Why Not Knowing About rel=“next” and rel=“prev” vs View All Could Hurt You

Why Not Knowing About rel= “next” and rel= “prev” vs. View All Could Hurt You

Google is offering a new way to deal with paginated content on the web from an SEO best practices perspective. Previously many paginated pages would feature a rel=” canonical,” list pagination the meta title, or simply ignore the duplicate content errors in webmaster tools. The rel= “canonical” option was often chosen, as it acted as a strong hint to Google to rank a certain URL in a series of content pagination. Now we can use a new HTML element known as rel=” next and rel=” prev”. This new rel attribute relates specifically to paginated content and offers some interesting options to Google as far as ranking that content.

What does rel=” next and rel=” prev” do?

rel=” next and rel=” prev” indicates to Google that content is linked together through a paginated series. This could be a multipart article, product category, etc. If you use this piece of HTML on your webpage, it will tell Google to consolidate the pages and to view the series as a whole. This means that link weight will be applied to the entire series, as opposed to one specific page, as in the case with the rel=”canonical.” Google notes that when you use the rel=” next and rel=” prev” the search engines will, “send users to the most relevant page/URL—typically the first page of the series.”

Rel Next Rel PrevGoogle is now referring to paginated pages as component pages. The counterpart to a component page is a view-all page. So instead of listing content in a paginated structure, it is instead listed in full on a single page. Google has stated that they prefer view-all pages. Google says that “Because searchers most commonly prefer view all pages, we do our best to surface this version when appropriate in results rather than a component page (component pages are more likely to surface with rel=” next” and rel=” prev”).”

Why Consider the View All Option?

Google seems to prefer the view-all option. They are pretty clear about it. Google says, “User testing has taught us that searchers much prefer the view-all, single-page version of content over a component page containing only a portion of the same information with arbitrary page breaks (which cause the user to click “next” and load another URL).”

The most significant issue that Google has ranking the view-all page is latency. When the page loads to slow users, and Google gets upset. In the case of view-all page optimization, Google recommends a few best practices. While Google will most likely be able to detect the view all option through your content structure on their own, you can make it crystal clear to Google which page is the view all page, simply use a rel=” canonical.” You would simply specify the view all page as the correct URL via rel=” canonical” on each page in the pagination.

Now, if it is the case that you do not have a view-all page or that you want to surface individual component pages, you have the option of using rel=” next and rel=” prev” or merely using rel=” canonical” to rank your first page in the series.

3 Options for dealing with Paginated Content

So here are your three options for dealing with paginated content.

  1. Leave your content as it is without adding rel=” next and rel=” prev” and hope it gets indexed correctly.
  2. Optimize your view on all pages.
  3. Use rel=” next and rel=” prev” and hope Google ranks the correct page in the pagination. In most cases, they will rank the main entry page, just as they would if you were using the rel=” canonical.” However, if a specific section of the paginated content relates to a particular keyword, we could see that surface as a result of this directive.

How to Implement rel=” next and rel=” prev”

So how do you implement the rel=” next and rel=” prev” directive? Google provides the following information.

Let’s say you have content paginated into the URLs:


On the first page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1, you’d include in the <head> section:
<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2/>

On the second page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2:
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1″ />
<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3″ />

On the third page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3:
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2″ />
<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=4″ />

And on the last page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=4:
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3″ />

Pretty straightforward right?

Google also offers these Important Points.

  • Page one contains rel=” next” and no rel=” prev” markup.
  • Pages two to the second-to-last page should be doubly-linked with both rel=” next” and rel=” prev” markup.
  • The last page only contains the rel=” prev”, not rel=” next”. It is not needed there is no next page.
  • rel=” next” and rel=” prev” values can be either relative or absolute URLs (as allowed by the <link> tag).
  • rel=” next” and rel=” prev” should be added to the <head> section.
  • You can actually use rel=”next” and rel=”previous” and rel=”canonical” on the same page. For example, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2&sessionid=123 may contain:<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2”/>
    <link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1&sessionid=123″ />
    <link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3&sessionid=123″ />
  • Just like with rel=”canonical”, rel=”prev” and rel=”next” act as hints to Google, not absolute directives.
  • If you add this code incorrectly, Google will do their best to rank your content.

This new way of dealing with paginated content by Google provokes an interesting SEO topic. The rel=” prev” and rel=” next” directive allows all link weight to be distributed equally. Working off this premise, we can speculate that content in the paginated structure will be ranked independent of link weight and solely on onsite optimization. This presents an exciting opportunity. Consider you have a series of content that covers a series of subtopics. The aggregate link juice acquired by this content will be distributed across the set of content, and individual areas of the paginated structure will be ranked off of a content theme. Google has said they will rank the home page in most cases, but we are never sure how these things will work until we see them in action. It will be interesting to see how this new SEO technique develops.

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