Way back in September 2011, Google introduced rel=”next” and rel=”prev” attribute functionality, providing a much needed solution to the problem of pagination. The tagging allowed webmasters to highlight pages in a series to Google, referencing the three main components of the paginated series; the current page, previous page, and next page in the series.
The new functionality also allows users to consolidate indexing properties, such as link value, from the entire paginated series. This means that the value of a link to one of the pages within the series is distributed across the rest of the paginated pages.
Seven months later, the attributes are eventually accommodated by Bing, whose pagination mark-up capability was announced on the Bing Webmaster blog by Duane Forrester.
It emerged that Bing do not treat rel=”prev” and rel=”next” tags in the same way as Google. Below are the main differences in interpretation and implementation:
1)Bing does not use the tags as a means of identifying a page of primary relevance within a paginated series, nor does it consolidate a series into a single entity within search results.
2)Bing explained that the benefit of using rel=”next”/rel=”prev” for them lies in the resulting ability to gain a more comprehensive understanding of site structure, discover new pages, and provide a better search display model.
1)Using the tag alerts Google that you would like to consolidate indexing properties, such as links, from the entire paginated series as a whole.
2)Google interprets the tag as a signifier of the most relevant page within the paginated series (usually the first page in the series)
Potential Display Improvements from Bing
Despite the difference in functionality, Bing seem to have some creative, long term plans for pagination, namely the advanced display of a paginated series within the search results themselves. Though nothing like this is present at the moment, it sounds like Bing hope to display a site's paginated structure, perhaps providing a brief synopsis of the content on the other pages in the series.
“We may use our newly gained knowledge on your site’s structure to provide easy access to other sections of the paginated or sequenced content from our results pages in the future. In addition, webmasters implementing these elements may benefit from more comprehensive indexing over time as we apply our newly gained knowledge of a site’s structure to our indexing heuristics.”
Three Pagination Techniques
So, as we're on the topic, it would be worthwhile taking a more in-depth look at the three primary ways of dealing with pagination on a site.
Using meta noindex as the primary means of resolving pagination issues has become somewhat dated. Though it is effective when we want pages to be crawled but not indexed, adding the noindex tag to a paginated series does not allow us to directly consolidate link equity.
Far better are the second and third methods mentioned above. The introduction of the rel=”prev” and rel=”next” functionality by Google aforementioned has been a source of immense joy for SEOs. It is a far more efficient and subtle way of dealing with paginated content than has been previously available.
The use of rel=”canonical” was never ideal in these circumstances, as it this only allows for the identification of one “canonical” page, for which Google will present above all others in the paginated series. Now, with the rel=”prev/next” attribute to hand, we are given far greater flexibility in our treatment of news, blogs, or products spread across more than one page. Of course, rel=”canonical” tags can be used in conjunction with the rel=”prev” and rel=”next” attributes.
Now, webmasters are able to inform Google of the relationship of a paginated series with greater accuracy, and ensure that the correct page within the series is served up for any given query.
I have included an example implementation of the attribute below, taken from the Google Webmaster Blog post on pagination
The third tactic in our list is the way in which Google now handles “View All” pages. Google assures us that users are far more inclined towards viewing all products or items on one page, rather than scrolling through pages of content. As such, Google has stated that they will, where a “view all” page exists, make a concerted effort to display that version of the content rather than the paginated content.
To make things easy, Google will do all the work to ensure that the generally preferred version is displayed. Of course, if you're a follower of the old belt and braces doctrine, you will want to add in the rel=”canonical” tag pointing to the “view all” page as well.