In short, pagination is the act of splitting up large pieces of content into several different pages. This means when you’re reading an article, looking at an e-commerce page full of different products, or reading something with a Table of Contents and you see a “Next” or a “Page 2” button to keep reading, that website paginated that content. Below is a screenshot from Forbes showing just that:
In this case, each page of that content has it’s own unique URL, but for SEO purposes the only difference is usually a -1,-2,-3, etc. pattern. For example, the URLs would be:
And so on and so forth. This same idea goes for forums that have too many pages of responses, blogs that have a large number of comments, and even websites that offer a lot of different categories. We’ll get to why this matters for SEO in the next section, but first there is another type of pagination to understand—infinite scroll.
Infinite scroll is sort of an alternate way to display large amounts of content, so although it may not seem like your typical pagination it is actually just a different form. You can learn more about the ins and outs of infinite scroll here, but essentially it allows your content to load quickly and appear as a user scrolls down the page. Social media is famous for this. Notice how you can keep scrolling forever and the content never seems to end? Below is a screenshot from the above article that shows this pretty well:
Another way that you can paginate articles is the way that Wikipedia does by creating a Table of Contents and allowing readers to jump down to the sections they want to read the most. Technically you can infinite scroll on these pages, but the linking, called linking name to anchor, makes it a little bit easier. Below is a screenshot example:
When using pagination everything is done automatically through the pagination script. Although this may get overwhelming to some readers, it can also help them stay on your website longer. It’s up to you to determine which type of pagination would be best for your large content pieces.
Is Website Pagination A Good Idea for SEO in 2016?
So Pagination has both benefits and pitfalls, especially when related to SEO. The stance that experts and Google have expressed in pagination over the years have been somewhat of a roller coaster ride, so it’s tough to know if it’s something worth implementing. Although this may change as the year goes on, as of right now pagination is still a great idea. This is the case for several reasons that include both reader usability and SEO strategy:
- It keeps things manageable for readers. Large pieces of content can get overwhelming, so pagination helps make things easier to digest and seem more approachable to actually read.
- It’s great for mobile. Infinite scrolling in particular helps make it easier to browse the web on the small screen because it presents content very vertically, but even other paginated pages helps make the information is easily accessible.
- They’re great for image-based companies. If your website is created as a place to entertain, pagination can help keep users on your website without clicking around.
- Websites with real-time information can benefit with infinite scrolling specifically because it keeps things updating quickly and sometimes instantly.
However, as with most things online, most of the pitfalls to pagination happen if it is implemented incorrectly so you have to keep this in mind. This can lead to duplicate content, Google being unable to index all of your pages because of an increased crawl depth, and readers can sometimes get frustrated if they’re unable to find what they’re looking for.
4 Tips to Doing Pagination Right for Your Website
Once again, pagination has to be done correctly, and although this may sound like an obvious statement it’s easier said than done when it comes to this topic. Below are a few pagination best practices:
Have some sort of end point shown to readers.
This can be done with a Table of Contents (like Wikipedia) or by showing how many pages long the article is (which is what Forbes does as shown in the screenshot above). This lets readers know what they’re in for so that they don’t leave your website. WordPress offers plugins to help you with this, such as the WP Table of Paginated Contents. Sitepoint offered a great screenshot of how it works below:
Use a View All page.
Use rel=”prev” and rel=”next.
These are tags that you will want to use if you do want Google to index every page in your paginated series. This will tell Google in what order they should index your pages. Below is a great graphic from Web SEO Analytics that shows how it works:
These tags will be associated with the URLs mentioned above. That means your pages will look like this: <link rel=”prev”href=http://www.example.com/article-1.html>. To get a much more detailed look at how this tag works as well as how it differs from the canonical tag, visit here.
Also keep in mind that if you’re using the View All method you aren’t going to need to use the rel/next method. It’s one or the other!
Don’t over paginate.
Make sure that your pagination doesn’t overdue it. This isn’t good for Google and it isn’t good for readers. No more than 10 pages is usually a good rule of thumb in any pagination situation if possible. If you have too much, you may want to consider creating categories or breaking up your content in some way.
So to answer the big question again, yes, pagination is still a thing in 2016. However, you have to make sure it is right for your company and you have to make sure you have someone on your SEO and development team who can make sure the structure is done right. If you’re unsure about either of those two things, think long and hard about even attempting to get started. Visit some of the links mentioned above and let us know if you have any questions or comments below so we can make sure you’re headed in the right direction.