SEO pagination is a matter of choices, some good and some better. Like many things in the search engine optimization world, the choice you make should depend on the circumstance you are in with the Internet site you are optimizing and what your client’s goals are for that site.
Three main tactics exist for SEO pagination:
– The classic method, using noindex
– The View All method, which may provide more information than necessary, and
– The rel prev/next method.
Using the classic method of SEO pagination does not directly transfer any equity from a series of component pages to the primary, canonical page. As component pages are crawled and linked back to the canonical page, that equity is (probably) transferred as a second-order effect. While this method is listed first, classic SEO pagination works only in certain instances, usually outside of the main stream. Using this method will not harm a site, and will greatly help a site that has SEO pagination problems, but, there are more effective methods which will benefit you and your client to a higher degree.
The View All method is considered the most desirable, but, has what some consider loading issues. When site users are “viewing all,” they really are seeing everything, and one school of thought says this simply takes too long for users seeking instant gratification.
Content results start populating the screen immediately, and users can see a parade of information unfolding before them, and will be patient until the last information pops up. We’re talking time in terms of less than four seconds for those who may be impatient from the time the first information is seen by the viewer until completion.
With the View All method, all component pages rel back to the canonical page; lots of information is shown, offering more opportunities to present product and information than just be showing a narrower, faster view. One requirement for the View All method is to ensure all products, or items, that are included on the component pages are featured on the View All itself.
This makes sure nothing is left out of the crawl, as pages annotated with rel canonical tags will not necessarily have links within their HTML crawled. This will also ensure a relevant match between what is being folded together in the paginated series.
Benefits to the site and viewer are users tend to like to view all pages; when all products and/or items are featured at once the conversion rate is higher than landing pages with a smaller selection of products. Keeping things fast is the key. Another benefit is all component pages in the series transfer their equity to the View All in a fairly direct fashion.
Google attempts to use View All pages by default when there are no other proactive signals in place. Once you know this, you can take steps to control the SEO experience proactively.
The latest and greatest SEO pagination technique uses the HTML 4/5 link element rel=”next” and rel=”prev” which some feel has advantages of the View All method.
View All presents everything, so if a merchant wants to heavily feature specific merchandise, such as for a holiday or special event, View All does that, but throws in everything else, too. Some merchandise managers want more specific targeting of specialized merchandise; advanced landing pages can be better looking (more tailored to specific needs) and UX and content teams often prefer them.
For specific targeting of items, rel next/prev is the answer. All component pages share their equity with the series; when a specific page of a series gets a link with rich anchor text, that equity is shared across the series with all other pages. One targeted shot really gets you a scatter shot as a bonus.
A possible downside to using rel next/prev is a component page may be displayed in search results, along with the targeted page, if the query is relevant to that page, too. While this provides additional information for the search user, some merchandisers consider this a drawback. It is thought this is a rare occurrence, but it can happen. To try and avoid this, an optional step is to add a robts noindex, follow to the rel prev/next component pages. This will negate component pages from firing at search time.
All rel next/prev pages should also have a self-referencing rel canonical tag. Where tracking IDs are appended to a URL, these rel canonical tags will eliminate duplication and equity leaks from occurring.
Here’s a wrap-up:
The View All method is good if you have a fast loading page containing all the products and/or items included throughout the component pages. Component pages rel canonical to the View All, and then become your default ranking pages in search engine results pages. It will be the best situation for passing equity from each page to a single, canonical URL.
Absent a useful View All, or if your client doesn’t want the View All method, then use the rel next/prev method. This will consolidate signals across the series instead of concentrating on a single URL, with the end result most likely being the same if done properly. The canonical, ranking URL (often, page one) will be given the equity, with the substantial benefit being equity actually being transferred to the series itself.
The classic method does not directly pass any equity because there are no signals to do so. It achieves the same results by opening up the crawl of component pages and keeping them out of the index and from competing with the ranking URL. With rel next/prev, component pages can still fire at search time, but this is not likely. Optionally, you can use a noindex, follow as well to avoid this, but ensure all pages have self-referencing rel canonical tags.
Lastly, there are some instances where the classic noindex method of SEO pagination is viable. Examples are where it’s important to address Bing consistently along with Google or when HTML 4/5 elements are not year ready to be deployed for this site in question.