A couple of months ago, Google Webmasters announced on Twitter they no longer support/observe rel=prev/next links. Turns out, they actually haven't been using them for a couple of years.
They've copped some flack from developers and webmasters who, like myself, seem to have wasted time implementing these links during that time at Google's recommendation.
But...don't go stripping them out from your site just yet. Following Google's announcement, Bing was quick to offer:
We're using rel prev/next (like most markup) as hints for page discovery and site structure understanding. At this point...we're not using prev/next in the ranking model.
So, the presence of rel prev/next is not going to get you a bonus with Bing, either, but it at least helps them build their picture of how your site is structured.
What interested me most in Google's announcement was this:
Studies show that users love single-page content, aim for that when possible
My first reaction to this comment was that perhaps we should be stripping out pagination entirely.
Historically, web designers were always encouraged to keep the main content 'above the fold', and pagination buttons at the bottom of the page were an easy and user-friendly way to achieve this.
But mobile interfaces are optimised for vertical scrolling - it's much easier to swipe up and down the page than it is to click tightly-packed pagination links, and perhaps this is why users "love single-page content".
However, it occurred to me (confirmed after a quick test) that Google themselves uses pagination in their search results on desktop and mobile versions.
So, I guess, even though it's frustrating to learn that rel=prev/next links have not provided the SEO bump everyone was hoping for, and perhaps it won't be top of my list of priorities when building any new sites, there's no need to remove links that exist already. And I'll hold back on stripping out pagination until Google does the same! :)