Is SEO pagination on your technical SEO site audit checklist? If you publish loads of content or have a specific type of site, like an e-commerce store, then perhaps it should be.
As I’ll discuss in this article, pagination has immense advantages, such as the SEO boost it may give. However, it might not be the first thing marketers and SEO developers consider when optimizing a site.
Also, paginated pages won’t serve you well if you don’t follow best practices for SEO pagination.
Now you know what I plan to talk about today, let’s get to it with an introduction to pagination SEO and why it can prove essential to an excellent customer experience.
What is Pagination SEO?
Pagination is an SEO/design technique that involves breaking up content on multiple pages, allowing users to move through long articles or bulk product listings quickly.
It’s an essential aspect of website design and can make all the difference in search engine visibility and getting relevant content in front of a keen audience.
In addition, when properly optimized through SEO, pagination can help page rankings and bring more organic traffic to your website.
Typically, you see pagination on blogs, e-commerce stores, social media, and search engines.
Pagination vs. Load More vs. Infinite Scroll: Which is Better for SEO?
Before I discuss which is better, let me explain what makes Load More and Infinite Scroll different from pagination.
Infinite scroll is a navigational technique used on websites and applications. It allows continuous scrolling down a webpage or list of items without needing to manually click ‘load more’ or navigate to another page.
Rather than putting content on different pages, as you would with pagination, you put all the content on one page and allow users to continuously scroll until they’ve finished reading the content.
You can see infinite scrolling on social media, news, and entertainment sites. In addition, note that Google has now implemented infinite scroll on mobile and desktop.
You’ve all likely seen examples of ‘load more.’ These usually appear on e-commerce sites or news sites. When you want to bring up additional content, you click on the ‘View More’ or ‘See More’ buttons.
However, whichever option you choose, remember it’s all about the user experience and the website’s purpose. For instance, research from the Baynard Institute found that people look at more items when there’s a ‘load more’ button. Considering this, load more may be better for e-commerce sites.
Is Pagination Good or Bad for SEO?
There are some arguments online about whether pagination harms SEO.
The two potential problems around SEO and pagination are thin and duplicate content. However, neither of these needs to be an issue.
You can avoid duplicate content with canonical tags; I’ll discuss that later.
Thin content could be a concern, but only if you put limited content on a page. For instance, if you made a series of pages for individual locations of a business, but didn’t add enough unique copy.
With that said, there are notable benefits. Generally, pagination is more bot friendly and its layout makes it easy for search engines to index.
Another benefit of pagination is having multiple pages online, meaning more indexing and SEO optimization opportunities.
Like everything else, pagination only works as well as you implement it; when you follow best practices for SEO pagination, it can provide an extra boost to your ranking.
How Google Used to Handle Pagination vs. How They Handle it Now
Times have changed, and so has the way Google handles pagination. Formerly, Google would manage pagination as one long piece of content.
Now, for indexing, Google treats paginated content as single pages.
There have been other changes in the way Google manages pagination, too.
In 2011, Google used rel=prev/next markup as a ranking factor, and to show the relationship with paginated pages.
Some years ago, Google’s John Mueller made this announcement:
With these changes, rel-next/prev isn’t vital to pagination SEO, so you don’t need to worry about it.
I’ve got the basics covered now, so I’m sure you’re about ready to hear the best ways to apply SEO pagination.
Give Google Clear Guidance by Following These 8 Steps for Best SEO Pagination Results
I expect you know that following pagination best practices goes beyond the SEO basics. Don’t let that intimidate you, though. Below, I’ve got eight tips to guide you, along with some pagination examples. Ready? Here goes.
#1 Make Sure Your Anchor Links are Crawlable
Adding pagination and implementing SEO wastes time if Google can’t access your links. How do you fix that? It’s simple! Just ensure your anchor links are crawlable.
You can do this by
- Adding anchor and closing tags
- Including href attributes
- Adding a URL
Want an idea of what you’re aiming for? This is what it looks like in HTML coding:
#2 Avoid Using a View All Page If You Decide to Paginate
When you’re using pagination, there are certain things that you should avoid, like choosing a ‘view all’ page.
