Google recently released a Webmaster Help video aimed at helping marketers ensure their paginated website content is indexed properly by Google.

Businesses using news content marketing frequently produce articles that are longer than the average web page. Recognizing this, Google recently released a Webmaster Help video featuring Maile Ohye, Google’s developer programs tech lead, to help businesses maximize the SEO value of any multi-page content.

The SEO consequences of paginated content

Ohye said that a major problem websites encounter is that different pages of any multi-page piece of content are often indexed separately. Rather than caching the three-page article as one entity, each page will register as a separate piece of content. Moreover, the most relevant page, typically the first one, may not being the one linked to on a that appears on a related SERP; this is especially true if a keyword included in a search query is on the second or any subsequent pages of an article.

Another problem is that links to the content will lose some of their weight, as they might be shared across the multiple pages instead of directed at a single website page.

‘View-all’ page availability and SEO

Some websites with paginated content have a “view-all” available version, which allows users to access an article or other page in its entirety. Ohye said in the video that minor site issues, such as excessive load times for view-all pages, must be tested for to ensure optimum search ranking.

Brafton has reported in the past that site speed affects very few searches, but situations like this are likely among those affected. Moreover, Google has made a greater effort to bring users to view-all pages because the company has determined that users prefer these versions of content when they are available, so ensuring that these pages operate optimally is critical for companies looking to improve their search ranking. A benefit is that the SEO benefits of the multiple pages are applied to all.

SEO markups for paginated content with ‘view-all’ pages available

Ohye outlined three options for marking up view-all available paginated content.

1. Marketers and webmasters can leave the pages as they are, with no markups.

2. For those using view-all pages, Oyhe detailed the rel=”canonical” markup within a URL, which clearly indicates to crawlers which page is the view-all option. Using this can be an SEO boon as all ranking signals on the various pages of the content will be indexed as a single page. With this markup, Google will likely send users to the view-all page instead of the paginated version.

3. The rel=”next” and rel=”prev” pages can be applied to the individual pages to signal to search crawlers that a given page is part of a series. Moreover, adding the tags directs crawlers to the proper preceding or follow page. These tools are parts of a basic HTML practice, but Google’s search crawler is now designed to locate these tags when necessary and apply them as such. They act in the same way as rel=”canonical” in that Google will index all properties of each page when ranking the article as a whole, and they help Google send users to page one from SERPs.

SEO markups for paginated content with no ‘view-all’ options

Without a View All page, the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags are especially useful. Ohye said in the video that leaving pages alone is fine, but there are key SEO benefits to using markups. As with the “view-all” option, rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags consolidate links and help ensure the first page in a series is in a SERP.

The rel=”canonical” tag is not for paginated content without a view-all option. It is critical for those with view-all pages, however, because it tells Google’s search crawler that duplicate content exists ion the website (in the form of the paginated version). As such, Google will not punish the website for having duplicate content when it detects the tag. At the same time, using rel=”canonical” in paginated versions without the view-all prevents Google from other pages in the content series.

Brafton recently reported a series of adjustments Google has made to its algorithms to better detect paginated content. However, Ohye’s video suggests that many webmasters and marketers alike have struggled with this type of content. 

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.