Content pagination exists all over the web to categorise the data on resource-heavy websites such as e-commerce stores, blogs, and article hubs. If you have a website with a lot of information, how should you handle pagination with regard to SEO? Leave what you have as it is and let search engines figure out the rest? Or should you provide some simple HTML mark-up to give them a helping hand? This post will teach you how to paginate for SEO, as well avoid a few of the common pagination mistakes.
The Google Way to Pagination
A few months ago, Google introduced a way to help webmasters implement proper, search engine-friendly pagination. By using the rel=”next” and rel=”previous” link tags within the head section of your web page, you can tell Google if there is a page which follows the current page, or if there is a previous page before the current one. Basically, this puts your pages into a nice, easy-to-understand series.
Let’s look at an example. If you are on page 3 on a website (URL for this example would be http://www.examplesite.com.au/category?page=3), the link tags in the head section should look something similar to the below:
<link rel="prev" href="http://www.examplesite.com.au/category?page=4" />
<link rel="next" href="http://www.examplesite.com.au/category?page=2" />
Of course, there are exclusions where the first page in the series will not have a previous page, just like the last page will not have a following page, in which case you’d leave out the appropriate link tag in the head. For more information on using these link tags, please reference Google’s blog post on the subject.
Some Common Pagination Mistakes
On many websites, and e-commerce websites in particular, there are many filters which help sort out the list of pages in a particular order or price value. For search engine optimised websites, these pages will usually use the rel=”canonical” tag to avoid duplicate content issues and possible keyword cannibalisation.
However, some people make the mistake of pointing this canonical tag to the first page in the pagination series – a big no no! Doing this tells Google to redirect to the original page, instead of continuing to crawl through the pagination series. If Google is not allowed to crawl all the pages in your website, you can’t be sure that all your pages are being indexed and that PageRank is flowing correctly through your website. You should not rely solely on an xml sitemap to get all your pages indexed and given their proper authority.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use the rel=”canonical” tag, because it’s definitely useful. Many e-commerce sites have the same snippets of content duplicated across many pages – after all, not everyone has time to write a unique description for each product, especially if their online store stocks thousands of items. It’s just not the best way to handle pagination for SEO purposes.
More Ways to Handle Pagination Content
Once you have implemented the rel=”next”and rel=”previous” link tags, you should look at a few more on-page factors.
The Title Tag
As we all know from SEO basics 101, the title tag is a hugely important ranking factor. It can also assist pagination by telling search engines what page in the series it is visiting. All you have to do is append the page number to the existing title.
<title>Stylish Red Shoes - Page 2</title>
The Meta Description
As with the title tag, appending the page number to the meta description is helpful to search engine crawlers.
<meta name="description" content="View our selection of red shoes online at discount prices for the Christmas Season - Page 2">
We hope this helps you with handling pagination on your website. Let us know what your views are on pagination and how you usually use it to help your crawlability and indexing. We’d love to hear your thoughts.