Google’s SEO Recommendations for Websites that Use Infinite Scrolling
Site visitors who favor a seamless user experience often prefer infinite scrolling. Infinite scrolling is a web design technique that loads content continuously as a user scrolls down the page, which eliminates the need for pagination.
While social networking sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter have brought infinite scrolling into the mainstream, Google recently stated in its Webmaster Central Blog that Googlebot cannot always imitate user behavior, like scrolling or clicking buttons, to load more media.
If crawlers cannot access all the content in a feed or gallery, then it is unlikely to appear on Google’s SERPs. To ensure that Googlebot can crawl all individual items linked from an infinite scroll page, the webmaster or the content management system should produce a paginated series to complement infinite scroll.
Pros and Cons of Infinite Scrolling
Despite its shortcomings when it comes to web indexing, infinite scrolling has its advantages. For those who prefer a seamless user experience, infinite scrolling facilitates faster browsing. In contrast, clicking from page to page in paginated web pages can be a time-consuming process. Infinite scrolling is also ideally suited to smartphone and tablet browsing, and can be found in many mobile apps.
Infinite scrolling is also particularly suited to web pages that consist largely of images. Examples of image-centric websites that use infinite scrolling include Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Image Search Results. Infinite scrolling facilitates greater content exposure, as it provides users with a constant stream of media, unlike in paginated web pages, which requires users to click to the next page. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, infinite scrolling is suitable for time-killing activities, as users engaging in such activities are more interested in discovering interesting new content.
On the flipside, infinite scrolling also has its cons. While it is suitable for many image-centric websites, it is not particularly suited to text-centric websites. Web pages that feature a lot of textual content demand greater focus and analysis from users, which can make infinite scrolling disorienting for such users.
Infinite scrolling is also discouraged for e-commerce sites, as users may feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of choices, which can discourage shoppers from completing their purchase transactions. The use of infinite scrolling on e-commerce websites could also lead to navigation issues, as users who want to re-examine or purchase a particular product may find it challenging to return to a particular product or position on the site.
Infinite scrolling clearly optimizes some websites more than others, and is advantageous for content that streams constantly and belongs to the same hierarchical level. Infinite scrolling is not recommended for websites that require users to target specific locations or compare options.
For e-commerce websites, pagination and the application of filtering and navigation techniques organizes the content and encourages users to make purchase transactions.
How to Make Infinite Scroll Pages More Google-Friendly
Google included an infinite scroll with pagination demo by Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller on its Webmaster Central Blog. As noted earlier, Google recommends producing a paginated series to coincide with infinite scroll, which makes the pages more search-friendly. Converting infinite scroll to a paginated series also improves coverage (i.e. renders all individual items accessible) and prevents the duplication of items.
Some of the search-friendly recommendations offered by Google are listed below:
- Webmasters need to determine how much content should be included on each page, while considering the needs of their site visitors. For example, if site visitors enter a particular page, will they easily locate the items they’re looking for without excessive scrolling? Will all the items on the page uphold reasonable load time?
- Content should be evenly divided so that there’s no overlap between each component page in the series. This prevents the crawling and indexing of duplicate content.
- Individual component pages need to contain full URLs that can be accessed individually; this prevents configuration errors.
- Google recommends applying either the pushState or replaceState or both on the infinite scroll page, depending on the webmaster’s discretion or site user behavior. Google highly recommends pushState for any user action that resembles a click or actively turning a page; pushState also provides users with the ability to serially backup via the most recently paginated content.
- Finally, Google recommends testing the page values to ensure that they adjust as the user scrolls up or down.
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