Contrary to what the name might have you believe, iFrames don’t have any relation to Apple. The real question is, what is their relationship to SEO? This article will break down what iFrames are, and the dos and don’ts for when to use them.
What Are iFrames?
You’ve probably clicked a link on a website before that pulled up what seemed like a second page within the original page. On the simplest level, that is basically what an iframe is – a page within a page. The word iFrame is actually an abbreviation for “inline frame”.
An iFrame is part of an HTML syntax that provides you with a way to embed content from another website inside your own website. Thus, you avoid sending a user to a different website while still providing the content. That seems simple enough, but it raises all kinds of questions about its SEO implications, which we’ll look at below:
Are iFrames Considered to Be Duplicate Content?
In a word – no. The reason being that iFrames are merely referencing the content, instead of duplicating it. When robots crawl the site and register the iframe tag, they will attribute the original source with any SEO credit instead of the page using the embedded content – i.e. the page with the iFrame. Since the robots recognize that the iFrame page is referencing the original source, it will not count as duplicate content.
Are iFrames Considered to Be “Cloaking”?
If you’re not familiar with what “cloaking” is, it’s a black hat form of SEO where you show different content to search engine robots than you show to users who visit your page. In case it wasn’t obvious already, cloaking will put you on the fast track to SEO penalty land. As the name implies, you’re sure to have a bad time there. If you use iFrames, however, have no fear. Robots recognize that the original source is clearly referenced by the iFrame tag, and is not counted as cloaking.
So How Do iFrames affect SEO?
We’ve pretty well covered how iFrames shouldn’t negatively affect your SEO, but are there any positive SEO effects of using iFrames?
Search engines recognize the content in iFrames as coming from a different source, so your page doesn’t receive any SEO content credit. So basically, iFrames don’t really help or hurt your search ranking. It’s kind of like that crush you had in middle school – there was never really a relationship to begin with, except for in your head.
When Would You Want to Use iFrames?
Since iFrames don’t really affect your SEO, when would you want to use them, if ever? Use iFrames when you want to pull useful content from another website, without it counting as duplicate content. For instance, you could use iFrames to embed maps, videos, or PDFs. Some sites even use iFrames for form submissions (on a side note, doing so makes setting up conversion tracking on Google Analytics a bit trickier).
A better question might be, when wouldn’t you want to use iFrames? Don’t use iFrames for pages that you want to rank really well for, like your main pages. The content embedded through iFrames won’t count on those pages, and will therefore make it difficult for you to rank well for them.
How Do You Implement iFrames?
If you have pages you think could benefit from using iFrames, they are very simple to use. Simply insert the following code:
<iframe scr="URL of original page"></iframe>
If you want, you can add a scroll bar to the embedded page and adjust the height and width. Be sure to allow robots to crawl your embedded content using robots.txt.
For more information about robots.txt files, see our blog Robots.txt and SEO: Overview & Implementation.
We recommend using Google Webmaster Central to find out more about this and other potential crawling errors on your site. See our blog How to Properly Set Up Google Webmaster Tools for a tutorial on using Google Webmaster.