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Old 01-25-2006   #1
tony data
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Question Frames to non-frames

Hi,

We enjoy excellent rankings for alot of our products (over 17,000) on Google and find that the more specific brand/product searches produce higher returns (not surprising really!).

We are about to go from frames to non-frames and I am worried, mainly by not being majorly technical and knowing alot about the ins and outs of it, about our rankings in serps being affected by this change over.

Can anybody put my mind at rest and give me some idea as to whether this may happen and if so what ill effects are we likely to see as well as whether there is anything I need to think about so the thing I have been persuading people here to do for over a year doesn't blow up in my face!

I'd really appreciate any info from anyone with any experience of this switch.

Thanks in advance for anyone's help...

Matt
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Old 01-25-2006   #2
ChristopherKnoch
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Be very careful

Based on your description of what you know about making major site changes, and the resulting effects on your SERPS, I'd tell you to be very careful. Any redesign has inherent pitfalls and traps that you need to avoid. Here's a few:

-301 Redirect: Ensure that you build out proper 301 (and only 301) redirects for any page names that are changing, or even pages that are going away. It can really upset a spider to get a 404 error after a redesign.

-Inbound Links: Do a quick review of your inbound links, and make sure that you are moving to a page name change that would make those deadlinks. Take note of those URLs and do your best to make sure they don't change after the redesign.

-Menu System: Make sure your new menu system mirrors the navigation frame that you had (if that's the setup you had), and try to make them text links if at all possible (avoid image links). If you have to go with an image link, a redundant text links menu at the bottom for all pages should be repeated on every page.

Also, you may be better off consulting with a well-regarded SEO professional on a contract basis just for this redesign. Even well executed redesigns can still have a negative impact on your rankings in the short term. Remember, vast changes to a site make most engines take a step back to digest all the changes, and this can sometimes cause a hit in your rankings.

That's my two cents....
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Old 01-26-2006   #3
ukgimp
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When you do a site: what pages appear, it is likely that those are the pages you wish to keep.

You need to keep the path to those. A frame is essentially a page with no navigation. All you are proposing is putting a template on each of your 17K pages and a navigation.

Sounds like you will need to create a new set of pages to let the spiders (and users) back down to the core content.

If you have different framesets and corresponding noframes for each section you may lose out a little, but in the long term I recommend the flattening of your site.

Practice this on test server if you are not sure, in fact do that anyway, even in you are sure. :-)
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Old 01-26-2006   #4
rogerd
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I disagree with the home page headline, "Search engines have never liked frames". Framed content can, in fact, perform very well in search engines. The only problem with frames is that they are soooo last millennium...

Now that that's out of the way, I'd suggest a few things for your conversion:

- If possible, keep the new integrated page URLs the same as the old content frame URLs. If not, use the 301 redirects as suggested by CK.
- Your content pages rank well now because they aren't encumbered by navigation or other distracting stuff; keep the new pages light and the content prominent.
- This might be a good time to think about adding a breadcrumb navigation structure to help users & spiders.
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Old 01-26-2006   #5
rcjordan
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>Search engines have never liked frames". Framed content can, in fact, perform very well in search engines.

I agree, Roger, maybe it needs a qualifier "when constructed in the usual way." Frames can do extremely well in the serps.

Basically, Matt, I believe the advice you're being given here is to keep the existing product pages as the flat pages and add nav to them --but do so with care, use some tricks of the trade to keep the impact on the page footprint at a minimum (js nav, for instance). Then subordinate or, better yet, repurpose the old primary frame pages, making them flat section table of contents, for example.

With a well-positioned site you are right to be concerned, this is brain surgery on a jogger while running, but it's do-able.
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Old 01-26-2006   #6
vayapues
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big changes are always scary, especially on either a large site, or a successful site. In this case, it looks like you have both. But the changes are necessary to keep our sites current. It might be doing well today, but if you don't update, then it will slowly slide away, making these somewhat intimidating changes a necessary part of SEO. Good luck!

In addition to the great comments from others, let me add my own two cents, for whatever that is worth. What I am going to share is pretty basic for some of us, but hopefully others will find it useful.

After all the effort is completed, you want your changes to last as long as possible. IE, you don't want to have to change things up again for many months, or years if possible.

The best way to do this, is to use a template system, (which you may already be planning). This way, you can replicate the benefits of frames, with out actually having frames.

You can have a header, a menu, and a design wrapper, which can be updated in one easy place. That way, when you update your header, for example, it will be updated across the site, in a similar way that updating the html page called in the top frame updates the header across the site.

Dreamweaver offers a template option, but it is terrible. You will grow to hate it, as it is quite buggy.

Instead, here are some quick PHP snippets you can use to replicate the benefits of frames.

First: Create A Header File
You can call your header file anything you want, and you can use any extension, such as header.php, header.htm, header.txt, thisismyheader.xyz, etc. This file should contain the html for everything you want to display at the top of every page within the site.

Later, you will include this header file inside of the main pages. The html from the header file will be sent to the user's browser as though it were written within the page where you included it. The important thing to remember is that the html from the header is included in the html from the main web pages, exactly where you inserted the include request in the main page, as though you had pasted the header code into the main pages.

