Pagination and its issues have long been a challenge for many online store webmasters. The ever-increasing number of products and paginated series makes the problem all the more difficult to control. Since most ecommerce sites use pagination and most SEOs hardly care to look into this issue here is some advice that should help you out.
Pagination is a practice which is used to segregate long-form content into different pages and link these series of pages together. It happens with few ecommerce sites that due to many products in a search or category listings page the content is split among different pages to improve the user experience. If all products/content is displayed on a single page the user will have to scroll long and will not have an idea of how many products he has viewed. For preventing all such hassles pagination is a common practice.
Pagination is a great way to display information but is not entirely search engine spider friendly. By following a set of best practices you can improve search spider’s crawl effectiveness and also weed out thin/duplicate pages.
Pagination effects search engine optimization is 3 ways
- Crawl Depth – A category with thousands of products may need multiple pages and since all pages can’t be linked from every other page a search engine bot can’t crawl through deeper level pages easily. A search engine bot should ideally reach a page within few steps. This doesn’t happen when the pagination links are not optimized for SEO.
- Lack Of Consolidation Of Ranking Signals – Sometimes due to internal linking structure or external links a paginated URL (?page=100 or ?page=77) may have higher link/SEO value. However, this page may NOT be the ideal landing page for a user to visit. It is important to consolidate the link value and other ranking signals on to a single most important page of the paginated series. (usually the first page)
- Thin Content – Due to pagination certain pages may have less to no amount of content. For a category which has 31 products shown at 10 products each page, the last page (?page=4) will have only 1 product and lot less content.
Pagination Best Practices for SEO
We can solve each of above issues by using a set of Google prescribed techniques and practices.
View All page + Canonical
This technique has been suggested by Google as a best practice to deal with pagination. In this case, a view all page is created in which all the products are displayed and the individual paginated pages canonically point to the view all page.
Once this is done 2 things are achieved. First the ranking signals of all paginated pages are consolidated on to a single page and secondly, all products have a link from the top level page.
Since all pages are pointed to view all page the view all page will rank in Google and attract traffic. All though this solves the issue the view all page may have many products on a single page and this could give a bad experience to the user.
Use Rel=”next/Prev” Tag
Rel=”next/Prev” is a tag which is used by Google to better understand the paginated series. Using this tag a webmaster can tell which page is the next page in the paginated series and which page is prior to it. Doing so Google understands the content better and also consolidates the link value and ranking signals of all such pages on to a single page which is usually the first page.
Limit number of paginated pages
By increasing number of categories or subcategories, you can limit the number of products which appear in each category which implies a lesser number of paginated pages. Having more subcategories will also help the user in navigating to the right product faster without the pain of searching for it or using filters.
The other way of limiting a number of pages is by having many products per page. Having a large number of products displayed per page implies lesser paginated pages. Make sure that you strike a balance between user experience and SEO. Having too many products on a single page may leave user go through tiresome scrolling.
Sort of products option to the user
In many ecommerce sites, the user is given control on how many products he can view per page.
Link to deeper level pages from every other page
Once a site uses a paginated series the crawler may not be able to access the deeper level pages in the paginated series.
Consider a paginated series as shown below
In this case, a search bot has to go through 3 levels deep to discover the last page in the series which is ?page=28.
However for a site like Macy’s the link to the last page can be accessed from the first page itself.
Also, it is important to note that it is not sufficient to link to the last page in the series. For a site with 100’s of paginated pages, many pages in between may not get crawled or discovered by search engines. A good work around for such cases is linking to few pages from in between the paginated series.
Pagination SEO Practices To Avoid
- Do NOT noindex all paginated pages. This will de-index all the valuable content and Google will treat that page content as a single piece of content all though it is NOT.
- Do NOT use a canonical tag on all pages in series. Canonical tag should be applied on duplicate/near duplicate pages only.
- Do NOT use Google Webmaster’s parameter tool to eliminate the Paginated URLs. This will eliminate the paginated URLs from search engines index which we surely don’t want.
- Do NOT nofollow links to deeper level pages. PageRank should be allowed to flow naturally through the entire site.
- DoNOTusethesametitleonallpaginatedpages.Veryoftenallpaginated pages on the site have the same title as that of on the first page. This happens because all leading ecommerce CMS use the first-page title across all the pages by default. This gives search engines an appearance as if multiple pages are targeting the same keyword.
All though pagination and its issues have not been stressed a lot in the SEO community its relevance with ecommerce SEO is quite high. At the initial stages of the online store, the problem may look insignificant. But as the ecommerce site grows in size pagination can be a pain point. The motto to deal with pagination is “start early and fare better.”