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What is Pagination and How Does it Affect SEO?

March 2nd, 2009 | | SEO Management, Usability

What is pagination?

Pagination is a way of organizing or numbering a lot of data within a webpage to make it more manageable and user friendly.  For example, if you go to nike.com and type in ‘shox’, you could potentially get one webpage with hundreds of Nike shox all on one page. However Nike uses pagination, which allows the user to view 30 or so shox per page within 10 different pages.  (see screen shot below)


How does it affect SEO?

Pagination is basically a way of making a website with a lot of information (products or listings of some sort) more user-friendly in terms of browsing or searching.  Using Nike as another example, they use pagination by showing 30 or so shoes per page to their site instead of showing hundreds of shoes on one page to make it easier on the user to search and browse their shoes.  However, this isn’t so SEO-friendly. In fact, pagination in this way can essentially ‘bury’ product pages deeper within the site making them almost impossible to get crawled by the search engines.  Than you can kiss your potential rankings good-bye.  What you need to do is find ways to bring this buried content back to the surface of your website in a clean, user/SEO friendly way.

The purpose of doing this is to get the search engines to crawl these pages and to distribute page rank from highly crawled pages of your site to these deeper pages of your site.

Ways you can bring deeper content back to the surface is to create faster ways to get to the content.  You can add categories to your homepage or another page closer to the homepage to give quicker access to the deeper pages of your site.

Another way is to implement a good internal linking structure to your site by adding anchor text to your homepage and other pages and link to these deeper pages.  Again, this helps distribute Pagerank to these deeper pages that won’t typically get any Pagerank.  External linking is also another great way to get more traffic to these deeper pages. Find relevant sites that already have a great Pagerank to link to your site.

Some also think that pagination affects SEO in terms of duplicate content.  If you take the nike.com example, you may search for ‘red nike shox’ and get a page of red nike shox shoes. Then you may search for, ‘kids nike shox’ and get some of the same products in your second search in which the search engines find to be duplicate content – the same content showing up on different urls.

While some SEO experts feel that Google, Yahoo! and MSN have found workarounds for this, there are things you can do to prevent your site from having duplicate content issues from pagination.

One way to fix duplicate content issues is to use a 301 redirect.  This way you’re telling the search engines to crawl one page over another page.  For example, if Nike were to have a landing page of women’s nike shox from their homepage, but they also have another page from the women’s page that features the same nike shox, you could implement a 301 redirect to tell the search engines to crawl the landing page link from the homepage instead of the page from the women’s page which may change in the near future or not have as high a page rank.

You can also use a meta noindex tag to tell the search engines not to index the duplicate pages on your site. This is the preferable choice to use so you don’t get wrapped up in multiple 301 redirects which can hurt your SEO efforts. According to Google, if the Googlebot sees the noindex meta tag on a page, they will completely drop the page from their search results, even if other pages link to it.  Google does go on to say however, that because Googlebot does have to crawl your pages in order to see the noindex meta tag, it is possible for them to miss it index your page anyway.

In some cases, these duplicate content issues that pagination causes are within the page titles.  So some say that simply adding a unique value before the wording in your page title will help remove duplicate content issues.  Example, <title>Page 1 – Nike Shox</title>, <title> Page 2 – Nike Shox</title>, etc.

Whichever ways you choose to eliminate your duplicate content issues make sure you do it and do it quickly.  A cool tool to help you find duplicate content is the duplicate content checker.  This tool will not only find duplicate content on your site but will also find it on other sites for you.  You can also check your Google/Yahoo Webmaster Tools accounts and find pages within your site that have identical page titles and meta descriptions to fix.

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