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Definition: What is an orphan page?
The notion of an orphan page refers to a page of a website that still exists and is accessible, but which is no longer integrated into the internal mesh of your site, and therefore to which no link refers to the entirety of your website. This page is therefore no longer integrated into the architecture of a site, it has been forgotten.
Such a page still exists on the web. It is therefore possible to access it by entering its URL in the search bar, or by its appearance in Google’s SERPs if it is indexed.
In general, these web pages correspond to old editorial content forgotten during a migration, old forum discussions, etc.
Origin of these orphan pages
There are several different orphan page sources that explain the existence of such pages on the web:
- Redesigning a site: When redesigning a site, it is possible to forget some of your pages. These pages are then no longer integrated into your internal mesh, and become orphans.
- Non-mesh pages: It is also possible to create new pages, and forget to include a link pointing to them in your menu or footer. Your pages then exist but are not found anywhere on your site.
- Updating a URL: When updating one or more of your URLs, you may forget to perform a 301 redirect and update the links on your website.
Impact of orphan pages and SEO
If a good quality page becomes an orphan, then this handicaps its referencing, and therefore your site in general. Indeed, being an orphan, it does not receive any link juice and is not semantically optimized due to the absence of internal linking. In addition, in terms of traffic, you will notice a sharp drop, due to the difficulty of accessibility of the page for users and crawlers. This is very handicapping for the turnover of an e-commerce site if the orphan pages are product pages.
As for poor-quality pages, the SEO impact of their existence is not positive either. Indeed, these pages are certainly hidden, but they still continue to exist, and can therefore negatively impact the quality of your site if Google were to come across them. Also, low-quality orphan pages impact the crawl budget that Google allocates to you. Indeed, part of this budget will be used for these orphan pages which are however not worth it, and this is to the detriment of the qualitative pages of your site.
In both cases, it is important to identify these orphan pages in order to either delete them or integrate them again into your internal linking.
Detect orphan pages of a website
These orphan pages are not very complicated to detect. It’s just a matter of taking the time to start looking for them. Here are the few steps to follow to determine them:
- Do a crawl of your site, to keep only the indexable pages.
- Among these indexable pages, list all those not yet indexed.
- Then compare this list to the list of non-indexed indexable pages listed in your site’s sitemap to detect those that the crawler failed to find. These pages are your orphan pages.
You can also use Google Search Console to determine these orphan pages:
- Perform a crawl of your site, and filter your results to keep only the indexable pages.
- Use the Google Search Console API to retrieve the URLs of pages that have had impressions for 1 year, then filter these URLs to keep only those indexable.
- Then compare your two files obtained. This will allow you to detect URLs displayed in Google’s SERPs, but not found by a crawl.
There are also SEO tools such as SEMrush that identify these orphan pages for you, without you having to do it manually as seen above.
Fix this problem of orphan pages
Fixing the orphan pages problem is not that complicated, only it is tedious work. The orphan pages come from a bad definition of your internal mesh. It is therefore for you to take all this internal linking to define it in the clearest and most complete way possible, making sure, this time, not to omit any page.
Once this internal link has been determined, you need to apply it concretely to your site. Then go back to each of your pages to link them together, and make sure that all are integrated into your internal mesh.
However, if some of your detected orphan pages are of poor quality, in this case, it is a question of deleting them.
In order to make sure that you have really succeeded in getting rid of these orphan pages, it is advisable to perform a new crawl of your site. If your orphan pages are displayed there, then you have successfully attached them to your internal link!
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