Should You Index Paginated Archive Pages?

Normally, a WordPress website will have archive pages such as product categories, article categories, news, etc. When there is a lot of content, these category pages will grow, and WordPress will help you create paginated pages 2, 3, …

Pagination of a WordPress category can create multiple pages
Pagination of a WordPress category can create multiple pages

From an SEO perspective, should pages 2, 3, … of these archive pages be indexed or not? In other words, do you want these pages 2, 3, … to appear on the search results page (SERP)? What issues should be kept in mind when indexing and noindexing these pages, and what are their consequences? We will consider it together in the article below.

Why do we need to index a web page?

A web page is indexed when it deserves to be indexed. "Deserve" means that its content is useful to users and relevant to their search intent. It means that the user needs of certain information and that page meets their need.

If a page is created without solving a user's problem, then putting it on the search results page makes no sense, because no one will want to find the problem that the page is mentioning.

So, whenever we need to index a web page, we need to consider the question: is the content of that page useful to users? In other words, does anyone need that content?

Here in the case of paginated archive pages, the issue of whether the content is useful or not needs to be carefully considered. We will look at that in detail below.

Duplicated content trap

In addition to the issue of matching the user's needs with the content, another issue to consider is whether that content is really necessary. For example, a user wants to buy an iPhone 15, and on your website, there is already a review page about the iPhone 15. However, would it be "more" useful if you had another review page similar to this?

In other words, if the content on your website has a lot of similar content, will it still provide readers with usefulness? Or do they just need a page with all the information?

Duplicated content confuses users and search engines. Which page should be displayed in the SERP?
Duplicated content confuses users and search engines. Which page should be displayed in the SERP?

This duplicated content issue is one of the factors that Google uses in its algorithm. Although it is mainly applied to articles to avoid copied ones, it's also applied to archive pages, especially paginated pages. Because paginated pages often use the same or similar meta titles and descriptions, users and search engines understand that they are talking about the same topic.

On the foundation of useful content and duplicated content, let's analyze the issues that need to be kept in mind when indexing paginated pages.

Should paginated pages be noindexed?

Useful content issue

Regarding the useful content issue, if an archive page provides useful information to users such as articles or products, there will be no problem indexing them.

Obviously, if on the 2nd, 3rd, … pages there are still products or articles that users are looking for, they should go to that page, instead of just looking to the first page (which sometimes doesn't have the product or article they need) then navigate to pages 2, 3, … or search on the website for the product or article they need. That is both time-consuming and creates a bad user experience.

However, if your archive page only contains a list of articles and products, you will likely be warned by thin content, meaning there is too little content on the page. Because what you show to users on the SERP is the archive page, the actual content of the archive page, not the products or articles in that category.

The article or product is what you should index and optimize so that it appears on the SERP when users specifically search for it. And when their needs are not specific, the archive page is what they can search for. And then, paginated pages 2, 3, … are probably not necessary, because users will still search from page 1 to the following pages. Ask yourself: when you search on Google, have you encountered many results that are paginated pages?

To fix the thin content error, you can add descriptions to archive pages in WordPress. You just need to fill in the description for categories or terms and check if the theme you are using displays that content properly on the website.

Duplicated content issue

For paginated pages, WordPress SEO plugins usually use the name and description of the category as meta title and meta description. Some plugins help you add suffixes like "Page 2", "Page 3", … to make these meta tags unique, but they are only technical side that does not really change the content or semantics much.

That means that even though the products or articles on pages 2, 3, … are different, those pages look the same to search engines. And so it can easily lead to a duplicated content warning. Actually, if you keep indexing of paginated archives, you'll get warnings in Google Search Console about duplicated meta tags.

Of course, these search engines are getting smarter by analyzing the actual content of pages, instead of relying on the content of the meta title & meta description tags. However, it cannot be denied that they share the same topic. And when it's the same topic, search engines will choose the most suitable page to put on the SERP. So do pages 2, 3, … have a chance of being displayed on the SERP as page 1? I doubt that!

With the above characteristics of a website built on WordPress, we do not encourage you to index pages 2, 3, … of archive pages. Let the first page of the archive page have the biggest advantage and index it.

However, be careful, experiment, and test all your changes thoroughly. Because whatever we do is based on our own analysis and evaluation. None of us can guarantee that search engines will work exactly the way we think they will.

Exception: forum thread pagination

The only exception we observe is that paginated pages for forum threads should be indexed. The reason is that the content of each thread is the discussion or answer to the main topic of the thread. Each page contains unique, useful content. When users search the forum, they will often immediately find these answers, instead of going to page 1 and navigating to the following pages.

In a forum thread, each reply is a piece of content of the page
In a forum thread, each reply is a piece of content of the page

Note that many forums do not have direct permalinks to answers in a thread for the same question. That is the difference between forum threads and archive pages in WordPress.

WordPress archive pages are a collection of articles or products and each article or product has its own permalink pointing to them and they have a separate topic. In a forum, each discussion or answer is not a separate post but rather parts of content that make up a thread. Therefore, each page of the thread should be considered a page with independent, unique content and should be indexed.

How to noindex paginated archive pages?

If you use Slim SEO, this plugin already provides a slim_seo_robots_index filter for you to change the value of the meta robots index tag. To set noindex for the paginated page, use the following snippet:

add_filter( 'slim_seo_robots_index', function ( $index ) {
    return ( is_home() || is_archive() ) && is_paged() ? false : $index;
} );

This code checks whether you are on the blog or archive page and are on paginated pages, then set meta robots to noindex.

To use this code, you need to insert it into your theme's functions.php file or use a plugin like Code Snippets to add it to your website.

What happens when you don't index paginated pages?

Since paginated pages are not indexed, the number of indexed pages on your website will decrease. However, the quality of the remaining pages will increase, because they are not considered to be duplicate content with the remaining pages.

Therefore, when displayed on SERP, search engines will easily choose the most suitable website for users, which can help improve your rankings.

Should you set canonical URLs of pages 2, 3, … to page 1?

A common question when dealing with pagination is should the canonical URLs of these pages point to the first page of the category or taxonomy. The reason given behind this act is that pages 2, 3, … are not indexed and we want to strengthen page 1.

However, doing so is not beneficial. The canonical URL tag is used when there are multiple versions of a URL on your website, and the canonical URL is used to specify the priority URL, the URL that search engines will use to deliver to users.

In the case of pagination, each paginated page has its own URL, and they are all separate, independent web pages themselves. They are not different versions of the same URL or provide the same content. They are completely different, and therefore canonical URLs should not be used for them.


Setting noindex for pagination is one of the issues often discussed when optimizing SEO for WordPress websites. When you apply this method, carefully analyze your website to see if the issues in the article are appropriate, or if any consequences that need to be considered when doing so.

And most importantly, SEO is about testing. You need to test the effects of these changes on your website. You should start with a single category of the website. If something is inappropriate, or has a negative impact, you should adjust it. If the change is appropriate, apply it more widely throughout the website.

We hope this article is helpful for you to optimize your website for SEO effectively and if you love this article, please share it with your friends, partners, or employees.


  1. If pages 2, 3, 4, etc., which include some products, aren't indexed, won't those particular product pages be treated by Google as orphan pages?

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