As content creators, we often have more to say on a topic than can reasonably fit on a single web page. Breaking up long-form content across multiple pages, known as pagination, allows us to organize information in digestible chunks without overwhelming readers.
However, pagination introduces technical considerations regarding how search engines crawl, index, and rank paginated content. Employing proper pagination best practices is essential for on-page SEO and overall findability.
In this post, we’ll cover common questions surrounding pagination and SEO:
What Is Pagination?
Pagination refers to dividing content across a series of individual web pages, with navigation links to move between each page in the sequence. This allows large volumes of text, images, videos, etc. to be organized logically rather than crammed onto one unwieldy page.
For example, a long blog post may be broken up over several paginated pages. Or, an e-commerce site might display a category’s products across multiple paginated catalog pages.
Common elements of pagination design include:
- Page numbers – Displaying the current page number out of the total pages (e.g. Page 1 of 3)
- Previous/next buttons – Links to move back or forward by one page
- Individual page links – Links allowing direct access to any specific page number in the series
Pagination gives users more control over consuming content at their own pace. It also helps search engines better crawl and categorize content.
Why Use Pagination For Long-Form Content?
There are several benefits pagination provides from both a user experience and SEO standpoint:
Improves Website Speed
Shorter individual pages with less content load faster. This is especially true on mobile devices with limited bandwidth.
Optimizes Page Length
Breaking up content prevents pages from becoming too long. Long pages lead to higher bounce rates.
Allows Topic Focus
Each page can zero in on a specific sub-topic rather than covering too many ideas at once.
Related content is kept together instead of separated by unrelated sections on an overly long page.
Additional pages give users more opportunities to click/navigate while consuming content.
Enhances Crawl Efficiency
Crawlers process pages more efficiently when they remain under preset limits.
Reduces Duplicate Content
Unique page titles, meta descriptions, and H1 tags prevent replication issues.
Clearly, leveraging pagination for long-form content or large databases of items comes with multiple website design advantages.
How Does Pagination Affect SEO?
In the past, pagination posed various SEO challenges:
- Duplicate page titles and metadata across a paginated series
- Unclear relationships between pages of paginated content
- Paginated pages competing for the same search real estate
However, modern technical SEO best practices combined with search engine capabilities provide solutions for proper indexing and ranking of paginated pages.
So how should we handle pagination to avoid duplicate content penalties or other pitfalls?
Best Practices For SEO-Friendly Pagination
Optimizing pagination for both site visitors and search engine crawlers involves:
- Smart technical implementation
- Careful content planning
- Ongoing analytics review
Specifically, focus on:
1. Logical Information Architecture
Organize information in an intuitive sequence that flows well from page to page. Break at logical shifts in topic or sub-topic rather than arbitrary points.
2. Descriptive Page Titles
Use unique, keyword-rich titles including the target term, page number, and total pages.
- What Is Pagination In SEO: Best Practices (Page 1 of 3)
- What Is Pagination In SEO: Technical Considerations (Page 2 of 3)
3. Unique Meta Descriptions
Write a distinct meta description for each paginated page to summarize its purpose and prevent duplication.
4. Clarify Relationships
Indicate to search engines that a group of pages are part of a connected paginated series, rather than isolated pages competing for the same term.
Implement markup schema such as:
- rel=“prev/next” linking between pages
- rel=“first” indicating the first page
And for larger series:
- ItemList markup to define the paginated group
- WebPage markup indicating each page’s position
5. Consistent On-Page Elements
While varying page titles and metadata, retain consistent URL structure, H1 tags, and internal links across the pagination series.
- URL pattern: example.com/example-post/page1, page2
- Same H1 used on each page
- Cross-linking related pages
6. Crawlable Link Structures
Allow search engines to easily discover and crawl all pages in a pagination series:
- Link pagination in site menus and site index pages
- Place pagination controls in static navigation areas
7. Use Canonical Tags
If identical or near-identical content happens to appear both on individual pagination pages and elsewhere (like an index or category page), use canonical tags to indicate the preferred URL to index and rank.
8. Provide XML Sitemaps
List all pagination pages within XML sitemaps to facilitate search engine indexing.
9. Redirect Any Orphaned Pages
If changing pagination structures, set up 301 redirects so search engines and users can locate relocated paginated content.
10. Monitor Page Indexing In Search Console
Confirm pagination pages appear individually within search engine indexes, without warnings.
Paginated Pages vs. Infinite Scroll
Another approach to presenting lots of content is infinite scroll, where more content loads continuously as visitors scroll down the page.
Infinite Scroll seems like a user-friendly approach. But it poses multiple SEO issues:
- Crawlers may not access lower content
- No opportunity for unique page titles
- Links get buried as more content loads
- Difficult to directly share or link deeper content
- Users experience problems bookmarking or using browser back buttons
Without the ability to index all content, search visibility is limited.
Paginated pages give crawlers clear signals about the extent of content and multiple opportunities to index. So pagination tends to be better for SEO than infinite scroll.
So while pagination is typically recommended, infinite scroll MAY be an option IF it allows full indexing.
Test through search analytics if all content shows up in search results regardless of scroll position. If not, revert back to standard pagination.
Choosing Paginated Page Length
When it comes to page length, longer isn’t necessarily better for SEO.
- Too short – Doesn’t provide enough content for search engines to effectively categorize the page for relevant searches.
- Too long – Crawlers may fail to fully process excessively long pages.
So what’s the optimal page length?
Google recommends keeping individual pages under 2 MB in size and under 1000-1500 words in length.
However, technical capabilities vary across devices and connections.
To ensure fast load times for all users, we suggest Paginated pages between 300-700 words in length.
Wrap-Up: Pagination SEO
Pagination allows us to break lengthy content into manageable chunks without overloading web pages.
By applying proper technical markup, optimizing content presentation, and monitoring page indexing, paginated content can rank just as well as single pages – if not better!
The keys are ensuring:
- Logical information flow
- Descriptive page titles and metadata
- Clear relationships between pages
- Consistent on-page elements
- Crawlable link structures
Following these pagination best practices will keep both site visitors and search engines happy! Contact 427 Digital for help regarding SEO!