Google Provides New Options for Paginated Content

At SMX Advanced earlier this year, a hot topic was the use of the rel=”canonical” attribute in conjunction with pagination. Maile Ohye of Google noted that the rel=”canonical” attribute was not intended to cluster multiple pages (articles, product lists, etc.) to page one of that series (although it can be used to cluster multiple pages to a “view all” page).

The discussion was fast and furious and we dove into the various pagination issues that content owners encounter. Maile took the feedback to Google and they got to work on some options. The goal? To present some new solutions at SMX East at a panel set up just to talk through pagination issues. Today, be impressed with my multitasking skills as I write this article that describes these new solutions while I moderate the session!

Google has done two things: evolved how they detect and cluster components of a series with a view all page and launched new rel attributes to enable content owners to specify components of a paginated series. They describe both in blog posts today.


New Handling of View All Pages

Google has been evolving their detection of a series of component pages and the corresponding view all page. When you have a view all page and paginated URLs with a detectable pattern, Google clusters those together and consolidates the PageRank value and indexing relevance. Basically, all of the paginated URLs are seen as components in a series that rolls up to the view all page. In most cases, Google has found that the best experience for searchers is to rank the view all page in search results. (You can help this process along by using the rel=”canonical” attribute to point all pages to the view all version.)

If You Don’t Want The View All Page To Rank Instead of Paginated URLs

If you don’t want the view all version of your page shown and instead want individual paginated URLs to rank, you can block the view all version with robots.txt or meta noindex. You can also use the all new rel=”next”/rel=”prev” attributes, so read on!

New Pagination Options

If you don’t have a view all page, or you don’t want the view all page to be what appears in search results, you can use the new attributes rel=”next” and rel=”prev” to cluster all of the component pages into a single series. All of the indexing properties for all components in the series are consolidated and the most relevant page in the series will rank for each query. (Yay!)

You can use these attributes for article pagination, product lists, and any other types of pagination your site might have. The first page of the series has only a rel=”next” attribute and the last page of the series has only a rel=”prev” attribute, and all other pages have both.  You can still use the rel=”canonical” attribute on all pages in conjunction.

Typically, in this setup, as Google sees all of these component pages as series, the first page of the series will rank, but there may be times when another page is more relevant and will rank instead. In either case, the indexing signals (such as incoming links) are consolidated and shared by the series.

Make sure that the value of rel=”next” and rel=”prev” match the URL (even if it’s non-canonical) as the rel/next values in the series have to match up (you likely will need to dynamically write the values based on the display URL).

There are lots of intricacies to consider here, and I’m working on an in-depth article that runs through everything that came up in the session, so if you have questions, post them here and I’ll add them in!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: General | Google: SEO | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

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  • Jill Whalen

    Wow! Thanks for the news on this Vanessa. Should come in handy for many sites. My hope is that CMS providers start adding in the ability to use all these new rel attributes that Google keeps coming up with!

  • coryhowell

    How is the following statement going to impact WordPress-based blogs & sites, which by default use the next/prev tags on each Post page?

    “If you don’t have a view all page, or you don’t want the view all page to be what appears in search results, you can use the new attributes rel=”next” and rel=”prev” to cluster all of the component pages into a single series. All of the indexing properties for all components in the series are consolidated and the most relevant page in the series will rank for each query.”

    Based upon this statement, it would appear that you “could” lose value to many of your posts if these tags are used. I’ve checked and the next/prev links apply even if the Posts are in different categories, etc. so they are most definitely not part of a series.

    There are plugins to remove these references in your code (Yoast’s WordPress SEO for instance)… might be worth checking out now if this announcement from Google may have a negative affect on WordPress-based sites.

  • Andy Scott


    I don’t think it’d be wise to simply drop these on every possible next/prev link on your site, especially if there is no logical relationship to the series as most default use the next/prev tags on each Post page would have.

