Pagination is something that can sound extremely tricky, but it is actually very simple. The easiest way to describe what pagination is is basically having the same copy on the same page in more than one place. This can create duplicate and indexing problems. Many blogs (including this one), ecommerce sites and almost all news sites run into issues with pagination. Below I will go over a few examples of where pagination occurs, how you can help to prevent pagination and some other things you can do to help with pagination SEO issues.
Three examples of common potential pagination issues.
When you place a long video in the middle of a screen and then break it up into 5 or 6 shorter videos so people can find the part they are looking for, you have now begun to create a pagination issue. When doing Video SEO, you transcrible everything, put it into closed captioning and usually place the script on the page. Many sites will take the main video and list the shorter versions or sections vertical or horizontal. This way the person can click and play the one they wanted. The issue is that these separate videos might be set to play on different urls. Designers do this so the page isn’t cluttered. By doing this you create multiple pages with the same content and have a potential pagination problem.
View all, images and product pages
Ecommerce sites run into pagination problems with their SEO in numerous parts of their sites. It could be product images, product pages and one common one is a category page. If you go to a category on a store that has numerous products you’ll sometimes find it says list X amount, XX amount or view all. If selecting to view more or view all occurs, you now have a pagination problem for SEO. You have the same products with the same names and same descriptions (and in the same order) on the same site. The only difference is the amount of the same copy and content that is shown.
Move to next image or slide
On a lot of news sites or top ten lists you’ll see a large image and then you click to see the next. The next image may appear on a new url. By letting each image rank with a small amount of copy, and by excluding the copy from the beginning of the article you have now created thin content which Panda went after. You don’t want to take the intro and place it on all pages because you will now have indexing and duplicate issues. You also probably don’t want to load a page with giant images and everything. So how do you deal with this pagination issue?
Ways to help fix pagination issues with SEO and Google.
There are a lot of ways to help fix pagination problems with google for SEO. Below are two of the most common. After that I will explain how I may approach fixing pagination problems for the examples above.
- Canonical links – Canonical links are used to tell Google that they should not index the copy on this page and then have a url pointing to the page they should index. rel=”canonical”
- Previous and next tags – Google recently announces that Google Bot can read previous and next tags in code. Now you can use these to guide people through the process and show how to index a group of urls or where to index them. (The link above gives an awesome description of how to use these.) rel=”next” and rel=”prev”
Video & ecommerce sites
For the video example, you want the large video to optimize, even though it could be harder to rank because of the length. The length is debatable and many SEOs will disagree. I actually don’t mind the length, I worry about the quality and other factors that help rank video for SEO. In this case I use canonical links and point everything to the main page that has the entire script and the long video. On the other pages I use no index and canonical tags, if we cannot create new versions of the shorter videos with new scripts for the new video.
For slides and a series of images or urls
This is a bit tricky because you want Googlebot to properly crawl the entire show. You can still use canonical links on them if you want, but because you can guide Google bot through the entire series with previous and next tags, you can now say where to start indexing and where to finish. By doing this you can walk Google bot through the entire series of images and posts. The thing to remember with this is you only include next on the first page and previous on the end page. In the middle you include both with the prev tag pointing to the previous page and the next tag pointing to the next page. Google gives a great example of this if you go through the link above.
Here’s what to think about before you create a strategy to help fix pagination problems.
Which page do I want to have rank?
You need to figure out which page is worth ranking and how you want it to rank. I usually go for the view all since it has all of the copy or the page with the longer video and full transcript. For slide shows and images broken out into other lists, I usually just use previous and next or I create a page where I shrink the image size and include all of the content on it. I then no index the other pages and use the canonical links to point to the larger page. This could create crawling issues though so make sure you have previous and next as well.
What is the best possible content for Google?
What is Googlebot going to like the most and what will also be good for my readers. It is important to have a page and canonical links that work for Googlebot, but you also need to make sure it creates a good user experience for your readers. If you get a high bounce rate, no one shares the page, etc… you could end up telling Google that the page is bad and all of your work went for nothing.
Could we remove other pages and break it out to be 100% unique?
One last thing to think about is creating a new unique description, image name, video transcript, etc… for each url. If you do this you have more pages to rank for more terms and you won’t need to worry about canonical links which could make it easier for you. The problem is that this takes a lot of time and if you are using video, a lot of money to shoot and edit more videos.
Pagination is a scary thing at first, but ends up being very simple to do. Just pay attention to what your actual issue is and which page you want to rank. If you have a series, make sure you have the right urls that are in the right order and that you don’t have prev on the first page and next on the last page.