SEO basics: What is orphaned content?

If you want content to rank in Google, it needs to know about the existence of that content. That means that you (or another site) should link to this content. Google follows these links, and saves every post or page it finds through links to in the index. So, you’ll understand that it’s important you add contextual links to all of your content. That sounds simple, but if you’re creating and publishing a lot of content, your linking structure might not be a top priority, and some of your articles may not get any links. Here, we’ll explain all about this so-called orphaned content: what it is, why it matters for SEO and how to fix it with the Yoast SEO plugin!

Did you know our Site structure training helps you prevent creating orphaned content? Find out how to build the best possible structure for your site! You’ll learn all about cornerstone content, taxonomies, internal linking and much more. Give it a try, you’ll love it!

What is orphaned content?

Orphaned content is content that doesn’t get any links from other posts or pages on the same website. As a result of that, this content is hard to find, for both Google and visitors. Posts and pages need internal links to them, to fit into a site’s structure and to be findable. Note that ‘links’ in this case means: contextual links. If content is linked to from the homepage, sitemap, or category and tag pages, but lacks text links, it’s still considered orphaned content. The reason for this is that text links provide both users and search engines with context and therefore, add more value.

Why does orphaned content affect your SEO?

To rank with content, Google obviously needs to know about it. Search engines follow links and save all the content of pages in their index. Orphaned content has few internal links from other pages or posts linking to it. Google will consider this type of content less important. So, if an article is important to you, you should make that clear to Google (and your visitors). Link to that specific article from other (similar) content.

How is orphaned content created?

If you write a new blog post, publish it and then forget about it, you probably won’t link to it anymore in your new posts and pages. Is this a bad thing? Well, that depends on the blog post. It is definitely a bad thing if you want people and Google to find this post because it’s important. In that case: make sure Google and your audience can find that orphaned blog post. Linking to it from articles that generate a lot of traffic in the search engines will help Google and your audience get to your blog post.

How do I use the orphaned content check?

You can find the orphaned content filter in your post overview. If you have Yoast SEO premium installed, your post overview will look like this:

Clicking on the orphaned content filter will give an overview of all the posts without text links linking to them. On Yoast.com, we have quite a few orphaned articles as well (content-team are you reading this? We have some work to do here ;-)).

Scrolling through our own orphaned articles, made me very aware of the fact that recent articles are often orphaned. We just don’t get around to adding links to these articles in our older blog posts. Still, for articles that are important to our SEO strategy or to our brand, we should make sure to add links in posts that generate a lot of traffic. That’ll help Google and our audience to find those important posts.

You’ll receive a notification in your SEO dashboard if your site has orphaned content.

Should you always fix orphaned content?

For some articles, it isn’t that important to fix an orphaned content status. Some blog posts are only important for a short period of time. At Yoast, we’re writing a lot about YoastCon at the moment, because that’s a big event coming up. Announcing such an event makes for a great blog post, but such a post probably has less value next year. It’s no problem for such a post to remain orphaned. In fact, perhaps you should consider deleting these pages (properly of course!) altogether. That’ll clean up your site a bit.

Conclusion: keep an eye on that orphaned content!

As I have shown, it’s easy to unwittingly create orphaned content, if you’re writing a lot of posts. Luckily, you can use the orphaned content feature of Yoast SEO premium to stay on top of things. You can easily check which posts and pages are orphaned, and add links to important content, so both Google and your users can find it!

Read more: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

 

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26 Responses to What is orphaned content?

  1. Christine
    Christine  • 1 year ago

    This new feature is a must have for anyone posting a lot of content. Thank you yet again for another awesome feature!!!

  2. matthew4
    matthew4  • 1 year ago

    Yoast is alerting me that I have 5 orphaned pages, but 3 of these are actually linked to from content on other pages. I have checked these links and they’re all working. What then is the reason that these 3 pages are listed as “orphaned”?

  3. jono1
    jono1  • 1 year ago

    Thank you for this post and the new feature!

  4. Sereyboth Yorn
    Sereyboth Yorn  • 1 year ago

    I have many posts on my website that has no incoming internal links, will need to fix it asap. Thank for this new feature from Yoast!

  5. Kimhak
    Kimhak  • 1 year ago

    Thanks Yoast for new feature I really love it. But I my post I see Cornerstone content (0) so what should it?

