How to Find Orphan Pages in WordPress

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be challenging at the best of times. It’s not an exact science, for starters, and it’s also a constantly moving content. Google is updating its algorithm all the time, so while a tactic (black hat, white hat, or anything in between) can be very effective today, it could land you in the penalty box tomorrow.

And yes, as John has said so many times before, if you live by the Google, you’ll die by the Google. Even so, the amount of traffic you can get from the world’s most popular search engine is undeniable and remarkably appealing. You’d be foolish to ignore it, regardless of the kind of business that you’re in… but this is especially true if you run a content-rich site like a blog.

If a blog post gets published and no one is around to read it, was it ever written at all? And this leads us to the very common problem of orphaned content, which you might also see as orphan pages or, in the case of a WordPress blog, orphan posts. And this is a problem you should address periodically.

What Is Orphaned Content?

So, let’s start with a definition. Before you get into more complex concepts like latent semantic indexing or anything of that sort, at its most fundamental level, search engine optimization has a lot to do with links. That’s why everyone is constantly talking about building up high quality backlinks, or how you should optimize your link anchor text, or how you should be mindful about dofollow and nofollow links.

These links aren’t just about the “SEO juice” they can provide either, as they serve as an indication or road map for Google to follow. The bots and spiders make their way through the web, following all those links to crawl the content on the pages found therein. One page leads to another to another to another.

Orphaned content is when you have a page where there are no links pointing toward it at all. We’re not just talking about links from other websites either; internal links on your own website are very important for this reason too. In an ideal world, every post and page on your website has at least one link pointing to it from another post or page on your site.

And this does not include the links that you might find on your archive or index pages either; we’re talking about actual content pages linking to other actual content pages.

Find It and Link It

Now, I don’t know about you, but trying to go through the process of manually finding every page that doesn’t have a link pointing to it sounds like an overwhelmingly tedious task indeed. You’d probably have to set up a spreadsheet with a list of every post and page on your site, which is already a daunting task, and then go through them one by one to see if they have any links pointing toward each one.

That’s wildly time-consuming, mind-numbing, and totally unnecessary. Can you imagine going through the over 7,500 posts published here on John Chow dot Com? Even on my own blog, Beyond the Rhetoric, I’m creeping up on 4,000 lifetime posts. That’s a lot of content!

This is not at all a paid endorsement, but the easiest way to identify orphan pages on your WordPress blog is with a Yoast SEO Premium membership. It costs $89 for one site, including one year of free updates and support. When you install and activate the premium plugin, you’ll have a new option under the Posts listing inside WordPress.

In addition to the usual filters, like published and pending, you’ll see a new one called “Orphaned content.” Click on that and you’ll find every post without a text link pointing toward it. You still need to go through and manually find a suitable place to link to each of the orphan pages, but at least you now know which pages need a link.

If you don’t think the page or post is worthwhile anymore, you might choose to delete the page and re-purpose the content somehow. And that’s all there is to it. It’ll likely take you some time to fix all your orphaned content, if you ever get around to addressing all of it. And remember to check it again periodically too!