What are pagination tags in SEO?

When it comes to websites, pagination is commonly used to split content between pages. Examples where it is used:

  • Posts on a blog
  • Product listings on an ecommerce website
  • Reviews on products

This functionality is designed to improve the user experience on websites by serving users with digestible sets of content that are neatly organised.

Pagination also helps improve page performance by splitting resource load between pages.

Table of Contents

A Brief History of Pagination

In 2011, Google rolled out rel=next and rel=prev tags as a way to improve how they crawl and index content on a website.

In March 2019, Google announced that pagination has been deprecated as an indexing signal.

Google basically told us SEOs that they no longer need pagination tags to sort and index content correctly.

This is half true (in my opinion). Google is smart enough to more or less understand pages in a series now. What SEOs can always help Google with however, is how a site is crawled.

Is Pagination Good for SEO?

The SEO benefits of pagination include:

  • Faster load times (reduced resource load)
  • Better user experience (UX)
  • Greater crawl depth & content discovery
  • Aids indexation

Despite Google announcing pagination is deprecated, the above bullet points sound like core technical elements that benefits SEO right?

That is what I believe.

Page experience is also a Google ranking factor, so it is beneficial to improve UX and load times wherever possible.

Pagination Best Practices for SEO

So what is the best way to implement pagination?

You have 3 options:

1. Use a view all page and a single canonical tag

The idea behind a view all page is to move each page within a paginated series into a single page.

This removes the need for pagination and consolidates all linking signals into a single page.

This can be a great option, depending on how many products you have.

Large ecommerce sites however, will not want to put 1,000+ products on a single page.

That would be a horrible user experience and would also not help search engines with product discovery.

2. Use a view more button in combination with infinite scroll

Infinite scroll is a user centric practice that enables all products to continuously loading as a user scrolls down a page. This is used to boost engagement.

When you think of infinite scroll, think of platforms like:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
Pagination on the other hand is there to segment user browsing, and when it comes to ecommerce, there’s an argument for both, as both are successful.
A view more button is designed to be a happy medium between the UX benefits of infinite scroll, and the SEO benefits of pagination.
To decide if a view more button approach is the right for you, one must weigh up how users digest their content and how big their site is.
While pagination can be setup with view more + infinite scroll, it limits you to sequential pagination.
The #1 thing an ecommerce website needs to be is crawlable. Without discovery there are no rankings.
While sequential pagination is a crawl aid, it forces search engine bots to have a very high crawl depth.
This is why, in my opinion, the view more + infinite scroll combination is not the best option for ecommerce websites, especially large websites.

3. Still use traditional paginated pages with rel = prev/next

This is the ideal solution.

Google states that they are smart enough to find paginated pages simply by looking at the links on your page.

Google deprecating the previous & next tags as an indexing signal doesn’t mean that they still don’t refer to pagination tags, it just means Google doesn’t necessarily need to use them.

So why should you still use pagination tags for SEO?

  1. Pagination tags are still used by Bing for discovery.
  2. They are in the WCAG standards for accessibility (a11y).
  3. Pagination is great for websites that need to serve a large amount of content or products that can not be reasonably served on a single page.
  4. Traditional pagination allows you to set your own crawl depth – this is key for SEO
So with all that said, below are the recommended best practice pagination tips for SEO on ecommerce websites.

Pagination for Ecommerce Websites

Pagination serves as a navigational function that aids discovery for both users and search engines, as both can navigate your website by following internal links to deeper pages.

This is what makes pagination a core technical SEO element for ecommerce websites.

When you have a huge range of products, serving thousands of paginated pages does not make sense and does your website no favours.

To handle pagination in a scenario like this, here are the key things to do:

1. Go Granular in your catrgories

Outside of pagination itself, the information architecture of your website plays a huge role in how Google bot discovers landing pages on your site.

