How to Find Orphaned Pages and What to Do with Them
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Maintaining a website and doing SEO means putting out content regularly. Whether it’s an e-commerce website that has thousands of products or a services website that publishes blog posts regularly, a website will inevitably expand the number of pages inside as time goes by.
Whether a website has 100 pages or 10,000 pages, internal linking is a crucial on-page SEO strategy. Linking one page to another helps visitors to navigate through your website. Aside from that, it helps search engine bots crawl your website. The more a page is internally linked, the easier it is for a bot reach the page and crawl it more frequently.
That means important pages for your websites such as Landing Pages, Product Categories, Services, Blog Posts, etc. should be frequently linked to each other.
However, there are some cases where some pages are left out in the ecosystem. These are called Orphaned Pages.
What are Orphaned Pages?
Orphaned pages are pages of a website that is not internally linked or has zero links from other pages of your website. This makes it difficult for search engine bots to crawl and index these pages.
Orphaned pages may occur for different reasons. It could be old blog posts, old products that are not being sold anymore, old services pages that are not being offered anymore. While there are some pages that are purposely left out such as testing pages and tags pages, it is critical that you check if there are orphaned pages that are still relevant for the users.
Does it Affect My SEO?
The answer is both yes and no. The effect of orphaned pages in a website’s rankings depends on how you look at it. If a page that is orphaned was created to be shown to users and has content that is important to users, it hurts your SEO because crawlers can’t see this page thus it won’t appear in the search results. Users won’t be able to see them either.
However, if a page that is orphaned was created for other purposes not related to users such as testing functionalities or testing a new website design, then you can leave these pages as it is.
How to Find Orphaned Pages using Screaming Frog
To find orphaned pages using Screaming Frog, you have to first make sure that your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts are connected.
To do that, under Configuration, scroll down to API access and connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Once you got them connected, make sure that under the General tab of the API window, you select Crawl New URLs Discovered in Google Analytics.
After connecting your GA and GSC accounts, under Configuration, go to Spider, and check Crawl Linked XML Sitemaps. Then check the option Crawl These Sitemaps: and input the URL of your website’s sitemap.
After setting everything up, you could now start crawling your website. Once it’s finished crawling, under Crawl Analysis, click on configure and check the box beside Sitemaps. It will start analyzing the crawl log of your website and will allow you to see the orphaned pages.
After the analysis, in the Overview under Sitemaps, you can now see all orphaned pages that were crawled by Screaming Frog.
How to Find Orphaned Pages using SEMRush
You could also find orphaned pages by setting up Site Audit in SEMRush. If you don’t have a website set up, create a new project first and let SEMRush crawl your website.
Once the set up of the project is complete, go to the Site Audit of your website then go to Issues. Under the Notices tab, scroll down to check if orphaned pages report is enabled.
If it hasn’t been enabled yet, connect your Google Analytics account in the Site Audit Settings. The process is similar to Screaming Frog. It will prompt you to log in with your Google Account, select the Profile, Property, and View of your selected Website and click Save.
Once you complete the setup, SEMRush will automatically collect data from Google Analytics. Unlike Screaming Frog, you don’t have to connect Google Search Console to get orphaned pages data in SEMRush.
After a few minutes, refresh your browser and check the Issues tab again. Click the dropdown menu Select an Issue and you will find Orphaned Pages (Google Analytics) under Notices.
Optimize or Scrap?
Once you collected all orphaned pages, it is now up to you what to do with these. You could place them inside a Google Sheet.
- If a page is still relevant, label them as ‘optimize’ and find possible pages to link to this page.
- If a page was relevant but now irrelevant such as old products or old services, you could delete them and leave them as 404. No need to redirect these as they don’t carry any link value at all.
- If a page is purposely left out, you could leave them as it is.
Here’s a sample template that you could use:
While orphaned pages can be harmless to your website’s overall rankings and SEO value, it could be a critical issue when important pages are left out. Include monitoring of orphaned pages in your regular website maintenance audit. Make sure that your website has a healthy site structure and good flow of link juice by internally linking pages to each other.