en
English Español Deutsch Français Italiano Português (Brasil) Русский 中文 日本語
Submit post
Go to Blog

Pagination; You’re Doing it Wrong! (Part 1)

71
Wow-Score
The Wow-Score shows how engaging a blog post is. It is calculated based on the correlation between users’ active reading time, their scrolling speed and the article’s length.

Pagination; You’re Doing it Wrong! (Part 1)

Arsen Rabinovich
Pagination; You’re Doing it Wrong! (Part 1)

There seems to still be a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of pagination — what it is, what its real purpose is, when it should be employed, how to implement it properly, should it be combined with a canonical and more.

Hopefully, this series of articles will provide you with a better understanding of how pagination can help you rank the pages that are important to you. Most importantly, it should help you avoid some of the most common errors that can make your pagination work against you.

In this article we will cover:

  • What is pagination

  • Why do we need pagination

  • Why is pagination important for SEO

  • Common SEO issues resulting from improperly handled pagination

  • How to diagnose common pagination issues

  • How to properly implement pagination attributes

But before we start, it’s important to remember that pagination is only a suggestion to Google that you prefer the sequential pages to be consolidated as contextually related. Using rel=“prev” and rel=“next” attributes tells the search engines that a page has a topical tie with adjacent pages in the series. That may be just two pages, or it may be two thousand – it works the same. When implemented properly, Google will normally heed that request, but conflicting signals can cause the search engine to ignore your pagination, which will often be to the detriment of your rankings.

What is pagination?

Pagination is simply a manner of ordering sequential pages which are contextually connected, to provide continuity to both users and search engines. It is accomplished by placing rel=“prev” and rel=“next” attributes in the head of each page in the series.

There are two common instances in which pagination should be implemented. The first is for paginated posts or articles, where you have a long document which you prefer to break into multiple pages. More often, however, it is utilized in paginating archives, such as are encountered with product descriptions on an eCommerce site which include various sizes, colors or models. This image from Google’s Webmaster’s Blog illustrates both:

Article series suitable for rel next and prev

Why do we need pagination?

There are a number of reasons to employ pagination. For one thing, it is a method of telling the search engines which content should be considered to be part of a series or set, in order for them to assign indexing properties to the entire series, rather than to just one page.

By tying similar content together, it also shows the search engine how much content on your website is relevant to a particular topic; this can serve to help your site stand out above competing websites.

Breaking expansive pages up into smaller chunks also makes it easier for users to digest the content on the page. Users can also find pagination useful in facilitating navigation through extensive lists.

Why is pagination important for SEO?

Pagination can affect the SEO efforts on your website in two different ways. The first is for the purposes of ranking and internal flow of link equity. Proper pagination informs the search engine that link equity should be distributed across the entire paginated document, rather than to just one page. Obviously, sending the wrong signal here could seriously affect the distribution of that equity.

There can be other SEO impacts, as well; if the search engine fails to consider the series of pages as a single document, the amount of content that would be considered relevant to the targeted topic could be greatly diminished.

It is also worth remembering that Google is critical of any practices which aren’t user-friendly, such as an awkward site architecture or clumsy navigation. The process of setting up proper pagination will often lead you to the discovery and correction of such issues, which can only help.

Common SEO Issues Resulting From Improperly Handled Pagination

One common indicator of incorrect pagination will be index bloat — this is not as great of a problem with small to medium-sized sites; it is most often a problem with large eCommerce sites which include a lot of products with different varieties, such as color or size.

When not properly paginated, every page of a series may be indexed as a separate document, which consumes crawl budgets (on larger sites), as well as making pages compete with one another for SERP placement.

Unimportant pages, such as tag pages, can also create index bloat, again consuming the crawl bots’ time on your site which would be better spent indexing your important pages.

While there is no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty”, duplicate content can still have a detrimental effect on your SEO efforts. If not adequately addressed, it can dilute the focus of your site’s content, thus making it much more difficult to rank for target terms.

As stated earlier, along with topical dilution, a failure to paginate correctly can also cause significant dilution of link equity.

How to Diagnose Common Pagination Issues - Part 1

There are several things to look for when trying to determine if a site has properly implemented the most appropriate pagination. What is advisable in each circumstance will depend upon how the content is structured, both contextually and physically.

Is there a View All version?

The first thing I check on archive pages is whether there is a "View All" version which allows users to view the entire document, in addition to the individual pages of the series. I check that first because that will impact how canonicals should be implemented in that series.

Without a "View All" version, each page of the series should self-canonicalize. But with a "View All" page, every page of the series should canonicalize to the "View All" page, as illustrated in this example from the Google Webmaster Blog.

