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Hulu.com JavaScript Fail – 56% Visibility Drop and Counting

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Hulu.com ranking dropHulu.com losing visibility each week

Our LRT Certified Xpert, Bartosz Goralewicz pointed out a dramatic visibility drop for American online video streaming service Hulu.com.

Hulu.com dropped 56% in their visibility in the last weeks from
a switch to Javascript and following deindexing.

The story behind their visibility drop is very interesting, since it doesn't have anything to do with a Google algorithmic penalty, a Manual action or a negative SEO attack.

It's something different this time. Read on and learn what NOT to do to avoid the disaster that Hulu.com is currently facing.

You rock, Bartosz! Thanks for yet another interesting case study!

 

We look forward to your feedback and help spread the word on this!

- Enjoy & Learn!

Christoph C. Cemper
and the team of
LinkResearchTools (LRT)

Bonus: Download the full version of this case study as PDF for easy print or offline reading!

 

Hulu.com is going down: you can see hundreds of rankings drop

If you are searching for the last episode of Grimm, you won’t find it on Hulu.com anymore.

It seems that Netflix will have a great signup ratio this June. This week, Hulu.com got to the top of the USA Loser list.

Hulu.com visibility drop

With more than 50% of the visibility already lost, the situation for Hulu.com is getting worse every day at a massive, destructive pace.

Hulu.com Visibility Drop Chart

You can see hundreds of rankings going down each week. These include high traffic rankings, mostly related to the movie or tv-series names.

Hulu.com Keywords Dropp

If that wasn’t enough, Google isn’t even ranking Hulu.com for their own content. After googling one of the descriptions, I’ve found Japanese Hulu in an English version.

If you think that is enough, there is more...

Bonus: Download the full version of this case study as PDF for easy print or offline reading!

Hulu’s own homepage seems to be COMPLETELY out of the Google indexhulu google search results

Googling the content from the homepage returns no results.

Hulu.com Homepage Content

If we Google any content from Hulu’s homepage, these are deindexed from Google.

https://www.google.com/search?q="From+heart-racing+to+heart-breaking+–+critically+acclaimed+and+fan+favorites+–+get+in+on+these+original+series%2C+only+available+on+Hulu."&oq="From+heart-racing+to+heart-breaking+–+critically+acclaimed+and+fan+favorites+–+get+in+on+these+original+series%2C+only+available+on+Hulu."&aqs=chrome..69i57.986j0j7&{google:bookmarkBarPinned}sourceid=chrome&{google:omniboxStartMarginParameter}ie=UTF-8

hulu.com content google search returns no results

Ranking Drop

Now here comes the most shocking part

The reason for such a heavy drop isn’t due to a Google penalty, algorithm or a negative SEO attack. It comes from Hulu’s coding problem and serving JavaScript directly to GoogleBot.

Here is how the Google Cache of one of the biggest loser pages looks like. It looks like Hulu is returning a 404 page for GoogleBot, while still showing code 200 for users.

hulu.com google cache 1

 

Take a look at a fresh cache of a “Grimm” TV series page. If you look closely, you can see a 404 page in a background (it didn’t render well).

404-error-render

Also, a “DOH” video from The Simpsons is loaded for a 404 error within Hulu.com.

At the same time, a code 200 page is served for users.

Link Redirect Trace hulu.com Check

It is like this for tens of thousands of pages within Hulu, including their most popular TV shows and movies.

hulu.com Google cache 02

 

Now, switching to the text only version, we can see that the problem gets bigger.

 

text-only-versionNow, opening the same page with JavaScript disabled in the browser.

hulu.com javascript disabled in browser

This page also returns code 200.

Grimm status page 200404 errors

Crawling Hulu.com is not just slowed down by JavaScript as, when you are lucky enough to finally crawl it, 64% of the content returns 404 errors.

hulu.com crawl 404 errors

Let me show you a few examples

http://www.hulu.com/ice-saints

http://www.hulu.com/adera

Just the 404 errors, at such a scale, can explain Hulu’s drop and de-indexation. Unfortunately, the “text only” Google cache of the website is also showing huge JavaScript issues.

homepage-content-hulu-jp

Google vs. JavaScript

Google is investing heavily in understanding JavaScript better. You can read about that here and here. Google isn’t communicating clearly enough that it is still an early beginning of the journey. Hulu’s case study is a good visualization of the problem we are struggling with on a daily basis.

Developers use JavaScript more and more, convinced that GoogleBot is now fully capable of crawling and reading it, just as it would with HTML or CSS.

In the case of Hulu.com, the problems they face can be related to many different factors, from a failed migration to a new platform, to prerender service (e.g. https://prerender.io/) issues.

I am not a JavaScript expert, but I know that dynamic content generated by JS is difficult to match with a URL. This reason alone is enough to be extremely cautious when developing JavaScript based websites.

Summary

I know that making mistakes is in human nature. Yet such a huge mistake shouldn’t happen in as well-known a company as hulu.com is. What astonishes me the most is the fact that the drop down started on 29th May. Now, it’s 2 weeks since the problem has appeared and it still isn’t solved.

Two lessons that we all should take to heart:

  1. If you decide to use a solution that you are not sure how Google deals with - make tests rather than implementing it on the whole website
  2. React quickly. Almost 3 weeks and counting can be too long to recover fully.

This case study was written by Bartosz Góralewicz, LRT Certified Xpert, CEO at Elephate,

and proud user of LinkResearchTools (LRT).

LinkResearchTools AgencyA word from Christoph C. CemperLinkResearchTools Xpert

LRT Certifieds Rock

You ROCK, Bartosz!

 

Bartosz Góralewicz  from Elephate has been sharing fantastic google penalty, link building and website optimization stories with us for many years now. The Hulu.com Javascript fail case study is yet another fantastic research written by our LRT Certified Xpert.

Elephate is a LRT Certified Agency. This certification allows Elephate to receive consulting leads from us.

Our goal is to provide our user community and clients with quality service and knowledge. Our Certified LRT Professionals, Xperts, and Agencies are key to achieving this goal.

I look forward to Bartosz’s future work, and I personally recommend working with him whenever you get the opportunity.

Bartosz Goralewicz Xpert 2016

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Bartosz Goralewicz
Bartosz Góralewicz specializes in link audits. He does consulting mostly for corporate customers and large sites. You can find some of his case studies or interesting posts at https://goralewicz.com

5 Comments

  1. Simon Spychala on June 17, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    As you wrote, you have to act quickly, especially when the drop is that huge. I’m almost sure that there was a message with warning in their Google Search Console. Question is if they read it? I assume that they are using Search Console 😉 It is strange that it is now almost a month and problem is still not solved…

  2. […] Hulu.com JavaScript fail – 56% visibility drop and counting, linkresearchtools.com […]

  3. Sujit Das on June 18, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Now the home page of HULU is coming on Google serp page. I have checked using advanced search (site:). It is now available.

  4. Savya on June 18, 2016 at 9:08 am

    That’s a pretty bad drop. Is it confirmed that it is not because of something else? I am surprised to see that no action has been taken even after such a precarious situation. Hopefully, they read this and fix it as soon as possible.

  5. Greg on August 4, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Wow, its the 4th of August and still nothing has been done…

    I wonder if they even check their analytics reports? Ouch!!

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