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I have worked on several websites that have lists of products (or lists of something) that span over multiple pages.

Generally the first page might have some text describing the products in the category, but not on subsequent pages.

I noticed in Google Search Console for one website was reporting duplicate meta descriptions for pages 1, 2, 3, etc.

I am wondering what is the best practice for these type of pages?

I was thinking it might be a good idea to add a NOINDEX to everything but the first page, but still allow search engines to follow these pages so they can discover the products on each page.

Although I might like someone to find one of the products listed on page 2+ from a search engine, I don't think I want them to go to the actual page 2+ from a search engine - I want them to go directly to the product.

The other option is to let search engines index page 2+ but change the meta description to ensure it is unique (by maybe including the page number: "Page 2 of category xyz...").

What is best practice in this area?

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    You'll want to add a canonical URL to indicate that page 1 is the preferred page to index. The second option is fine too, but would suggest a navigational link, button, or tab to guide the user to page 1 (not an automatic redirect, which will prevent page 2 from getting indexed) like Overview | Specifications | Reviews | Accessories. – dan Apr 22 '16 at 0:46
  • @dan We tried that at first because it's the old school way, but it's wrong now apparently. You don't wanna set just page 1 as canonical, it's gotta be every page as a canonical for things to work right. From the horse's mouth: rel="next" and rel="prev" are orthogonal concepts to rel="canonical". which means basically that each page is "statistically independent" by definition. In Googles example they use this second page as canonical with the prev/next implying that those are also canonicals: <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2"/> – dhaupin Apr 22 '16 at 14:35
  • @dhaupin I don't think there's anything "wrong" with this option according to the link from Google: You can also add a rel="canonical" link to the component pages to tell Google that the View All version is the version you want to appear in search results. The option you cite also provides a strong hint for indexing, but in terms of what the OP was asking about "duplicate meta descriptions", it's simple enough to just add the canonical URL to avoid that. – dan Apr 23 '16 at 0:42
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https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1663744?hl=en

Each page needs to be its own canonical, with rel= link pointing to next and/or previous pages. This is often mis-interperated as only page 1 needs canonical. Nope, it's every page as its own canonical.

In our stores we append " - Page 2" to the end of the page title so that users coming from SERPS know they are being dropped into deeper into pagination right off the bat. Sure you can do the same thing with metas (we don't) but the good news is that....it doesn't really matter. If the tools you use for SEO scans cannot understand pagination and how the data-templates are the same, then you should consider a new tool *** ;) Google search console does not consider properly marked up paginations as duplicate metas, and I see no "HTML improvements" within their report tool for any paginated areas.

Now for the SERP end of things, there is another trick you can do to display the result counter right there with the meta. In the template for your store, in all paginated areas, change how your result counter looks. It needs to be in this exact format: Showing 1-28 of 35 Results (2 Pages) which will trigger this to display in SERP:

Example pagination counter in google result

Alternatively you may make a rel= view for "all items" for bots to get a full scope of the inventory. This all items view may really stress your server though, and if there are enough items, may crash your client browser tab due to lack of memory. If you have no caching mechanisms its also a means for people to DOS you quite easily (bing will hit it often enough anyways causing performance hits). For this reason it's not recommended. We even go as far as to put a hard-cap on limit= param in our platforms to something like 100 entities.

*** Bootnote: Don't fall for 99% of SEO tools, they are outdated, and most try to "extort" issues from your site in order to justify their monthly charge(s). 540 page titles are too long? Missing alt tag on your SSL logo on the footer? Oh noes, that's why we dropped to page 50?! No, hah.

  • Thanks @dhaupin, I have implemented both of your suggestions. Do you have a source for the second one (showing number of results) as I would like to read more about it? – johna Apr 25 '16 at 21:42

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