How Do Zombie Pages Affect SEO?

Zombie Pages

Talk about SEO usually revolves around notions like keyword research, content marketing, and loading speed optimization.

Indeed, it only makes sense that you focus on perfecting your page in terms of the top-ranking factors. However, many smaller details can add up and completely ruin your otherwise flawless efforts at bringing your website to the top of the search results pages.

You might have already heard the term “zombie page” being thrown around, most often in the context of statistics. For instance, it is said that today, there are over 1.7 billion websites (with unique domains) on the internet; however, out of this massive number, only about 0.06% are active. The rest are often referred to as zombie sites, as you might have guessed.

While your website is certainly not one of these even if you only update it once in a while, pages within it that have little function are, indeed, much like these zombie sites and can harm your SEO efforts. But what exactly are zombie pages and why you should do your best to minimize their harmful effect? Here is everything you need to know.

What are Zombie Pages?

As we just said, zombie pages are pages that are “not functional.” This is quite a vague description so here is some additional information to help you better understand what qualifies as a zombie page within your website.

Zombie pages are pages with poor performance. They are rarely visited, which can have a variety of reasons. Here are some types of zombie pages to give you some idea of why these pages are not valuable:

  • Pages with irrelevant content that no one wants to read qualify as zombie pages. Old, outdated, incoherent content is all within this category. Pages specifically used to rank for keywords but that don’t provide any value to readers also backfire in this way.
  • Pages that are not indexed due to coding issues, most typically, will not even make it to the search results pages and will hardly be visited at all. Therefore, these are also almost as good as dead.
  • If you have pages that are not responsive and a nuisance to navigate on mobile, they might still make it to the results pages but will not contribute positively to your score.
  • Even if your page is responsive but there are other optimization issues, you can expect to be downgraded in the search results.
  • Inaccessible pages, or “orphan pages” are pages that exist but can hardly be accessed as they are not in your site’s menu or linked in any other way, so they cannot be crawled. Crawlers cannot identify their parentage, hence the name orphan pages.
  • Even though they are necessary, no one realistically reads annexe pages ever, so they can also easily become somewhat of a living dead. However, they are a vital element of your site.

Why are Zombie Pages Harmful?

Zombie pages are different from dead pages in that they don’t just peacefully exist but make things harder for you with their poor performance. In such an SEO-driven environment, you cannot afford these useless pages to take up space and drive away traffic.

The poor optimization of some of these pages will also reflect in your score since Google also takes zombie pages into account when determining your quality score.

Useless content is a major sin in SEO that can and will be punished. In an era where content is king in the online world, poor-quality content will not stand a chance. The only thing it will do is boost your bounce rate. Less might be more in this regard and removing clutter, leaving only highly optimized content to represent your site may be a better idea.

Additionally, user experience is a major determining factor in SEO. Zombie pages are an archenemy of UX for the already mentioned reasons. Poorly optimized pages that take forever to load or display incorrectly on mobile will drive visitors away instantly, signaling to Google that the content is not worth users’ time.

Finally, we also mentioned unindexed pages among zombie page types. A slow loading speed can lead to crawlers skipping your pages, resulting in the disappearance of your pages from Google search results and thereby, essentially from existence as well.

Is Your Website Affected by Zombie Pages?

It can be difficult to determine if your website has such zombie pages if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Luckily, now you have a better idea of what causes a page to step into the line of living dead, so you can assess your site confidently. If your site hasn’t exactly been performing wonderfully, here’s how to identify zombie pages.

Look at Your Performance

The first step in the process will need you to utilize Google Search Console. Using this tool, take a look at the performance of each of your pages within your website (you will need to click the “+” button and choose “page”).

Here you will be able to directly compare the pages of your choosing and see in detail what’s going on. You will most likely find a large discrepancy in performance if there are zombie pages to be dealt with. Look at data about total and unique page visits, bounce rate, time spent on the page, exit rate, and so on.

Find Unindexed Pages

As we said, unindexed pages are also problematic. So, another way of identifying zombie pages is by finding these. Similarly, you will use Google Search Console for this. Under “coverage,” find the “excluded” option.

Here, particularly under “crawled, currently not indexed,” you will see the pages that failed to be indexed by Google the last time crawlers examined your site, due to reasons relating to the content. On the other hand, under “discovered, currently not indexed,” pages with technical issues will be displayed. There are also several other reasons a page may not be indexed.

What to Do with Zombie Pages?

When it comes to dealing with zombie pages, there is not too much dilemma surrounding the topic. There are only two ways to approach the issue: fix them or get rid of them. You will need to decide which one is the best course of action in your case.

Call in Outside Help

Finding the root cause of the issue and mending it appropriately can be a long and tedious process. If you lack the appropriate expertise or you simply need to focus on other things in your business, it is easy to neglect this issue, however, that will further hurt your SEO results.

In this case, contacting local experts is the wisest decision. An NSW-based business, for instance, can find a reliable Sydney SEO agency that will audit its website promptly and deal with not only zombie pages but other underlying issues as well. Don’t let this cause you a headache but take the steps that make the most sense for your business.

Updating Zombie Pages

If you’re going the DIY way, one way to fix a zombie page issue is by updating it. Depending on the cause of its poor performance, you might need to rework the content in it to be more valuable for readers and a better representative of your brand. Pick the right keywords but avoid keyword stuffing. This shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

If the unsatisfactory performance is caused by poor optimization, on the other hand, you might need to take a closer look at your SEO strategy. Optimize your page for better loading time, make the content readable and the images engaging but compressed. Make sure your page is connected to the rest of your website with the appropriate links.

Get Rid of Them

The second way to solve the problem, and perhaps also the quickest and easiest way to do so, is by simply deleting the zombie pages. However, be careful. You shouldn’t be deleting just any page. Be sure to read everything before bidding goodbye. If the pages in question are outdated and they don’t convey any valuable information anymore, then it’s safe to get rid of them.

Think of this as decluttering. Pages of products you no longer sell are one good example of zombie pages ready to be buried for good. However, there are also vital pages that get little traffic, such as legal information and other annexe pages. Needless to say, you must keep these.

Middle Ground

If a page is truly a lost cause but it still has some information that should remain on your website, think about how you could reorganize things. Maybe you can merge the content of two pages into one, or you can simply take the information you want to keep and insert it into another already existing page. Determine whether the content of your zombie page truly deserves its page, and you’ll know what to do.

Like many other SEO practices, getting rid of zombie pages, one way or the other, will improve your visitors’ UX and ultimately, boost your ranking. Once you’ve found the poorly performing pages of your site, fixing the issue does not take long, so don’t neglect your SEO.

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