Let’s find out whether it is crucial for a website to have a noindex directive for pagination pages and how and when this issue should be fixed.
What Does Pagination Set To Noindex Means?
The situation when a noindex directive is set on a URL with pagination elements is one of the most common mistakes in page pagination settings.
Google recommends using the next/prev markup to indicate pagination. The presence of these elements on a page implies that it is part of a paginated series. This setting helps search engine crawlers see the interrelation of content during indexing and index it entirely, without considering repeated pieces of content (text, meta tags, descriptors) as duplicates of each other.
If pagination attributes are added to all pages in the list, Google combines them into a single item in search and displays in SERPs the most relevant page from the series. At the same time, the search engine can mark the position of pages in relation to each other. For this, all pages of the series must be available for indexing. You can check the Index coverage status in Search Console. Check the guide by Daniel Waisberg from the Google team.
What Triggers This Issue?
The noindex tag in HTML is used to prevent indexing. However, this is not necessary when rel = next/prev elements are used. Sometimes, webmasters mistakenly add noindex to pagination pages to avoid duplicate content, making only the first page available for indexing.
In this case, Google perceives the instruction to cancel indexing for the entire list. As a result, pages become unavailable for scanning and do not get indexed.
How to Check the Issue?
To find out the cause of problems with pagination page indexing, you need to check the status of indexing in Search Console tools: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/ecommerce/pagination-and-incremental-page-loading.
If, according to the Index Coverage report, search crawlers have not indexed pagination pages, make sure the that noindex directive is not present in the HTML markup of the selected pages.
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Why is This Important?
Google bots evaluate all links on the site. They are already quite capable of finding related content and evaluating it on their own, but a ban on indexing can make this process difficult.
If pagination pages are completely or partially closed from indexing, they will not be scanned by crawlers, and the search engine will not be able to offer them to users for their search queries. As a result, your site will lose traffic. This also makes search engine promotion more difficult. Although, as you know, Google no longer takes into account next/prev elements and crawls links without these hints, convenient structure and site navigation are necessary for higher rankings.
How to Fix the Issue?
If you have not yet implemented pagination markup, but all links on the site are indexed, pagination works correctly, and webmaster tools do not find errors, you may not need to change anything. Using the rel=next/prev pagination is currently considered a Google recommendation, not a requirement.
However, in cases when you need to configure pagination, you should do it using next/prev elements. This approach ensures that content is consistently arranged, perceived by the search engine as a common chain, and crawled as one element.
To do this, assign a View All catalog page with a complete list of products, services, or articles as canonical. Add the next/prev markup on all pagination pages one by one, as well as the rel tag that leads to the canonical page.