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If you really have to use frames (which I would never advocate because of usability issues and search engine listings), here's how to create a framed site which may have a chance on search engines.

People often use frames to provide an easy to maintain site. Navigation can be kept in a seperate frame (often on the left-hand side) and therefore be updated just once, it is always visible when the rest of the page scrolls. The same is true for a header or a footer that stays static while the content is scrollable. Some companies like this so that the corporate logo and contact information are always visible and easy to find. Using frames on a flash-enabled site is one way to get content indexed by search engines, as at present search engines can't spider the content in flash.

As an argument against frames, the easy to update debate can be quashed by the use of server side includes which are probably easier to maintain than frames. And while having the company logo and contact information visible is important, this can be achieved by having pages which don't scroll too far down. Frames have many usability issues, mainly in the form of the url being destroyed and orphaned pages.

Frames are bad for search engine optimisation because:

  • search engine spiders cannot spider the content of a site because they cannot follow the links within a frameset
  • there is also no body text to index on the main frameset

These two factors can be counteracted by:

  • using the <noframes> tag properly
  • making sure that the content inside your <noframes> tag contains links to the rest of your site

The html should look like this:

<title>A keyword rich descriptive title goes here.</title>
<meta name="description" content="A keyword rich description goes here.">
<meta name="keywords" content="keywords and phrases go here">
<frame src="navigation.html" name="nav">
<frame src="main.html" name="main">
This is where the textual body content that the main page contains goes. As with all search engine optimisation, make sure it is full of relevant keywords.

The search engine will spider this information as it would a normal html page.

other issues

Make sure there are navigational links in the main body content of all your internal framed pages - many sites often put these at the bottom of the page. This is useful for both the search engine to spider and for any user who finds the site on a search engine, as the page will be orphaned from its frameset.