How to improve your website's pagination

Pagination can be a confusing thing to get right both practically and programmatically. I have put a lot of thought into this subject, and here I am giving you a few of the ideas I have been working with.


By. Jacob

Edited: 2024-03-17 18:58

Note. In this article I'm using categories as an example, because pagination is often be used on category pages. Be it on a blog or eCommerce website. But, the idea may apply to most things that you can conceivably paginate.

1. The usability of your pagination can be improved by not moving content from the page it was initially assigned to. E.g. When new content is added, it should not be pushing old content further down the page numbers. New content should be added at the end of the list.

2. You can improve further on this idea by including a latest content or featured section on the first page, as this will avoid giving off the impression that your category pages are stale and not maintained.

3. You can reverse the pagination numbers so that the links will be shown from high to low, rather than low to high; this way the first page will always show the latest content.

The direction of the pagination numbers does not really matter to the user; the numbers themselves are just a simple tool to help us find what we are looking for on a website. What matters is the fact that not allowing our content to flow uncontrollably down a series of page numbers like driftwood on a river, we can allow the user to remember which page some specific content was found on, and reliably re-locate it when they come back later.

4. If products or pages are deleted from your website, "gabs" will appear on your pagination pages, and the amount of content on the affected pages will decrease; to avoid this from happening, you can allow the gabs to be taken over by new content as it becomes available. You should not allow content to shift page number just because you deleted content, because that would break the logic in the system. It has to work as consistently as possible without ruining the individual page numbers.

This does, of course, ignore the fact that you really should not be out right deleting pages in the first place. Ideally you'd implement a never delete policy, because you never know when something becomes useful to someone. Even products that are no longer sold in a webshop can still be useful to have indexed in search engines, because a user might be looking for information on the product, rather than to buy said product. But, the arguments for this are more suitable for another article.

5. Don't misuse the canonical specification on paginated content pages. Page 2 is not equivalent to page 1. Google's John Mueller has discouraged it publicly on Reddit, saying that only the first page in a series will be indexed if you do so. But more importantly, it goes against the specification, and doing so sends an ambiguous signal that could be either ignored or misinterpreted, and also, if not ignored it could harm your search engine rankings because your content is misidentified. Actual harm is probably unlikely to happen in a sophisticated search engine like Google, but it could mean that a search engine simple won't crawl or index the subsequent pagination pages properly.

... With a canonical to page 1, only (well mostly) the first page of the set can be indexed, and the links on the first page are used for crawling the rest of the site...

John Mueller

6. Don't include too much text content on your individual paginated pages. It probably will not help your SEO, and users that actually use the pagination can be distracted or irritated by it.

7. There's usually no reason to unnaturally limit the number of items on each page. Google can actually handle a truly gigantic list of links. When you pick the maximum number of items per page, make sure you pick it for usability reasons. If the number of items is fairly constrained, visitors will find it easier and faster to scan through the individual pages to find something specific they might be looking for. A user could be returning after having browsed the pages previously, and they might be looking for a previously viewed product.


  1. Should I listen to Google's advice or follow big sites? -

Tell us what you think:

  1. Drop in traffic doing recent helpful content updates; time will tell if I will recover.
  2. Let us investigate what is up with those mass spammed *-k.html backlinks that many of us are seeing in our link reports.
  3. An in-dept look at the use of headings (h1-h6) and sections in HTML pages.
  4. The Video outside the viewport is properly not worth spending time on solving; it is probably intended to solve a specific issue, and every single little video probably does not need to get indexed anyway.

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