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What killing rel=prev/next means for SEO

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By now, you’ve probably heard that Google is no longer supporting rel=prev/next markup. In fact, Google hasn’t supported it for years.

That’s unfortunate because Google forgot to tell anybody. Many digital strategists were implementing rel=prev/next code thinking that it would offer some SEO benefit.

It did at one time. It doesn’t anymore.

So what happened? And what should you do now?

In this article, I’ll go over Google’s recent announcement about the change. I’ll also explain what the elimination of rel=prev/next means for SEO.

How we got here

Way back in 2011, Google introduced the rel=prev/next markup. It was a way to inform Googlebot that the web page was part of a series.

For example, if you wrote several blog posts about all the SEO basics, you might include one article about keyword research, another article about on-site SEO, another article about backlinking, and so on.

In that case, you’d use the rel=prev/next markup to identify the next and previous articles in the series.

It wasn’t just a good idea for blog posts, though. E-commerce sites used the markup to identify products that all belonged to the same category.

Until recently, Google included documentation on its Webmasters Help page that explicitly told website owners to use the rel=prev/next markup. It read as follows:

Use rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links or headers to indicate the relationship between component URLs. This markup provides a strong hint to Google that you would like us to treat these pages as a logical sequence, thus consolidating their linking properties and usually sending searchers to the first page.

Now, that whole page is gone. Even worse: Google deleted it without telling anybody why.

Eventually, the Google Webmasters official Twitter account issued the following statement:

“Spring cleaning! As we evaluated our indexing signals, we decided to retire rel=prev/next. Studies show that users love single-page content, aim for that when possible, but multi-part is also fine for Google Search. Know and do what’s best for *your* users!”

Do you need to remove the code from your site?

No, you absolutely don’t need to remove the rel=prev/next markup from your site if you have it there.

Why? Because simply put, it doesn’t hurt to leave it there.

Also, Google isn’t the only search engine in town. And Bing’s Frédéric Dubut is on record saying that his search engine still uses rel=prev/next markup “for page discovery and site structure understanding.”

So the good news here is that you don’t need to go back and update all your old pages that have been using the markup since 2011.

Whew.

But should you? That is a different question which gets a little tricky. I’ve considered this previously and did a study on it.

What does this change mean for SEO?

Before I answer that question, let me make one thing clear: it looks like no SEO professional noticed that Google discontinued supporting the rel=prev/next markup from an indexing standpoint.

It wasn’t until someone saw that the Big G had pulled the documentation page that people started asking questions.

So maybe we should ask the philosophical question: “If Google removed a feature and nobody noticed, was it ever really there?”

But what it means is that Google will index the category page instead of the pagination going forward.

That’s not a problem, though. According to Google Web Performance Engineer Ilya Grigorik, Googlebot is intelligent enough to find your next/previous pages with a clear signal.

Remember: the bot is already evaluating all the links on your site. If you’ve structured your website so that it’s user-friendly and practiced great internal linking, Google will find your related content and rank it.

A few tips on category optimization

Now that rel=prev/next has gone away, what can you do to optimize your category pages? Here are a few pointers.

First, make sure you have most of your content on the first page in the category. That’s going to help with indexing. By content, I mean text, images and videos.

Not only that, but it will help with indexing for the right search terms. Once people get to your category page, they can find other pages.

Next, optimize your featured image on your main category page. Yes, I’m recommending you have a thumbnail that is optimized with a keyword in the file name and alt text. That gives Google additional info about the nature of your pages.

Also, optimized images will bring in traffic from Google Image Search.

After that, you should also add as many items to your category page as possible without slowing it down too much.

That one can be tricky in some instances. What if you have 10,000 items in a single category?

See if you can break them up into subcategories. Then, include one representative from each subcategory on the category page.

When considering e-commerce, lately I like to have about 30 to 60 products in a category. I also will not create a subcategory unless I have five unique products.

The million dollar question, do you get rid of rel next rel prev?

Well, since there is already a canonical in place, Google will just attribute all the value to the first page. So you have the option of.

  1. Keep it in place and have it work just like a rel canonical.
  2. Get rid of rel next rel prev and have it treated the same way, but don’t worry about legacy code.
  3. Put in place a no index on all the pages except the category. Some people like this because if you do the no index or a robots.txt block it can save some crawl budget, meaning Google will not crawl the pagination as much.

Personally, I like option 2.

Wrapping it up

I could give you 20 more tips about optimizing categories in this article. Things like adding dates to titles, testing numbers in various items in the template, where to add schema and adding unique content. But I’ll save that for another post.

What you need to know today is that Google messed up and forgot to tell you that it’s no longer supporting rel=prev/next markup. That’s not the end of the world.

Feel free to leave the markup code on your site or select another option above. The choice is up to you. But one thing is for sure, make sure you make it clear to Google which page is Page One. That will help your rankings.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, a digital marketing teacher at the University of California San Diego and author of the book Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online. Throughout his career, Lincoln has worked with hundreds of websites, ranging from start-ups to household names, and has won awards in SEO, CRO, analytics and Social Media. In the media, Lincoln has been featured on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, CIO magazine and more.



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New site Hotspot Law like ZocDoc for lawyers

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Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.

Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.

Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.

The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.

“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.

Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”

Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.

Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly. Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”

He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.

For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking

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About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.

A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.

A suicide.

A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.

I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.

I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.

We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem

Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.

But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.

We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.

So we started talking.

I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!

Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.

Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.

And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!

We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.

It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.

I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.

In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.

I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.

Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community

I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.

Here is what they had to say:

Alexandra Tachalova:

“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.

I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)

Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.

I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”

Melissa Fach:

“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!

I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.

I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.

And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”

Steve Wiideman:

“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.

It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.

What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.

Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”

Danny Goodwin:

“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.

While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.

We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.

Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”

Kim Krause Berg:

“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.

I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.

In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”

Dave Davies:

“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.

Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.

Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.

We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.

We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’

The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.

There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.

It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”

Jeremy Knauff:

“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.

I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”

Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.

Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.

Keep being a force for good in our community.

Together we will make a difference.

Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking  

 

This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.

 


***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***



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20190718 SEL Brief

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