Pagination SEO: Three mistakes to avoid

If you’re displaying large amounts of content on a website, pagination SEO is a must-have component. From a blog homepage to e-commerce category pages that list and link to thousands of products, if you have to stack information – pagination is a must.

Although it’s a facet of technical SEO, pagination isn’t always easy. In this guide, we’ll outline some of the more common mistakes our experts come across, helping your pages perform to the best of their organic ability.

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What is pagination?

pages of website structure

Using pagination, websites can separate content items such as articles and products across multiple pages.

Most websites use pagination to break up content into bite-size chunks, with the common applications being:

Using pagination SEO correctly is important for optimisation because it can dictate the way Google crawls and indexes each piece of content, especially when it follows the first page in any sequence.

Three common pagination SEO mistakes to avoid

Despite being a seemingly simple aspect of any website, pagination can be tricky to implement correctly.

When we carry out a technical SEO audit, we usually uncover implementation issues with pagination. Obviously, this is far from ideal, as it can have a significant impact on performance – not just on the pages that are linked beyond page one – but on website performance as a whole.

1. Canonicalising all pages in a single sequence

This is the most common mistake we see, and it’s usually down to the assumption that canonicalising all sequenced pages (from page two and beyond) back to the first page will give that page a ranking boost.

Unfortunately, this isn’t correct. If this canonical is accepted, all internal links to content items from page two onwards will have very little benefit.

We use canonicals to indicate which is the “master” or “main” version of a web page where duplicate content exists – think e-commerce product pages. Because the products are different on page two from what’s on page one, these aren’t duplicates – meaning they shouldn’t contain a self-referencing canonical.

2. No-indexing a paginated series

Non-indexing is a severe mistake, but can even be found on huge websites with hundreds of paginated pages per category.

From an SEO perspective, the intention here is likely down to curtailing which pages you want to appear in organic search results through the “no index” rule, while using a follow directive to maintain internal link equity.

The result is quite different. Instead, a “no index, follow” command can keep certain pages from being shown in the SERP. With the links still being followed, if the rule stays for long enough, Google will eventually de-index the pages completely.

As such, this tanks the SEO value of any content beyond page one.

3. CTA buttons without <a href> attributes

CTA buttons can greatly improve the UX of a topic cluster by keeping the number of articles displayed at bay – which is helpful when readers can quickly get over faced with information.

However, they can cause issues for search engine crawlers by unintentionally blocking access to any articles that are not on the first page.

Generally, these buttons require Javascript to function, which is not crawlable without a href attribute on the button linking to the next page.

This means that these topic clusters will effectively become orphaned pages, won’t be crawled regularly, and any content and links from those blogs won’t be able to generate equitably across the site.

Embryo’s best practices for pagination SEO

To help you make sure pagination implementation goes off without a hitch, our experts have put together this handy checklist of things to keep in mind.

  1. Only ever use pagination when including all relevant content on a single page would cause a poor user experience or increase page load timings
  2. Ensure that CTAs or ‘read more’ buttons that need Javascript contain <a href> tags to the next page in the sequence
  3. All pages in a sequence should have a self-referencing canonical tag
  4. Modify your title tags to include ‘[Blog name] Page 2;, ‘[Blog name] Page 3’ etc to avoid duplicate title tag warnings in Google Search Console.
  5. Add introductory text and other indicative content onto the root page only.
  6. Avoid adding paginated URLs in the sitemap.

Still stuck? Our technical SEO can help.

Implementing website pagination can be tricky. So to avoid making the mistakes outlined in this guide – or to help you get to the bottom of your existing activity with a full audit – trust our experts.

At Embryo, our technical SEO specialists can sort pagination for you, spotting any further problems with your website and actively fixing them for pages that not only look good but crawl well. Get in touch with us today!

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