Google Webmaster Help’s YouTube channel recently issued a really useful video on leveraging rel=”next” and rel=”previous” and the purpose behind the attributes:
This is something that a lot of smaller E-commerce sites in particular struggle with, and with the Panda update denying sites organic search traffic based on the percentage of your site’s content that is thick, unique, and useful to visitors effectively handling pagination issues is really crucial.
A few basic recommendations here are:
If you have largely duplicated/thin content living on the paginated pages (ie product listings pulled from a data feed, descriptions that show up more prominently on other parts of your site, etc.) consider follow, no-indexing the paginated results.
Make use of rel=”previous” and rel=”next” but don’t necessarily rely on them exclusively
If you can, expand the number of items listed on the main page, and offer a clear view all option for search engines
Don’t use rel=”cannonical” or nofollow to deal with pagination issues