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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 »