Pagination or infinite scrolling: which is best for SEO?

Something that’s always up for discussion is how to load new content on your archive, category or search results pages. You can do this in a number of ways. You can list a certain amount of posts or products and add a ‘next’ link at the bottom of that list. You can add a ‘load more’ button at the bottom. Or even load more content when scrolling down (infinite scrolling). Or, you might add numeric pagination at the bottom of your page, so users can jump to the next, or last page. In this post, we’ll tell you what works best for SEO.

The downside of simply clicking from page to page

I’m not a huge fan of ‘older’/’next’/’newer’/’previous’ links at the bottom of my page. It leaves me stranded with no idea how long my journey is going to be. It’s unclear and doesn’t trigger me to click. In that case, I’d rather find the site’s search form and look for specific blog posts or products. Although Google is able to follow that link to the next page, it will take a vast amount of time to index all the subpages of archives on larger sites. Our Yoast SEO plugin helps a bit by adding rel=”next” and rel=”prev” to pages like that, but it’s still up to Google to see how many archive links it wants to follow per crawl session. This is, obviously, not my preferred method.For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion ! »

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How infinite is infinite scrolling

Like with older/newer links, infinite scrolling leaves me wondering how long that scroll will be. And what about mobile websites? It’s probably extra JavaScript that needs to be loaded, which might slow down the site unnecessarily. Although this method was pretty popular for a while, I see less sites using infinite scroll (apart from most social network sites). But that might just be me.

One of the SEO downsides is that the content is hidden until scrolling. True, Google seems to index hidden content (although they stated differently back in 2015 ). Still, the general rule of thumb seems to be that content that isn’t hidden holds more SEO value, than content that is hidden. Next to that, your infinite scroll is probably triggered by JavaScript. Although Google gets better at indexing all things JavaScript, it still means that user behavior is harder to understand when using JavaScript.

That brings us to UX and conversion. Infinite scrolling gives the user a smooth experience, however the focus lays less on the individual items. Usually the focus shifts to displaying the most current information at the top of the page, which obviously makes sense for social media, like Twitter or Facebook.

And, since we’re discussing infinite scroll: have you ever tried to reach the footer at instagram.com ? I really wanted to click that API link in the footer the other day. But that’s just another reason I prefer our next option: pagination.

Pagination

Pagination means spreading the content over a number of pages and linking these. As mentioned above, you could link these pages by adding ‘older’ or ‘previous’ links, but that isn’t the best solution. Linking multiple pages, like Google does, just makes more sense:

This way, you allow Google and your visitors to click to a lot more pages of your archive. A common use of pagination for archives is to use links to the first and last page as well. Besides that, links in the ‘line-up’ can vary like this:

That way, you’re not just sending people to consecutive pages, but also guiding them to others. The benefit of this is that every page in the archive becomes reachable within just two, maybe three clicks. Even with search engines picking up on your XML sitemaps for all the pages, this provides links on a specific page that lead to specific, related pages, which in return could help your SEO.

One extra remark here: even in paginated archives like this, it pays off to add the rel=”prev” and rel=”next” tags to your template, to tell Google how consecutive pages relate in that archive.

Wrapping things up

Even though Google and other search engines are getting better and better to index your site – no matter what kind of archive or category ‘experience’ you provide your visitor – we’d still like to recommend pagination. Infinite scroll is a great method to use, when the focus lays less on the specific items of a page and more on going through the archive. Pagination helps your visitor and Google to ‘jump’ through your archive and find specific items they’re looking for.

What are you using and why? Let us know!

Read more: ‘Archive by topic; not by date’ »

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