I’m going to answer to a tough question that I’ve responded on the Google Webmaster Forum today, that seems to harass many webmasters: “Are the paginated pages an issue with the Google Panda update?“.
The answer is “are you sure you want paginated pages to be indexed any ways?“. I know that it’s not polite to answer to a question with another question, but let me explain…
I’ve read a lot about this on blogs, Google’s official resources and forums and I never found a real “clarification” from Google but I have found some useful info that made me come with a conclusion. If a site has tons of “paging” pages with an important percentage of duplicated content (for example the introduction text, the headings, titles and meta descriptions) it could harm rankings if they are not excluded from the indexing process. The Panda update made this situation even clearer.
However, the problem is a non problem in any case, because you don’t want paginated pages to be indexed.
Why? Simple. Would you want a user to land on a page 13 instead of your first page in a certain category? No you don’t. The user would have very little value from that page and bounce rates will rise like mad!
So how to avoid this type of problem?
Some SEO Experts suggest to add a canonical tag on the “paging” pages linking to the first page, to avoid duplicate content penalizations, but this is not the best practice. The Google employee Maile Ohye talked about this on the Google Webmaster Central Blog saying:
“I would not specify the canonical URL as the first page of listings for paginated content. Why not? As mentioned earlier, rel=”canonical” does not accumulate text contents from various pages — so it should only be used in situations where the content is identical or nearly identical. In a paginated series, each page contains entirely different content/items so they shouldn’t be grouped as one URL.”
The best practice is to use a “noindex,follow” in the meta robots tag for all pages >1 (page 2, 3 and all the remaining). Doing this search engines will no index all the “paginated” pages yet crawling on to the pages that are behind the listings passing link juice (i.e. products, articles and so on),
“Noindexing” paginated pages is a good practice also because it allows you to avoid users to land on a different page from page 1 from a search engine search. Said this, as you can see it’s not only a problem of Panda and duplicate content issues. It’s a best practice in any case.
Hope this helps,