Almost everyone who has ever managed a website and had to index paginated pages is familiar with SEO or search engine optimisation.
In simple terms, SEO refers to improving your website, leading to better quality and quantity of traffic from various search engines. It utilises several tools and techniques, such as keyword research, link building, UX improvement for normal pages and pagination, to get the desired results.
And pagination is among the most important of these, but one which many people find challenging to implement correctly. This is because it is more complicated than most other techniques and can only be used in certain situations.
But proper paginated pages are essential for any website to provide results, which is why we’ve put together this guide on treating pagination differently and implementing pagination efficiently. This will help improve the user experience, resulting in better reviews and a higher ranking for your website.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
What Is Pagination in SEO?
The term pagination refers to the division of a website into separate pages to promote usability and provide a better experience. It can be used for several websites, but most importantly, for eCommerce sites with large category pages. Pagination is also used in the case of blogs, where several articles are spread across multiple pages.
And, since it is a part of SEO and website building, it needs to be appropriately optimised to get the best traffic. However, optimising paginated content is not easy since they usually include many data divided into many parts.
Incorrect pagination implementation can cause various problems in forum threads and even negatively affect SEO. That is why it is crucial to understand the risks associated with how to implement pagination before implementation. Designing a user-friendly layout and design during the wireframe phase of your website design can help create a positive impact on the experience of your pagination.
Risks Associated With Improper Implementation Of Pagination
1. Weakening Of Ranking Signals
Incorrect pagination can adversely affect the ranking signals of multiple pages and lead to a lower ranking of the entire website. That is why it is vital to assess the benefits of pagination before implementation. The decision to use pagination should only be made if it enhances website usability, particularly if the current state of the website negatively impacts user experience.
2. Duplication Of Content
When implemented correctly, pagination helps avoid content duplication by properly transitioning to the next page, but if there are any issues with the implementation, the reverse becomes true. Duplicate content can confuse search engines and force them to select one from several identical pages for ranking.
This may result in situations where the original page is not ranked at the top of the results.
3. Requirement Of A Crawling Budget
You will need a separate budget if you allow search bots to crawl through paginated pages. This may not be ideal for all situations and websites, but fortunately, you can stop this using various methods, such as the Google Search Console.
4. Negative Effect On The Scan Depth
Pagination affects StaticRank and PageRank, which are algorithmic ranking technologies for determining the popularity of a URL, especially in news sites. This is because if the search engine crawlers cannot find valuable content in a few clicks, they will rank that website lower.
5. Meaningless Or Thin Content
Pagination can lead to meaningless content on a website if the webmaster is focused on generating revenue through banner ads instead of delivering high-quality content on subsequent pages. When the website is divided into sections for increasing conversions, content that offers little value can appear before the visitors. And this will ultimately lead to a worse ranking in the search engines.
Pagination vs. Infinite Scroll
Some web admins prefer using the infinite scroll option instead of pagination for organising websites containing considerable content. Contrary to pagination, with infinite scroll, the entire content is kept on only a single page instead of being divided into multiple sections. Website visitors can scroll infinitely to access all the content without visiting other pages.
Sometimes the single page may be divided into sections, with a button allowing users to load more content, which remains on the same page. The advantages of the infinite scroll are that it offers a better visual experience to the users and works well on mobile devices. However, it is not the best option for SEO purposes.
This is due to search engine bots, like Google Bot, being unable to replicate the scrolling behaviour and load more content on the same page, making it challenging to index pages efficiently. This prevents search engines from crawling and indexing the content quickly.
Another important factor to consider is that web crawlers, such as those used by search engines, do not want to waste their crawl budget on infinitely scrolling pages and instead rely on snapshots. But such snapshots do not contain all the required information. These problems are not present with pagination, making it ideal for improving your SEO.
Advantages Of Pagination
Pagination, which refers to dividing a website into separate pages, has two main advantages. Knowing how many paginated pages your website has is crucial to optimising the user’s experience and promoting better navigation.
1. Improving The User Experience
A single page with lots of information can quickly overwhelm website visitors, causing them to look for answers elsewhere. Thanks to pagination, it is possible for web admins to provide that information in small and manageable chunks, thereby delivering a better user experience.
Consider an eCommerce website, which can list a product and its price on the landing page. Interested customers can click the image or link to learn more about the product page.
2. Promoting Better Navigation
Pagination, including effective internal links, can make it easy for users to navigate a website and locate the content they are interested in. It helps save a lot of time and effort and can even be used with CTAs. A paginated page allows users to travel to other pages easily by providing links at the end of the content.
This is commonly used in eCommerce websites that provide page numbers at the bottom after the list of products ends on particular category pages. Additionally, it gives users an idea regarding the volume of content on the website.
Google Recommended Pagination Options
While the content on a website can be divided into multiple ways, there are three basic ways recommended by Google.
1. Page Show All
In this instance, all content is presented on a single page without pagination. This method requires adding the
rel="canonical" attribute to every paginated page, which informs the search engine that all pages should be shown to the visitors.
