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Pagination SEO: Optimize Your Site for Better Search Rankings

Pagination SEO: Optimize Your Site for Better Search Rankings

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Have you ever felt lost in the endless scroll of search results, or did you wish for a magical shortcut to find what you’re looking for on a website with tons of pages?

Well, you’re not alone! That’s where pagination steps in.

Pagination is a common navigational technique used in web design to divide and present large content sets across multiple pages.

But hold on, there’s more to this pagination story than just making it easy to flip through pages.

SEO-friendly pagination is necessary for ensuring that search engines effectively crawl, index, and rank the paginated content on your website.

In this post, you’ll clearly understand how to implement effective SEO-friendly pagination, leading to enhanced visibility and performance in search engine results pages (SERPs).

So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

1 What is Pagination?

Pagination refers to dividing content into separate pages to enhance user navigation and readability.

This technique is commonly used when presenting large amounts of information that may be overwhelming if displayed on a single page.

Each page typically contains a portion of the content, and audiences can navigate through the content using page numbers, next/previous buttons, or other navigation elements.

Pagination example

2 Common Pagination Structures

Pagination structures are diverse and cater to the varying experiences of the audience. The choice depends on the specific needs of the website and its users.

Three common types include numbered pagination, infinite scroll, and load more buttons.

Numbered Pagination

Numbered pagination divides content into discrete pages, allowing audiences to navigate through a series of pages using numerical indicators.

For instance:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 ...

Example of pagination

You can click on page numbers to access different sections of content.

Infinite Scroll

Infinite scroll eliminates traditional pagination by continuously loading content as your audience scrolls down the page. It provides an uninterrupted browsing experience.

For instance, social media feeds like Facebook or Twitter often employ infinite scrolling, automatically loading new posts as the audience scrolls.

Load More Buttons

Load more buttons present the audience with a button to manually fetch additional content, offering a balance between traditional pagination and infinite scroll.

For instance, On many e-commerce websites, product listings may display a “Load More” button at the end, allowing the audience to expand the product catalog without navigating to a new page.

Load more buttons

You can refer to the below Google documentation and choose the pagination structure that meets your needs.

Google Guidelines on pagination structures

3 How Pagination Can Hurt SEO

Search engines encounter specific challenges when dealing with paginated content, which refers to web content organized across multiple pages.

These challenges can affect how search engines crawl, index, and rank the pages, potentially impacting the overall visibility and ranking of the content.

Pagination can potentially have adverse effects on SEO if not managed properly. We’ll discuss some ways in which pagination can harm SEO.

3.1 Crawl Budget Utilization

Search engines allocate a limited crawl budget to each website, determining how often and how many pages they’ll crawl. The issue with the crawl budget is that sometimes Googlebot has to travel through several paginated URLs to reach deeper content pages.

3.2 Duplicate Content Issues

Paginated content often involves displaying similar or identical content across multiple pages.

Search engines strive to present diverse and relevant results to audiences. Encountering identical or nearly identical content across pages can lead to confusion in determining the most relevant page for indexing and ranking.

For instance, an e-commerce site with paginated product listings might inadvertently create pages with identical product descriptions, which might confuse search engines as to which page offers the most valuable information.

3.3 User Experience Considerations

Search engines prioritize delivering a positive user experience.

User experience

If paginated content leads to a frustrating user experience, with issues such as slow loading times or unclear navigation, search engines can factor these considerations into their ranking algorithms.

For instance, if a website’s paginated content does not have proper navigation, audiences may quickly bounce back to search results, signaling to search engines that the content might not deliver a satisfactory experience.

4 Pagination SEO Best Practices

Now that you have an idea of pagination and how it hurts SEO, we’ll discuss the best practices you can follow.

4.1 Use Crawlable Anchors

Using crawlable anchors for pagination is a best practice to enhance the discoverability and ranking of paginated content.

Crawlable anchors involve the strategic use of HTML tags to guide search engine crawlers through a series of pages.

