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Search Engine Friendly Design - Frames Based Sites

In This Section
  Frames and search engines
  Optimising a framed site
  Link structure for framed sites

Frames are often used to aid navigation. Sometimes they're used because the designer or site owner thinks it's the only way to get the desired look or functionality. In some cases, they may be correct, but not always.

Frames are not the best option when it comes to search engines but they are not the major stumbling block they were several years ago as long as certain considerations are made to ensure that framed sites are still accessible to both engines and disabled users. If you have to use frames the best way to ensure both engines and disabled users can still access the site is to create a text based non-frames version. If this isn't possible, at least ensure the following are taken into consideration for the frames site.

  • If you have to use frames try to keep them as simple as possible. Engines will have a much easier time if they only have to get around 1 or 2 sets of frames as opposed to a complicated nested frameset structure.
  • Ensure that each content page has a full set of navigation either as links throughout the body copy, a list of links at the bottom of every page or at the very least, a single link to the homepage. This aids search engines in indexing the rest of the pages of the site and it is vitally important for your potential customers as the engines may index any page of your site. If the page that shows up in search results is not within the frameset some other form of navigation is essential or that page becomes a dead end. If you do not want to add links you can use a bit of javascript that will restore the frameset. This is preferable for users but less preferable for engines and the disabled as it denies them the text links that make it easy for them to get around the site.
  • Every main frames page (ie: not the menu frame) should have a page within the noframes tags with at least 3 paragraphs of keyword rich copy and links to the content pages that correspond to that copy. This should be a proper web page although you should opt to leave the graphics out. You should NOT use a list of keywords or any jibberish with keywords placed so as to make up a certain keyword density. This page is for both engines and the disabled. It should look like:
    < noframes >
    < body >
    Keyword rich copy goes here compete with relevant text links to other content pages
    < /body >
    < /noframes >
  • Every frames page, including the unimportant ones, should have a title and meta description tag. You may not want to promote these pages but some engines have been known to use the tags from them for other pages of the site so make sure they all have decent title and meta description tags instead of something like "page 3".

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