What are Rel=Prev and Rel=Next?
Rel=Prev and Rel=Next was introduced by Google way back in September 2011, to help tackle the problem of duplicate content caused by long articles that are spread over several web pages. The Rel=Prev and Rel=Next is added to the HTML code of a website to let search engines know that a certain collection of consecutive pages should be indexed together and considered one single piece.
Say if website has an article or product section that is cut up and spread out over several pages, for example. You might have a lot of the content from that article on page one, but then you scroll down and, to finish the article, you have to click on page 2 and then page 3. Google doesn’t necessarily see each of these pages as the same article. Instead, it will often treat each page as competing URLs on the same topic, and therefore as duplicate content.
What do they do?
Enter Rel=Prev and Rel=Next. It’s necessary for content that doesn’t fit onto one page without making the page continue far below the fold. At the bottom of each page there is ‘previous’ or a ‘next’ button. This will take you either to the continuation of the article or the previous page of it.
If you don’t apply these functions, it will be much more difficult for Google to sort the pages. Google may also assume the content isn’t paginated and therefore will treat it as duplicate versions of the same topic. It can also lead to keyword cannibalisation issues.
An example of a rel=prev and rel=next tag in code:
<link rel=”prev” href=http://www.yourdomain.co.uk/article/2/ />
<link rel=”next” href=http://www.yourdomain.co.uk/article/3/ />
Why is this important for search engine optimisation?
Rel=Prev and Rel=Next allows Google to better understand what it’s looking at, and subsequently send users to the most relevant page (which is usually the first page in the series). If it isn’t used, you’ll often see pages 2, 3 or 4 of an article ranking higher in Google’s search rankings than the first page.
We usually recommend avoiding spreading content over multiple pages where possible. With good UX design even long content usually can be made easily readable and navigable.