SEO basics: What is orphaned content?

If you want your 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 can get access to this training course, and all of our other SEO courses with Yoast SEO Premium.

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 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 meaningful internal links from other pages or posts 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:

orphaned content filter on yoast.com

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 still 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.

Should you always fix it?

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 sometimes write about our events that are 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 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 »


7 Responses to What is orphaned content?

  1. Andrea
    Andrea  • 3 months ago

    Hi! I am baffled because I have all my posts related on category pages, and related post links yet yoast finds them orphaned. Similarly, when I add a blogroll on a page with links to the articles, yoast can’t detect these links as interior links and then I assume Google can’t either? Why?

  2. Amaka
    Amaka  • 3 months ago

    So can i still fix the orphaned contents and how can I add links to them if they have already been posted!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi Amaka, that’s easy! If they’re already posted you copy the URL (so, for instance, for this article that would be https://yoast.com/orphaned-content/) and you go to other related articles and add a link to the orphaned article in those articles. Of course, you should place these links where it makes sense for your audience. For instance, we could add links to this article from other articles about internal linking when we talk about orphaned content. Hope this helps!

  3. Daniel Chan
    Daniel Chan  • 3 months ago

    Thanks. I have a new website danchanmagic.com but I also have old pages, with the old site design, I’m keeping for historical purposes. Will these pages be considered orphaned content? These are text-rich but dated in terms of images and style. What do you recommend doing with this older content? Should they be updated with the new site design?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi Daniel, it depends a bit on the purpose of those pages. For branding and consistency, you might want to implement the new design on the page. If you don’t and purely keep them for historical purposes, at least mention that it’s the old design and that there are new pages too. If you do want them to rank, you should probably update them and link to them :-)

  4. Mike Howell
    Mike Howell  • 3 months ago

    Great post if you’re a Blogger. not so great if you’re running an e-commerce site. If I put in the links suggested by Yeost I get a warning that I am posting a similar item and will be taking away interest from the item I’m selling. Currently have over 500 orphaned items but they are all products for sale!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi Mike, if you want to get attention for your products you can still link to them! For instance, from your blog post, if you have them. I do assume these products get links from a category page too? Hope this helps, and good luck!