Pagination and SEO is a topic that might cause your palms to sweat.
Even as an SEO expert, I get an odd headache from dealing with canonical URLs and pagination issues. If you’re new to dealing with the ever-changing demands of online presence, it may be tempting to avoid pagination and SEO completely. Unfortunately, running an eCommerce site, blog, or directory site requires that you face the beast eventually.
The good news? I’m here to help.
In this article, I’ll be addressing the nitty-gritty elements of pagination issues, and what you can do to eliminate them. However, before we get started, let’s establish a quick definition of what “pagination” actually means.
Pagination occurs when your website spreads your content over multiple pages. If you have an eCommerce site, this will happen with your product and category listings. On the other hand, if you’re a news site, your articles might be split into multiple pages and genres. Makes sense, right? Now let’s figure out how you can master those pagination pages.
Why Bother with Category Pages?
Pagination issues are common and can make the process of strengthening your SEO strategy difficult. With that in mind, you might wonder why you’d bother with paginated content in the first place. The easiest answer: user experience. Customer experience has emerged as the only differentiator for today’s brands. If you’re not giving your visitors the web experience they’re looking for, then you’re going to lose revenue – fast.
When you gather more than a few pages of links, your network starts to get more complex for your users. Moreover, those big pages take a long time to load. Remember, 40% of users leave websites that take more than 3 seconds to load.
On the other hand, it’s just good practice to keep the number of links on your page to under 100. Sure, Google eliminated the rules around this practice a while ago, but don’t let that fool you. Less is still more when it comes to pagination and SEO.
Problems with Pagination and SEO
So, what happens when you don’t properly manage your paginated content? The simple answer is that your SEO suffers.
When paginated series content isn’t optimized, your search engine crawlers become confused. They don’t know where they should be going on your site. They may even choose to linger on the surface, rather than digging into pages themselves. If you have an eCommerce website, the content in your product listings that don’t appear in the first few pages may be missed entirely. Some of the biggest problems with poorly paginated content include:
Crawler restrictions: When the bots from google crawl your site, the depth they travel will depend on various factors, including authority. If you have a huge series of pages or too many pagination issues, the Googlebot is more likely to give up during the early stages of browsing your site. The result? All your content doesn’t get indexed.
Duplicated Content: Depending on the context of your paginated content, there’s a chance that some elements in your series of pages will have duplicate content. You may find that identical meta descriptions and title tags are a problem too. This confuses the Google crawlers when they’re trying to rank your pages.
Thin Content: Finally, in some situations, pagination pages can suffer from thin content. In circumstances where products and articles are segmented across multiple pages, you might not have enough original content on each page to appease Google. This also creates the risk of you running too low on content-to-advertisement ratios.
Dealing with SEO and Pagination: What You Need to Know
I’ve found that for most companies, better SEO and pagination starts with effective design. A little design prowess can prevent a host of problems before they even begin. For instance, when creating your site, make sure you optimize for user experience. Focus on:
Providing a larger number of categories. This reduces the depth of paginated series.
Increasing products per page. This decreases the number of pages in the series.
Linking to all pages in your paginated series from the first page. This alleviates problems with crawl depth.
Of course, you may already have a problem with your series of pages. If a site structure overhaul isn’t possible, there are other methods for eliminating pagination issues.
Paginated Content and Infinite Scroll
When your paginations pages start to overflow, infinite scroll is a popular solution. Many of my clients use the infinite scroll to support long articles and social media pages. This solution is also great for mobile pages, as it’s a highly user-friendly feature. The only problem? It’s not always as friendly for search engines.
The good news is that you can offset some of the problems with infinite scroll. This allows you to minimize pagination issues and protect your SEO. For instance, if your paginated content has separate URLs, use them in your sitemap. This helps search engines to find, crawl and index content for you.
View-All Page Canonical URLs
Google’s suggested solution for handling pagination issues is to create separate “View-All” pages. These canonical URLs exist apart from the paginated series and include all the important info in a single page. Once you’ve created your page, you can add a “Rel=” canonical” tag into the <head> section of each component page pointing back to the view-all page.
These canonical tags tell Google to treat each page in your paginated series as part of the View-All page. Google preferably suggests this method to support their crawlers. Of course, whether or not your user experience levels will be improved by this method is debatable.
Additionally, there’s a caveat you may want to consider. Your View-All page still has to load within less than 4 seconds. It’s a good option for consolidating your category and product listings but it may not be as useful for paginated articles or products with a lot of images.
Use Link Rel= Prev/Next
I know first-hand that pagination doesn’t have to result in duplicate content. A good implementation can avoid this problem. However, paginations pages can still cause issues with SEO factors like your meta description and title tags.
Google Search Console is a great tool for finding instances of duplicate content and title tags. Find all of your duplicate information in the HTML improvement section underneath “Search Appearance.”
The rel= prev/next tags exist in the
</head><head> segment of your page. They indicate which pages come before or after the chosen content in the paginated series. For instance, your tags might look like this:
<link rel="prev" href=www.website.com/page1/>
<link rel="next" href=www.website.com/page2/>
These tags tell your search engines that your URL parameters are linked together. As such, your meta description and title tags won’t look like duplicates. Just remember that the first and last pages in your series shouldn’t have a “prev” or “next” tag.
Last-Ditch Effort: Remove Paginated Content from the Index
If you’ve been struggling with pagination and SEO and the options above can’t help, don’t worry, there is a final solution. There are situations when it’s worth taking your paginated series off the table all the while maintaining focus on user experience and SEO for your company. Just a word of advice: I’d recommend speaking to an expert before you jump into this option.
However, if you can’t see any advantage to having your paginated series indexed, then you can implement a new tag. Place <META NAME=”ROBOTS”CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”> in every <head> of your paginated series, just don’t put it on the first page. The “Follow” tag on your first page will ensure you continue to build page authority.
Handling Pagination and SEO
I’m the first to admit that handling pagination issues is no walk in the park. Still, as complex as it can be to find the right solution for your business, don’t underestimate the power of pagination. The right strategy can have a huge impact on your site’s user experience as well as your ability to rank.
The good news is that if you handle your paginations pages properly by using canonical tags and rel=prev/next, you’ll protect your authority and delight your users, too. But approach this solution the wrong way, and you could cause serious issues for your SEO and impede your strategic progress.