Mar 102008

Many years ago using frames in the designing of a website was known as “poor man’s cloaking” because it was possible to stuff the frame controller page full of keywords and links which would then assist in ranking the website. That came to an end a few years ago when links leaving the site were no longer counted in the frame controller page. The frame controller page was still useful though as links were still followed to pages within the site and this helped search engines spider the site. The title and keywords within the frame controller page were used as well.

Domain registrars and some hosts began using frames to forward parked domains – often calling the service “masking” – because using frames prevents the domain from changing in the address bar when the domain is forwarded to a website. This has become a popular way of forwarding parked domains and depending on how it was set up – worked well.

That all has changed however. I first noticed the change a few months ago with the Agents Online Real Estate Forums. The forums ran in a frame because the old version of the software was a cgi script that that could not be accessed by search engines. Using frames allowed links to be placed in the frame controller page which allowed search engines to spider the site. It worked well and the forums were #1 in search engines for many years.

When the forum software was upgraded the frames remained even though the new forums were search engine friendly – simply because they were working well and it was not worth changing and having ranks drop. A few months ago Google stopped reading the frame controller page and treated it like a redirect – using the information on the framed page instead of on the frame controller page. I guess that was when the change took place.

Something happened in the past week which really made me take notice though. A client discontinued our website service  due to the poor economic conditions and decided to have her domain and email hosted with Internet Crusade who would then forward her domain to the free website that her company provides. At that point her domain (and the website she had with us) had been ranking very well for a long time in search engines  due to our efforts – including a #3 for “city real estate” in Google.

I suppose that she expected that her domain would continue to rank well,  she would no longer have to pay us, and she would have more money as a result of the change. It did not work out that way however. Her new host used frames to forward the domain  and within 48 hours the change was reflected in Google with a drop to page 5 of results!

Her domain dissapeared from Google to be replaced by the url for her company web page way back on page 5. All of the “link juice”was lost immediately which is not something that would have happened just a few months ago.  A few months ago the domain would have remained in the search engine results and would have continued to rank well on the strength of links alone. Now the forwarding using frames is treated as a redirect without the benefit of the “link juice” being transferred as would be done if a 301 redirect was used.

If you have domains being forwarded using what your registrar or host calls “masking” – I would suggest you check your domains and change that forwarding to 301 redirects.