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Working with frames, iframes, and popups

From: Analyzing Your Website to Improve SEO

Video: Working with frames, iframes, and popups

There are good reasons to use frames, iframes, and pop-ups, but you need to understand the problems from an SEO perspective. There are really two problems with these things. First, as we saw with PDF and Flash files in the previous video, files designed to be placed within frames can end up orphaned, appearing in the search results outside of the navigational context they were designed for. Secondly, each framed or pop-up page represents an opportunity cost; you're reducing the number of nicely optimized pages you'll have in your web site.

Working with frames, iframes, and popups

There are good reasons to use frames, iframes, and pop-ups, but you need to understand the problems from an SEO perspective. There are really two problems with these things. First, as we saw with PDF and Flash files in the previous video, files designed to be placed within frames can end up orphaned, appearing in the search results outside of the navigational context they were designed for. Secondly, each framed or pop-up page represents an opportunity cost; you're reducing the number of nicely optimized pages you'll have in your web site.

Frames allow web designers to put several pages into a web browser at the same time, one for the title bar, one for navigation bar, one for content for instance. Clicking an entry in the nav bar frame could change the page in the content frame. They can be useful, but they caused problems from an SEO perspective. There are really two problems: First, framed pages can get orphaned, just as we saw Flash and PDF files being orphaned in the previous video. Each page is indexed separately, so if the page is found in the search engines, it won't be in the web site. It will be separated from it.

The title and description tags from the main site will be missing, though admittedly you can provide those separately for each internal page. Perhaps more importantly, the site navigation and site branding is gone. You could help the situation somewhat by, for example, adding navigation within all the framed pages, so visitors can find their way from the orphaned page to the main site. Of course that starts to look somewhat clunky and rather defeats the object of framing. There are also some JavaScript techniques people sometimes use to force an orphan page to load into its normal frameset.

My attitude is, why mess around when you really don't need frames in most situations? How about iframes? These are internal, or inline, frames, documents that are framed directly inside another document. Again, they can be useful in some contexts, but search engines will index the inline frame documents as a separate page. So again, you'll have the problem of orphaned pages. These documents will appear in the search engines without site navigation outside of the context for which they were intended.

Then there's the opportunity cost. Each iframed document could be a nicely optimize web page with a good key-worded URL, a nice title tag, h1 headings, and so on. But iframed documents are not going to be well optimized and you don't really even want them to be well optimized because you don't really want them turning up in the search engines. After all, if you can get the page to turn up in search engines, you want a page that isn't orphaned, one that is clearly part of your site and can lead people further into your site, rather than making visitors click the Back button. How about pop-ups? I'm referring here to separate, usually small, windows that open up when a link or button is clicked.

They can be very useful for providing contextual information. You often see them triggered from little question mark buttons in forms for instance. But when they are used to hold large amounts of useful content, text that could perform well in the search engines, they are a problem, for the same two reasons. They will be orphaned in the search engines, and they represent loss of useful key-worded pages that could be found in search engines. I'm not saying you shouldn't use these components, just that you should be aware of the problems they represent from a search engine perspective, and consider alternatives.

Personally, I would stay away from frames for areas of the site that you want the search engines to index. They are fine for private areas of the site. If you still want to use iframes and pop-ups, that's okay, but you may want to consider putting the content into a separate directory of your site, then using your robots.txt file to block that area. You might even use the content in two ways: create your pop-ups and iframes--that can be very convenient way to present information to users--but also have a series of pages in which you place the same content for search engines to find.

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Analyzing Your Website to Improve SEO

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