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In the website building world, much can change year to year as technology evolves, and the way in which we design and create a website is upgraded to be more efficient and secure. However, there is a part of web page development that has stood the test of time, and that’s the iframe.

Familiar to anyone that knows their HTML, iframes are still widely used in web page building today - but what do they mean for your SEO? In this article, we’ll explain what an iframe is, what they’re used for, how Google treats them, and how they affect your SEO.

What is an iframe?

An iframe operates on HTML, and is used to ‘embed’ content into a web page; it’s content that, essentially, comes from a different website altogether. They enhance the user experience by allowing elements from different sources to come together on one web page.

What are iframes used for?

There are many reasons why you may want to use an iframe on your web page. For example, you could use one to embed video or audio content, maps, PDFs, forms, or even a whole different web page altogether.

Can Google index iframe content?

It has, in the past, widely been assumed that Google struggles to crawl iframes, which would be a concern for your SEO. However, this assumption is somewhat outdated, and whilst iframes haven’t had to be updated too much, Google’s capability has advanced. Therefore, we’re pleased to tell you that it is now, in fact, possible in some cases for Google to crawl and therefore index iframe content - providing that it’s been allowed.

If you don’t want your iframe content to be crawled, you should use tags such as ‘noindex’ in the iframe HTML to indicate to Google that it should ignore whatever has been embedded.

How does Google crawl iframe content?

So what does it mean for Google to be able to crawl iframe content? Well, it’s emerged that Google is able to render the iframe, inject its content as part of the hosting page, and index it alongside the rest of the page. This is a process known as ‘DOM Flattening.’

However, a number of elements could stop this from being possible, such as problems with the iframe loading for Google themselves. Therefore, it’s widely recommended that if the content you would be using the iframe for is something you really want to be indexed, it’s better to include it directly than to essentially rely on a third party to show it on your web page.

What are the potentially positive effects of iframes on SEO?

There are a number of ways that iframes can positively impact your SEO the main ones are as follows:

Increased time on page

iframes generally mean interactivity, so while that user is busy, say, watching the video, their time on page is increasing. This signals to Google that users find the page content engaging and valuable, and therefore a page to reward with higher rankings.

Decreased bounce rate

For those familiar with Universal Analytics, which is current Google Analytics platform GA4’s predecessor, will recognise bounce rate as the percentage of users who leave a page once they’ve landed on it, without navigating to any others on the site.

For users of GA4, you’ll now find this information revamped as an ‘engaged session’, which essentially is the opposite of a bounce rate - it’s the number of users who actively engage with your site for at least 10 seconds.

When there’s something to engage with on the page, such as the content of an iframe, the bounce rate decreases - yet another sign to Google that what your site has to offer is of use to users.

Increased conversion rates

An enhanced user experience through the use of iframes can only mean good things for conversion rates, and a website that regularly sees users following through on the entire buying journey signals that it’s a site to prioritise.

Potentially negative effects of iframes on SEO

Increased load speed

Any media has the potential to push up the load speed could affect your SEO - a slow loading site is a turn off to users, and to Google.

Decreased user experience

If an iframe is somehow faulty, has security issues, or is partial to the aforementioned slow loading, the user experience takes a nosedive; something Google hates to see.

They’re harder for Google to crawl

The most obvious negative effect of iframes on your SEO is their temperamental nature when it comes to working with Google bots to get your page properly indexed.

Should you consider iframe alternatives?

Due to the external nature of an iframe’s content, there is a certain loss of control that an iframe presents; you are, in many ways, reliant on the third party for something that sits on your web page. Therefore, website owners are generally encouraged to seek iframe alternatives, such as JavaScript embed options, that work to make both the functionality of the site and the user experience easy and pleasant.

If you are using iframe code on your site, take note of the following tips on how to make sure you use iframes correctly:

  • In Google’s own words: “If you do include iframes, make sure to provide additional text-based links to the content they display so that the Googlebot can crawl and index this content.”
  • Avoid using your iframes on your main pages - your main pages are for highly original content. 
  • Index the iframe with robots.txt. 
  • Ensure the website you’re embedding content from is trusted and secure. Embedding iframe code from an external source is pretty risky to the health of your site if you haven’t done your homework on it.
  • Avoid using multiple iframes on a single page. In some instances, this may be unavoidable, but the more you use, the bigger the risk of long load speeds, and problems with indexing

Need help updating your website?

If you’re concerned that the way your website is built is affecting your SEO, you may feel like you need some help understanding exactly how; whether that’s iframes, page load speed, or even helping to improve your content. That’s the kind of expertise we’re proud to offer here at 427 Marketing, and we don’t just tell you about it; we work with you to fix it, too.

Our technical and on-page SEO specialists know their stuff when it comes to your site’s HTML; there’s nothing we can’t optimise. Get in touch today for an audit of your site, and a solid plan going forward where we implement changes that aim your website towards the top spots on Google.

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About Chris Simmons

Chris is our onpage SEO Specialist at 427 Marketing, having joined the team in early 2023. He works with our content team to cover the 4 pillars of SEO; content, onpage SEO, technical SEO and offpage SEO. Prior to joining the 427 Marketing team, Chris spent almost 10 years applying his SEO and content skills across several different industries in marketing agency and inhouse roles including tool hire, auctioneering, health care within the NHS and high end luxury retail in both B2B and B2C capacities. His passion for writing, content, UX, technical and on page SEO has expanded our content offerings, helping provide reliable advice about all things SEO to 427 Marketing.

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