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  • Writer's pictureBrent Payne

Orphan URL received search traffic

A situation where a URL that isn’t included in the crawlable structure of the website still manages to attract organic search traffic according to data from the linked Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.

Why is this important?

Orphan URLs are typically unintentional or indicative of a pending issue that needs addressing. In such instances, if the page should be integrated into the website, it's likely losing out on potential additional search traffic. Conversely, if the page is meant to remain orphaned, it should not be garnering traffic at all.

A typical instance of an undesired orphan page might involve a freshly created URL that has gone live without any internal link connections.

A typical instance of a purposefully orphaned page could be an obsolete URL, like one for a no-longer-available product, where internal links have been purposefully withdrawn.

What does the Optimization check?

This Optimization gets activated for any internal URL that is orphaned (lacking incoming links) but has registered some clicks in Search Analytics and/or visits in Google Analytics.

The information is aggregated from Google Search Console and Google Analytics via API, corresponding to the Property/View in question, over a defined date range.

How do you resolve this issue?

Note: Traffic data is reflective of past activity, whereas the crawl is a snapshot of the current reality, meaning the URL might have been part of the web architecture before becoming orphaned.

To address this, consider the two scenarios:

  1. URL should not be orphaned - link to the orphaned URL from other pages within your site.

  2. URL should be orphaned - determine if the URL should be reachable. If it's an old, irrelevant page, a 404 (Not Found) or 410 (Gone) HTTP status code should be returned. For pages that need to exist for users but not search engines, such as confidential login screens, use 'robots="noindex"' or restrict access behind a login.

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