Pagination article with a view-all page

When Google detects the presence of a view-all page, they normally try to show that page in the SERPs, as well as consolidating indexing properties, like links, to the "View All" page. It is still a good idea to canonicalize to the "View All" page, though, even though Google tries to consolidate to it (if they detect it without a canonical tag). When there is no "View All" page, they will often display the first page of the series when they detect paginated content.

Is rel=prev/next properly implemented?

The only difference in the pagination structure when a "View All" page is provided is that in addition to the rel=“prev” and rel=“next”, there should be a link rel=“canonical” tag pointing to the "View All" page of the series.

The first page of the series should have just the rel=“next” attribute, pointing to the second page.

The last page should have only rel=“prev”, pointed at the previous page. All the rest of the pages in the series should have both, always pointed at the adjacent previous and next pages.

How to Properly Implement Pagination Attributes

Some rules to always adhere to:

  • When breaking an article, post or another document into a series of pages, tie them together with rel=“prev” and rel=“next” to let the search engine see the connection. The first page should have just the rel=“next” attribute, the last page should have only rel=“prev”, and the rest of the pages in the series should have both, always pointed at the adjacent pages.

  • Always self-canonicalize all pages in a series (unless there is a "View All" page, in which case all pages should canonicalize to the "View All" page).

  • Avoid the use of a "View All" page when the page would be too long to be easily used, or if the page would take too long to load.

Simple Rel Prev/Next Implementation

Page 1

<link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />

Page 2

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />

Page 3

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/4/" />

Page 4

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/5 /" />

Page 5

<link rel="prev" href=" https://example.com/index/page/4 /" />

Rel prev/next implementation without a View All page

Page 1

<link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />
 <link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/" />

Page 2

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />

Page 3

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/4/" />
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />

Page 4

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/5/" />
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/page/4/" />

Page 5

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/4/" />
 <link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/page/5/" />

Rel prev/next implementation with a View All page

Page 1

<link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />
 <link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/view-all/" />

Page 2

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/view-all/" />

Page 3

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/2/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/4/" />
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/view-all/" /> 

Page 4

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/3/" />
 <link rel="next" href="https://example.com/index/page/5/" />
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/view-all/" />

Page 5

<link rel="prev" href="https://example.com/index/page/4/" />
 <link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/index/view-all/" />

Verify

It is all too easy to forget to open or close quotation marks or use a - instead of an = sign. So when you are through setting up your pagination, here is a great tool with which to check it, to be certain each page is pointing to the correct previous and next page, as well as where the canonical is pointed:

(Max Prin and Alexis Sanders have a number of handy free tools there, so you may want to bookmark that site)

What's Next?

Parts 2 and 3 of this series of articles will dive further into pagination to cover robots instructions, javascript, infinite scroll, and how confusing canonical and robot instructions can damage your rankings. Stay tuned!

And as always, please comment below or @me on Twitter, I will always answer! 

Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Arsen Rabinovich is the founder and managing partner of TopHatRank.com, a search and social marketing agency that helps expose brands of all sizes to online consumers.
Share this post
or

Comments

2000
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Does any site need pagination? Or will it benefit from it? Thank you!
Scott Rumsey
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Great post, attribution and pagination often glossed over so nice to see a fresh, informative take on the subject.
Scott Rumsey
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Scott Rumsey
Also looking forward to the next two in the series!
Badr El Fahim
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Great stuff!
Yassine Amzal
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Badr El Fahim
Yes Thanks
Jyoti Thapa
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Wonderful article, much needed advice, great content. Thank you for sharing.
Peter Mead
Master

A veteran community member.

Lots of detailed instruction here. It's shaping up to be a great resource that will be bookmarked and referenced I am sure of that.
Sheldon Campbell
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Great stuff, Arsen! It never ceases to amaze me how many people get pagination wrong... I'd say 80% of my audits have unearthed serious pagination issues. The most common error I find is when they add a canonical back to the first page of the series, rather than a self-canonical.
Looking forward to Part Two.
Liraz Postan
Master

A veteran community member.

Thank you!
Gareth Hoyle
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Great post Arsen - I always wondered if you actually knew your stuff and now I can believe it - Unless Jesse wrote this?? Only joking - Great content mate!
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Gareth Hoyle
lol - glad you enjoyed it!
Gareth Hoyle
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Arsen Rabinovich
LOL - Lets be honest - this comment exists solely for gamification to enable me to get better "klout" on SEMrush :)
Alex Tsygankov
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Gareth Hoyle
Tsk tsk, Gareth!
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Gareth Hoyle
Shhhhhhh! 🤫
Judith Lewis
Guru

A bearer of digital marketing wisdom.

