Bing view on implementing markup for sequenced content on your site

As a search engine Bing generally has depended on a set of heuristics to decide if and how individual webpages are related or linked to each other on a site. Now, using the optional link elements (rel=”next”; rel=”prev”), you may provide it a strong hint of both structure and the scope of sequenced content. For instance, think about content on your site spread across multiple pages like forum threads, or time-sequenced material like blog posts and news articles. By making use of the rel=”next” and rel=”prev”, you’ve complete control over the sequencing of pages.

To give a practical example of this, the webmaster can decide that users prefer to check news features from ‘oldest’ to ‘newest’, and accordingly reflect this particular order in the rel=”next”; rel=”prev” link elements’ implementation. So the former (link elements) will point to a newer article. Let us take another instance now!

For blog posts, the universally preferred order is newest to oldest that gets reflected again in the rel=”next”; rel=”prev” link elements; implementation, with the former indicating older posts. Avoid as far as possible looping the sequence back to index page – on the last natural page of that sequence (employing, for e.g. <link rel=”next” href=”index.aspx”>), as this will obscure the sequence.

Also though, it is perfectly practicable to have multiple sequences on a site – in other words, one sequence for news, one for finance and one for sports – Bing encourages users to avoid adding more than one rel=”prev” and one rel=”next” link elements at a time to pages. Once you’ve finalized one or more sequences, it is necessary to keep in mind multi-page content. A user checking page 1 will expect the next one to be page 2, and not a newer article. Bing explains this aspect with the following example:

(Image courtesy: Bing)

The engine encourages site owners or webmasters to prioritize multi-paged content sequencing over all other (linear) sequences to ensure a consistent and predictable user experience. According to it, implementation of both link elements (rel=”next” and rel=”prev”) can get rather straightforward and simpler by following a few basic steps to successfully complete the process:

  • Link elements should be inserted within the <head> section of pages. Alternative implementations like the rel attributes’ addition to anchor elements within the body of your pages is not supported currently.
  • By using rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link elements, you are able to establish a relationship among at most 3 webpages on your site: the current one, the page preceding the current page (rel=”prev”) and the one that immediately follows the current page (rel=”next”).
  • The first page in this sequence should merely consist of the rel=”next” link element, whereas the last one in the sequence should comprise only the rel=”prev” link element.
  • Avoid inserting more than one rel=”next” and one rel=”prev” link element to your site pages.
  • URL parameters should be reflected in your link elements’ HREF attributes. URL parameters solely appended for tracking purposes like search queries and session identifiers, can be appended, too.
  • To avoid surfacing of these URL parameter in search results for your site pages, you can make use of the rel=”canonical” link element for specifying a preferred URL for the content that gets displayed.

You can exclude certain webpages within the sequence (after having applied the rel=”next”; rel=”prev” link elements) from indexing by utilizing the meta element: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”> Implementing these link elements won’t trigger a new visual treatment for your site pages on Bing search result pages. However, it lets the engine understand and index the content more comprehensively.

Bing uses this markup to facilitate discovery of webpages, and to improve the search results display. The knowledge gained on a site’s structure helps provide easy access to other paginated or sequenced content sections from its results pages in the future. Webmasters who implement these elements can also gain from more comprehensive indexing as the engine applies insight of a site’s structure to its indexing heuristics, thus opening up scope for additional crawling or enhanced presence on Bing.