Within reason, the more categories you can make to house unique products the better. Here are the SEO benefits of this:

  1. Granular categories allow crawling bots to discover products that would otherwise be buried in higher level categories
  2. They give users another discovery path
  3. Opens up the opportunity to rank for specific longtail category keywords
It is a big job to create and implement granular categories, and even bigger still to completely overhaul a website’s information architecture.
However, the upside of these activities will set up a website for success.

2. Utilise mid-point pagination

Mid-point pagination is where you can drastically improve crawl depth on an ecommerce website.

Crawling bots follow links on your website to discover content.

So if you have 1,000 pages in a paginated series, where your pagination is set up sequentially, for example: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ,9 10), then the crawl depth on your deeper categories is very high.

A high crawl depth means crawlers may not discover your paginated pages at all.

Google still uses paginated pages for product discovery. So in turn, products on your website may not get indexed if their linking category page cannot be crawled!

How to set up mid-point pagination:

Let’s say you have 1,000 products in a category, where the default product load of your pages is 20.

The best way to set up mid-point pagination is like this:

1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 17, 18, 19, 20

When a user is on page 10:

1, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 20

Or if you have a smaller range of products, it can be built with shorter intervals:

1, 2, 3, 10, 17, 18, 19

Regardless of your product inventory, the idea of mid-point pagination is to allow crawling bots quick access options to deeper paginated levels in your website in just a few steps.

You can reduce the count of paginated pages by increasing the count of products per page. This is where you’ll need to strike your own balance.

I think 16-24 is typically a good amount per page.

The SEO benefit of mid-point pagination:

Here are the SEO benefits of utilising mid-point pagination:

  1. Increased crawl rate of deeper pages
  2. More links followed to product pages
  3. Increased product discovery
  4. More products indexed by Google
  5. Increased rankings

Final note on this:

Mid-point pagination will not change the sequence of your rel=”previous” & rel=”next” tags. Always use pagination tags in a logical sequence.

Handling Pagination Tags, Canonical Tags & Parameters Together

Handling parameters (page filters) on paginated pages is a bit trickier.

For pages with parameters, such as ?sort=price or “?colour=blue, the canonical tag should always point to the default page without a parameter.

The previous and next tags however need to still reference the parameters.

Pagination follows a logical sequence, so it is necessary to include any filters as part of that sequence in your mark up. Examples:

1. https://www.intellar.agency/category/sub-category/?sort=price

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.inty.com.au/category/sub-category/” />

<link rel=”next” href=”https://www.intellar.agency/category/sub-category/page-2/?sort=price” />

2. https://www.intellar.agency/category/sub-category/page-2/?sort=price

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.intellar.agency/category/sub-category/page-2/” />

<link rel=”prev” href=”https://www.intellar.agency/category/sub-category/?sort=price” />

<link rel=”next” href=”https://www.intellar.agency/category/sub-category/page-3/?sort=price” />

Note in this second example here that the canonical points to the paginated page without the parameter, but the previous tag points to the base page with the parameter.

Pagination FAQs

Paginated simply means the process of numbering a document. Think of it like a book.

When it comes to websites, pagination is used to split resource load between pages, whether that be for articles or more commonly, for product listings on an ecommerce website.

The benefit of this is faster load times and a better user experience for customers.

Yes. Google treats a paginated page as it does any other normal webpage.

Links are followed, metadata is read, and they can be indexed.

When implemented properly, pagination helps:

  • Increase crawl rates
  • Improve page discovery
  • Help user navigation
  • Increase click depth
  • Add more internal links

All these elements have an impact on SEO.

Yes, as the practice of pagination on a website is there to split out data sets loaded on a page.

By splitting data sets across multiple pages, you can reduce load times on each page, as the total resource load is reduced.

Summary

Pagination tags are a basic but essential component for every website.

I would also go as far to say that they are a vital SEO aspect for any ecommerce site.

It is a factor that needs to be considered by both SEO’s and web developers.

Properly utilising pagination can go a long way in your SEO efforts!

If you have any further questions, please leave a comment below.