Why frames don’t work for SEO

Frames and search engines don’t get along, and if you are in any doubt just look at the cached version of any site built using frames. Frames are used by programmers to display a number of HTML documents at the same time. They allow visitors to action one element of a webpage (such as scrolling through the copy) while the rest of the page remains unchanged.

Each separate action requires a separate HTML document. When complied by a browser the separate documents are displayed simultaneously inside a frame. The user gets to see a complete web page, but visiting spiders just see a bunch of unrelated pages. A typical frameset might look like this:

<HTML>

<HEAD>

</HEAD>

<FRAMESET ROWS=“110,*”>

<FRAME SRC=“navbar.htm”>

<FRAME SRC=“header.htm”>

<FRAME SRC=“content.htm”>

<FRAME SRC=“footer.htm”>

</FRAMESET>

</HTML>

In the above example the web page, or frameset, contains four separate HTML documents: the navbar, header, content, and footer pages.

The outcome is that framed pages are difficult to index and almost impossible to rank, and here’s why:

  • A website built using frames has just one URL which doesn’t change as you navigate from page to page. The URL is related to the overall frameset and it means that you can’t point external links to any pages within the site.
  • Pages with links pointing to them but not from them are called ‘orphans’. Search engines don’t like orphan pages and won’t include them in their results. Because the links on a framed site are typically set within the navigation bar; you’re creating a lot of orphans.
  • With framed sites the headers and footers are most likely to be images, which contain little (or no) useful information for search engines. You can try adding some content in the ‘title’ and ‘meta tag’ fields, but it probably isn’t worth the effort.

And even if you do manage to get a page to rank; only one element of the original frameset will display. If you’re lucky it will be your content, but with no navigation bar to help the user get around it won’t be long before they go elsewhere.

Back in the days of creaky modems and pages loading at a snail’s pace; frames made sense. However, those days have been consigned to the history books and today frames should be avoided at all costs

As far as SEO advice goes, don’t bother with frames: these days you really don’t need to use them.

Iframes and SEO

Known more formally as ‘inline frames’, iframes are windows within a page which allow you to display content from another part of your site or from an external site. For example, you could pull the latest industry news from another website (via a RSS feed) into your site using an iframe. Atypical iframe tag might look like this:

<iframe src=“news.html”>

</iframe>

While iframes aren’t of any practical value to a search engine optimisation campaign, they are unlikely do your site any harm and can be of real value to your visitors. Search engines see the contents of the iframe as a separate page belonging to the original host website, so if you want a page containing an iframe to rank, you’ll need to add plenty of your own content.

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