Here’s the problem:
A view all page shows every item available on a single page instead of breaking them up into separate pages as regular pagination does. While this may seem like an easy option for your needs, it’s not ideal for your pagination SEO. That’s because:
- Vast volumes of content slow down page loading times and can impact your page ranking.
- Pagination is better for user experience, providing small, digestible pages of content. With a ton of information to wade through, visitors find ‘view all’ hard to navigate.
- View all isn’t great for mobile users as this option takes too long to download.
Generally, it’s usually best to use pagination for large volumes or content that might otherwise overwhelm the visitor. View all is a better choice for smaller quantities of content.
Now, let’s move on to canonical tags and why they matter.
#3 Use Self-Referencing Canonical Tags
When using SEO pagination, you need to avoid duplicate content. Not sure how? Add some self-referencing canonical tags. Adding canonical tags lets the search engines know which page you want to display in SERPs.
While self-referencing canonical tags aren’t vital, Google’s John Mueller says they’re a ‘great practice.’
However, Mueller also adds:
“It’s not critical to have a self-referencing canonical tag on a page, but it does make it easier for us to pick exactly the URL that you want to have chosen as canonical.”
If you choose to use canonical tags, here’s an example of what they’d look like:
#4 Use URLs Properly
When optimizing SEO for pagination, proper use of URLs is essential.
The URL is one of the most fundamental elements in SEO, as it shows the content users find when they click through.
Google has some guidelines on formatting URLs for better SEO and pagination, including:
- Adding a unique URL for each page.
- Not marking up the first page of a paginated sequence as the canonical page. Provide a canonical URL for each page instead.
- Avoiding using fragment identifiers for page number pagination, as Google ignores them.
- Optimizing performance for users by using preload, preconnect, or prefetch.
Next, let’s look at the similarities between pagination and internal linking.
#5 Use Pagination Pages the Same Way You Use Internal Linking
Don’t overcomplicate pagination SEO. Treat it the same way you do internal links. I mean, that’s what Google does anyway.
In a Google Hangouts conversation, John Mueller told an SEO professional:
‘The important thing I think about pagination to keep in mind is that these are essentially just links between pages.’
See? Google treats individual paginated pages as it does internal linking, so follow these tips:
- Focus on context when creating links between pages. Ensure you link to relevant text and that the internal link gives the reader more context.
- Avoid using generic phrases such as ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’, as these don’t give visitors an idea of what they’ll find when they click.
- Don’t use too many links on a single page: three or four should be enough to get your point across without overwhelming readers.
- Target relevant keywords in the anchor text for each link. This lets search engines understand what the page linked to is about and increase its relevance for those keywords.
- Create deep links to internal pages.
- Use my free backlink tool to build links and increase rankings.
Finally, Semrush advises adding two or three internal links to every new article you publish.
#6 Don’t Waste Crawl Budget by Putting Paginated Pages on XML Sitemaps
Don’t get me wrong. XML sitemaps have their place. They’re helpful for improving user experience and indexing, but they’re not essential to SEO. In addition, if you don’t want paginated pages to rank, you’d be wasting your valuable crawl budget.
In case you’re wondering, ‘What’s a crawl budget’? Here’s a rough definition:
One way of describing crawl budget is the number of pages on a website that a search engine crawler visits when assessing and ranking content in a given day. However, Google states it doesn’t ‘have a single term that would describe everything that “crawl budget” stands for externally.’
Google also says that if your site has ‘fewer than a few thousand URLs’, bots crawl it efficiently anyway.
The takeaway? Don’t focus on crawl budget too much if you’ve got a smaller site. However, that doesn’t mean you should waste it.
#7 Use Your Crawl Budget in a Way That Best Serves You
On that topic, how can you get the most from your crawl budget?
Before you start work on this, here’s a great tip from Yoast. Look at Google Search Console, find ‘settings’, then ‘crawl stats.’
Find your average number of crawled pages per day. Then, divide the number of pages by average daily crawls.
Yoast states that you need to work on crawl budget optimization if the figure is more than ~10. If your number’s less than three, you can relax.
