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We're considering a change to our site which would increase the result set for one of the middle pages of a paginated result set. We have been consulted that if we move some of the SEO relevant items up from the end of the paginated set to the middle that we will see a SEO boost. It would be like:

Page 1-10: 20 results per page

Page 11: 300 results

Page 12-20: 20 results per page

Would this be safe from an SEO standpoint?

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    Doing something like that would probably confuse users (which there lies another story... are users actually using the pagination?). – MrWhite Nov 12 '14 at 21:50
  • Do you only care about SEO, or user experience as well? – Andrew Lott Nov 13 '14 at 1:11
  • My personal belief is that SEO and user experience are interlinked, but we have consultants that drive our business model who only care about SEO. I'm only in a position to inform, not make decisions. – dhysong Nov 13 '14 at 21:10
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Safe? Yes. Effective? No.

Pagination and Pagerank

You are hoping to get more Pagerank passed to the pages that are not on page one. It won't work. Pagination can serve the same SEO purpose as a sitemap: it will get Googlebot to crawl and index all your content. But, just like a sitemap, it won't help the pages rank much. Consider the case in which you have a great page 1 with Pagerank 5. Each page links to 10 of your other pages and the next page.

  • Page 1: Pagerank 5 -- Items listed on it get Pagerank 3
  • Page 2: Pagerank 3 -- Items listed on it get Pagerank 1
  • Page 3: Pagerank 1 -- Items listed on it get Pagerank 0
  • Page 4: Pagerank 0 -- Items listed on it get Pagerank 0

Items that are one page 1 or 2 may enjoy good rankings they recieve from your internal Pagerank. On page 3 and beyond, there isn't much ranking boost.

Pagination and usability

Users also don't like pagination much. Only one or two percent of users typically use it. Users generally like other solutions for exploring deep into content:

  • Search
  • Categories
  • Filters

Pagination and low quality pages

One problem with pagination from an SEO perspective is that it creates lots of low quality pages. Anything other than page 1 isn't going to be a good landing page from users from the search results.

Who wants to land on a the 5th page of the unanswered questions on this site? Nobody.

Having many such pages that are not going to satisfy users can lead Google to think that your site is lower quality than it is. Google will notice that users back off these pages and look for other content. That first hurts the rankings of those pages. If it happens often, it can hurt the rankings of your entire site.

I often recommend that webmasters apply a noindex to all pages except page 1 even if the pagination can be crawled to pass pagerank.


There are ways of linking to your content that are more effective than pagination:

Interlink your pages

The best solution is to interlink all your content pages. This site uses the related links in the right column to do so. Each post has a list of other related posts. You could potentially browse the entire site by clicking from one related post to another. Pages will get Pagerank whether or not they are on the first page of the pagination.

Filters and categories

Filters and categories which users like can also be more effective at passing Pagrank that Pagination. If your page 1 links to 30 different filters and categories, a great deal of content can be accessed from those pages which are near enough to the top to still pass some Pagerank.

More items per page on every page

You could also consider increasing the number of items per page across the board. Having 100 items per page will allow you to pass pagerank to a few hundred items with Pagination compared to the 30 items that get Pagerank with 10 per page.

More than just a "next" page link

Linking to each page in the pagination can also help distribute Pagerank better. Instead of having a "next" button, you could consider having a 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... last menu. That passes pagerank deeper into your pagination. It has its limits because it gets unweildy with more than 10 or so items in that menu.

  • Thanks for all the useful info. We have already done what you suggested with the interlinks, filters, items per page and the pagination links. What we are trying to do is move content up in the result set that matches exactly with what the url shows. For example, we show 50 pages for New York city, but on page 20, we start to show Brooklyn results, and then switch back to New York on page 30. We'd like to move the bottom "exact" matches up in the result set, but basically hide them through the use of a scrollable div. – dhysong Nov 12 '14 at 20:48
  • If you are already passing PR around the site effectively through other means, I would recommend just removing pagination. Since it isn't great for SEO and most users don't use it, there isn't a big use case for it. I haven't seen the type of optimization that you are attempting produce results for about five years. Internal Pagerank is much less important than it was then. A few internal links to a page is enough now. Trying to optimize further isn't worth the time. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 12 '14 at 21:36
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    Instead of linking to every page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9... you could perhaps link on an exponential-like scale if you have more pages (33 pages at 20 per page using your example). eg. 1 2 5 10 20 last. – MrWhite Nov 12 '14 at 21:53

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