NOTE: The information on this post is outdated. Rel=next/prev is no longer a Google indexing factor
As of the 15th of September, Google announced that it will now consider rel=”next” and rel=“perv” a strong hint” a rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tag, when dealing with paginated areas of your site.
Pagination refers to a relationship between several pages, usually where your site is listing products or blog posts over different urls. Pagination is popular so to decrease site load speed and organise pages in to short, chunks of information; preventing users from getting bored and allowing for clicking and activity on the page. An obvious answer of pagination comes from Google’s Webmaster Blog, see below.
Rel=”next” and Rel=”prev”
Google has stated that it will take the Rel=”next”/”prev” HTML tags as an indication of pagination and will therefore index these pages differently.
Google will take the tags as an indication that links to a specific URL in the group should have their power dispersed throughout all of the pages, therefore lifting the list as opposed to the individual page.
Google will now attempt to direct users to the most relative page throughout SERP’s, typically the first page in the list.
When to Use These Tags
It should be noted that whilst the two tags are useful in hinting that the sites interlinked are paginated, Google will still attempt to recognise and categorise paginated series of pages. Therefore it will not harm your site not to include the tags.
From an SEO perspective it would represent good practice to include these tags, as they highlight to Google that they have found a paginated series of links.
Lastly, is should be noted that Google assumes that users prefer ‘view all’ pages and will therefore give preference to these when found. Through using these tags you will highlight to Google that the paginated form is preferred and will therefore increase the likelihood that” page 1” will show up in SERPs.
For more information relative to this update, visit the Google blog