Google confirmed yesterday that it hasn’t supported rel=next/prev for years. Google admitted that it was an oversight, a mixup. It removed support but didn’t communicate that until someone on the Google webmaster trends team noticed it wasn’t being used any more by Google search.
It was an oversight. “We apologize for any confusion. This was an oversight and something that we should have communicated proactively before taking down the documentation,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land on Friday. The company also said it will aim to do better at communicating these kinds of changes in the future.
“As our systems improve over time, there may be instances where specific types of markup is not as critical as it once was, and we’re committed to providing guidance when changes are made.”
Should you remove the markup? Probably not. Google has communicated this morning in a video hangout that while it may not use rel=next/prev for search, it can still be used by other search engines and by browsers, among other reasons. So while Google may not use it for search indexing, rel=prev/next can still be useful for users. Specifically some browsers might use those annotations for things like prefetching and accessibility purposes.
Bing partially supports rel=prev/next. Frédéric Dubut from Bing said yesterday that while Bing doesn’t use it to merge pages into a single set, they do use it for discoverability and understanding a site’s overall structure.
But that doesn’t mean you should make single gigantic pages when it isn’t the best solution for your users, Google said:
As we evaluated our indexing signals, we decided to retire rel=prev/next.
Studies show that users love single-page content, aim for that when possible, but multi-part is also fine for Google Search. Know and do what’s best for *your* users! #springiscoming pic.twitter.com/hCODPoKgKp