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-- Google SEO News and Discussion
---- Article Pagination: Actions that Improved Google Search Traffic
tedster - 9:53 pm on Sep 18, 2010 (gmt 0)Page 1 naturally enough uses the overall title of the article for both its title tag and header, and has a unique meta-description.
The value of "long-form journalism" has been tested on websites such as Salon and shown to be quite viable. It also attracts a better caliber of writer. With this in mind, over a year ago I was working with an online magazine that was already publishing longer, in-depth articles, in the area of many thousands of words.
The SEO challenge we had was that page 2 and beyond for most articles were not getting any search traffic - even though there was plenty of awesome content there. The approach we decided on is labor intensive for the content creators. But after some education, the writers were all interested in trying to increase the audience size. Here are the steps we took:
Every internal page then has its own unique title and header tag <h1>. These are based on the first SUB-head for that section of the article. This means more keyword research and writing of subheads than would normally be the case.
If the article is considered as a whole, then an <h2> tag would seem more accurate semantically. But Google looks at the semantic structure one URL at a time, not for the overall multi-URL article. Most pages also include internal subheads, and these are style as <h2>
On each internal page, there is also a "pre-head" that does use the article title from page 1 in a small font. This pre-head does not use a header tag of any kind, just a CSS style. This pre-head article title is at the top as a navigation cue for the user.
An additional navigation cue is that the unique page titles each begin with the numeral "2." or "3."
Each internal page also has a unique meta description, one that summarizes that page specifically, rather than summarizing the overall article.
Every page of the article links to every other page at the top and the bottom. None of this anemic "Back | Next" junk. There's a complete page choice shown on everywhere - 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6| 7 - and there is also a centered link at the end of each page:
|Next: Linked title of the next page goes here |
The linked numbers that are used as on-page navigation also include a title attribute that matches the title tag of the target page. I'm still not sure what a title attribute does for Google exactly, if anything, but the tool tip that it generates is a major aid for the reader of a long article.
Those navigation numbers are very clearly coded to show which page is active. And the nav number for the active page is NOT linked. We don't want the user to click and end up right where they started, and we don't want to "waste" a link that has no real function.
rel="next" and rel="prev" link tags are also included in the <head> section
I recently finished some analysis for this online magazine, and the new approach has been VERY successful. The number of search engine referrals for the magazine is up something like 70%. Many internal pages are now ranking in the top three for their important words - rankings that were not possible with the previous "one-article-title-only" approach.
Even better, some of these deeper pages are now attracting natural backlinks with no additional effort. And best of all, subscriptions and newsletter sign-ups are now booming.
Pagination can be a major challenge on a website. On shopping sites, the "search results" are often automated, PR scuplted, or even no attention given to the pagination challenge at all.
But for paginated articles, I'm convinced that it's well worth the effort to hand-craft all these relevance signals. Can you think of any others that seem worth trying?
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