Rel=Prev and Rel=Next
What are Rel=Previous and Rel=Next?
As part of its efforts to combat duplicate content, Google introduced these functions in September 2011. The HTML code of a website can contain the Rel=Prev and Rel=Next attributes which tell search engines that a set of consecutive pages should all be indexed together.
For example, a website with a product or article section that spans multiple pages. They would be considered competing URLs on the same topic by Google, rather than being the same article.
Who do they work for?
When there’s more content on the page than can fit on one page, it’s necessary to use Rel=Prev and Rel=Next. Below each page is the ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons.
Depending on what you click, you’ll be taken to the next or previous page of the article. Google will have a more difficult time sorting the pages if you don’t use these functions. The content may also be considered duplicate because Google may think it doesn’t contain pagination.
The following code shows an example of rel=prev and rel=next tags:
<link rel=”prev” href=http://www.yourdomain.co.uk/article/2/ />
<link rel=”next” href=http://www.yourdomain.co.uk/article/3/ />
How does this affect search engine optimization?
With rel=previous and rel=next, Google can better determine what it is looking at and send users to the most relevant page, usually the first in the series. It’s possible that Google’s search rankings would be higher on pages 2, 3, or 4 of an article if they aren’t used.
Our recommendation is to avoid spreading content across multiple pages whenever possible. A good UX design usually makes even long content easy to read and navigate.
What does this change mean for SEO?
Before I answer that question, let me make one thing clear: it looks like no SEO professional noticed that Google discontinued supporting the rel=prev/next markup from an indexing standpoint.
It wasn’t until someone saw that the Big G had pulled the documentation page that people started asking questions. So maybe we should ask the philosophical question: “If Google removed a feature and nobody noticed, was it ever really there?”
But what it means is that Google will index the category page instead of the pagination going forward. That’s not a problem, though. According to Google Web Performance Engineer Ilya Grigorik, Googlebot is intelligent enough to find your next/previous pages with a clear signal.
Remember: the bot is already evaluating all the links on your site. If you’ve structured your website so that it’s user-friendly and practiced great internal linking, Google will find your related content and rank it.