  6. Fabrice
    Fabrice  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for this new feature;)

    However, if the article is in an HTML sitemap it should be counted at least 1 BL ?

    In the same way, if we declared a page as “no index”, then it should not appear in orphaned content ^^

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

      Hi Fabrice. In its current form, the orphaned content filter only checks the links in posts. Later on, we will be able to distinguish between incoming links from other parts of the site, like taxonomies etc.

  7. Danielle Kim
    Danielle Kim  • 1 year ago

    I have activated Yoast 5.6 and I got this feature ! I have many Orphaned content posts in my site ! Maybe that is main reason for no traffic ! Love new feature ! <3

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

      Great! Now you know what to do :)

  8. Ema
    Ema  • 1 year ago

    I see that Yoast is counting the menu links and home page links as internal backlinks.

    It would be wise for Yoast to only count the contextual links inside the post as only backlinks so we can know if to add content or not for the orphaned posts.

    Example : We have a big website where some articles don’t have any internal posts that linking to it but because of menu links, and tags etc, it shows some count. That makes us confusing.

    We hope that Yoast would work on this.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

      Hi Ema. Currently, we should just track in-content links. Tags are not yet counted as internal links by the orphaned content filter.

  9. Curt
    Curt  • 1 year ago

    If you have tags that include orphaned content, does that show up for Google? Many of the orphaned content on our news site is linked via tags but still show up as orphaned.

    Does it have to be literally linked from another article directly to be consider no longer orphaned? As a news site that published 50 articles daily, it’s hard to go back way on 30K articles like that.

    Thanks for the informative article!

    • Nicholas Jackson
      Nicholas Jackson  • 1 year ago

      We have a similar structure on our websites, which uses custom taxonomies, so as long as an article is tagged in one or more of these, they should never be considered ‘orphaned’, because the page will contain links to related terms, and the taxonomy drives a list of related content that also appears. So unless Google somehow gives more weight to in-content links, I’m guessing that the tool is somewhat irrelevant?

      • Edwin Toonen
        Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

        Hi Nicholas and Curt. Thanks for your comments. Your assessment is correct. In its current form, the orphaned content filter only checks in-content links in posts. Of course, taxonomies play an important role in your internal linking strategy. In a future version of the tool, we will be able to distinguish between in-content links and taxonomy links. We will also add support for pages and custom post types. Stay tuned!

  10. Kristin
    Kristin  • 1 year ago

    My posts aren’t actually orphaned but are flagged as being orphaned. What’s the deal?

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

      Hi Kristin. How do link your posts on your site? The filter currently only works for in-content links and not tags etc. That will come in a later version of the tool.

  11. Pop Calin Ioan
    Pop Calin Ioan  • 1 year ago

    My mistake … there was no update made yet. I have made it, and now there are over 350 k links counted and 20 minutes passed, but still working.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

      Initial indexing could take a while. Let us know how it works out!

  12. Pop Calin Ioan
    Pop Calin Ioan  • 1 year ago

    I have Premium Yoast installed but there is no Orphaned section in my posts, neither any notification on the Dashboard of SEO. Can you instruct how to activate it?

  13. Nicholas Jackson
    Nicholas Jackson  • 1 year ago

    I’m guessing this doesn’t work on Custom Post Types?

    • Andrew Ledwith
      Andrew Ledwith  • 1 year ago

      Yes, I can confirm that this feature only works on posts and pages, not on CPTs.

      • Edwin Toonen
        Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

        We’re looking to fix that in an upcoming release.

  14. Markiser
    Markiser  • 1 year ago

    Thats cool future, Seo Yoast thanks for that, it was worthy to buy premium, however, on my website i have main menu and top menu, and pages which are linked on top menu are detected by yoast as orphaned, any idea how to fix this?

  15. Loretta
    Loretta  • 1 year ago

    Love, love, love this new feature! <3 Everyone is always so focused on creating new content and more content, but old content is also a good resource. Being able to easily identify the pieces we've neglected or forgotten, refresh them, and get them out there working for us is awesome.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 1 year ago

      Thanks so much, Loretta! We love it as well, as it shows us there’s still work to do.

  16. nik
    nik  • 1 year ago

    very nice…thank you for this post


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