Iframes are SEO Friendly but only if You are Optimizing for Google

There have been many questions related to iFrames that have always confused SEOs around the world-

  • Should they be incorporated in the website?
  • Do they pass any link value?
  • Does the search engine spider crawl the links that are present in an iFrame?
  • And most important question of all, are they SEO friendly?

Although there were reports which in a way confirmed the crawling capabilities of search engine spiders as far as iFrames are concerned, still I was not convinced and the above stated questions often muddled me. So I decided to conduct a test to once and for all put an end to the agony of all SEOs like me around the world, as far as iFrames are concerned.

Before I started the test it was important that I define my end Goals. So the test was conducted and structured in such a way that it ensured that all aspects related to iFrames are covered. I jotted down the following points which were the basis of the test that was conducted at my end –

  • iFrame Content being pulled from the page that belongs to the same domain
  • iFrame content being pulled from the page that belongs to a sub domain
  • iFrame content being pulled from the page that belongs to a whole other domain
  • Google SERP
  • Yahoo SERP
  • Bing SERP

Test 1 – iFrame pulling content from the same domain

I implemented a simple iFrame on the home page of one of our websites as shown in the snapshot below. The domain is pretty old and gets crawled by Search engine spiders frequently. The traffic is also not that great so a small change at the bottom of the page should not have created much of a problem.

The basic iframe code that was implemented was as follows –

In short, the content “May the search engine crawl the iframe says Convonix” was pulled from the page http://convonix.in/testiframe1.html using an iFrame which was hyperlinked to the page http://convonix.in/testiframe.html which contained the text “Did Convonix not tell you that search engines can crawl iframe”

The main idea of this test was to identify if the search engine spiders are able to crawl and index links via an iFrame and if the link value is passed.
After a couple of days the page did get cached and the following observations were made.

Cached snapshot of the home page –

As you can see from the snapshot above, the iframe content is not visible in the text only version of the cached copy.

The next step was to check if the content, although not visible in the text only version, was it crawled and indexed by search engines? We also checked the cached copy of the two iFrame pages.

The page http://convonix.in/testiframe1.html got cached as can be seen in the snapshot below –

The hyperlinked page http://convonix.in/testiframe.html also got cached as can be seen in the snapshot below –

The final step was to check if the Big G showed the results in SERPs? We checked if the pages did show up in Google SERPs and on searching the text present on one of the iFrame pages, we saw the following search result –

As you can see, the hyperlinked text in the frame did show up in Google SERPs and Google attributed it to the original page and not the Home page where the iFrame was present.

Same was the case with the second page to which the hyperlinked text pointed to –

Now an obvious question that should come to your mind is -

“What about the other big players like Yahoo and Bing?”

Well as the Title would have already suggested, their great spiders (apparently) were not able to crawl the iFrames

As shown in the snapshots below, Yahoo and Bing did not show results for the URLs http://convonix.in/testiframe1.html and http://convonix.in/testiframe.html or for the textual content pieces “May the search engine crawl the iframe says Convonix” or for “Did Convonix not tell you that search engines can crawl iframe”. (I am just showing two images below, one for the URL search and one for the text search as the SERP layouts were more or less the same for both Yahoo and Bing in all the four cases.)

Bing SERP -

Yahoo SERP

Test 2 comprised of an iFrame pulling content from a sub domain and test 3 comprised of an iFrame pulling content from an external domain. The results were exactly the same as above.

So for the final conclusions –

  • The iFrame links/content are not visible in the text only version of the cached copy of Google
  • The iFrame links/content are crawled by Google Spiders
  • Google attributes the content to the original source in the SERPs
  • Yahoo and Bing are not able to crawl the iFrame content (as of today)

 

Now for the ultimate question, is an iFrame SEO friendly? The answer to the question in a way depends on an individual’s requirement. The obvious recommendation here would be to not use an iFrame in case you want to attribute a specific content to a specific page where the content will be visible. However in an unavoidable circumstance where there is an absolute necessity to implement an iFrame, the the best option available from an SEO perspective would be to host the content on the same domain itself rather than hosting it on a sub domain or a cross domain. At least the SEO value will remain within the same domain instead of being passed on to some other domain.

Also the obvious unstated assumption here is that we are primarily targeting Google and not any other search engines.

Hope this post was useful, feel free to post in any comments or feedback that you may have.

12 responses

leave a comment
  1. At a former company, a dev team that wasn’t able to compatibly connect an ASP.NET CMS (Tridion) with a WordPress blogging CMS, created an iframe for the blog content, and set the original source to Nofollow. (SEO death, negating the purpose of having the blog). Good to know that the links may have been crawled anyway, considering how long it took them to undo the error. Thanks for the study!

  2. I am actually getting good results for the site I am working on, after I have put on jQuery script to pass on iFrame parameters to all outbound links.

    Thanks for the tip

  3. Thanks for doing the test and presenting the findings. I mentioned your work in a new tool I am working on for SEO evaluation of individual pages.

  4. how can i get the like buttons(google,facebook, twitter ..)all to gether like yours! i have that! but it dosen’t work in IE!may you plz help me?¿ thanks

  5. Thanks for sharing the test!
    So the results are pretty much as expected: Google credits the iFrame content to the original sources.

    I still wonder between those 2 options:
    1. copy/paste content from the original source
    2. include the original content via iFrame

    Both options will result in the content not to be indexed.
    But does option 1 have a NEGATIVE impact compared to option 2?

    Thanks!

  6. Hi, Thanks for this new insights. I’m sure many people do not carry out any tests but theorize. We’re now well informed. I’m working on a site that heavily relies on external pages (for content)N truly I duplicated your tests and found that
    (1)the full cache contains the Iframe but
    (2)the text in the Iframe is not in the serps

  7. Hi, Thanks for this new insights. I’m sure many people do not carry out any tests but theorize. We’re now well informed. I’m working on a site that heavily relies on external pages (for content)N truly I duplicated your tests and found that
    (1)the full cache contains the Iframe but
    (2)the text in the Iframe is not in the serps

  8. This is amazing stuff Sajeet. This is really both educative and informative in nature. Such a lovely experiment. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. This is surprising to read that iframes are cached by Google. Anyways, thanks for the info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>