How to fix orphan pages for SEO
4 mins read

How to fix orphan pages for SEO

An orphaned page has no internal links to it. Most search engine optimization tools flag orphan pages as a critical issue, but it’s not that simple. The site may have a legitimate reason, such as:

  • Serves a specific advertising campaign.
  • Communicates a status message such as “Thank you for signing up”.
  • Lists search results dynamically or generated from user-selected filters.

In these cases, insert a noindex Meta tag on the page to prevent search engines from indexing it.

However, orphan pages are a problem when (i) they are indexed by Google and (ii) they account for about 20% or more of a website’s total indexed URLs.

Likewise, nearly orphaned pages—just an internal link or two—could also become an SEO issue.

Google ranks internal links based on the “importance” of a page. Google assumes that a page has little value if there are few links to it. And a website with a large percentage of low-value pages sends a bad Panda Algorithm signal to Google.

More importantly, low-value pages waste Googlebot’s crawl budget and dilute the authority of internal links, lowering organic search rankings for the entire site.

Also, in my experience, orphaned pages often signal larger structural problems. For example, a site with 20% or more orphaned or poorly linked pages is likely to have poor architecture or a failed migration. Both require immediate attention.

How to find orphan pages

Use a crawler tool to find pages with no (or very few) internal backlinks. The free version of Screaming Frog works for websites with fewer than 500 pages. Larger websites require the paid version of Screaming Frog or other solutions. For example, JetOctopus has many useful features, such as log analysis and Search Console integration.

A site crawler lists all URLs (via log file search) and their number of internal links. Sorting results to show URLs by fewest internal links quickly identifies orphan and near-orphan pages.

A simpler solution is SE Ranking’s website audit tool. It finds problems like orphaned pages and suggests solutions.

Screenshot of SE Ranking's website audit tool

SE Ranking’s website audit tool identifies pages with no inbound links. This example is for a website with 97 such pages.

How to fix orphaned pages

Fixing an orphaned page depends on the circumstances.

Expired pages with content, such as B. Products removed from the catalog or expired offers. Make sure these pages contain clear links to similar products. I would not remove or noindex these pages as they may still be generating (and converting) traffic from external backlinks and organic search results.

Dynamic, indexed URLs occur when a website’s internal search creates a unique URL on each query or filtered search. Again, these orphaned pages are only a problem if they are indexed by Google. Use Search Console’s page inspection tool to find out its status and how Google discovered it. If indexed, add a noindex label or a rel=canonical Directive pointing to a static alternative.

The causes of indexed dynamic URLs can be a broken sitemap that contains them or external links pointing to them. Sometimes a malware attack creates many indexed (dynamic) orphan pages. Sometimes it’s a faulty content management system or plugin. All require immediate attention.

Indexed nonexistent pages. This occurs due to CMS errors or improper site migrations. First, make sure these pages return 404 status codes so Google will eventually remove them from its index. Then fix your CMS or migration errors.

Accidentally orphaned pages – usually after a redesign or site migration – have top priority. Once identified, insert them into the site’s architecture and internal link structure as soon as possible to restore rankings.

Analysis of orphan pages

Orphan page analysis usually identifies broader issues such as a faulty site structure, a broken CMS, or even a malware attack. Analysis is essential after a website migration or redesign. Regardless, fixing an orphan page is only necessary if you want it to rank in organic search results.

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