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SEO Corner – Frames, JavaScript and Search Engines

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Question: My site has frames and JavaScript. How can I tell if it is being fully seen/indexed by the search engines?

Shari’s Answer:

I am going to answer this question in 3 parts. Part 1 will address how to tell if your site is being fully indexed by all of the search engines, which applies to all sites. Part 2 will address frames and the search engines. And Part 3 will address JavaScript and the search engines.

Part 1: Is your site indexed?

To determine whether or not your site is in a search engine index, you will need to perform an individual search on each of the major search engines.

To see if your web pages have been added or deleted from a search engine, go to each of the search engines listed below and type in the string listed below the search engine name. Replace “companyname.com” with your domain name.

AltaVista
url:companyname.com

Google*
site:companyname.com companyname.com

Fast Search
url.all:www.companyname.com

Inktomi
Domain:companyname.com

Since there is no “pure” search engine for Inktomi, I like to use Position Technology’s Inktomi search at:

http://search.positiontech.com/InktomiSearch/PositionTechSearch.jsp

(*Note: there is a space between the two domains in the Google query.)

If you have time, and if you are interested, compare the search results at the different search engines. For example, since Lycos currently uses FAST Search, I like to compare the data from an AlltheWeb.com inquiry and a Lycos inquiry. Likewise, the results from AOL Search (which currently uses Google) are quite different from Google search results.

Part 2: Search engines and frames

One misconception about search-engine friendly web site design is the use of frames. At numerous web site design, search engine optimization, and online marketing conferences, I constantly hear speakers making blanket statements to “never use frames” when designing search-engine friendly sites.

Most of the search engines can follow the links inside of a frameset layout.

However, there is still the issue of frames abuse.

Many unethical search engine marketers like to use hidden framesets, often called envelope pages, to stuff keywords in a web pages, keywords that search engines can see but the target audience cannot see (most of the time). They stuffed words inside of the <noframes> and <noscript> tags, hoping to boost search engine visibility.

The result? Search engine engineers caught on very quickly. Now search engines either ignore or demote the keywords found in these tags. So, in terms of search engine positioning, they are practically useless.

Pros and cons of frames

One of the first web site designs I ever created was done in frames. It was a real estate site, and the frameset layout was a logical choice, given the size of the web site. The site had no problems ranking well in the search engines for two reasons:

The site was fully navigational and search-engine friendly without the frameset layout, and There were only two frames, and the main content frame still looked fine without the other frame.

First and most importantly, the content inside of the main frame must be written with keyword-rich text, since that is the frame that contains the information that is most important to the search engines and your site’s visitors. All main content frame pages must contain unique title tags, meta tags, alternative text (when applicable), anchor text, and so forth.

Never assume the search engines are only going to index the page that contains instructions for the frameset layout. Search engines will index every page they can access.

Second, the site had a secondary navigation — text links. I always create sets of text links that correspond to sets of navigation buttons. The main content frame always had a set of navigation links at the bottom of a page and embedded links, when applicable.

Third, if a main content page was the only page that ranked well in the search engines, the still looked aesthetically pleasing without the other frame.

What ended up happening with this site? The web site owner eventually abandoned the frameset layout for an unframed site. Result? More traffic and higher search engine positions.

Frames and usability

Frameset designs pose multiple problems. Sure, they can be search engine friendly and rank well. I have designed many frameset designs whose pages rank well, delivering quality and consistent traffic over time. But it doesn’t mean the frameset design is optimal. It just means that it can deliver quality traffic.

When you design and write a site, always design and write primarily for your end users, not the search engines because the search engines won’t purchase thousands or millions of dollars of your products and services. Your target audience will. A site should always be optimized for your target audience first, search engines second.

If a site is properly optimized for “human” usability, the site is often search engine friendly by default.

Unfortunately, usability experts continually do not recommend frameset designs. And they don’t make that recommendation because they like making blanket statements. They test the effectiveness of the framed and unframed layouts.

I, too, have tested the effectiveness of the framed and unframed versions of the sites I’ve designed. And, without exception, the unframed design always gets higher traffic and higher conversions. I can attribute the higher traffic and conversions to the removal of the frameset because it’s the only attribute that I changed in the design.

I’m not talking about anecdotal evidence (“Well, my site ranks in the top 10 with a framed design….”). Usability experts and people like me do quality testing to verify our recommendations. We test our results over a specific time period, measuring only a single variable at a time. That is really the only way to get reliable data.

Frames solution

Give your end users the option of navigating your site in the framed and unframed versions. Let your target audience determine the most effective layout.

If you find that your site visitors prefer the framed design, then use that design. If you find they prefer the unframed design, then use that one. You might discover that the unframed design is more effective.

If you are in a situation where you absolutely must have a frameset layout, then you will have to employ a JavaScript workaround on every page of your site, which, quite frankly, is quite time consuming.

My honest opinion? The time it takes to create the frames workaround can be better spent in writing quality content that your target audience wishes to read.

Search engines and frames conclusion

Usability experts, web site designers, and search engine marketers consistently state that end users prefer an unframed web site design to a framed site design. Many of them, particularly the usability experts, do not make blanket statements because they are narcissistic. They genuinely test the effectiveness of both types of designs and ultimately recommend the one that is best for the audience.

If you find that a frameset layout works for you, then by all means, use it. However, don’t be afraid to test whether or not your audience prefers the unframed version of your site. You will probably see an increase in traffic and corresponding sales.

Shari Thurow is Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, web and graphic design firm. This article is excerpted from her book, Search Engine Visibility (http://www.searchenginesbook.com) published in January 2003 by New Riders Publishing Co. Shari can be reached at shari@grantasticdesigns.com.

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  • http://seougolok.blogspot.com Corner

    Thanks, it is very intresting article. i am not agree with your point of view completely because there are no word about cuil-search..

     

    thx.

    mark

  • http://videosammlung.net Video Sammlung

    Great ideas!
    Thx.

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    very nice article. tnx.

  • http://www.rankbetterseo.com/seo-web-design.php charlotte web design

    Thanks for some great info Shari.

  • terry O

    Thanks, for the article I’ver read alot on this lately, your experience and facts are a light! Now what to do, 5,000 plus internal lnikes on a very framed site (except home pg.) that took me (a house painter/photgrapher artist) many many hours to put together, all with the knowledge of Front Page 2003 and Photoshop. O well, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Thanks again, Terry o

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    Thanks for post.Great ideas.