Pagination & SEO: best practices

Paginated archives have long been a topic of discussion in the SEO community. Over time, best practices for optimization have evolved, and we now have pretty clear definitions. This post explains what these best practices are. It’s good to know that Yoast SEO applies all these rules to every archive with pagination.

Optimize for synonyms and related keywords and prevent broken pages on your site with Yoast SEO Premium! »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Indicate that an archive has pagination

When a search engine crawls page one of an archive, it needs to know it’s a paginated archive. For the longest time, the only way for it to know that something was a paginated archive is when it found a “next” or “previous link”. This was solved by the introduction of rel="next" and rel="prev" link-elements, to be applied in the head of a page, a topic we’ve written about before.

For a while, there was a discussion in the SEO community about how to combine this with rel canonical. Should page 2 and further of an archive have a canonical link to page 1, or to itself? The idea was that you mostly want visitors to end up on page 1 of an archive. That page is usually the most relevant for the majority of users.

Google is very clear now: each page within a paginated series should canonicalize to itself, so /page/2/ has a canonical pointing to /page/2/.

Should page 2 etc. be in the search results?

For a while, SEOs thought it might be a good idea to add a noindex robots meta tag to page 2 and further of a paginated archive. This would prevent people from finding page 2 and further in the search results. The idea was that the search engine would still follow all these links, so all the linked pages would still be properly indexed.

The problem is that at the end of last year, Google said something that caught our attention: long-term noindex on a page will lead to them not following links on that page. This makes adding noindex to page 2 and further of paginated archives a bad idea, as it might lead to your articles no longer getting the internal links they need.

Because of what Google said about long-term noindex, in Yoast SEO 6.3 we removed the option to add noindex to subpages of archives.

Annoying SEO side effects

So you can no longer keep page 2 and further out of the search results. This has the annoying side effect that Google Search Console might start to give you warnings. Specifically, it might warn you about duplicate titles and duplicate meta descriptions. You can safely ignore these warnings, a fact I’ve confirmed with Google this week:

I guess, in time, Google will stop showing these warnings for paginated archives in Google Search Console.

Read more: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

40 Responses to Pagination & SEO: best practices

  1. Dan Dreifort
    Dan Dreifort  • 6 months ago

    Google makes the rules. So I’ll follow them. …Says the guy who just noindexed yet another slew of paginated archives.

    At least I have the data to explain to clients why I’m undoing what I’ve done.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Jodi Allbon
    Jodi Allbon  • 6 months ago

    Hi
    So is it the correct method to add the canonical link to page 2 as you have suggested below? Or should I just leave the pagination page the way it is?
    Thanks Jodi

    Google is very clear now: each page within a paginated series should canonicalize to itself, so /page/2/ has a canonical pointing to /page/2/.”

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Jodi. If all is well, you won’t have to do anything. We already do this for you automatically.

  3. Carsten Meiselbach
    Carsten Meiselbach  • 6 months ago

    Hi Yoast-Team, thanks for this important notice.

    For my Blog I decided to set %%page%% numbering for relevant Metas including the . Example: https://happycarb.de/rezepte/page/2/

    Since this gives our readers some sort of information, about what is coming up in total for the given category.

    Best regards,
    Carsten

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      That’s a nice idea, Carsten.

  4. Gelisim OSGB
    Gelisim OSGB  • 6 months ago

    I have two websites. One with Yoast plugin free and I noticed that the noindex option on subpages disappeared.

  5. Posizionamento SEO
    Posizionamento SEO  • 6 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing. You’re right, pagination is very important because it contains links to the other posts, so if Google crawls the blog page 1 with a pagination, they will also crawl the page 2, 3, etc. and so on other posts through the pagination.

  6. Noor
    Noor  • 6 months ago

    I see these warnings in Google Search Console as well. Glad to hear that I don’t need to worry about it.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      You’re welcome, Noor.

  7. Carol Miranda
    Carol Miranda  • 6 months ago

    Hello,

    I have two websites. One with Yoast plugin free and I noticed that the noindex option on subpages disappeared.

    In the paid version is still there. Should I just update the plugin and carefree about any bugs?

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Carol. Yeah, you can safely update now or wait until 7.1 is released, which is just around the corner.

  8. subhodaya
    subhodaya  • 6 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing, it was an excellent information.

  9. Patrick
    Patrick  • 6 months ago

    So users no longer have a choice, even on the premium version?

  10. Rick Rouse
    Rick Rouse  • 6 months ago

    If we split up a long post into 3 or 4 pages does the Yoast SEO plugin automatically add the canonical links to each page?

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Rick. Yes, if you break up your posts using the nextpage quicktag Yoast SEO automatically adds a canonical to each page, plus the rel=next/prev links, just like on a regular archive page. We’re not big fans of breaking up longer posts, though.

  11. Freddy G. Cabrera
    Freddy G. Cabrera  • 6 months ago

    Hey Joost!

    This is interesting to learn. You have to listen to what Google says on such topics very closely.