Google guidelines on links

Begin by using anchor tags: <a></a>, to include the content you want to turn into a clickable link. Inside the anchor tags, include the href attribute, specifying the URL destination for the link. This attribute acts as the address to which the link points.

In the context of paginated content, use the rel="next" and rel="prev" attributes within anchor tags to signify the relationship between pages.

For instance, on the first page of a series, use <a href="page1.html" rel="next">Next Page</a>, and on the second page, <a href="page2.html" rel="prev">Previous Page</a>.

It’s important to note that rel next and prev is not used by Google any longer, as their bots can detect these paginated pages.

However, other search engines may find it helpful, and it is still recommended for accessibility.

4.2 Optimize URL Structure

When designing URLs for paginated content, it’s necessary to follow best practices for a clean and user-friendly structure.

Consider incorporating relevant keywords and maintaining a logical hierarchy that reflects the content’s organization.

For example, the URL below clearly indicates that it belongs to the “articles” section and is the second page in the paginated series.

   www.example.com/articles/page/2/

Rank Math makes it very easy to change your URL structure using the snippet editor.

Edit Snippet

While parameters are often necessary for dynamic content, it’s important to manage them effectively to prevent issues such as duplicate content and crawl inefficiency.

Avoid excessive or unnecessary parameters, and ensure consistency across paginated URLs. For instance, parameters like “category=shoes” and “page=2” provide valuable information but should be handled judiciously.

   www.example.com/products/?category=shoes&page=2

Implementing a canonical tag on paginated pages helps avoid duplicate content problems and ensures search engines recognize the primary version.

4.3 Use Self-Referencing Canonical URLs for Paginated Content

When dealing with paginated content, where multiple pages might share similar or identical content, it’s essential to guide search engines in identifying the primary version.

The canonical tag serves this purpose by pointing to the canonical or original version of the content.

Suppose you have a paginated series of articles, and each page shares the same content structure but with different page numbers. For instance, we include a self-referencing canonical URL on page 2 of our blog page, as shown below.

Example of self-referencing canonical URL

By implementing self-referencing canonical URLs consistently across all paginated pages, you guide search engines in understanding the structure and hierarchy of your content.

4.4 Handling Metadata and On-Page SEO

John Mueller stated, “We treat pagination the same way as normal pages; there’s no difference in our approach.”

English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout

Create compelling titles that accurately represent the content and encourage clicks. Similarly, write concise meta descriptions that provide a summary, enticing your audiences to explore further.

To avoid duplicate content issues and help search engines understand the uniqueness of each page, ensure that title tags and meta descriptions are unique across paginated content. Include specific details related to each page while maintaining consistency.

In the below example, the title and meta description for Page 2 of a nature exploration site are created to capture attention and provide a brief idea of the unique content.

<title>Adventure Unleashed: Explore the Wild - Page 2</title> 
<meta name="description" content="Embark on a thrilling journey through untouched landscapes. Page 2 offers insights into rare wildlife encounters.">

4.5 Don’t Include Paginated Pages in Sitemaps

Excluding paginated pages from XML sitemaps is an SEO best practice aimed at improving crawl efficiency.

By omitting individual paginated URLs, you can prevent search engines from interpreting each page as a separate entity, avoiding potential issues of inefficient crawling and indexing. This approach ensures that search engines prioritize indexing critical pages with unique and valuable content, optimizing the use of the crawl budget.

While paginated content can still be crawled through other means, excluding it from XML sitemaps provides a more strategic and focused view of the website’s structure.

5 Conclusion

Optimizing how your website handles paginated content is important to improving search engine rankings.

Choosing the right pagination structure, using crawlable links, and adding appealing titles and descriptions make navigating your pages easier for users and search engines.

Pagination SEO is a continuous process that, when done right, makes a big difference in how well your website performs.

If you like this post, let us know by Tweeting @rankmathseo.

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