You make thousands of decisions when you create a new website. From web hosting to CMS to color scheme, you want to make choices that will make your website user-friendly and optimized to rank in organic search results.
When considering how your content will load on archive pages – such as your blog home – it boils down to two main options: infinite scroll or pagination. Today, we’re digging into the pros and cons of each and discussing infinite scroll SEO versus pagination SEO – among other things like UX and development.
We’re aiming to help you make an informed decision about which setup to use for the healthiest website performance.
If you have questions as you go along, feel free to reach out to our agency!
Infinite Scroll Example
Here’s an infinite scroll example from Twitter:
Pagination means your posts are organized on actual pages. You can click “next” or click on a page number at the bottom of the page to get to the next set of content. Think of Google search results – these are paginated. Many CMSs have a built-in pagination setup that works pretty well for SEO.
Here’s a pagination example from a search engine result page (SERP):
Is an Infinite Scroll Website Right for You?
When pondering the infinite scroll vs. pagination dilemma, it’s important to understand there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. No two apps or websites are the same – they have vastly different purposes and audiences.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about an infinite scroll website:
Pros of an Infinite Scroll Website
- Users are becoming more and more used to scrolling on their mobile devices, which makes infinite scroll seem like a logical step forward for a website. It feels comfortable for most users.
- This is an efficient way to browse a plethora of information because you don’t have to wait for individual pages (like a blog landing page) to load. (But read the page speed “con” below.)
- Also, users typically have an easier time scrolling than they do clicking. It just takes the swipe of a finger or moving the mouse wheel to move down the page. They may be more likely to consume more content, which gets them in front of your calls to action.
Cons of an Infinite Scroll Website
- Infinite scroll can significantly slow down page speed as new content loads. This is particularly true on mobile devices because the mobile browser doesn’t get a chance to breathe as the user so quickly loads more and more content with the swipe of a finger. Slow page loading can significantly hurt SEO performance.
- Users can’t bookmark a location and come back to it. There’s often no way for them to find the spot they left off on and pick it up later. Not great for the user and they’re likely to bounce and not come back to your site, which is negative for SEO, too.
- Scroll bars on the screen can’t offer the user an accurate view of how close they are to the end of the content. They scroll and scroll, thinking they’re nearing the end – until more content loads. As far as accessibility (i.e., ADA compliance) is concerned, breaking scroll bars is a big no-no.
- There’s no opportunity for a footer on an infinite scroll website. This is problematic because people search for a footer for important information, like contact info. But with infinite scroll, you could spend hours only to never “reach the bottom” and find the information you need (because there isn’t a bottom). This also leaves no room for a global CTA at the bottom of the content.
- You can try to make Google happy with your infinitely scrolling website by using component pages (or rel=next, etc.), but infinite scroll SEO is difficult. When someone comes to us with an infinite scroll archive, we almost always find errors to clean up. Ultimately, pages will be harder for search engines to understand, so the entire resource archive might not be consistently indexed by crawlers.
Tips for Infinite Scroll SEO
- If you do want to use infinite scroll, make sure you use component pages and rel=next attributes, which will help search engines navigate from one theoretical “page” to the next, and find everything.
- Make sure there’s no overlap between your component pages in any given series.
- Try to include a decent number of content links on each “page” of scroll. This way, users don’t have to click or scroll incessantly to load the content they’re looking for.
- Consider using a search function as a different way for users to find what they need.
- Test thoroughly for multiple common errors. For example, if you only have 98 component pages of content, try to go to a URL with the parameters for the nonexistent page 99. It should return a 404 – not a blank page.
What About a Paginated Website?
Websites with native pagination are set up for success if you have – or plan to have – a lot of content. Starting with a paginated website means you won’t have to modify your content strategy later when your content archive gets huge. (Yay for robust content strategies!)
Pros of a Paginated Website
- There can be a consistent footer and a global call-to-action at the bottom of each archive page or individual page.
- Native pagination is great for users who know what they’re looking for and want to find it without clicking very many times. Providing a search function with a paginated resource archive makes that search even easier.
- Users can mark, one way or another, where they’ve left content. They can bookmark a page and choose to come back later, or they can navigate back to the page with the information they want.
- Pagination is easier to pull off with good SEO, which gives your content the best chance of being seen by search engines and fresh faces.
Cons of a Paginated Website
- Pagination, when not correctly implemented, can lead to duplicate content issues.
- Pagination, when not correctly implemented, can lead to crawl-depth issues – especially on mobile. This can be hurtful for SEO.
- When users have finished reading what they came for, they’re likely to bounce instead of continuing to browse content. You can combat this by making sure your CTAs are strong (and include links) and your content is compelling across the board.
Tips for Pagination SEO
- Use a “next” button, “previous” button and a range of linked page numbers at the bottom of your archive pages, and don’t disable this function in mobile. This way, the number of clicks till the last page is limited, and search engines can more easily understand how your content is organized.
- Have an “all posts” page (with links to everything on it) that is linked from every archive page. Similar to the previous tip, this ensures that all content can be found. This page should have an rel:canonical attribute pointing to itself.
- Use a canonical tag on each individual archive page that points to the “all posts” page. This will inform search engines that the “all posts” page has the original versions of all your content, so crawlers can understand content faster and recognize its unique value.
Where We Land on the Pagination vs. Infinite Scroll Debate
While there are a few instances where infinite scrolling is a good choice, in most circumstances we recommend using native pagination rather than an infinite scroll setup for blogs and other resource content.
Explaining her take on the debate, our UX designer, Susie Grace, says, “Setting up an expectation is a good practice. With pagination, you know there are eight more pages. With infinite scroll, you could be left scrolling forever. Pagination, I believe, is a better experience because it gives the user more control in terms of knowing when it will end.”
So there you have it. For the best user experience and SEO website performance, we recommend pagination.