Pagination allows website editors to split long content into different pages. This technique really belongs to the ABC of web design and information architecture, but — still — pagination SEO best practices are debated. Therefore, dealing with it is not that easy as it could seem.
In this article, we are going to guide you over the dos and don’ts of pagination from an SEO standpoint and to present you WordLift Pagination, a quick and easy-to-use plugin to apply an SEO friendly pagination to your WordPress articles.
What are the benefits of WordLift Pagination on your editorial content? The impact of the pagination plugin on the engagement metrics is terrific.
Source: Google Analytics of Windows Report on a selection of articles where the Pagination Plugin has ben applied
Is pagination good for SEO?
Why is our pagination giving such a good impact on the website’s metrics?
For years, we’ve been huge fans of the long-form articles, since Google seemed to appreciate the capacity of a piece of content to approach a topic with a detailed, in depth approach.
With the roll-out of the Mobile First Index, something started to change… again. Obviously, long-form articles can take longer time to load — because of the presence of multimedia content such as images, audios, and videos. That’s why Google started to prefer short content for some keywords.
We have noticed that some SERPs are now dominated by lighter content with 800 words or even less that contain few media and are rendered in less than one second on smartphones and other mobile devices.
So… what happens when you have a long-form article which is outranked by short content? Well, here is where the WordLift Pagination comes in very handy by fragmenting the content into short fraggles (if the word fraggle doesn’t sound familiar to you, you definitely have to watch this webinar by Cindy Krum) which make enough sense to answer to searcher’s intent.
Before discussing further the functionalities and results of our pagination plugin, I’d like to give you an overview on the state of pagination SEO. On the editorial strategic side, the first question you need to ask yourself is…
Article pagination: when should I use it?
Pagination is used to divide lists of articles and products, to provide an easy way to access to the multimedia content of a gallery, and to break long-form articles into digestible chunks of information.
Let’s focus on article pagination: when and why should you apply it to your content?
- When the SERP you are competing for is dominated by short, straight-to-the-point content: in this case, just a second or two on the mobile page speed can make a lot of difference in your traffic metrics.
- When your article serves different specific search intents together with a broader one. In this case, breaking the content into small chunks of information can help your users find immediately what they are looking for.
- When your article contains many multimedia items that could make the page heavier and hard to access from mobile devices/connections. Dividing the content into different pages allows the browser to download small pieces of content instead of a heavy page crowded with images and videos. It would result in higher page speed.
As you can notice, in both cases the UX should be on top of concerns. Pagination only makes sense when it adds something to the user experience.
Pagination and SEO: a complicated relationship
Pagination […] affects two critical elements of search engine accessibility.
- Crawl Depth: Best practices demand that the search engine spiders reach content-rich pages in as few “clicks” as possible (turns out, users like this, too). This also impacts calculations like Google’s PageRank (or Bing‘s StaticRank), which determine the raw popularity of a URL and are an element of the overall algorithmic ranking system.
- Duplicate Content: Search engines take duplication very seriously and attempt to show only a single URL that contains any given piece of content. When pagination is implemented improperly, it can cause duplicate content problems, both for individual articles and the landing pages that allow browsing access to them.
For years, SEO experts dealt with this issues using
rel=“prev”. These link attributes were used to help search engines understand that the linked pages where included in the context of a pagination.
Adding more complexity to the matter, this March Google announced that it no longer uses
rel=“prev” as an indexing signal.
As we evaluated our indexing signals, we decided to retire rel=prev/next.
Studies show that users love single-page content, aim for that when possible, but multi-part is also fine for Google Search. Know and do what's best for *your* users! #springiscoming pic.twitter.com/hCODPoKgKp
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) March 21, 2019
As you can imagine, the SEO community reacted to this tweet feeling lost and confused. A few days after, John Mueller specified that Google treats paginated pages as normal ones for its indexing and ranking purposes.
Not all the search traffic comes from Google, and even if Googlebot is ignoring this link attributes, Bing is not.
We're using rel prev/next (like most markup) as hints for page discovery and site structure understanding. At this point we're not merging pages together in the index based on these and we're not using prev/next in the ranking model. https://t.co/ZwbSZkn3Jf
— Frédéric Dubut (@CoperniX) March 21, 2019
So, the problem is still there: how to deal with pagination from an SEO standpoint?
Dos and Don’ts for Pagination SEO
Below, you will find a list of best practices. All the technical SEO aspects have already been incorporated in our SEO Pagination Plugin.
- Create unique URLs for each paginated page. Each page should have a unique URL to allow Google to crawl and index your content.
- Use crawlable links to paginated pages and allow paginated pages to be indexed.
- Use the right signals to indicate to Google that paginated pages are canonical URLs and should be indexed.
- Put the links to all the paginated pages on each of them in order to reduce click depth.
- Create unique and useful content on pagination pages.
- Manage pagination keyword cannibalization.
Here you find some outdated or ineffective strategies that you should avoid if you don’t want pagination to be penalizing for your website:
- Don’t let Google decide how to prioritize your paginated content. Give clear signals to the crawlers to be sure that your content will be interpreted and indexed appropriately.
- Don’t create a View All version of your paginated content — keep in mind that you need to serve the UX. If a content is too long for your users, then it doesn’t make sense to create a separate View All version for search engines.
- Don’t use the first page as the canonical page for all paginated pages. This would give crawlers a wrong signal, because the content of each page is different.
- Don’t add noindex to the paginated pages and don’t use any other technique to discourage or block crawlers.
- Don’t use infinite scrolling or load more, because if you do certain crawlers could not be able to actually crawl all your content.
Meet the WordLift Pagination — the SEO-friendly Pagination Plugin
In WordLift, we want SEO to be as easy as possibile, automating tasks so that our users can focus on crafting great unique content. That’s why we have developed WordLift Pagination, the first SEO-Friendly Pagination Plugin — which helps you add pagination to your content in a snap, without even worry about SEO, because it does it for you.
How does WordLift Pagination impact on session length and page views?
The first experiment with WordLift Pagination was conducted with our VIP client Windows Report. We applied the pagination to long-form articles on windowsreport.com. The results on the engagement metric was unexpectedly positive even for us.
Source: Google Analytics
Splitting single page content in paginated articles had a positive impact on pages per session, session duration, and even on page rankings (+4%). These results prove that the WordLift Pagination improved the user experience, and triggered the growth of all the engagement metrics.
Pagination and Page Speed
The pagination plugin also creates a huge impact on page speed.
In the context of a large website with an average page speed of 2 seconds, 14 of the pages created with the pagination plugin are the fastest pages on the site according to the new Speed report of the GSC.
How does this affect the rankings?
In the case of our client Windows Report, the rankings of the paginated articles went up by 4% on average, which results in an impactful improvement in terms of traffic. Our assumption is that the growth of the rankings was the direct consequence of a better mobile UX — which is mainly, but not only, related with an increased page speed.
The improvements in terms of engagement can be also read as a signal of a UX that really works.
What can you do with WordLift Pagination?
Here is what our new stand-alone plugin does for your long-form articles:
- Splits your articles into different pages on the basis of your headings
- Adds a Table of Content linked to the single pages that have been generated for the readers who only need to read specific chunks of the article
- Adds a set of numbered navigation links on the bottom of each page for the readers who want to read the article consequentially.
To have it on your pages, all you have to do is installing the plugin and adding a flag on the long-form articles that you need to split into different pages. It’s that easy! ?
Ready to add pagination to your content in a snap? Install our WordLift Pagination now!
WordLift PaginationThe SEO Friendly Pagination Plugin
Add SEO-friendly pagination to your long-form content in a snap!