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Search engine indexing and frames

Posted on 1997-05-12
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Do search engine indexing robots include pages within framesets on the same basis as other pages?

The scenario I'm thinking of: the usual two frames, one with navigation links and the other displaying the documents you select. The frameset document is linked from a homepage. It contains a <FRAME SRC=...> reference to the navigation frame document, which in turn contains <A HREF=...> links to the text documents.

Will a robot find the SRC= link, or will it only see any <A HREF=...> links in the <NOFRAMES> part of the frameset?

If it does follow the SRC= link, I guess it will then find the links to individual text documents and index them. But anyone retrieving these documents alone, through a reference from the search engine, may find them meaningless - or more likely, will want to see other related documents from the same site but can't locate them - because they weren't designed to be viewed alone, only as part of the frameset. The frameset itself probably contains no relevant terms, so it won't be found by a search.

If the robot doesn't follow the SRC= link, it won't find the relevant stuff at all - except (perhaps) in the <NOFRAMES> alternative version.
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Question by:peter.thomson
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icd earned 50 total points
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Robots will indeed follow the 'Frame scr=' links and index any pages it finds.

As you quite rightly suggest the pages will then be 'isolated' from the frame set that they are included in. My solution to this problem is to always include a link at the foot of the page which takes you back to the 'home page' with a 'target=top' so that the frame set is re-built. The visitor can then get back to the correct place from where-ever the search engine takes him.

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by:peter.thomson
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Useful answer, but two outstanding issues for me:

1. do *all* robots behave in this way (or at least all the major ones)?

2. the suggested solution means that the visitor finding something via a search engine has to do some more work to see it as I intended, and maybe many won't bother - perhaps anything I expect people to find in this way would be better designed without frames in the first place?
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by:icd
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1. I can't say for sure about *all* robots but they either do (in which case your pages get indexed) or they don't (in which case your pages don't appear in their database and you don't have this problem).

2. There might be another answer to this problem. I have recently been working on a problem where my pages are linked from another site from within a frame set. To 'break out' of the frame set I put the following on all my pages:-

<body onLoad="if (self != top) top.location = self.location">

This ensures that if the document *is* loaded in a frame set it reloads itself at the top. You might be able to use something like:-

<body onLoad="if (self == top) top.location = "http://something">

In other words, if the document (which would normally only be loaded in a frame) appears at the top, then it has been linked from an external location. If so it reloads 'something'. The 'something' is more difficult to define since it would need to be your normal 'top' frame set but I can't see a general method at the moment how to load it *and* ensure that the current document appears in the correct frame.

Alternatively you may be able to use the 'document.referer' in Javascript to see if the referring page is within your own domain. If not then it is likely that you are being linked from an external site without the correct frame set. One problem with this is that MSIE does not give the correct value for this and it would only work with Netscape. This solution also has the same problem of loading the current document in the correct frame however.

Not a complete solution I am afraid but perhaps one of these solutions might make the situation at least a little bit better.

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