Google just announced that it will now do its best to lead searchers directly to the single-page version of the online content it indexes instead of the paginated versions of the same content. Whenever an obvious “view-all” version of the text is available, Google will now link to that instead of the long series of pages that many publishers would likely prefer Google to link to.

Paginating content helps publishers to serve more ads to their readers, but they are without doubt a major annoyance for most web surfers. According to Google, however, its users testing has shown “that searchers much prefer the view-all, single-page version of content over a component page containing only a portion of the same information with arbitrary page breaks (which cause the user to click “next” and load another URL).”Screen shot 2011-09-14 at 10.54

While Google is also making it easier for publishers to indicate how the multiple parts of a paginated story belong together and will surface these if publishers so prefer, the company notes that users “generally prefer the view-all option in search results.” The exception, though, are extremely large view-all pages that take a long time to load and hence result in increased latency.

Google, which has always put a premium on speed, notes that webmasters can take some easy steps to avoid having their view-all pages appear in its index (just don’t use a rel=”canonical” link to point to the view-all page and use the new rel=”next” and rel=”prev” attributes to link to individual pages in a series).

I can’t imagine that most publishers are very happy with this move. On the other hand, this will hopefully put an end to the unnecessary pagination that has become a major annoyance on many sites today. While it may artificially pump up pageviews, it clearly doesn’t lead to higher satisfaction among readers.

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