Google Acknowledges rel="next" and "prev" link tags

Google now acknowledges the link rel next and previous tags. What are these tags and what do they do? These link types have been recognized by the W3C for a long time but up untill now were not considered by Google. These tags now help the search engine understand the relationships gathered from paginated pages in a group or series. These pages are often found on blogs or e-commerce sites where there may be multiple category pages displaying many products on separated by pages.  Here is an example of an e-commerce store that uses pagination in a series that should be grouped together using the next and prev link tags

Example on how to use the link next and prev tags

How will this change how Google interperets websites? The next and prev link tags “consolidate indexing properties, such as links, from the component pages/URLs to the series as a whole.”(Google) In other words, Google will try to see all of these pages as a group, and the relationships between them rather than as individual pages with no relation to one another. The tags will also help “send users to the most relavent page/URL – typically the first page of the series.” (Google), which often times how the canonical tag is currently being misused. It’s important to note that the search engine treats the next and prev link tags as hints and not a directive when it comes to processing the information gathered on the site.

These new tags may seem similar to the rel=canonical tag, but the ideas are different from one another and should be used for different reasons. The canonical tag is used to help reduce duplicate content to a preferred page which is often misused on websites by canonicalizing the secondary pages in a series to the first page. But because these pages often times have different content from one another, this is where the next/prev tags should be used to identify the group and series of pages.

Google has posted a second article which outlines that users prefer a “view-all” page, rather than a series of pages. If a site includes a “view-all” page, then this is a case where the canonical tag should be used to point to the “view-all” page as all of the paginated pages are subsets of this “view-all” page. In cases where there is no “view-all”, the load time for that page is high, or may be displeasing to scroll through hundreds of items, using the next and prev tags along with pagination pages may be the best or only option a site has.

This will help return better quality pages to users which at the end of the day is good for all of us. These help improve the efficencies of how Google will view your site and also improve the way that the canonical tag should be used.

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