Google help Solve Pagination with “next” and “prev” tags

by on September 17, 2011

Google is really starting to address some of the most common problems an SEO can face. The canonical tag was a massive help for webmasters who encountered duplicate content issues. It allowed a user to tag one URL as the master using rel=”canonical” href=”masterurl.html” and tag all duplicate versions of that page. This would help with PR leakage where multiple versions of the page could attract links, plus distributing your equity across a number of pages instead of just being conserved by one. For those on WordPress, Yoasts WordPress SEO plugin can do this automatically.

Well now Google is addressing another biggie (something I have dealt with countless times), it’s helping to stamp out Pagniation. Users can now include rel=”next” and rel=”prev” to give Google a hint that they should (from their blog post on this subject):

  • Consolidate indexing properties, such as links, from the component pages/URLs to the series as a whole (i.e., links should not remain dispersed between page-1.html, page-2.html, etc., but be grouped with the sequence).
  • Send users to the most relevant page/URL—typically the first page of the series.

Examples of where "next" and "prev" will be used

Image credit from Google Webmaster Blog

There are many sites that break articles or galleries into multiple pages to help with revenue generated from ad impressions. Once the canonical tag was released it helped resolve this issue as you could use the tag to set one of the URLs as the master and sub pages as a duplicate of that page. The problem with using the canonical tag in these circumstances is the sub pages are not duplicate content. This is why the “next” and “prev” tags are so useful. Example of this implementation would be:

Example Implementation of Google rel=”next” and rel=”prev”

http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1

http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2

http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3

http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=4

On the first page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1, you’d include in the<head> section:
<link rel="next" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2/>

On the second page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2:
<link rel="prev" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1" />
<link rel="next" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3" />

On the third page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3:
<link rel="prev" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2" />
<link rel="next" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=4" />

And on the last page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=4:
<link rel="prev" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3" />

Interestingly Google also released information on an exception to the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags, the view all results. Google have said studies have shown users prefer a page that shows all results from a certain series of articles.  To surface your view-all results page over a component page you can simple use the canonical tag to point all component pages against the view-all results page. But for many sites there are going to be times when you don’t want to show a view-all results page ahead of a component page due to load time (showing a large page with all your results may cause high load times if image intensive) and of course conversion, longer pages containing multiple topics may not convert as well.

Great changes from Google for us SEO’s and some I will definitely be implementing.

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