2. Rel="Next" And Rel="Prev" Attributes
rel="prev" attributes establish a connection between the various paginated pages. This helps search engines to check whether the content on the pages is connected logically or not and ensures that it sends users to the first page of the content.
3. No Pagination
In the current era, pagination is already an important part of the entire web and search engines like Google can automatically determine the most relevant option for users. This means you do not need to add additional attributes for pagination.
The canonical attribute or tag informs search engines that one URL corresponds to another through search goals. It’s effective to use self-referencing canonical tags, which indicate that a page should be considered the primary page if duplicate or very similar pages exist. It helps consolidate multiple URLs with the same content by indicating the URL which needs to be crawled and indexed by search engine crawlers.
Should You Use Canonical For Optimising Pagination Pages?
Canonical helps tell search engines which is the main page on any website that should appear in search results. All other pages get less attention from the search engine and offer their weight to the show-all page, which is a target page for web admins. This allows for more effective and faster promotion of the web page.
But to use the show, all pages attribute, your webpage should have a very quick loading speed. Otherwise, it may increase the refusal index.
Google And Pagination
Google announced the
rel="prev" attributes for pagination purposes in 2011 helped its search bots understand how different pages are related. They also helped the search engine prioritise the most critical page of a website.
However, in 2019 the search giant decided to deprecate these HTML elements and announced that they would not be used as signals for indexing purposes. This means that paginated pages are now treated just like others.
However, you do not need to remove these attributes because they will take a long time and will not affect your website adversely. Also, some browsers use these attributes to preload web pages, and search engines like Bing use them to understand the relationship between various pages.
Additionally, the next and prev attributes are not mandatory directives for search engines, but their bots usually consider this information when crawling a website.
SEO-Friendly Pagination Practices
With a clear understanding of the basics, it’s time to explore the best practices associated with pagination that can effectively enhance your SEO efforts.
1. Using Crawlable Anchor Links
Additionally, you should use
rel="prev" with a
rel="canonical" attribute, and if there are additional parameters, use them in
rel="next" links instead of
rel="canonical" links. For other search engines like Bing
rel="prev" attributes can be used to indicate the relationship between paginated pages.
Using these attributes can be tricky, and there are several mistakes that people often make during implementation, like:
- Placing the attributes on the page, not in the HTML
- Using either the
rel="next"instead of both on all pages
- Putting the canonical URL on the root page instead of the second one
2. Avoiding The Use Of Nofollow And Noindex For Paginated Pages
It’s essential to avoid using the Nofollow attribute, as it prevents website crawlers from crawling paginated URLs, subsequently blocking these pages from being indexed by search engines. Since the bots cannot find new and useful content on your website, it does not get a better ranking in the SERP.
Similarly, avoid using the no-index attribute on paginated pages since the bots will stop crawling the content of a website that has not been indexed for a long time. In that case, some website pages may only appear in the search results very rarely, affecting site traffic.
Also, Google may stop following internal links from such pages, causing other linked pages to be removed from its index.
3. Modifying The Elements Of Paginated Pages
Since Google no longer treats paginated pages as multiple pages consolidated into one piece of content, each page can compete against the root page for ranking. You should modify these pages so search engines return to the root page in SERPs.
It will also help avoid duplicate meta descriptions or titles in the Google Search Console. To do so, you can optimise H1 tags on pagination pages while adding more relevant and better-quality content to the root page. You can even add images with an optimised alt tag to them.
4. Avoid Including Paginated Pages In Your Sitemap
While paginated URLs are indexable, they should not be included in your XML sitemap since they are not an SEO priority for spending the crawl budget. Additionally, it may cause Google to select a random page for ranking purposes.
The one exception to this rule is when you opt to have the important pages included in a View All page, which has to be included in the sitemap.
5. Managing Pagination Via The Google Search Console
If possible, handle various pagination parameters using the Google Search Console via the paginates feature, which quickly changes the crawling signals for search bots. The option you select will depend on how you intend to spend the crawl budget.
Handling pagination using parameters instead of a static URL does not offer any advantage regarding ranking or crawling purposes. But, Google Bot tends to guess URL patterns based on dynamic URLs, improving discoverability.
By employing this approach, it is also easier to configure the parameter to paginate and the signal to crawl no URLs or all URLs based on requirements without needing a developer.
On the flip side, it may cause crawling traps if the site has empty pages. It would be best to avoid fragment modifiers for paginated pages, as they cannot be crawled or indexed. This makes them unsuitable for different search engines.
6. Optimising On-Page SEO
Following the best on-page SEO practices is always an advantage for your website, even if Google no longer treats paginated pages differently from others. You can optimise your SEO in many ways, such as using unique meta tags, including titles and adding meta descriptions. Additionally, having a mobile-friendly design optimised for smaller screens can be helpful.
You should also ensure that the website and all pages load quickly on all platforms to improve the user experience. In the case of an eCommerce store, use filters to help narrow down the product list and constantly strive to update the site to provide value to visitors.
7. Improving Faceted Navigation
Using facets along with pagination can make effective crawling of the content difficult for the search bots and is a challenge many large online stores face. That is why you should take effective steps to ensure that pagination pages are not canonicalised or blocked with faceted URLs.
