Long pages (also called single page or infinite scroll) have become a popular design feature for websites. These designs take after social media sites that have helped users grow accustomed to the never-ending scroll experience. But can long pages play nicely with search engines?
If you’re considering changing your website to an infinite scroll design, keep in mind that search engines are still a bit old fashioned: they are designed to crawl sites that consist of separate, unique pages with separate, unique content at separate, unique URLs. When a large number of topically-focused discrete pages are combined into a single multi-topic page, SEO may be disadvantaged, because the ability to crawl and index individual pages with unique metadata focused on a specific keyword or topic is lost. This could reduce your site’s ability to rank well in search engines for the keywords/topics that previously would have been included on separate pages.
An SEO-friendly technical remedy may be a lot of work, and may be unfamiliar territory for most developers, but it is possible to create a single page experience for the user and a multiple page experience for the search engines. In an ideal world if level of effort were not a consideration, this would be our recommended approach, especially if each of the topics on the long page is substantial enough to stand on its own (and is not just a couple of sentences).
Google offers up some helpful suggestions for making your long pages search-friendly in this Webmaster blog post: “Infinite Scroll Search Friendly Recommendations”
Example of a Successful Long Page Design for SEO
Polygon.com is an example of a site that is handling its long page design very well from an SEO perspective.
The unique aspect of this build is that as the user scrolls down the page, the URL changes based on the section the user is on. For example, as you scroll down the PS4 review page, you can see that the browser passes through all of these URLs:
… and so on
These URLS can also be accessed via a menu on the left-hand side of the page.
Each of these URLs is separately indexable in search engines. When a user lands directly on one of these URLs, he or she lands on a unique page showing crawlable content pertaining to that section.
This type of implementation is great when you are seeking to rank for different variations of a topic, for example, polygon.com is ranking #1 for “ps4 review” and “ps4 controller” with different URLs. If they had all this content on just one page, it would have made ranking less likely for “ps4 controller”. Alternately, if they didn’t expose the content to crawlers, both of these ranks likely would have suffered.
If you’re considering long-tail design for your site visitors, we hope you’ll consider SEO and make sure the search engines have a good user experience too!