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When displaying product pages I only show a subset of products to save server bandwidth and increase load times. Each page is implement as a link. I recently converted from a drop down selector that changed the page url on selection to pure anchor tags.

My question is, is it worth it to make sure crawlers can access all my pages for the sake of screen real estate and aesthetics? I personally liked the drop down better than a bunch of page numbers separated by a pipe - '|' - symbol plus it took up much less screen real estate.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you don't have links to those pages then search engines won't be able to find them as they typically do not submit forms or follow JavaScript. To compensate for this you should make sure you have an XML sitemap linking to those pages so they can find them. I would also make an HTML sitemap that does this as well.

You may also want to consider creating some kind of hyperlink system to get to those pages that are less intrusive then a full blown pagination linkset. Even just a "previous" and "next" button is all that is needed for the search engines to be able to crawl those pages and find that content.

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Ah, I do have a previous and next link. I did not think of that. –  Scott Mc Jul 17 '11 at 20:01
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A recommendation we had suggested that using Previous/Next links wasn't always great from an SEO point of view, as it can create a hierarchy of pages (so Page 1 is the parent of Page 2, Page 2 is the parent of Page 3, etc.), and a flat list was the best (as every page was then "at the same level". The design solution we came up with to address this was to take an option like Su' and collapse all the other links into a pop-up on the "...". –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jul 19 '11 at 15:47
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This is a bit speculative as you don't mention what CMS/cart/whatever you're using, if any, but it sounds like you feel you're forced to always display links for all pages. There are other design patterns for pagination links of the type you're describing that you could explore, eg.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |5 ... 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15

... where once you reach page 5 or so, the first several fall off the list and 6-10 get displayed. There are a lot of variants on this. As John said, the pages just need to exist and be accessible during crawling, even with simple next/prev links. They don't necessarily need to all be accessible from all other pages.

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Ah, yes, sorry, I am using CakePHP and MVC. It actually has a great pagination helper which allows you to specify how many page numbers to display and automatically displays more as you navigate through and you can control at what point in the navigation it displays more pages, e.g. by default it's at half of the displayed pages so if I have 20 pages and I'm only showing 1 - 9, when I hit page 6 I will then show 2 - 10 and so on. So I don't spam the user with 500 page links :) (I know this is a meta topic but it sucks I can't vote up your guys' answer until I get 15 rep) –  Scott Mc Jul 18 '11 at 19:31
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