Ecommerce

Pagination is a silent SEO issue that affects many ecommerce websites with product listings spanning across multiple pages. If it's not handled correctly, it can cause serious issues for your website.

First off, it’s important to talk about what pagination actually is. In its simplest form, pagination occurs when a website has to ‘break up’ content across multiple pages.

For example, if an ecommerce site splits a list of products across more than one page.

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of websites with hundreds of pages of products within a category, so you probably think it is not a problem for search engine optimisation (SEO) — well unfortunately it is!

From an SEO perspective, untreated pagination can cause your website some serious issues, which I’ll highlight in this article. I’ll show you how to work out if you have pagination problems and share some methods you can use to make your pagination issues a thing of the past.

SEO Problems Caused by Pagination

We will now explore the potential SEO-related issues which can occur because of untreated pagination:

A large number of indexable URLs

Having paginated content vastly increases the number of website URLs that you have. This will reduce your ability to rank your pages in search engines because link equity will be diluted across a larger number of website pages.

Page crawling issues

Pagination causes crawling issues for search engines, which goes hand-in-hand with the issue of having a large number of URLs. If you have a huge number of web pages with paginated content, it’s unlikely that Google will crawl all your pages and therefore may not index all the pages you want it to. Our article on 15 Ways to Optimise your Crawl Budget has plenty of tips to help you deal with this.

Duplicate content

When pagination occurs, it is very likely that you’ll have several pages with very similar, or exactly the same content. This will result in duplication issues because Google will be confused about which page to serve users in search engine results pages (SERPs). To help with this, check out our detailed guide to avoiding duplicate content on ecommerce sites.

How to Overcome Pagination Issues for a Page Series

Page series pagination refers to the parameters added to URLs when a user visits subsequent, or previous pages, as part of a category.

To understand this better, imagine you are on a website that sells widgets. You look through the first page of widgets and don’t find what you are looking for, so you click to go on to the second page. When you do this, the URL changes:

From:

www.wesellwidgets.com/widgets

To:

www.wesellwidgets.com/widgets/page2/

When you go from page 1 to page 2 the website adds ‘parameters’ to the URL. It is these ‘parameters’ that cause pagination issues and need to be handled correctly.

‘View All’ Page and Rel=”Canonical” for Paginated Page Series

Google’s preferred method for directly handling pagination in a page series is to create a ‘view all’ page, separate from the paginated pages, which includes all products in the category. You can then add a rel=”canonical” tag throughout the paginated series that links to the “view all” page.

rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/view-all”

Treating pagination this way tells Google to treat each page as part of a series of pages. Search queries in the SERPs will return this ‘view all’ page, but it’s important to note that if you have a large product category this method isn’t preferable.

Pagination: creating a View All page

Remove Content from the Google Index

If there are no advantages from having the content indexable, then the easiest solution is to simply remove it from the Google index. Websites that have huge product categories often remove all subsequent pages from the Google index because there is no advantage in having them.

The easiest way to do this is to implement a ‘noindex, follow’ tag within the head section of each subsequent page, not including the first page. It should look like this:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>

It is also important to include the ‘follow’ tag on the initial page in the series – it’ll help any link authority that exists in the subsequent blocked pages to travel back to the original page.

Removing pagination from the Google IndexUse Rel=”next” and Rel=”Prev” for Paginated Page Series

The html link elements rel=”next” and rel=”prev” form part of the canonical link element. This link element signals to Google that there’s a relationship between pages in a paginated series and that the link in the canonical tag is the master URL to show in the SERPs. The greatest advantage of this option is that it removes the need for a ‘view all’ page which could be harmful due to poor load speed, if there are many products in the category.

Example:

Page 1

My category has 3 pages of products. On page 1 there is no ‘previous’ page, so I only have to place a “rel=next” link attribute pointing to page 2. There will also be a self-referencing canonical pointing to the page that I am currently on.

  1. <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-1”
  2. <link rel=”next” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-2”

Page 2

I am now on page 2 (of 3). I will need to add a ‘previous’ tag to the original page that I was on, as well as a ‘next’ tag to point to the final page in my category. There will also need to be a canonical tag pointing to the original page in the series (page 1).

  1. <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-1”
  2. <link rel=”prev” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-1”
  3. <link rel=”next” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-3”

Page 3

The final page in the series will need a ‘previous’ tag to page 2, but there will be no need to add a ‘next’ tag as this is the final page. Again there will have to be a canonical pointing to the original page.

  1. <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-1”
  2. <link rel=”prev” href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-2”

 

Rel="next" & rel="prev" for pagination

Use the Canonical Tag Rel=”Canonical”

The canonical tag is an important strategy for solving paginated content issues and is used in conjunction with the methods above. A canonical tag (rel=canonical) is a html link element, added to the ‘head’ section of a page. This tag acts signals to Google that the page where the canonical tag has been added is the original, or master version of the page. Using rel=canonical prevents the issue of duplicate content, and the issue related to having several URLs. It tells Google that the original page is the one that should be served in the SERPs and that all others are variations of the master page.

rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.hallaminternet.com”

It’s important to note that adding canonicals can be different for various types of websites. For ecommerce websites, the canonical should point to the first page throughout all pagination as part of a page series, due to the content being similar, or exactly the same. Read our blog post on how to set canonical tags properly for more information.

How to Check If Pagination Is Causing SEO Issues

The easiest way to discover if pagination is causing your website issues is to go to one of your product categories, click on the second page and copy the URL.

Then open up a new browser tab and place the following into the search bar ‘site:’ followed by the paginated URL, then click search. This will search for the exact URL you’ve entered and will return the indexed URL, if it exists in the Google search index. If the returned URL is exactly the same, then you have pagination issues.

Conclusion

After reading this post, hopefully you can see that pagination in a page series can cause major SEO issues for your website. The key to removing pagination problems is to first work out which method will suit you, then weigh up the size of your product categories, as well as the technical resource available.

If you need further guidance on dealing with pagination issues, we have plenty of SEO experts who can help.

 

4 responses to “How to Solve SEO Pagination Issues on Ecommerce Sites”

  1. You have shared very important information and solution to the problem of pagination issue. I had learned lot of things from your blog. Thanks and keep writing.

  2. Paul Evans says:

    Hello Matt

    First, thanks for this good succinct article on such a “grey” subject

    I challenge you though on the double implementation of canonical AND rel=prev/next

    Google itself says that with rel=prev/next in place it will recognise a chain of pages and prioritise the first chain in the page. So why do you need the canonical back to page 1 ?

    Its not 100% clear (nothing is in SEO !) that canonical = proper indexation. Ive seen canonicalised pages get a lot less crawl budget over time. This does makes sense as canonical to google bot = “dont index me, index him”

    So how do you guarantee that your links to products that are on pages 2 or 3 or 4 get crawled and therefore your product pages that appear lower down the list of paginated pages get crawled/indexed sufficiently regularly ?

    XML sitemaps is not an anwser !! 😉

    Regards

    Paul

    • Matt Berry Matt Berry says:

      Hello Paul,
      Thank you for your comment and you are very right, it is a grey area and nothing in SEO is 100%. From my experience when implementing the technique in the blog post I have not seen a decrease in indexing of product pages, even with the volume of products dramatically increasing over time. One method I have found useful is to nest your product URL’s under the root URL of the website (not under the category structure). I have found that this helps with the crawl budget as well, as there is no need to canonicalise the same product when it exists in more than one category.

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