Why Google doesn’t like frames in your sites

I’m currently working on a site for a client who has a site which uses frames, and he asked me why Google always linked to the “wrong” page. He did not build this site himself of course, and hasn’t got much of a clue as to how HTML works, let alone search engines. He asked me to explain it to him, and I did.

But then the other day, I saw the search term “frame sites Google” show up in my referrals, and decided I should blog on it. Let’s start with a “normal” page. The URL of the page you’re looking at is the same for both the user and Google. This is quite different with a frames page, as the URL you’re seeing in your browser, is the URL to a page which actually divides up your screen in to different windows, the so called frameset. So if you have 3 frames, there’s actually 4 URL’s: one for the frameset page, and three for the three different frames.

Now if Google were to link to your content, it would link to one of the frames directly, and not to your frameset page. So the user sees that frame page without the frame around it, as you intended it.

But what about noframes?

There is a “workaround”. When frames were created, in HTML 4, the noframes tag was invented as well, intended to be used by user-agents which cannot render frames. You can use the noframes tag to provide alternate content for bots and users with browsers unable to render frames.

This tag is being abused a LOT though, and I’d advise heavily against using it, in fact, as you probably understand by now, I advise heavily against using frames at all.

Want to know more? Read the official Google guidelines on frames.

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9 Responses

  1. André ScholtenBy André Scholten on 2 April, 2007

    There’s one solution I like: place a link to your sitemap in the element.

  2. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 2 April, 2007

    yeah true… but I’d rather convince people not to use sitemaps at all :)

  3. André ScholtenBy André Scholten on 2 April, 2007

    For what reason? To be complete dependent on the internal link structure? That’s a good thing, but I like the sitemap as an extra part of a linkstructure and an easy way to find certain parts of a website. And yes, I agree: when you need a sitemap for that reason the main menu is not a good one ;)

  4. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 2 April, 2007

    Exactly :)

  5. Devon YoungBy Devon Young on 5 April, 2007

    Nice summary. I’ve gotten so fed up with half baked crawlers that I’m actually seriously considering coding one from scratch that can even handle things like frames. After all, the bot would simply need to read the frame links listed in the frameset page and know that it should replace the frameset page’s data in its database with what’s in the linked frames. Not rocket science. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any bots that do that….among other things.

  6. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 5 April, 2007

    Well, the problem isn’t that it wouldn’t be doable, the problem is, sorry, that nobody would use your crawler :P

  7. activecoBy activeco on 5 April, 2007

    “I advise heavily against using frames at all.”

    Isn’t it sad that a search engine dictate the (non)usage of any tools or html elements, which all have their regular function in this world?

  8. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 6 April, 2007

    Well, to be honest, frames are ugly :P I’m not very sad to see them go :)