So you have a well categorized website that has thousands of products, yet there are some categories or sub-categories that paginate. I want to take a look at the possible costs of pagination, compared to what I feel is a better option than pagination for mobile users and SEO.
With one of the primary goals of SEO being; “match a user with the relevant information they are looking for, in the fewest clicks possible”, pagination on a website goes against this goal.
Cost of Pagination
- Difficult to optimize “page 2” for high-value keywords.
- Mobile and tablet user frustration.
- Missed opportunity to gain search traffic for mid-tail keyword topics.
- Most users don’t go past page 1.
There is little you can optimize “page 2” for, besides “page 2 of X” – while still aligning with user-needs.
Have you ever tried to click on a tiny page number on a mobile device? You’ll find yourself zooming in to make the numbers larger so that you can then click on them. This can cause user frustration, and adds additional steps for a user to find the product or article they are searching for.
Also, limiting pagination and increasing number of products per page as a default experience, makes it easier to vertically swipe through the product set, thus providing a better user experience.
There are additional categories and topics that users are using to search for your products, or mentally organize where they feel your products should be on your website. It would be helpful to align the users mental model, and what they are using when they perform a search, with your site structure and where they land when clicking through from a search results page.
We learn from Google’s search results that most users don’t venture past page 2 when performing a search. I would argue that internal pagination produces a similar use case – thus limiting product and/or information exposure for products past page 1 on category pages.
An Alternative to Pagination to Gain Incremental Organic Traffic
So how would I recommend a website handles categories with pagination? The first step, is to take a look at products per page, and ask yourself, “have I maxed out each page with 50-75 products?” (this number can increase based on the value gained (page rank) of those pages.
If you have not maxed out the number of products per page, then I would increase the default number of products that is shown to between 50-75.
But, if you have maxed out each category, and you still need to use pagination, it might make sense to try and capture some additional traffic by eliminating the pagination and adding more categories or sub-categories.
Lets take a look at this idea with a basic example below.
Let’s say you have a website called dogs.com and on that website there is a category that has over 200 dog collars and/or products associated with dog collars. You could paginate that page so that each page has 50 or so products – but what value will you get from optimizing for “Dog Collars Page 2″ or “Dog Collars Page 3″?
What I would suggest, is taking the following strategy into consideration.
- Head over to the Google Keyword Tool
- Put “Dog Collars” into the keyword suggestion tool.
- What you will find in the returned results set, are keywords related to “dog collars” which have traffic associated with them. This represents the keyword traffic you might be missing by not organizing products into additional categories or sub-categories and paginating longer product sets.
- You might want to put your general dog collars into the primary category, but then remove the “leather dog collars” or “dog training collars” from that primary dog collars category and put them in their own sub-category under the primary dog collars category. This will allow you to optimize these new pages for those keywords, capture some of the traffic that those keywords produce, and match the users intent when coming from search results .
While this is a great user-focuse SEO strategy, I would caution you about creating categories just for the sake of creating them, as this is counter productive and can cause low value categories with thin product sets – so make sure they are both user and SEO focused.
The more categories you create the less internal value (link juice) each will get (according to the original page rank paper) – so you need to keep that balance between SEO, user experience, and your highest converting products.
Make sure that these new categories are “link worthy” – meaning they contain unique / valuable content and provide value to the visitor.
I should probably give the disclaimer that this is not an overnight quick fix. It will take some time for Google to re-crawl and evaluate the value of these pages against the competitive set (other websites also targeting these keywords). This could cause a delay in the flow of value into those categories, thus they will take time to mature and find their spot in the search results.