If you need to optimize your crawl budget, I’ve got some tips:
- The number of links pointing toward a website affects its ranking; if fewer low-quality links are referencing it, its performance can improve drastically. Focus on getting more quality links to your blog through guest posting, sharing/encouraging sharing on social media, and publishing online press releases.
- Keep a clean site structure with few redirects. This gives crawlers an easier time navigating the pages of your website and ensures they don’t waste resources trying to find their way.
- Address any 404 errors so that bots don’t waste time trying to access pages that aren’t there or that you’ve moved elsewhere.
With your crawl budget maximized, here’s how to use SEO pagination in your content.
#8 Optimize Content on Paginated Pages
For SEO pagination, optimize your pages the way you would with your other content. Or, as Google’s John Mueller recommends, ‘making sure the pagination pages can kind of stand on their own.’
I’ve talked a lot about content optimization on my blog, means by now, but here are some reminders:
- Use keywords strategically throughout paginated webpages.
- Add alt-text to images to optimize for search engines and to provide a better user experience.
- Include keywords in headings, subheadings, and meta descriptions.
- Use responsive design for mobile visitors.
- Optimize your pages for speed and a smooth user experience.
Some tools are available to automate your pagination SEO if you’re using WordPress, too. Tools like AIOSEO specifically focus on pagination SEO for titles and descriptions, and you can adjust settings for customization.
Bonus: Track Results on Paginated Pages
How well are your pagination SEO plans going? You won’t know unless you’re actively tracking results. Fortunately, there are a few free methods to keep a grasp on things.
Google has a great set of tools. Use the pagination filter in the Search Console for viewing paginated page viewer numbers, and its Indexing Report to see which pages the search engines are indexing.
Then there’s the analytics tool that lets you see how visitors act once you get to those pages. Just go to the ‘landing page’ report and filter for pagination.
Then there’s Screaming Frog’s ‘pagination’ feature to audit your rel=”prev” and rel=” next” tags, if you wish to.
Finally, if you want to check which keywords your paginated pages are ranking for, there’s always Ubersuggest.
You can monitor your pagination SEO with tools like Ubersuggest, Screaming Frog, and Google Analytics/Search Console.
Paginating content helps make webpages easier to load, reducing bounce rates and increasing user engagement with content on your website.
Additionally, by breaking up content into multiple pages, you can target additional specific keywords and phrases, helping optimize each page for those terms. This gives your site more crawling, indexing, and Page Rank opportunities and can ultimately lead to better search engine ranking results.
In addition to optimizing user experience, pagination allows users to jump directly to relevant information without needing to scroll endlessly through a long text or image page.
Both approaches have pros. Infinite scroll allows users to stay on the same page longer, resulting in higher engagement metrics, which may boost SEO rankings. However, it can slow page load times, and this can harm SEO.
Using pagination has several benefits for SEO, including multiple pages for indexing, opportunities for internal linking, and making it more relevant for users looking for specific content.
Given its multiple benefits, pagination is best for your online strategy, provided you follow pagination SEO best practices and implement them correctly.
Begin by identifying which pages are best suited for pagination. Are there any long-form pieces of content you can break down into smaller chunks? If so, those would be great candidates for pagination.
Then, follow the best practices for pagination, which include:
Making sure your anchor links are crawlable.
Avoiding using a view all page if you decide to paginate.
Using self-referencing canonical tags.
Using URLs properly.
Using pagination pages like you would internal linking.
Not wasting crawl budget by putting paginated pages on XML.
Making sure to use your crawl budget in a way that best serves you.
Optimizing content on paginated pages.
It’s also important to track your results using analytics tools.
Pagination is perhaps one of the most complex areas of technical SEO, but once you understand the basics, implementing effective pagination for your site becomes much more manageable.
Following the pagination SEO best practices outlined in this article can help search engines find and crawl all of your content.
Additionally, implementing these pagination principles helps ensure that you optimize your site for users and search engine crawlers.
If you can see the benefits of optimizing pagination for SEO but if you’re struggling to implement it, why not work with a technical SEO agency?
Do you use SEO pagination? How does it work for you?
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