Second: Create Main Pages
Create pages as you normally would, but leave out the top portion of every page. Note, that unless you have setup your sever otherwise, the file will need to end with a .php extension.

When your user requests a page, the server will take your header, and write it to the top of the main pages prior to sending the code to the user's browser. If you view the source from a browser, you will see both the header, and main page html, as if they were one file.

Third: Tape the two together

A very simple php snippet can now be used to insert your header file into the main page files.

Simply paste the following into the mainpage file (mainpage.php) where ever you want the header html to be inserted.

Quote:
<?php include_once('/this/is/the/path/to/my/header.inc'); ?>
Note that you need to update the path in the example above to reflect the actual path to the file on your server. This path should be from the server root, which may or may not be the same as your document root on your server. If you can't get the above to work, try:

Quote:
<?php include_once("$DOCUMENT_ROOT/header.inc"); ?>
in the above example, your header file must be stored directly in the document root of the website, which is usually the same place your home page is stored. Also notice that I called the file header.inc. If you used a different extension, make sure you update the code to reflect that.

A FEW NOTES:
If your header includes the opening tags of the web page, ie

HEADER:
Quote:
<html>
<head>
<title>All My Pages Have The Same Title</title>
<body>
This is the header
Then do not include them in the mainwebsite pages. Otherwise you will end up repeating the tags, when you include the header file.

I personally recommend that your header instead be inserted right after the <body> tag of each page, so that you can still create custom titles and meta tags for each page.

Of course you could always create dynamic title names and meta tags, but I won't go into that.


You can use these same steps to create a left.inc file, a right.inc file, or a footer.inc file.

A more advanced technique is to create a design wrapper, but I won't go into that right now.
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Old 01-27-2006   #7
Alan Perkins
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I wrote an article a few years back on Self Referencing Framesets. This examines the problems with frames and suggests a solution that keeps frames but fixes a lot of the associated problems.

However, IMO frames are a bad idea except in a few exceptional instances. I would advise moving right away from them if possible and, if you do it right, your search success and site conversion rate should actually increase.
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Old 01-28-2006   #8
PhilC
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I came to correct the misinformation on the homepage, but I see that it's already been done. Frames are just fine with the main engines.

The biggest problem with normally framed pages in the serps is when people click on their listings and arrive at a page that is out of its intended framed environment. Such pages are often not much good at all to the visitor. It's easy to overcome the problem and have the whole site pulled together with the required page in the correct frame, and it does need to be done.

I disagree with the "soooo last millennium" comment. Imo, frames would improve a great many sites. Also, none of us would like to be without frames. Virtually every programme we run is framed. Imagine programmes reloading the whole windowful just to display some different content in the main area. So why should websites do it?
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Old 01-29-2006   #9
rogerd
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Phil, while frames may be useful, virtually no cutting edge designs use them, or have used them for ages. When I see a site with frames, my first assumption is that it hasn't been redesigned in five or six years.

That's not to say one can't use frames, but their relative unpopularity in recent years is likely to give a site a dated look.

Perhaps this is the first salvo in a "bring back frames" movement...
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Old 01-29-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tony data
We enjoy excellent rankings for alot of our products (over 17,000) on Google and find that the more specific brand/product searches produce higher returns (not surprising really!)....
tony - I agree that you should dump the frames. I think before you redo the site, though, you need to know why the site is ranking as well as it is.

Are your framed pages ranking simply because your content is unique and specific? Or, are your framesets ranking, perhaps because someone's used the noframes area advantageously?

How many framesets with different addressable urls (ie, urls that appear in the address bar) do you have? Just one for the whole site, or perhaps a bunch of them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcjordan
...this is brain surgery on a jogger while running, but it's do-able.
rc - I love the analogy.

tony - you need to know what makes this jogger tick before putting him under the knife. You want him to keep on going.
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Old 01-29-2006   #11
PhilC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerd
Phil, while frames may be useful, virtually no cutting edge designs use them, or have used them for ages. When I see a site with frames, my first assumption is that it hasn't been redesigned in five or six years.

That's not to say one can't use frames, but their relative unpopularity in recent years is likely to give a site a dated look.

Perhaps this is the first salvo in a "bring back frames" movement...
I may well be, Roger - but I don't think so

To the best of my knowledge, frames went out of style because of the misconception about search engines (actually, it may not have been a complete misconception back then), and not because of design benefits. Designwise, it's better to leave the nav areas on display than to reload them every time - just like all desktop programmes do. For instance, it's not good to scroll down to the bottom of a page and find that the navigation has disappeared.

With most "cutting edge" site designs, it's impossible to see whether or not they are framed until you scroll, so frames and cutting edge design are not mutually exclusive, imo.
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Old 01-30-2006   #12
tony data
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Thanks chaps...

Thanks for this wealth of information chaps. I've forwarded it onto my technical guy and he is reading away as I speak... hopefully the switch will go smoothly and I'll be able to write a good update in a couple of months!
Matt
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