then click the Select an Issue button. Make sure to check the Notices section to see if any orphaned pages checks were triggered.

  1. Through a Google Analytics Check

This can be triggered for pages that have been recorded in GA within the last 30 days but don’t have any incoming internal links based on the Site Audit data.

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For you to be able to access this, you should connect your Google Analytics account. The option to do so can be found by clicking the gear wheel.

After a few minutes, the GA data will appear and again, once it triggers the checks, you can click on the check’s name to get a list of orphaned pages.

What you can do with Orphaned Pages

There are three things that you can do with Orphaned pages. You can leave them as is, you can optimize them and integrate them back to your website, or you can delete them.

You can leave orphaned pages such as testing pages as is since they are meant to be hidden from the search engine crawlers.

You can optimize orphaned pages that still have relevant information—pages that were basically forgotten or left out due to human error or cracks in your website.

Lastly, you can delete the orphaned pages that are already irrelevant—those that are no longer needed by your website in general.

Key Takeaway

In essence, there are three kinds of orphaned pages—based on their primary function before they were considered as such. Apart from test pages, most orphaned pages are missed opportunities that you can use to further enhance your SEO efforts.

That being said, you shouldn’t force yourself to fix pages that are no longer relevant. This is something that every SEO company in the Philippines should already know. Instead, you should try to optimize those pages that still have some degree of significance to them and to the many users that might need the information found in them.

Orphaned pages are not something that you should ignore. They are great resources that you can use to improve your website in its entirety.

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