Improve SEO by telling search engines how to work with your paginated content

Google has introduced a way of directly instructing it’s search bots about your paginated content. This is a welcome change from the previous, slightly abstract method.

I say abstract because the general consensus on how to handle paginated content for SEO goodness was the following:

 

  • Set the robots meta tag to be index, follow on the first page
  • On all other pages set a robots value of noindex, follow
  • Pop a canonical link on all other pages that points back to the first page

Doesn’t seem very intuitive eh? All you want to do is tell Google that you have some awesome paginated content and that you want all of the links to be crawled but you want the user to hit the first page in the list if they come in from a search engine. To achieve this you had to do a fair bit of tweaking for what is arguably a very simple and very common concept. In fact I’m amazed it’s taken Google this long to come up with a nice and clean solution to this, the idea of paginated content has been around since the inception of the internet after all.

The new way for SEO hotness

To achieve the same effect now you can simply use some links in the head section of your page which I will describe in detail below. These links should point to the previous and next page in your paginated list. Here’s some example code:

On the first page in the list:

<head>
    ... 
    <link rel="next" href="http://somewhere.com/a-list?page=2"/>
</head>

On the second page in the list and beyond, up to the penultimate page:

<head>
    ... 
    <link rel="prev" href="http://somewhere.com/a-list?page=1"/>
    <link rel="next" href="http://somewhere.com/a-list?page=3"/>
</head>

On the last page in the list, page 10 in this example:

<head>
    ... 
    <link rel="prev" href="http://somewhere.com/a-list?page=9"/>
</head>

Looks much simpler right? Using the new way you can leave the robots meta setting as index, follow on each page and you don’t have to bother with canonical links at all anymore, it seems most search engines care less and less about canonical links these days anyway.

Where should you use this for maximum SEO gain?

Anything that is paginated, literally anything. So this could be a list page, a results page, a multipage article, a multi-image gallery, anything like that really. If you want each page to indexed individually however then do not use this method at all as this method will instruct search engines to index the first page in the list only.