Frame Link Element – Simple Search Engine Friendly Solution to Frames

by Matthew Diehl on December 16, 2009

frame-trust

Walk into a room of SEOs and say, “So, I got this website and it is using frames”.

Common responses to this statement include (but not limited to):

  • [groan]
  • [face palm]
  • Oh boy…. (not in a good way)
  • I’ve heard of those, I didn’t know they still existed.
  • What year are you living in? 1995?
  • You, sir/madam, are screwed.

I laid it on pretty thick there but if you still don’t get it, frames are not at all on table when it comes to SEO.

Search engines can’t trust frames because they are an easy route to content theft. Any site can throw a frame up that contains content from any other site on the Internet. This could lead to sites getting credit for content they have framed in when they really shouldn’t.

The search engines’ solution: Completely ignore framed content.

But, what if there was a way for the search engines to trust framed content and easily associate framed content to the right page?

[Drum roll] … There is!

This method of developing frame-trust piggy backs off the existing canonical link element. The canonical link element allows webmasters to identify preferred versions of URLs to the search engines to avoid potential duplicate content issues.

Here is what the canonical link element looks like:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.site.com/page.html” />

What we do now is modify the element to identify it as a frame link element.

Say, http://www.site.com/source.html is using a frame to pull in content from http://www.site.com/content.html.

We would add the following frame link element to content.html:
<link rel=”frame” href=”http://www.site.com/source.html” />

Then on source.html you call the frame as such:
<iframe src=”http://www.site.com/content.html”></iframe>

The search engine crawler would now follow the src URL and see that content.html has a frame link element stating that it is the official content for source.html. The search engines could then grab the <body> information from content.html and stick it in where the <iframe> tag is – done.

The frame link element works under that same assumption that the canonical link element works, that administrators of the pages are the only ones who have access to the code to add the frame link element. So, if a webmaster/site admin adds the frame link element it can be trusted and creates the frame-trust that the search engines currently lack.

I know, I know… who is using frames anymore, why is this important at all? Frames are still the occasional headache and are used for a variety of reasons including bad business decisions or bad coding decisions. This would help to alleviate the headache that frames cause from a search perspective without potential costs of re-coding an entire site or sections of a site.

It would not be a waste of time and would not take that much time at all.

So, search engines, why hasn’t this been done?

Thoughts, comments, and concerns welcome from all.

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