Pagination, the breaking up of content across multiple pages, is a common practice and in many cases, a product of good design.

After all, there are plenty of cases where pagination creates a more pleasurable, higher-performing user experience.

But pagination isn’t always desirable. Some sites, for instance, employ pagination in a questionable attempt to boost page views, and thus ad impressions.

Now, Google has weighed in on the issue. Last week, it provided publishers with two suggested best practices for pagination:

  • In cases a ‘view all‘ page exists, Google will try to identify the page and its “associated component pages” (read: the pages featuring pagination). To assist Google in identifying the pages, it suggests using a canonical link element pointing to the ‘view all‘ page on the associated component pages.
  • When a ‘view all’ page doesn’t exist, Google suggests using rel=”next” and rel=”prev” elements so that it can identify the proper sequence of paginated pages. From there, Google will try to “send users to the most relevant page/URL from the component pages“.

As SiliconFilter’s Frederic Lardinois points out, Google seems to hint that it prefers ‘view all‘ pages, as Benjia Li and Joachim Kupke of Google’s indexing team note that “user testing has taught us that searchers much prefer the view-all“.

The big question: will Google favor sites that have ‘view-all‘ pages, and treat sites that paginate like second-class citizens? If so, some publishers may complain that Google is once again trying to dictate how publishers carry out their business.

But even so, an effort by Google to crack down on what it sees as unnecessary pagination would certainly result in many publishers rethinking their approach to pagination anyway.