Google No Longer Supports rel=next/prev Pagination Ranking Signal for SEO

Google recently announced that it has stopped supporting rel=prev/next markup that is used to indicate when a page is part of a larger set of pages in terms of pagination.

Google’s announcement happened to also include the fact that it hasn’t supported this in its indexing process for a few years now.

rel=next and rel=prev acted as markup that allowed Google to find your paginated content, and communicate a series of individual pages are part of a set. So if you had a particular article split into a number of pages you could inform Google these are part of the same set. Google then combines these signals and the content from those in the set.

What has changed with rel=prev/next markup and pagination for SEO?

SEOs have factored rel=prev/next into site designs for some time, and the fact Google has come out and denounced it as an indexing signal means this time wasn’t best spent.

Google essentially didn’t realise it had stopped supporting it – and chose now to announce it during a spring clean. With such a colossal organisation like Google, it’s unlikely any single person or group of people have a true grip on all the ranking signals and what else goes into rankings, so it would simply have been missed.

What do I need to do for SEO?

Not a lot, really. As this is not being used as an indexing signal, it means it hasn’t affected you for the past few years.

Google’s advice is to continue doing whatever you are currently doing with pagination, and if you aren’t currently having issues then you will be fine. You do not need to go in and remove pagination.

It’s also worth noting that while Google may have dropped this, there are other search engines out there that use this as a signal. For instance, Bing does not use it to merge individual pages into one set, it does use it for discoverability and understanding the structure of a site.

And, these tags do help users who use screen readers or other technology to navigate the web. So while Google may not use it as a signal any longer, it may be useful for user experience, and other platforms may see the value in it. Some browsers may also use it for prefetching and other accessibility reasons.

So now, it does mean using single-page content is possible. However, it’s worth remembering Google itself doesn’t display results on a single page. It uses multiple pages, but this depends on the device. Desktop Google still utilises “next page” with numbers, while on mobile many devices show “more results” or pagination.

In terms of user experience, there are many pros and cons for using infinite scroll, pages or load more with lazy load to add paginated elements.