    A better use would be for paginated pages such as search results, post tags, or categories. Take for instance in which you have 4-5 pages full of results for the “apples” category. Putting a rel=”next” on the links that lead to the next page full of category results makes sense. Putting a rel=”next” on a next post link that points to a post about “ecuador” from a post that talks about “apples” just doesn’t make sense so telling Google they are part of a series isn’t ideal.

  • Marcus Miller

    Hmm, the WordPress thing is interesting, needs clarification from Google I guess before we go messing around though. Google may have even taken the idea from WordPress and it would seem like a bit of an oversight if this has not been taken into consideration.

    The world watches and waits!

  • Vanessa Fox

    To clarify — this isn’t meta data you add to links. Add these tags to the head section of pages. So next/previous links on a page aren’t completely separate from this.

  • don

    If I start using rel prev and next on category pages with 10 items per page. Currently I’m using noindex follow on page 2,3,4.
    What is recommended best practice combined with rel=previous? Will rel=previous work if the page Is noindexed? The whole point is to consolidate page rank, maybe it’s better to remove noindex?

  • Ashish

    Hi Vanessa

    Conceptually it sounds good but like wordpress there are many other CMS which are using these tags but similar to WordPress. So, if this rolls out (assuming it hasn’t rolled out yet), then sites running on these Web 2.0 CMS will fluctuate in rankings?

    When is it being rolled out?

  • Vanessa Fox

    Don, yes, you should remove the noindex when you add rel=next/prev.

    Ashish, this is different from what wordpress and other CMS systems are doing as I noted above.

    It’s already rolled out but next/previous links that CMS systems create are completely separate and won’t impact this. To use this, you have to specifically add a rel element to the head section of your pages.

  • Ashish

    I understand that it’s different from WordPress and other CMS, but my question is would sites already using rel=next/prev in head section get affected if they are not using the way Google has implemented it?

  • suzukik

    It seems to me WordPress automatically inserts rel=prev/next into its HEAD section. You can see those elements even in the head section of this article:
    <link rel=’prev’ title=’Hard Thoughts About SEO & Link Bait’ href=’′ />
    <link rel=’next’ title=’SMX East 2011 Day Three Recap’ href=’′ />

  • IDS

    A wonderful piece of news Vanessa! Paginating content has always been helpful for publishers such as me! We are able to put on more ads for our readers, give them more fodder to browse through. These measures would definitely be of great help!

  • Dan Mozgai

    I would love to see browsers use rel next and prev to enable “page turning” for blogs and articles or stories broken up into multiple pages. It would be nice if I could reach the bottom of a page, make a swiping motion, and have the browser advance to the next page.

  • Vanessa Fox

    Ashish and suzukik – You are correct. I looked into this a bit more. I’ll talk through it more in the more detailed article I’m working on.

    Joost’s plugin fixes this, but that doesn’t help most WordPress users, who don’t know about SEO or plugins. :)

    As you can see from his post, he’s working to get this fixed in WP core as well.

  • coryhowell

    Seems that the Next/Prev links will be removed from the next release of WordPress. Several sources, including Yoast included the reference to the core update in their recent posts.

    Great news! Just gotta make sure you update to newest version(s) on a regular basis.

  • williamalarice

    I need to ask one thing and that is after the implementation of this canonical tag of pagination how will google index those pages. Will it still index the multiple pages of same category having different pages or it will index only one at same point of time.

  • tiggerito

    Another way to remove the Next/Prev links in WordPress is to add the following line to your functions.php file:

    remove_action( ‘wp_head’, ‘adjacent_posts_rel_link_wp_head’, 10, 0 );

  • robin prinsen

    What do you guys think of using it to “combine” two pages about one subject?We have and used rel=next on product-a and rel=prev on product-a/more-details. The content on both pages is unique.

    When I look at the pictures Google gave us, it should be correct. But is it? We did see a small improvement in rankings, but it could also be because we’re improving our site in general.

    Look forward to hearing some other opinions on my thougts.

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