What are orphan pages in SEO, and how do they affect SEO?

Orphan Pages in SEO

Let’s talk about “Orphan Pages” in the context of websites; they are similar to missing pages on your site that are hankering after some relationships!

The internet is an enormous sea and the orphan pages in SEO can be compared to those remote islands. These are web pages that can be found on a website but may appear detached from the other related ones.

Oh, poor things!

Why is this relevant now?

Now think of stumbling into a dead-end when navigating through such a website is similar to looking for treasure. Not enjoyable, is it?

This is the problem with orphan pages from a user perspective. Without a proper map, this could leave tourists feeling somewhat confused.

However, it goes beyond humans. As the good neighbouring Google, search engines might also ignore these pages alone. They may not even get the recognition they deserve while being disconnected.

Seems like bad news for search engine optimization (SEO).

However, do not be afraid because there is a simple remedy. Coming to terms with orphans is like reconnecting with family members and lost puppies.

You can add them to the community by relating them to other pages. Alternatively, it could be their time to go if they simply aren’t adding true value.

It is like making sure that you did not leave a guest when it comes to inviting all your mates to the party of website fun, and by ensuring this; you are responsible for these pages.

As we enter SEO territory together, let us find out how the orphan pages can greatly affect your client’s website’s capability.

Are you ready to unveil the secrets? Before moving forward, bookmark my complete SEO cheat sheet list.

Come on, let’s roll!

What is orphan pages in SEO?

Orphan pages in SEO are those within a website that are not linked from any other page, making them isolated from the site’s structure and unreachable through internal navigation.

The orphan pages are not reached in any way on your website without internal links. This makes searching for these sites harder but still possible.

One can visit to the orphan pages only if they know the direct URL.

What causes orphan pages?

Orphans pages have several causes and circumstances of the website. Here are some common causes of orphan pages in SEO.

Poor Site Architecture: The orphan pages often occur because of a wrong site architecture or organization. If pages are not correctly linked together within the website’s navigational structure, some pages may become detached and orphaned.

Content Creation Errors: In some cases, webmasters or content creators may unintentionally generate unlinked pages on the website. This can happen when new pages are created but not well-integrated into the site’s navigation or internal linking structures.

Broken Links: Old pages that were linked to other pages may become orphans if pages that were linked to them are removed or if links are broken because of changed URL structure or site redesigns.

Unintentional Removal of Links: In website maintenance or updates, some links to pages may be deleted by mistake, which in turn causes pages to lose links and become orphaned.

Content Duplication or Cannibalization: In some cases, content copying or cloning happens without any proper consolidation or redirection. This can cause one of the versions to become an orphan while the other may continue to link to other pages.

Internal Linking Issues: Practices that may cause low-quality internal linking, such as a lack of relevant anchor text or providing useless link labels, can lead to the ignoring or disconnection of pages from the rest of the website.

Automation or CMS Issues: This is because content management systems or automated publishing processes don’t always add new pages to the site’s navigation or internal linking structure which leads to orphan pages.

Content Removal or Consolidation: If some pages are deleted or merged with other pages without redirecting or updating internal links, it may be the outcome of the process.

URL Changes or Redirect Errors: URL structure changes or wrong implementation of 301 redirects can sometimes result in orphan pages if the old URLs are not properly redirected to their new versions.

Manual Errors: Another source of the emergence of orphan pages is human error that occurs during content generation or website maintenance procedures.

The impact of orphan pages in SEO

Ahh, the exciting world of SEO where small things can make a big deal. Unfortunately, orphan pages are not the best allies of SEO for the website. This is the reason why:

Indexing problems

Search engines including Google make use of web crawlers to index your pages and also understand the info on the website. These robots might leave out some of the orphan pages, which are not connected to any other page on the website. The outcome? So why exclude that page from search engine results?

Ranking blues

Even if a fortuitous meeting with a search engine takes place, an orphan page may not be noticed appropriately. Pages rank higher with strong linkage and connections. Pages that are abandoned? Not in that way.

User traversal

Think of a website as a book. Orphan pages are comparable to isolated chapters. It may seem to the visitors that they have skipped a few pages or two, which might be confusing and not an ideal user experience.

Decrease in traffic

Orphan pages may not be able to attract organic traffic. Decreased indexing of these pages causes low prominence in the search results, as do page authority and a mixed user experience. As a result, potential visitors may not get hold of the useful information that is found on these pages being isolated.