    The duplicated warning is something that tends to happen when indexing. It’s good to know how you can deal with this in the best way possible.

    Thank you for sharing this helpful info!

    Best regards! :D

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Freddy. Yep, you are right. You have to know how pagination works and how Search Console sees this. We hope this post has shed some light on that.

  12. Olabiyi Malik
    Olabiyi Malik  • 6 months ago

    Hi,

    Yes, You’re right, pagination is very crucial also, because it contains links to the other posts, so if Google crawl the blog page with a pagination, they will also crawl the other posts through the pagination.

    Thanks…

  13. Amit Saxena
    Amit Saxena  • 6 months ago

    Wow!! It’s a great news who face the pagination issues and always be worry about duplicate meta title and description. SEO guys feel relax now!! Ah!!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      I hope we can all relax a bit more, Amit ;)

  14. Javi
    Javi  • 6 months ago

    Thanks for this info.

    I doubt last week when Yoast Pro plugin updated to 7.0 version, I thought It was an error but now It’s clear.

    Thanks the support team too!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Javi! Glad we could clear it up for you. I’ll thank our support team for you.

  15. Nerdy Professor
    Nerdy Professor  • 6 months ago

    Wow, thank you for the information. The article is really informative, I think I will have to work on my site pagination.

  16. dbj
    dbj  • 6 months ago

    OK then. What is the “best” way to paginate in WPress?
    Default WP pagination is pretty abysmal…

  17. info3199
    info3199  • 6 months ago

    Finally a great answer for this issue! Yeah!!!!!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      You’re welcome!

  18. EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach
    EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach  • 6 months ago

    Thank you Joost de Valk. It’s safe with Yoast plugin. Now, I don’t worry about the Duplicated content error in Google Search Console. I believe that you guy will do the best SEO for our blogs.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      That’s great, thanks!

  19. Dhananjay Bhardwaj
    Dhananjay Bhardwaj  • 6 months ago

    Thank you so much Joost de Valk! I have been struggling over the noindex implementation on the patination since weeks. John’s answer and this post has really addressed my confusion. Finally removing the noindex, follow attributes.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Awesome, Dhananjay. Glad to have cleared this up.

  20. Hansjörg Leichsenring
    Hansjörg Leichsenring  • 6 months ago

    Hi

    pagination of archives is one Thing. But how did you handle pagination inside an article by ?

    Cheers
    Hansjörg

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi! We’re not big fans of breaking up long articles, but Yoast SEO supports it. If you use the nextpage quicktag in WordPress Yoast SEO automatically adds the correct canonicals and rel=next/prev links to the article.

      • Hansjörg Leichsenring
        Hansjörg Leichsenring  • 6 months ago

        Hi

        but there is no funcitonality to make all parts unique in Terms of title and description???

  21. Emer
    Emer  • 6 months ago

    Hi Yoast, could you please confirm whether we still need to add the rel=next and rel=prev elements? So the page needs a self referential canonical and a rel=prev/next? Thank you.

    • deluxeglamour
      deluxeglamour  • 6 months ago

      good idea. thanks for your helps yoast!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Emer. Do you have Yoast SEO installed? If so, it gets added automatically. Check the source of the first page of your category page, for instance, and you will see in the head that it gets a canonical link and a rel=next link. Go over to page 2 of this archive and you’ll see a canonical pointing to page 2 and both a rel=prev and a rel=next.

      • Carl Parry
        Carl Parry  • 6 months ago

        Hi,
        Thanks for the free plugin but I do feel that you should give the user a choice of whether (s)he wants to noindex paginated pages or not.
        To force the “doindex” on people on a throwaway remark from John Mu, whom I don’t trust anyway, is too much in my honest.
        Hope you can give us back the choice in the next update or come up with a “hack” so people can decide for themselves.
        Cheers,
        Carl.

      • Alex
        Alex  • 6 months ago

        Maybe I can ignore the warnings in the Google Search Console, but I can’t ignore duplicated search results from my site on a SERP – Google shows 2 pages from the same category, and it’s actually decrease usability and harm the User Behavior factors for my project.

        Looks like my archive pages start competing to each other.

        I can’t get, why Yoast do not want to give users enough flexibility to finely tune their projects, even if it’s a “bad idea” to attribute nofollow for archive pages?

        • BT
          BT  • 6 months ago

          Agreed – this change is a massive step backwards….seems almost like developer busywork.

          There are a huge number of edge cases where this is problematic – eg woocommerce product category pages.

          What google publicly state and how google works are often very different

          This is a step backwards for the plugin


Check out our must read articles about Technical SEO

rel=canonical: the ultimate guide

The canonical URL allows you to tell search engines that certain similar URLs are actually one and the same. Learn how to use rel=canonical!

Read article »

hreflang: the ultimate guide

This guide discusses what hreflang is, what it is for and gives in-depth information on how to implement it for your multilingual websites.

Read article »

robots.txt: the ultimate guide

The robots.txt file is a file you can use to tell search engines where they can and cannot go on your site. Learn how to use it to your advantage!

Read article »