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For example, there was a single-page, 550-word article that had been online for many years, ranked solidly #2 in Google (just behind Wikipedia) for its key phrase. It drives a few hundred search visits per day.
Now it's in 3 pieces, hosted on 3 pages. The URL structure was:
and is now:
This creates multiple concerns and questions:
The 2nd and 3rd pages don't have any offsite backlinks, but eventually might. At that point, won't they compete with page 1 for its main search phrase? AFAIK, the 'rel=canonical' tag is not intended to resolve pagination issues and therefore is not a solution.
All three pages currently have duplicate titles and META description tags; this is almost certainly a problem. Can it be resolved by simply appending a page number, e.g. 'page 2' to the title and description?
The first page is now missing about 60% of its original content. Could this force Google to devalue it? In other contexts, I have seen highly-ranked pages drop in the SERPs when their content is significantly shortened.
For this specific example page, we're 6-weeks into the breakup and have maintained our #2 rank in Google. If anyone has experience suggesting that this is likely to change, I'd love to hear it.
I've had excellent results with getting deep pagination to attract search traffic by creating totally unique and page-specific titles, descriptions and h1, with the url still showing the pagination. I also use <link rel="next"> in the header, plus other on-page visual information for the end user to keep the paginated relationships clear.