Rise in the bounce rate

Orphan pages lead to higher bounce rate values. The bounce rate increases because solitary pages, which do not have clear navigation or context leave users more likely to abandon the website instantly. Search engines can interpret increased bounce rates as the poor nature of content or users’ experience on a given site.

Inflates budget for website crawling

The crawl budget allocates the frequency of search engine cogitation and indexing content for each website. Orphan pages increase the inefficiency of the crawl budget. This may result in late-indexed content updates on the website and an inferior use of the crawl budget allocated.

With this awareness of the following effects, it becomes more apparent that handling orphan pages is not merely an SEO affair; but a holistic experience between search engines and site visitors.

All right, let’s consider some ways to retrieve those dropped pages and improve the performance of your website.

Identifying and fixing orphan pages in SEO

Locating and fixing orphans is a necessary step that will help you improve not only your site’s search engine optimization but also its user experience. Let’s divide the procedure into manageable steps:

orphaned pages - ahref

Source: https://www.ahrefs.com

Orphan page identification

Website audit

Perform a detailed analysis of your client’s website. Analyze the content layout, navigation design, and site architecture.

Evaluate the website

Use tools like Ahrefs, Google Search Console, or Screaming Frog to crawl the website and find pages that may not have internal links.

Examine analytics

Utilize the website’s analytics to determine pages that have no or minimal traffic. These pages could be considered good orphan page candidates.

Analysis of search console

Search for any crawl or indexing errors in Google Search Console. It can provide data about pages that may be inaccessible to search engines.

Review sitemap

Check the website sitemap to make sure that all main pages are present. If there are any missing pages, we can consider them as potential orphans.

Fixing orphan pages

Internal linking

Such orphan pages should be integrated into your site’s content by creating appropriate internal links. Linking to and from these pages may help search engines find and index them.

Update navigation

Improve the navigation of the website by revising menus and adding links to orphan pages. This enhances user experience and SEO visibility.

Content relevance

Make sure the content on such orphan pages is relevant and useful. If a page doesn’t offer value to the customers or your site objectives, you may consolidate, update, or delete it.

XML sitemap submission

Submit a new XML sitemap to search engines. This alerts them on any changes in the structure of your site and a re-crawl of your pages.

Monitor analytics

Monitor website analytics to see how well-orphan pages are doing. Analyze how users engage with your content and adjust this strategy if needed.

301 redirects

In case a page is not relevant or necessary anymore, think about using 301 redirects to point the traffic and search engine bots to a more relevant one.

Consistent website maintenance

Review and update the content on your client’s website regularly. Such regular maintenance ensures that orphan pages do not occur again.

If you implement these methods, not only will your orphan pages be saved but also help in making the website more comprehensive and user-friendly with better SEO.

Do orphan pages affect Google’s ranking algorithm?

Orphan pages can affect Google’s ranking algorithm and thus the website rankings in search engines. The Google ranker algorithm considers multiple factors that make a page relevant and authoritative.

The orphan pages can affect these elements negatively, and it may result in unwanted outcomes for your site’s ranking.

Here’s how:

Indexing and crawling

Google’s algorithm depends on its ability to crawl and index the content of the website. The orphan pages in SEO, which are not linked to other pages of the website may find it difficult for Google crawlers to discover them.

This may cause these pages not to be indexed, and if Google knows nothing about the page, then it will not consider that in the ranking algorithm.

Internal linking and authority

Internal links support the transfer of authority within a website. The greater the number of internal links to pages, the more important they are considered, and the higher their authority level.

Orphan pages in SEO do not benefit from these internal links, which may result in low relative importance and authority according to the learned algorithm of Google.

User experience signals

Rankings are determined by user experience signals on Google. Orphan pages are bad for the user’s experience, resulting in higher bounce rates and lower engagement.

All the above signals may be interpreted by Google’s algorithm as a message that either the content or structure of your site does not correspond with user expectations.

Relevance and context

The objective of Google’s algorithm is to provide the most appropriate results for users. With a lack of inside links, orphan pages are thought to be less relevant in terms of the overall theme of your site. This can affect their relevance score in the ranking algorithm.

Poor user experience

Orphan pages are unavailable to users unless they know the exact URL, which leads to a bad user experience. Users tend to lose motivation when they hit dead ends or are unable to find the right content on the website.

