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iFrames to minimise loss of link juice - another kind of doomed PR sculpting?

7:44 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hi all, many apologies if this is an issue that has been covered, I had a look but couldn't find anything recently.

What do the contributors of this message board think of the increasing usage on the web of iframes to house groups of links in order to minimise the loss of link juice on pages with many, perhaps duplicate links.?

I'm referring to links that appear on every or many pages of a site, sub navs, footers, that sort of thing. (If you house a menu bar in an iframe then the links inside are no longer visible to the bots)

My personal thoughts are that its a bit on the dodgy side, I generally avoid practices which are so clearly unnatural and assume that eventually google will catch up and begin penalizing people for them. This particular practice seems to me to be a form of page rank sculpting much like overusages of the rel="nofollow" tag which was met with universal distain from the search engines a while back.

I'm interested in hearing everyones views on this topic, I've heard arguments both for and against from friends in the industry.


[edited by: tedster at 1:05 am (utc) on Aug 3, 2010]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]

4:02 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Well, it certainly does work for now. The only way I can see it changing is if Google starts to score the content of an iframe as part of the page where it appears. And that is a VERY challenging thing to try to do, from a technical stand point.

Think about it for a bit and you realize that the content in an iframe can be changed via a link with a target attribute, and therefore display any number of different URLs. So what does that mean - Google would do -- score every possibly URL in the iframe as part of the parent page?
6:27 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Yes, this has worked very well for me. I have iframes with a large number of tabs that would be counterproductive for SEO but are helpful to the user.
6:29 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I'm also noticing frequent use of iFrames, but not always "to minimise the loss of link juice"... though that use is inescapably out there. Often they're used simply because the designer likes the scrolling display. I've seen many cases where the designers incorrectly assumed they were transmitting link juice.

iFrames also allow certain types of personalized display not possible on fixed pages. I am aware of the control over PR they give, and I tend to be cautious when I use them.

The alternatives to rel="nofollow" for PageRank sculpting... in particular iFrames or javascript encoded links... were discussed by Matt Cutts in the Eric Enge March 14, 2010 interview...


As Matt put it, the changes to nofollow were made because "the search quality people involved wanted to see the same or similar linkage for users as for search engines."

Regarding iFrames and javascript, Matt went on to say... "I could imagine down the road if iFrames or weird JavaScript got to be so pervasive that it would affect the search quality experience, we might make changes on how PageRank would flow through those types of links."

Hard to say how Google might add black holes or sand traps or whatever to the parent page to decrease motivation for iFrame use. And the other side of this... there might be as many people wanting link juice to flow through iFrame links as those who don't.
6:30 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The best form of pr sculpting is one that eliminates links instead of attempting to camouflage them in any way. Eliminating sidebar or header navigation in favor of advertising on internal pages for example works to guide visitors to those ads and pages suffer no pagerank loss. The trick is to effectively link internally between related articles from within those articles.

Link location, ie: sitewide, sidebar, comments, footer etc, plays a role on valuation of that link so if a link is worth having, it's worth having in the meat of a page. A word of warning if you use an automated method for internal keyword linking from within articles: Google knows which plugins/programs do the auto-linking and knows how to spot the footprints of those plugins/programs. If your site tests positive for one of the common plugins/programs expect an adjustment accordingly. Also expect to fail a manual revue if your internal linking leaves a visitor not knowing where to go.

The irony: Google is currently trying to patent a system for adding related links right into our content.

Side note: I lost the desire to sculpt pagerank when a site I own, which had sitelink status, received a single word penalty (couldn't rank for that word at all, on any page). The site was new(ish) still. A couple of years later I asked for reconsideration of this keyword and it was restored (rightfully so, it's the sites primary keyword). It was funny to see Google display my site index page title with the word missing. Imagine seeing this forum have the words "SEO NEWS" penalized and seeing it show up on Google as "Google and Discussion".

Unless you're willing to go way out there and be original with something you're working on it's best to avoid sculpting. The cookie cutter approaches have all been done and seen before. You don't want a penalty on one page causing a cascade effect because it effectively breaks your "flow".
5:58 pm on Aug 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your replies on this topic, both pro and con. I probably wont be using them liberally throughout my sites however I can see that it might be worth using an iframe on a particularly large footer or something of that ilk.

Thanks again for your input.

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