If there’s a topic that’s sure to spin the heads of SEO neophytes, it’s pagination.
Handling pagination in SEO is always seen as a daunting prospect for beginners — and we can’t exactly blame them. Web pagination can be a wily shapeshifter, rearing its ugly, complex head in contexts ranging from forums to e-Commerce stores, to newspaper sites.
But no matter how time-consuming it can be, dealing with pagination is simply a must. Yes, distributing content throughout your website can be a headache but if you don’t do it, your content won’t be digestible for your audience. You’ll also face issues such as crawler limitations, duplicate problems, and thin content (more on these later).
As SEO pagination tackles more than just proper content distribution, let’s delve a little more on what it’s really about.
What is Pagination in SEO?
So what exactly is pagination in SEO? The very basic definition of pagination is that it occurs when a website segments or distributes content over the span of multiple pages. On a news site, articles are divided up across multiple pages or arranged in slideshows. On an e-commerce store, this takes the form of category listings and product pages. On forums, topic threads and groups typically span at least 3-4 pages.
Why do websites have paginated pages? Primarily because of two reasons:
- Better user experience
- Easier navigation
If there’s too much information published on a single page, readers may get overwhelmed or even turned off. Pagination lets webmasters present a vast amount of information in small and easy-to-digest chunks of content. For instance, e-Commerce sites show a product’s image and price on the home page. If a visitor is interested to view more details about the product, they can simply click on a link that will bring them to another page where there’s additional information.
Pagination helps users navigate a website when there aren’t call-to-action buttons. For instance, once a user reaches the end of a web page or has browsed through several items in a particular category, it’s safe to assume that they’ll want to see more results. If there’s number at the bottom, the user can then decide just how many more pages they want to look at. It also provides them with an idea of just how big the data set is. The larger a data set, the more appealing it is to a user because it shows your website or online store offers variety.
However, it’s still advisable for you to have CTAs on your website. They motivate your visitors to engage with your website and they also help boost conversion rates.
So, why is Pagination an SEO issue?
If paginated content has its benefits, why exactly is pagination an issue in SEO?
Well, from an SEO viewpoint, pagination can cause serious problems with Google’s ability to index your website’s content. Let’s explore some of the issues that will arise with your web pagination if you don’t take the proper precautions:
- Crawler Limitations
- Duplicate Content
- Thin Content
When a Google bot is crawling through your site, the depth it travels (or the levels of clicks deeper into your site’s content) varies depending on the authority of your site and other factors. If you have a massive amount of paginated pages, the possibility of Google bots to travel all through your content to reach and index every last page significantly decreases.
Best pagination practices demand that search engine bots reach content-rich pages in as few clicks as possible. This is how pagination impacts SEO, as the number of indexed pages you have greatly affects your overall search engine rankings.
Regarding the context of pagination in SEO, it’s highly likely that some elements across a span of web pages will contain identical or similar content. Additionally, you’ll find that similar title tags and meta descriptions will propagate across a series of paginated content. These pieces of duplicate content will cause confusion for Google bots when it comes to determining which pages to rank for specific search queries.
In situations where product reviews and articles are divided into multiple pages, you run the risk of not publishing enough original content for the individual pages to be indexed properly. This also creates the risk of running too low on ratios such as content-to-advertisement, which can set up your site for future penalties.
What are Pagination Best Practices?
Now that you know what is pagination in SEO, why it’s necessary and the issues that may arise, it’s time to discuss the ways that you can optimise your website’s pagination for search engines.
Here’s a list of pagination best practices that won’t cause SEO issues and will ultimately boost your optimisation efforts.
Numbers of Links and Pages
If your site garners too many results, which are impossible to list on a single web page, it may benefit you to create categories and subcategories. For instance, if you’re a site that provides information about tourist spots in Japan, instead of showing all 50 attractions on the homepage, break them up according to location and subcategories like amusement parks, museums, and restaurants.
Extensive pagination on a content-rich site won’t be an issue as long as you paginate the content properly. You can also follow these steps to make sure that pagination doesn’t ruin your SEO and link juice flows successfully throughout your site:
- Link to all related categories and subcategories without breaking the limit of a hundred links per page.
- Link back to the first result page from each of the URLs you paginate.
Titles and Meta Descriptions
If the pages in a series of paginated content carry products within the same category or sub-category, it’s common practice to have different titles and meta descriptions for each of the pages. If you don’t, it can cause duplicate content issues, sending a clear signal to search engines that they should avoid sending traffic to those pages.
If the component pages in your paginated series have unique content, take the effort to create individual title tags and meta descriptions for them. To help you trace duplicate title tags and meta descriptions, you can use the HTML Improvements section in Google Search Console. That way, you don’t run into pagination SEO issues.
Are there certain sections or pages on your website that you feel are comparatively unimportant? It would make no impact if Google and other search engines completely skip over these pages.
You can stop search engines from indexing those pages by using the ‘noindex’ tag. This is actually a classic pagination for SEO tactic. You can do this for each page in the pagination series other than the first page.
To make this happen, implement a
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>
tag on all pages from 2 to n, within their <head> sections.
Including the ‘FOLLOW’ tag within the category’s series of pages ensures that page authority travels throughout the list’s individual pages. The follow tag also helps transfer equity from the auxiliary pages in a pagination series to the site or the primary page.
However, keep in mind that you’re also eliminating the chances of Google indexing your pages. Use this sparingly and only for pages that you don’t want Google to index.
View All Method
This is by far the most favourable approach when it comes to making pagination work for SEO.
Aside from your paginated series, you can create a separate View All page that features all of the content listed on your component pages. Then, you link back all component pages in your paginated series to the View All page. To execute this, within the <head> section of each component page in your paginated series, place a rel=”canonical” tag and have them point to the View All page.
While creating the View All page, make sure that it loads quickly for it to be useful. Google recommends page load speed of at most 3 seconds. While a load time of 4.5 seconds may still be deemed acceptable, the bottom line is that loading time should ultimately not interfere with user experience.
Letting Users Display More/Fewer Results
Additionally, remember that the default number of results you choose to show is what search engines will see, so make that count match your goals for usability and pagination in SEO.
Pagination is handy when you want to show large data sets in easy to manage chunks. However, abuse pagination in SEO and it will cause problems for your users and your ability to rank high on search engines. Your best option is always optimal site design but in many real-world scenarios, a site structure overhaul isn’t exactly ideal. Luckily, with the best pagination practices above, you have a variety of methods to better steer crawler bots through your website’s pagination.