Pagination is a necessary evil! It’s a bit of a throwback to a day before pages load in extra content dynamically as you scroll. It allows users the ability to trawl back through time to read additional content in a chronological way.
Chronological ordering is of no use to search engines however, and pagination is actually useful only to indexation, not categorisation. If a site/blog only used pagination to navigate archive content all the old articles/posts would be dropped, and sooner rather than later.
The rise of blogging’s popularity and it’s usefulness has an interesting history. There are 2 main factors at play here and they’re both related to SEO:
1) Google started to crack down on the more underhand methods that some SEO’s used to use of adding links into the footer and/or the side bar of websites. In various algorithm updates it decided to give less priority to these parts of all web page. Instead, focussing on the main navigation and the main page content, Google cleaned up the SERPs for a while.
2) Another part of the algorithm became more prominent and understood by the SEO community – that of freshness (or more specifically QDF: Query Deserves Freshness). How do you keep adding fresh content to a website to keep the search engines coming back for more? Why through adding a blog of course.
This left the SEO’s no choice but to come up with ways of getting links into the body copy of the web page – hence the rise of guest blogging. Links from other sites to yours from relevant content & context still hold a lot of clout.
As a result, to some extent, blogs have become a bucket for content generated purely for the purpose of SEO. But there are of course good examples, and those writing great content are starting to win the war of attention – a much better metric to measure than most other SEO metrics (more on attention metrics here).
There are also of course better ways to construct your blog that benefit SEO, and these are also, thankfully, primarily for users too:
a) We’ve mentioned external contextual linking, and it’s equally important when linking through to content on your own site. Where it makes sense to do so always link through to other articles that you have written on your own blog and pages on your own site. Use good anchor text in the link to help Google understand the relevance of the page that you are linking through to.
b) Categorisation. Categorisation is often misunderstood and implemented incorrectly.
Firstly it’s important that you have a well though out taxonomy for your categories. These categories are very likely to reflect your core SEO search terms. Don’t go mad adding lots – remember that your content marketing calendar should include enough regular posts in each category to make them appear useful (and interesting).
Secondly, make sure you build a good category page template that self optimises for the category. By default the out-of-the-box WordPress category page template (for example) is not well structured for SEO (example custom category page creation blog post here). The page itself may not rank for related search terms but bare in mind that it might, and it might be the first touch point for a new customer visiting your brand for the first time, so include a paragraph of relevant copy above the post snippets, and I’d also include a Call to Action to direct people through to your brochureware pages as evidently as possible. Thirdly make sure you allow search engines to index category pages. Again by default some WordPress set ups do not do this so make sure you check.
Take a look at what I’m doing over on aldissandmore.com. There’s a customised title & header tag, and a line of text to introduce the page:
Only thing missing would a cross-link to a fixed ‘brochureware’ page elsewhere on the site if I had one. Instead of doing that here on ThinkSearch I prompt the reader to get in touch of they’ve read anything that they want to discuss:
c) Tagging. Same thing as categories. Keep your category selection short, and see it as an enforced taxonomy, but your tags should be more of what’s known as folksonomy (more like Twitter hash tags are – decided on by the community) and should reflect key words from the articles being written. The tag pages should be treated as above – they could potentially be an entry point – but like category pages they are more likely to contribute to the ranking of the more important brochureware pages that you link through to in your calls to action.
If you are managing these 3 things correctly you can use canonical, no index & no follow, and even robots.txt to block the paginated page navigation. With these 3 very clear signals in place your archive content will serve you well into the future. (You can also use rel=“prev” and “next”… Google this to find out more).
One last point: don’t forget to audit your old blog content. Have a look at both Google Analytics and maybe use something like SocialCrawlytics to discover which your most important aka popular posts/articles are. Keep referencing them, but maybe consider doing a newer, better version, or how about even thinking about a new brochureware page, or even publishing a paper or research doc on the subject.
More from Moz.com on pagination here.