Although many, many webmasters don’t know it, Google is capable of crawling iFrames on a website, and they are also known to do so. However, Google does not support frames and iFrames completely, which isn’t surprising because both are known to cause problems for search engines.
Now that you know that Google crawls iFrames, you, as a webmaster, can use this to your advantage, especially when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) and increasing traffic to a website or blog.
First of all, you need to know exactly what an iFrame is. If you’re familiar with coding and intermediate HTML, you’re probably also at least a little familiar with iFrames, if not very familiar.
iFrame stands for inline frame. An iFrame is basically an HTML document that is actually embedded within another HTML document. Most of the time, the iFrame HTML element is utilized to efficiently insert content that is from another source, such as advertisements.
iFrames tend to behave just like an inline image, which is simply an image inserted into a webpage. However, iFrames can be altered to have their own scroll bar. The scroll bar will be completely independent of the parent HTML document’s scroll bar.
Before, content on iFrames couldn’t be crawled by Google and other major search engines. While users would be able to see the content on the page, the content would be not crawled. Obviously, this had a major negative effect on SEO, especially if most of the content consumed by users was contained within the iFrame.
Sometimes, web crawlers were able to enter an iFrame, but they would not be able to get out of it in order to crawl the rest of the webpage. This situation would result in some of the website being indexed, but not all of it, because the crawlers would get trapped within the iFrame, preventing them from crawling the rest of the site.
However, today, Google is often capable of crawling iFrames on webpages, as long as the iFrames are SEO-friendly. In fact, Google is also capable of passing link juice via iFrames. However, it is suspect that Google, unlike other major search engines, will ignore iFrames that point to a different domain, and not the top-level domain, or TDL. If true, this prevents webmasters from having iFrames leading to high-ranking websites just to improve their own page rank.
The normal, Google-friendly webpage only displays one uniform resource locator, or URL. These types of webpages represent the conceptual model of the web, and search engines like Google rarely have problems crawling them.
However, pages that utilize iFrames display multiple URLs for one lone page, as every single iFrame has its own different URL. This is where the problems begin. When Google crawls webpages with iFrames, the search engine attempts to associate all the framed content with the parent HTML document, or the page that contains all the iFrames. As great as Google is, it isn’t perfect and it doesn’t always succeed.
If you’ve always avoided using iFrames in the past due to the belief that they don’t get crawled by Google, you can now add iFrames to your webpage, if you’d like. However, you should take the effort to make these iFrames as Google-Friendly as you possibly can.
One thing you can do to make iFrames Google-friendly is index it with robots.txt. This convention will help any cooperating web crawlers and robots access all parts of a website, or some parts if you’d like. However, the content has to publicly viewable.
Another option is using the Google Web Master Tools. All you have to do is add the URL of the iFrame that you want Google to crawl. However, this will only index the iFrame and not the parent HTML document, aka the surrounding page. Therefore, the iFrame won’t rank as highly on the search engine results of Google. However, it is definitely better than nothing.
Especially if you have frames on the master page of your website, to ensure Google crawls the entire website, ensure that you include links to other pages within the website inside the no frames area of the master page.
While it’s great and usually not detrimental to have iFrames on a website, it’s typically best to ensure your main or surrounding page shines when it comes to search engines. It’s best not to make your main page simply a placeholder for one iFrame or even multiple iFrames.
Try to move as much info as possible from iFrames to the main page. Overall, your main page should at least describe the content within the iFrames.
Don’t forget to enable scroll bars, because even though all the content within an iFrame is completely accessible, it may not be accessible for all of your visitors. The need for a scroll bar depends on many different things that are completely out of your control, such as the browser configuration, monitor, and operating system used by your users.
If iFrames simply aren’t your thing, which wouldn’t be surprising since they are considered outdated by many, then you definitely don’t have to use them on your website. In fact, not using iFrames may be the better option because they aren’t 100 percent foolproof right now, especially if you don’t take the time to optimize them for SEO.
While no one (except those within the company) really knows exactly how Google deals with iFrames, it is a fact that Google crawls iFrames on a website, as they admitted it themselves. Therefore, you are free to use iFrames on your website to your advantage without major risk of affecting your site’s traffic and ranking. However, you should make the effort to make your iFrames friendly to Google, as well as other search engines.