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indexifembedded: what does this new meta tag do?

On Friday the 21st January, Google Search Central introduced a new robots meta tag – indexifembedded. Unlike current robots tags, for example noindex, the purpose of this tag is less obvious, and in turn, the tag itself seems a lot less relevant for most people.

Performance Director Malcolm Slade and the CreativeRace SEO team had a chat about the new tag, and brought themselves up to speed. Here are their thoughts on the indexifembedded robots tag.

 

What does the robots meta tag indexifembedded aim to do? 

It’s in the name. indexifembedded allows a webmaster to specify if they want embedded content within the page to be indexed or not. 

How do I use indexifembedded? 

The tag works similarly to other robots tags, although its value is present or not rather than positive or negative eg. index/noindex. 

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” /> – correct 
<meta name=”robots” content=”index” /> – correct but not ever needed 
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, indexifembedded” /> – correct 
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, dontindexifembedded” /> No! Not a thing. 

A hypothetical indexifembedded use case 

Let’s say you had a data visualisation on your site called big-data-vis.html and you embed it within a page on your site that you wanted to rank for “Big Data Vis”, but you also wanted to share the visualisation itself with the world. Standard procedure might be to allow other websites to embed your data visualisation via an iframe like below: 

<iframe src=”https://www.site.com/big-data-vis.html” ></iframe> 

The way I always explain iframes in my SEO training sessions is that they are a window within a canvas. The canvas displays the image (your webpage) while the window shows the outside world. Looking at the canvas you would see the content of the canvas and the view of the outside world through the window. However, the view outside is not part of the canvas (your webpage), and you are not in control of it. This explanation works better when I start ripping up a sheet of paper. 

For search engines, the fact that the iframe isn’t part of the webpage means they don’t include it when indexing the webpage, instead treating any iframed content as a different webpage. This makes sense if you can remember the horrors of trying to rank websites built using frames, where the navigation, content, footer etc. would all be indexed (if you were lucky!) as different pages leading to a complete mess. I am showing my age now so I will move swiftly on… 

As mentioned previously, let’s say you embedded iframe content on a page on your own site that you want to rank. You don’t want the embeddable element to rank on its own, so on external iframes you might want to include the robots noindex tag within your source code – not the iframe code – to prevent Google indexing the iframed URL. 

So, we now are saying: 

  • Index my page on my site but without the content of the iframe included
  • Don’t index the iframe content on its own URL

 

I don’t know about you but that feels wrong to me. You want the content of the iframe to be included in my uber page. So, you can now include indexifembedded which will amalgamate the value of the HTML within the iframe with the value of the uber page wrapper. 

By adding <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,indexifembedded” /> you are saying: 

  • Don’t index the iframe URL independently
  • Index the iframe content as if it is part of the parent/hosted page

 

Your URL is therefore strengthened and everything make sense. 

Other than that, perhaps indexifembedded could be used to add relevance to a page linking to you that might otherwise be a solely embedded element and link. It also might cause an embedding link to be treated as if the link is on the page, but this is giving me Digital Point vibes (again showing my age) so will be unlikely.  

Update: 25/01/2022

Denis Truffaut has come up with another use case that I can’t believe I missed. Many comment systems such as Disqus embed comments, indexifembedded could be used to incorporate them into the page – if you wanted to. In a similar ilk, this might be an alternate method for get value out of some of the review systems etc.

To summarise, it appears that use cases for this new tag are far from plentiful – hopefully more will come to light over time. Either way, I am sure @johnmu, @methode or someone else will let us know more specifics in the long term. If you can think of any other worthwhile use cases, please let me know and I will add and cite you as the source.  

About the Author:

Malcolm is our Performance Director with over 15 years experience in the industry. He has actively worked with leading brands including Ann Summers, Debenhams, Waterstones, PrettyLittleThing, Gym Shark, Savills, The ASA, RICS and many others, and continues to be very hands-on. With a degree in Computing, his specialities are Technical SEO and teaching others.