Wasted content and resources

Orphan pages represent wasted content and resources that do not provide any benefits to the site as a whole. Unlinked and inaccessible content can be considered invisible by users and search engines alike, thus undermining its use and significance.

Internal links help to spread the link equity (or PageRank) throughout a website. Orphan pages have no internal links, consequently, they lose out on the chance of acquiring link equity. This can lead to the pages losing authority and ranking potential.

Though the issue with orphan pages is a good thing to consider in connection with Google’s ranking algorithm, bears mentioning that SEO moves are rather complicated and many things determine rankings.

Improving orphan pages is just one of many ways to optimize your site for search engines, and doing this affects the implementation of the overall SEO strategy positively.

A brief history of orphan pages in SEO

Orphan pages are a concept that has existed since the World Wide Web was invented. There is not a distinct historical incident that defined the birth of orphan pages, but their existence and struggles have been matched with webpages’ growth alongside websites and search engines.

Here’s a brief historical overview

Early days of the web (1990s)

During the early days of the internet, some websites had much simpler designs and plain HTML pages. The concept of orphan pages might not have been as common because websites were much smaller in scope, and navigation was usually straightforward.

Early Google (Late 1990s-2000s)

As Google came to prominence it started using link analysis and crawlability as ranking factors, which made websites more complex thus creating orphan pages.

This posed a threat to indexing and ranking valuable material. The experts were aware of the problem, pushing for internal linking practices that improved site structure and search engine visibility.

Mid-2000s: Google algorithm updates & SEO tools

Panda and Penguin, the changes to Google’s algorithm structure punished sites for weak structural links. Orphan pages, which worsened these issues by becoming SEO red flags.

SEO tools which were more and more in the sights of criticism, moved towards detecting orphan pages so that website owners could identify these issues quickly to find solutions consistent with Google’s vision concerning quality content, user experience, and organic links.

This represented a significant turning point, as addressing orphan pages became an essential component to sustaining SEO health and maneuvering algorithm changes aimed at ensuring sites comply with Google’s standards regarding ranking and indexation.

2010s: Semantic search & content focus

There was a change in the semantic relevance of Google’s search algorithm and an improvement in user experience. The issue of the orphan pages continued to be an obstacle because it may lead users astray and sometimes cause a mess with the linkage structure.

The implementation of content marketing approaches stimulated the production and website organization formation, which prevented orphan pages from occurring.

This development is a reflection of the wider industry shift toward conforming to Google’s cleaned–up standards, favoring user-friendly methods for achieving desirable site navigation, customer satisfaction, and natural search results.

2020s: Mobile indexing & user-centric SEO

Google’s move towards mobile-first indexing, where it focused on prioritizing the needs of mobile users increased website layout and navigation. Orphan pages, which cause broken links and lead to dead ends inaccessible for mobile browsing increased at the expense of their advantages.

This development sparked shedding light on user-centric SEO practices as the clear website structures and constant internal linkage became vital for mobile use.

In this situation, dealing with orphan pages became crucial to ensure smooth navigation on mobile devices considering the changing landscape in which user experience and ‘responsiveness’ had a tremendous impact on search engine rankings as well as general website success.

Present and future of orphan pages in SEO

Though influencing ranks not directly, orphan pages hold indirect effects in today’s SEO and also in coming times.

The association with unfavorable site architectures, user experience issues, and inefficient crawl budget allocation together lead to possible ranking downfalls as search engines become less productive.

Although not penalized, search engines tend to favor well-organized sites and provide smooth user interfaces.

To reduce the effect of orphan pages a preventative strategy is required. Routine website audits become an important tool for detection and correction.

With this active use of internal link strategies, website owners can avoid the appearance of orphan pages and make sure that every single piece of content in their site structure is connected.

This proactive approach is consistent with modern SEO principles focusing on user-oriented experiences and efficacious crawling for search engine bots.

The constant evolution of search engine algorithms, which tend to prioritize a holistic approach toward optimizing websites and blocking orphan pages remains crucial at all times.

The process of web audits and smart linking helps website owners improve their SEO results by developing a strong site structure and providing users with positive experiences that conform to the changing criteria governing the online landscape.

If you are an agency looking for a one-stop solution of combined SEO tools along with project management, please try our SEO Agency Software called SEOScrum.

Additional resources:

Arun Andiselvam

As a serial entrepreneur, I have successfully established five brands over the past 12 years. After creating a successful rank tracker for SEO agencies, I am currently dedicated to developing the world's first SEO Project Management software.