Pagination creating Duplicate Content is a very real issue within SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Pagination is basically breaking up long “stuff” into shorter chunks, with a navigation system to move on to the next or previous piece.
Duplicate Content means pretty much what you’d expect it to mean, however…
Let’s look at what these things are, how they interact, what they have to do with SEO and what best practice to put into place.
Paginated content exists all across the internet. Websites paginate in different ways. For example:
- Long articles divided into several shorter pages
- eCommerce sites might divide a list of products in a large category into pages
- Forums often divide threads into URLs of a sequence
Interaction and SEO Effects
When you take a look at your average SERP, you’re looking at a list of (hopefully relevant) pages. That word, pages is key here. It’s what we optimize in SEO – pages. For more on that idea, see Optimizing What? SEO for Page, Not Sites.
Each page should have unique titles, descriptions, and most importantly, content.
So if you break up a long article across several pages, won’t each and every one of those pages have the exact same title, description, etc.? And that, my friends, is the rub.
What Google Says About Pagination & Duplicate Content
In short, there are three things that Google says you can do in order to use Paginated Content and still whoop tail at SEO:
- Specify a View All page
- Use rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links
- Do Nothing
Specify a View All Page
Google attempts to detect the View All version of our content and, if available, its associated component pages. However, to make it more explicit, you can include rel=”canonical” from your component pages to your view-all page to increase the chances that your series of pages are found.
Use rel="next" and rel="prev" links in your pagination
Google’s default is to search for a View All page. However, if you’d like to override this, or if you don’t have a View All page, then using the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links would be your best bet.
Let’s look at an implementation example. On the site, www.example.com, there could be an article titled abc and is broken down into three pages.
On the second page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2, in the <head> section, you would put:
<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" />
That’s right. Doing nothing is actually a viable alternative in the eyes of Google.
The reason? Paginated content is extremely common, and Google will still attempt to return the most relevant results, regardless of content’s pagination or lack thereof.
My Take on Pagination & Duplicate Content
So out of these three options, what would I do?
Sorry but I’m not opting for doing nothing.
I’d honestly suggest doing both of options one and two. Create a View All page for your users; I imagine this may come in handy in other ways as well.
And also use rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links. This overrides the Google View All default, giving you complete control over Duplicate Content issues, but allows your creation of the View All page to help your users.
Keep in mind, however, that when using the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links, they need to be complete and correct; one mis-step and Google will pop back into its default search for the View All page.
And here’s a handy little video from Google putting all this into perspective.