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59
How-to 8 min read August 29, 2019

What is iFrame and why you should not use it for SEO

iFrame or floating frame is a separate window, an HTML document that opens new pages inside main pages. It can be placed anywhere, without reference to the <iframe> tag.
Using this tag may be often risky and threatens with sanctions: the website ceases to completely control the content of the document, because part of it is loaded from another website through an iframe.

Since we no longer control the content, it is possible to load inappropriate content (18+, viruses, etc.) through the iframe, which, in turn, can impose sanctions. And this will affect your search engine ranking positions.

Why do you need iFrame

To answer this question, we first need to recall what a frame is. This is a separate, complete HTML document that opens pages in a browser along with other HTML documents.

iFrame allows you to embed a traditional frame, as well as separate HTML documents on different pages without using the <iframe> tag. As a result, you get content of another URL with or without scroll function on the web page.

That is, other pages are loaded with the main page in the background. The user will see these frames only if they have a certain size, for instance, the banner.

This is the simplest iframe example: a piece of code with a given background window size used for a banner:
Пример кода iFrame HTML5
This tag is supported by most browsers, but some parameters may or may not run at all. For example, frames don't run in audio-based browsers used in vehicles, for people with impaired sight, as well as on outdated browser versions.

Moreover, frames are not only used on web resources, but also in software applications. They are often helpful for technical support departments.

For example, if you click the help button, a general menu appears in response, and a page opens in the background, which is responsible for the selected information block.

It is convenient and allows you not to download files again. Graphically it looks like this:
Working principle of iFrame

Where can you use frames

1
Built-in videos, presentations and other visual content.
2
To optimize the appearance of support service tools.
3
To generate background traffic through affiliate programs. The use of the tag is due to the increase of visits that are recorded by analytics systems and overstate traffic results.
4
Web design. Some designers build the conceptual idea of the website structure, including background frame windows in it, embedding animation, video and other media content. There are disagreements because when designing a website, specialists start out from other tasks and not from search engine promotion.

Moreover, using iframe can be attributed to animation controlled by JS, which is not that slow in a separate window.
For example, this is a piece of code that uploads a video from YouTube:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/example" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Why do people use frames

  • For embedding media content (both your own and third-party content);
  • for embedding examples of code fragments;
  • for embedding applets. These are applications that work in the context of a website, for example, forms of payment or interactive maps.

Where it is undesirable to use frames

  • Poto galleries;
  • chat window;
  • navigation;
  • increase of background traffic.

Photo gallery and chat are usually independent documents that shouldn't be embedded in the body of another document. It is preferable to use a site map and breadcrumbs for navigation. Increase of traffic through special software sooner or later ends up with sanctions.

And the most important thing is to download content only from trusted sources!

Pros and cons of frames

Pros:

  1. Fast loading of video materials, maps, presentations and other content.

  2. HTML frames allow opening several pages simultaneously that are completely independent.

  3. The visitor will be able to switch screens without reloading the page.

  4. You can divide the structure of the web resource into blocks, which will allow you to edit only individual blocks.

  5. The user will be able to independently change the dimensions of the background window, unless you have applied noresize option to it.

Now let's talk about possible risks:

  1. It may happen that the website indexing by search robots will be interrupted when switching to a frame.

  2. Some browsers don't support iframes. They are either outdated, or they only work with audio content, etc.

  3. Threatens sanctions. The search engine sanctions may be imposed when there is illegal content in frames.

In order to avoid possible misunderstandings with search robots and users whose browsers don't support this function, webmasters hide the iFrame from indexing and add the corresponding notification. It will be displayed if the background window doesn't open, advising the user to update the browser.

Technically, you get the following code:
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset//EN"
  "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/frameset.dtd">
<html>
  <head>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">
    <title>Тег NOFRAMES</title>
  </head>
  <frameset cols="100,*">
    <frame src="menu.html" name="leftFrame">
    <frame src="content.html" name="mainFrame">
    <noframes>Your browser does not support frames.</noframes>
  </frameset>
</html>
The content of the <noframes> tag is displayed in the browser when it doesn't support iFrame. At the same time, other browsers that can process iframe pages don't pay attention to it. It should have a full disclosed description in order to keep the user on the website.

How do search engines treat frames

There are two basic rules you should keep in mind:
1
iFrame can only be embedded from trusted and reliable sources.
2
Please note that the uploaded content will not be indexed as part of the document.
"Google supports frames and iframes to the possible extent. iFrame can cause problems for search engines because they don't correspond to the conceptual model of the Internet," reports Google help.

The reason why iFrames don't comply with the conceptual model is that pages with iFrames have more than one URL. One goes for the page that hosts the iFrame, and the other is for the page from which it gets content. It's not surprising that robots can get confused.

Conclusion

iFrame is a tag that opens one page inside another HTML document. As a result, when running a page with a frame, another independent page is loaded in the background.

Frames are used by a number of reasons: e.g., for embedding media content, applications within a website, photo galleries, and much more.

You should use only trusted sources when embedding frames; also remember that the frame contents are not scanned by search robots. For embedding prohibited content, you risk getting sanctions.

This article is a part of Serpstat's Checklist tool
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