An SEJ reader sent us the following SEO question, which which I decided to discuss with our readers:
What is an orphan page and dead-end page? What’s the difference? How are they harmful for your site?
An orphan page is the one that is not linked to by another one of the site (i.e. that cannot be reached from anywhere on the site) and thus cannot be found by a search bot unless it is linked to externally. It can occur deliberately (when a webmaster creates a “private” page to show to someone but not to public, for example) or accidentally (in this case it’s a web development/ design mistake).
While there are plenty of myths that, once discovered by a search bot, such web page may be classified as a doorway page and by this cause penalty to the whole site. I’ve personally never experienced that penalty myself and don’t believe that it can happen but if you have another experience, please share.
The worst thing about orphan pages is that they are useless for SEO as they can’t be seen by a search bot.
A dead-end page is the one that has no outgoing links, thus creating a “dead end”. It is definitely not a best case as, first, it’s unnatural (a web page should be connected to other pages, hence its name) and, secondly, it leaves both the robot and the visitor no other choice accept abandon the site: they have no way to go.
With template-driven sites it is quite difficult to create a dead end (you always have links in a sidebar, footer or banner). A common case of a dead end is a 404 page: therefore it should be optimized to include links to home page and important site directories.