Even experienced SEO’s can get a headache from dealing with canonical URLs and pagination issues. If you’re new to dealing with the ever-changing demands of a strong online presence favored by users and search engines, it may be tempting to avoid pagination and SEO entirely.
But, for SEO professionals, it isn’t a question of if you’ll have to deal with pagination – it’s a question of when. Running a blog, forum, an eCommerce, or directory site requires facing this beast and conquering it sooner, rather than later.
The good news? We’re here to help. In this article, we’ll be addressing the nitty-gritty elements of pagination issues, and what you can do to successfully eliminate them, by following the best SEO-friendly practices.
Pagination is a term used for the process which divides content across a series of pages. It’s a common technique used to divide lists of articles or products into a digestible format and distribute content on more than one URL, for ease of use.
Pagination is most commonly found on the following types of websites:
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 simplest 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, 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, big pages take longer to load. However, 40% of users leave websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. On the other hand, keeping the number of links on your page to under 100 is just good practice. Sure, Google eliminated the rules around this a while ago, but don’t let that fool you. Less is still more when it comes to pagination and SEO.
You’ve probably heard that pagination is bad for SEO. However, in most cases, this is due to a lack of correct pagination handling, rather than the existence of pagination itself. So, what happens when you don’t properly manage your paginated content? Your SEO suffers.
Some of the most common problems with poorly paginated content include:
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.
Leaving too little content on each page is bad for your SEO. In circumstances where products and articles are segmented across multiple pages (to drive ad revenue by increasing pageviews), you might not have enough original content on each page to appease Google, which creates the risk of running too low on content-to-advertisement ratios.
When Google’s bots crawl your website, the depth they travel will depend on various factors, including authority. When paginated series content isn’t optimized, search engine crawlers get confused. They might choose to linger on the surface, rather than digging into pages themselves. 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? Your content doesn’t get indexed.
Pagination causes internal link equity and other ranking signals, such as backlinks and social shares, to be split across pages. But, this can be minimized by using pagination only in cases where a single-page content approach would cause a poor user experience.
The main issue with pagination in search is that content is divided across multiple pages, rather than loaded on one page. In the past, this issue was overcome using rel=“next” and rel=“prev”, however, Google recently announced that it no longer uses this link element as an indexing signal. This was a game-changer.
The news that Google no longer supports the rel=“next” and rel=“prev” link element has shook the SEO community and left many questioning how to optimize websites with pagination. What this means is that Google no longer uses this link element to consolidate indexing properties, nor to identify the most appropriate paginated page to be ranked in search results. If Google doesn’t use rel=”next” and rel=”prev”, then how does it handle paginated pages in its index?
This now means that paginated pages are treated just like any other page on your website in Google’s index. Rather than a series of pages consolidated into one piece of content, they are now treated as individual, unique pages.
Over time, SEO best practices of pagination handling have evolved. We’re here to guide you through managing pagination according to the latest SEO best practices.
Using both traditional and new SEO considerations, we have provided a technical SEO checklist on how to optimize pagination.
Now, let’s figure out the basics of mastering those pagination pages and taming this wild beast.
A little design prowess can prevent a host of pagination problems before they even begin. For instance, when creating your site, make sure you optimize for user experience. Focus on:
Pagination should primarily improve the user experience and the content should be relevant to the audience’s search queries. Any pagination which is indexed should focus on improving the user experience and design of pagination, as it will help achieve its purpose.
For search engines to efficiently discover, crawl, and index paginated pages, the site must have anchor links with href attributes to these paginated URLs. Make sure the paginated pages are linked to using anchor links and have an ahref attribute pointing to the URL of the paginated page. Additionally, you should indicate the relationship between component URLs in a paginated series with rel=”next” and rel=”prev” attributes.
Yes, even after Google’s infamous announcement. They can still be valuable. For the Bing search engine, experts still recommend using it to indicate the relationship between pagination pages. This will help bots understand how pagination pages are interconnected and prevent duplicate content from appearing.
Using facets in conjunction with pagination can be a challenge for the effective crawling of content by search bots. Just like any other page on your website, Googlebot should not be blocked from crawling paginated URLs using the robots.txt file or rel=”nofollow”. Otherwise, search crawlers will simply stop following links or remove pagination pages from the index.
Additionally, implement a pushState for any user action that resembles a click or actively turning a page.
Google’s change to how it handles pagination means that it now stands on its own. So, as well as making each paginated page unique and high-quality, you also need to make sure that the paginated pages are not competing with the root page in search results. This is a balance between making the pages useful, but not optimizing them to rank for relevant keywords.
Use relevant internal linking and anchor text around the first paginated page to provide strong signals to search engines around which page should rank for certain keywords or topics.
Handling pagination issues is no walk in the park. Changes in Google’ indexing have caused many webmasters to change their approach to the pagination of site pages. Still, as complex as finding the right solution for your business can be, 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.
Hopefully, this guide has helped point those who are looking for actionable SEO-friendly pagination advice in the right direction.
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