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How to Deal with Pagination

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Pagination is a topic that pulls out a grump from any SEO, whether they’re a junior or senior. Pagination can occur on a lot of different websites, mainly those which produce a lot of similar content such as forums, blogs and e-commerce websites. If you have a website or provide on-page SEO services, then you’re bound to come across pagination issues sooner or later.

Let’s look at what pagination actually is. It occurs when a website’s content stretches over multiple pages. On a news blog, this may be an article featured over more than one page. On an e-commerce website, this can be product categories. It doesn’t create a problem for the user, but it certainly does for the search engine. No one likes indexing issues.

  • Crawler Issues arise when the Googlebot visits your website. Depending on the authority, the bot will only crawl to a certain level (clicks away from the homepage). If you have endless amounts of paginated pages, the Googlebot will have to go crawl through everything which will lower rankings for pages that should be indexed (i.e. the homepage).
  • Duplicate content can be produced with some paginated pages. Depending on the actual topic in hand, you’ll often find that paginated pages have similar sub-headings, page titles and meta descriptions. It’s obvious what kind of problems this can cause with Google.
  • Quality of content is usually lowered on paginated pages. Paginating content onto different pages takes away information that may have been useful for the original page. You can run the risk of simply not having enough content to be indexed. Paginated pages on review sites, for example, take away vital information that should be on the original page. Panda also penalises for a high advertisement-content ratio. Paginating one page will divide up the content and multiply the advertisements.

There are three ways to deal with pagination. Each method is appropriate for different situations, having its own advantages and disadvantages.

1) Putting a noindex and follow tag is the simplest way to fix the issue. All you do is tell Google not to index the page. This method should only be used when the paginated pages have no advantage when they are indexed. This is highly unlikely, and is not recommended if the page actually has content. All you do is implement noindex, follow to the paginated page’s meta in the <head> just like this:

 <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>

The “follow” attribute allows page authority to spread into the paginated pages in the list, despite telling Google to exclude it from its index.

2) Listen to Google’s advice by implementing rel=”canonical” and making a view-all page. This view-all page will be separate from the paginated series which will have all the items on one page. After you’ve created this page, you have to place rel=”canonical” in the <head> of each paginated page that links to the view-all page as follows:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/view-all”>

This will tell Google to crawl each paginated page as part of the view-all page. While Google believes that this is the best choice for the crawler and the user, the topic is still debated. There is, however, one disadvantage to using rel=”canonical”. The view-all page must be able to load quickly, or else it won’t really help with your rankings. This is easy for paginated content on a news website, but pages which are image-heavy will add to the loading time if all the content is put together.

3) Implementing rel=”prev” and rel=”next” to tell Google that the paginated pages are part of a series. This is the probably the best, most complicated way to go about fixing pagination issues. Again, you’ll have to put the tag in the <head> of each paginated page, depending on which one it is. Let’s say you have four pages, with page1.html being the first. The implementation will look like this:

Page1.html – telling Google there is a next page to the series
<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/page2.html”>

Page2.html – telling Google there is a previous and next page to the series
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/page1.html”>
<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/page3.html”>

Page3.html – telling Google there is a previous and next page to the series
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/page2.html”>
<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/page4.html”>

Page4.html – telling Google there is a previous page to the series
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/page3.html”>

By using this sequence of rel=”prev” and rel=”next”, Google can put together each paginated page into one entry for its index.

As you see, there is a method suited for any situation, but it always comes with a disadvantage. Picking which solution to use is up to you…

Method Advantage Disadvantage
Noindex, follow - Easy to implement - Completely removes paginated content from the index
rel=”canonical” - Google’s recommended solution

- Can be user-friendly depending on the context

Not advised for a lot of paginated content/image heavy
rel=”prev” and rel=”next” - Fixes pagination issues while indexing and not making a view-all - Complicated implementation
– Requires an order

These methods can help cover simple pagination issues that most websites come across. More complex problems have more complex solutions such as implementing AJAX or Javascript, fixing URL parameters, and rel=”prev”/rel=”next” for filtered and sorted content. I’ll save that for another blog post!