If that happens, the search crawlers will stop following links or remove pagination pages from indexing.
8. Preventing Keyword Cannibalisation
Another important step that you should take for SEO-friendly pagination is to ensure that paginated pages do not compete with the root page for keywords. Doing so will make them more useful for website visitors.
Also, check the performance report from the Google Search Console to find out which URLs need to be improved. Alternatively, the Pi Diametrics tool can find pages with the same keywords. But when following this practice, avoid overdoing it since it can negatively affect the site indexing efficiency.
For the best results, identify the SEO elements that can interfere with the ranking of the root page for the keywords.
9. Improving The Content Quality
Improving the quality of content on different web pages and the entire site is crucial for successful SEO efforts. And since Google has stopped treating pagination pages differently from others, this has become more important. In such situations, using duplicate content will not improve the ranking or traffic of a website.
Each page must contain content relevant to the users’ needs, though you can decide which page should be the root page and optimise it more heavily. The implementation of pagination should be done in such a manner to improve the end-user experience.
That said, the text content does not need to be unique for every page; again, you must strive to eliminate duplicates. There are several third-party services that you can use to check the similarity of the pages.
10. Monitoring The Effect Of Pagination On SEO
Tracking and monitoring the effect of pagination on your SEO efforts can help you know whether the pagination strategy is beneficial. And there are multiple methods by which you can do this.
You can check the server log files, which list the number of paginated pages crawled by bots, or use the site search operator to get that information. For indexing, run a search to know the number of pages that Google has indexed.
The Google Search Console also provides a search analytics report that includes information on the number of hits on pagination pages and specific URLs. Similarly, the report on landing pages provides useful information for this purpose.
A detailed analysis of these reports will provide a benchmark that you can use to test the effectiveness of pagination in SEO. It will also help adjust your pagination strategy and align it more effectively with your SEO efforts.
When making adjustments, make it a priority to find out which URL to use as the root and the most effective way of canonicalising links while minimising the crawling budget. Any crawling or indexing issues with the paginated URLs may indicate that you need to update the pagination links.
Also, since search crawlers cannot mimic human actions perfectly, errors may occur during crawling. That is why you must clarify the signals for internal paginated URLs to ensure the relevant content appears during indexing. Ultimately, the goal should be to promote user-friendly, simple navigation.
Some Common Pagination Errors
1. Canonicalising To The First Page
Canonicalising the first page is the most common pagination error, leading search engines to assume that there is only one page. This is because pagination distributes the PageRank across all page groups, leading users to the page with the most relevant content.
For that to happen, each page requires a canonical link to itself, or else the Google Bot will ignore the rest of the content. There is a misconception that canonicalising the first page helps consolidate authority to the root page.
Incorrect canonicalisation can prevent Google from indexing the pages further down the series and may also not acknowledge signals to the content on such pages.
2. Canonicalising To View All Page
A View All page contains all the component pages’ content under a single URL. All paginated pages have a
rel="canonical" View All page help consolidate ranking signals since many users prefer all the content on a single page. This remains true as long as the page loads quickly and is easy to navigate.
So, if a paginated series has an alternative View All version offering a more user-friendly experience, search engines might prefer to include that in the search results. However, this is not always possible, especially in cases where the content is large and requires a long loading time. Canonicalising a View All page might not be the best option in such cases.
rel="prev" And a View All version can lead to confusion among the crawlers, so check which is the best option for your website before implementation.
3. Noindex Paginated Pages
As mentioned above, the noindex tag was used earlier to prevent paginated pages from being indexed. However, using it alone for pagination can lead search engines to ignore signals from the component pages. Additionally, it can eventually cause Google to stop following the links on those pages, and the content linked to them will be removed from the index.
4. Using Pagination With Infinite Scrolling
Another common error regarding pagination is using it along with infinite scrolling or loading more options. In the case of infinite scrolling, the content on the page is pre-fetched and included in the current page as the user scrolls down. On the other hand, the load more button loads additional content when the user clicks on it.
5. Not Providing Clear Crawling And Indexing Signals
Google’s search crawlers are intelligent enough to find the most relevant URL pagination page. However, according to many experts, this is not the case, and there have been instances where the search results did not include the root page with the most relevant content.
This can happen when the website does not provide clear signals to the crawler for crawling and indexing purposes. So, follow practices such as using crawlable anchor links and optimising the meta tags, ensuring clear signals to the crawler.
Implementing Pagination Into Your SEO Strategy
Pagination is an incredibly useful tool that, when used properly, can help improve the visibility of your website while also providing users with a more enjoyable experience. However, due to the risks associated with improper implementation, it is always better to conduct an in-depth analysis of the website to ascertain its benefits and risks.
Contact us at sitecentre® if you need assistance creating paginated pages or URLs. And if you’d like more information, our SEO and digital marketing experts are happy to help!
Also, remember that pagination is one of the many techniques you can use to boost your SEO efforts. Other techniques should always support it, such as creating a user-friendly website, offering high-quality content, and building good-quality backlinks to get results.
And with that, it’s a wrap, and we hope to see you in the next one. Take care!