Most Agents are out selling, not writing HTML, so many are not going to know the difference between linking to IDX forms via iFrame vs. linking directly to IDX search forms.
Here's how most HTML designers would describe the two tag types:
- An iFrame is HTML that pulls a "raw" search form into a window within a page. The iFrame is still considered a link by search engines, but the content appears to be displayed on the website itself.
- A link sends visitors to a page that displays the form content, while embedding the navigation, sidebar, and footer of the primary website.
What do these two HTML tags look like?
An iFrame tag looks something like this:
<iframe src="myIDXformpage.php" height="300" width="100%"> </iframe>A link looks like this:
<a href="myIDXformpage.php">MLS Search</a>
What's the best way to identify if a search form is being framed?
Right click on the form itself. If you see a menu item called "This Frame", you know that one page is framing another.
What does a framed page look like to Search Engines?
When you find a framed search form, right-click on the form and then choose the "Open this frame in a new window".
- You will see that there is no navigation back to the referring site. This is exactly how search engines see that page - as an orphan.
- Also, note that the iFramed page is NOT hosted on the original domain, or even a subdomain of the original domain. This is something most people don't realize - an iFrame is simply a link to a navigation-free page that looks like duplicate content to Search Engines.
Still, there is one advantage to using iFrame tags: Agents who rely on website providers that don't offer outbound links can use iFrame tags to display IDX search forms. The important thing to do in those cases is to add at least a few simple links back to your site. This way if search engines crawl the page, they will at least give you a backlink or two!
And Links? Why would somebody link to a website that's not theirs, especially for IDX search?
The concept behind outbound link tags (a href) is simple - You are simply linking to a page. You are not displaying a page inside of another page. There are a few advantages to this approach:
- If the page you're linking to is hosted on a site with a high pagerank, you will receive some credit for the backlink - but only if you have a link that goes back to your site.
- A page link hosted on a custom subdomain (idx.mysite.com) can help you display more indexable pages in search engine results. While Google doesn't index domains with subdomains separately in results as often as they used to, they still do it. By taking ownership of an subdomain that hosts integrated IDX results, you may see more than one of your URLs show up in search results. This is especially true if you build custom links and add unique content to the subheader of each of those pages. Search engines LOVE unique content!
- No scrollbars, ever. Just say no to scrollbars!
The disadvantage is that somebody may need to maintain the branded look and feel of your linked pages. This might be your website designer, IDX provider, or you. WordPress offers some powerful new ways around that, but it still requires some technical expertise to maintain the design HTML.
The Bottom Line
You always have a choice. Unless you don't ask, then the choice will typically be made for you.