Weirdly I have a client I'm trying to get to do this right now so this is the perfect post for that! Thank you so much for backing me up on my arguments!
This is so easy to get wrong and so amazing to get right - READ UP PEOPLE :-D
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Judith Lewis
Judith, thanks for stopping by and the kind words. Means a lot coming from you!
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Great post but since many big platforms are switching to single page rendering of products to have better user experience. Does pagination or single page loading? which is good for seo..I guess pagination but then why big platforms are not preferring this practice in general
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Santosh
View-all is not always a bad thing. Make sure to fetch and render those pages using GSC to check if Google can render all of the products.
David Sayce
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Pagination has always been a tricky one, often not well implemented. Great to see an article like this with such detail!
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

David Sayce
Thanks for commenting, David!
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

I am not sure whether should I start implementing the pagination, or wait for next article to know whats right and what not! If not done correctly, loosing the SERP position can be a costly affair.
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Malay Sherasia
I link out to Google’s documentation in this article 👆. You can totally get more info there! Good luck, Malay!
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

People doing pagination surely need to implement it appropriately. Otherwise, it will affect their SEO, the crawling, etc.

Arsen, Part I is great, waiting for Part II and III.
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Sahil Kakkar
Thanks for the comment, Shahil!

I'm aiming to put out part 3 by the end of February. Will announce on twitter when published.
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Arsen Rabinovich
I meant part 2. =)
dattrax
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Excellent post!! Thank you for your clear explanations!! Cheeky to make this topic into multiple posts ; )
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

dattrax
Hey Dat!

So glad you liked it, and thanks for commenting!
Casey Markee
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Nice article man. Two of the biggest issues I see regularly as a site auditor is the following:

- the incorrect mixing of absolute and relative URLs in a pagination string
- the putting of rel=canonical elements in the BODY not the HEAD

Do you discuss this in more detail in Part 2 or 3 or is this just not something you see a lot yourself?

Also, the irony of this article on "pagination" being "mult-part" is not lost on me. #Respect
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Casey Markee
Hey Casey. Thanks for commenting!

Yes, rel="next" two posts will cover all of the above in a { "@type": "ListItem",
"position": "1", "item": { "@id": "#", "name": "Paginated" } { "@type": "ListItem",
"position": "2", "item": { "@id": "#", "name": "Format" } .

😉
Kelly Andrew
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

View all only works with so much content. You don't want to be loading 20 pages worth of content in a single page.
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Kelly Andrew
Thanks for commenting, Kelly!

When properly implemented, "view-all" does very well for category/index type pages. On content pages, like very long blog posts, that are paginated, it is always a good idea to add a view-all option for the reader.
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

why use pagination at all on long pages? does lazy load strategy solve page load speeds and eliminate the need to paginate?
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

lawrence fox
Yes! But also keep in mind that not everyone can implement lazy loading. Sometimes there are technical limitations that prevent you from implementing certain things.
swa
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Greet post helped me a lot
Thanks
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

swa
Thank you!
Joseph VanTine
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Something that seems quite simple but important! Will defo implement this into our blog soon
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Joseph VanTine
Super important, there is a lot of good that comes from properly implementing pagination. Thanks for commenting, Joseph!
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

watch out smart quotes if you are copypasting code
Alex Tsygankov
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

T2O AdMedia Services, S.L.
Thank you for pointing it out, fixed.
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

T2O AdMedia Services, S.L.
Thanks for pointing this out! We had an issue with posting code snippets into the editor, this is why we attached the PDF to make it easy(er) for folks to copy/paste.
Paul Lovell
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Hi Arsen

This is great the amount of people that get this wrong even with all the documentation out there.
Thanks
Arsen Rabinovich
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Paul Lovell
This is true. Thanks for commenting!

Send feedback

Your feedback must contain at least 3 words (10 characters).

We will only use this email to respond to you on your feedback. Privacy Policy

Thank you for your feedback!

Community Ranking System

Our SEMrush community rank reflects the level of your professional recognition in our community. We value quality contributions, so highly ranked members will get valuable incentives. Take part in discussions, write posts and speak on webinars, be friendly and helpful, and you will eventually get to the top of the ladder.

  • Newcomer
    Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.
  • Enthusiast
    Occasionally takes part in conversations.
  • Helper
    An experienced member who is always happy to help.
  • Master
    A veteran community member.
  • Pro
    Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.
  • Expert
    Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.
  • Guru
    A bearer of digital marketing wisdom.
  • Superstar
    Knows everything… well, almost.
  • Legend
    Getting here is not easy at all!