The pagination issue

Here's one of my favourite duplicate content issues that pretty much everybody gets wrong. It's the question of how you handle a paginated set of pages, without causing duplicate content problems for yourself.

Here's the basic problem

Imagine a product database site, it has 100 products in a particular category, showing 20 per page. There are pagination links at the top and bottom which lead you to page 2 and so on.

With me still?

So you are currently on page 1, which is (let's say) www.domain.com/keyboards/. Next, you click on the "page 2" link in the pagination, which takes us to www.domain.com/keyboards/page-2/. Cool.

Next, you click back to page 1 - pretend you are GoogleBot and are happy to click on any link at all. You are now back at page 1 again, but this time the URL is www.domain.com/keyboards/page-1/.

There it is!

And there's the issue - there are now 2 slightly different URLs for page 1 (see above). The fault lies with the pagination code, which uses the same formula for making the page 1 link as the rest of the links.

Duplicate content is something I have had mixed experiences with - sometimes it causes no issues whatsoever, other times it can bring a site to a halt. My advice is to always be safe, and make sure there are no instances of dupe content on your site. Which means fixing the page 1 bug.

To fix

Two things to do to banish this demon back to it's evil spawn hole...
  • Do a 301 redirect from www.domain.com/keyboards/page-1/ to www.domain.com/keyboards/ - this prevents Google from indexing the duplicate URL, and ensures the user gets to the right place.
  • And secondly, fix up the pagination links so that "page 1" points to the correct URL in the first place.

For what it's worth, I spent over a day writing my own pagination class in PHP, so it can take time to get things right. But now that's one problem I don't have to deal with anymore.

Other things to do with paginated pages

So while we are on the subject of pagination, it's worth pointing out something else that is fairly important. This comes down to the question of "what page is my entry point". If you have your 'Keyboards' page optimised for the phrase 'keyboards', actually you have all the paginated versions of the page competing with each other. Generally, you will want page 1 to be the page that appears in the search results for the visitor.

I like to give Google a helping hand and de-optimise page 2 and onwards. Start the Title with "Page 2 - " followed by the normal title. Add "Page 2" to the H1 heading. Remove any opening paragraph text you may have, to increase the uniqueness of the text on page 1. Small changes that make page 1 look that little bit more attractive in the eyes of Google (considering also that it should have more incoming links).

Paginated versions of pages can be very similar looking, so look at ways in which you can make them look more unique, or at least make page 1 look better / more unique than the rest.

In some cases we have nofollowed the page 2+ versions of a category page - less pages on the site means more strength for the pages that are included. This does mean less links to the products listed on the page, so ensure (at the very least) you have direct links to all the products from your sitemap / XML sitemap. Having links to 'related products', and 'featured products' also helps get some valuable internal links to these product pages.
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Tags: duplicate contenton page seointernal linkingpagination