SEO Pagination and its Best Practices
Pagination is a necessary feature on many websites, particularly if you have a large number of articles (an active blog section, for example), or a large number of products on your website. How does pagination impact SEO and what should you do to optimise pagination on your website?
SEO pagination is an advanced area of SEO, but for many it is important. Let’s start at the beginning, though.
What is Pagination and Why Do Websites Have It?
Website developers add pagination to websites to improve the way the website displays information. An example will illustrate this best.
Let’s say you sell products on your website, with 1,000 products over 10 categories, with an average of 100 products per category. One of the options you are likely to give users on your website is the option to view all the products in a category.
How do you display that information? Do you put all 100 products on one page? Or, do you paginate the category, putting 10 products per page with links for the user to scroll through the pages?
Most websites choose the second option, including large websites like Amazon. One of the reasons they do is the fact that putting 100 products on a page would have a detrimental impact on page load times.
So, in summary, the most common usage of pagination is to make it easier to display large amounts of information.
Before moving on, though, there is another usage of pagination that you might have seen on websites – pagination within an article. In other words, a single article split over multiple pages.
This is a very different usage of pagination. Instead of helping users, website owners use this option so they can show more ads to visitors, i.e. as the user clicks through to each new page in the article, they see a new set of ads.
In this blog, however, we’re going to focus on the more common usage of pagination – to display large amounts of information.
Types of Pagination
- Article pagination – as mentioned above, a single article spread across more than one page
- Gallery pagination – where each image or gallery item as its own page
- Forum thread pagination – where a single forum thread has multiple pages
- Category pagination – where each category has its own page, like the product listing example mentioned above
- Infinite scroll pagination – where the website adds new information to the page whenever the user scrolls
The Impact of Pagination on SEO
The primary concern of most website owners when considering SEO and pagination is the fact that Google can, and probably will, index multiple paginated pages. In other words, it will index page two, three, four, etc in a paginated series as well as page one.
This is an issue for two main reasons:
- Most website owners put the most relevant information on page one of a paginated series. Therefore, they want users to see page one first. A Google search, however, might return page two in the paginated series, for example, or any other page.
- Depending on the size of your website, you might run into crawl bandwidth issues. In other words, the Google crawler will only spend so much time on your website indexing pages. If it gets stuck indexing multiple pages in multiple paginated series, it might not crawl other, more important pages.
The second point above is compounded by the fact that modern website Content Management Systems often add strings to URLs. This could result in not only lots of paginated pages in Google’s index, but also lots of variations of paginated pages.
One method that some website owners use is to noindex every page except for page one in a paginated series. They do this in an attempt to force Google to prioritise page one.
This can have unintended consequences, however, including the fact that Google will stop following internal links on the other pages in the series. As internal links are crucial to SEO, this method of optimising pagination could have a detrimental impact on your website’s overall SEO, so it’s not recommended.
This means you should let Google index all pages in your paginated series.
Pagination Best Practices
Let’s first recap on the objectives of optimising the pagination feature of your website. There are two:
- You want Google to understand that it has found a paginated series on your website. Furthermore, you want Google to know which page is page one in the series, so it knows that, from your perspective, it’s the most important page.
- Secondly, you want to eliminate the variations of each paginated URL in Google’s index.
Two different link elements are the solution.
The first is:
- rel=”next” and rel=”prev”
You should apply this to the “Next” and “Previous” links that appear on pages in your paginated series. Often these links appear at the bottom of each page.
Obviously, page one in the paginated series will only have a rel=”next” link element. Google will understand this means it is page one in the paginated series.
All other pages will have both link elements, and the last page will have just rel=”prev”.
What about the second objective – limiting the number of pages in Google’s index to only clean links in the paginated series, i.e. eliminating all the other links created dynamically by your CMS?
The solution to this is the rel canonical link element. Specifically, on each page in your paginated series, you should add a canonical link to itself.
What About Duplicate Content?
One problem with pagination that website owners often highlight is duplicate content warnings. In other words, the pages in your paginated series are likely to have duplicate content, so you may get warnings.
The simple answer to this one is you don’t need to worry. Google understands that not only is pagination a fact of the internet, duplicate content on pages in a paginated series is also a fact of the internet.
So, while duplicate content warnings are important everywhere else, on paginated pages, you can ignore them.
Optimising Your Paginated Pages
The above may sound complex, but your website developer will be able to put in place solutions that automatically apply the rel=”next”, rel=”prev”, and rel canonical link elements to pages in a paginated series. Doing this will optimise them for SEO.