2m-tall statues spotted attacking British coastline in Pirates of the Caribbean stunt

2m-tall statues spotted attacking British coastline in Pirates of the Caribbean stunt https://t.co/mHaHqPNQMa — Will Corry (@slievemore) May 29, 2017

from TheMarketingblog http://www.themarketingblog.co.uk/2017/05/2m-tall-statues-spotted-attacking-british-coastline-in-pirates-of-the-caribbean-stunt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2m-tall-statues-spotted-attacking-british-coastline-in-pirates-of-the-caribbean-stunt

7 of the Coolest YouTube Banners We’ve Ever Seen

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When someone sends me a really great YouTube video, I always want to know who’s behind it. Was it an ad agency? A small or medium business? A B2B tech company? No matter who it was, if I’m impressed, I want to see more from the content creator. So once the video is done, I click the link to visit their profiles.

And from there, if the brand is really on top of its game, I’ll see its channel art — the horizontal banner displayed across the top of the user’s YouTube channel that, hopefully, shows a combination of good design and brand presence.

But how do they do it? Download our full collection of blog design examples here to inspire your own  blog design.

We’ve all seen design work that inspires us, but can have a bad habit of not taking it any further than that. What makes something like a strong YouTube banner so great? And how can you create your own gorgeous channel art? To answer those questions, we found seven of our favorites that inspire us, and explain why we love them.

What Makes a Good YouTube Banner?

Dimensions

A YouTube channel banner will take on different dimensions, depending on what platform is being used to view it. For example, a banner might have different dimensions when viewed on a TV, desktop, or mobile device.

For the sake of display consistency, then, Google suggests going with an image that’s 2560 x 1440 px. It also sets the following guidelines:

  • Minimum dimension for upload: 2048 x 1152 px
  • Minimum “safe area” where text and logos are ensured not to be cut off : 1546 x 423 px
  • Maximum width: 2560 x 423 px
  • File size: 4MB or smaller

Here’s a helpful visual representation of those dimensions:

unnamed-48.png
Source: Google

Design

Let’s start with a note about where dimensions and design intersect. You might think that 2560 x 1440 px — Google’s suggested dimensions we mentioned earlier — seems like an exorbitantly large file size. But think about how your image would appear on a 30″ smart TV or higher. With a growing number of options to view YouTube videos in this way, you’ll want to make sure your channel art is large enough to display with quality on larger screens.

Also, take note of the “safe area” we alluded to in the first section. Your banner is essentially the biggest branding opportunity for when people land on your channel, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s well-represented in the channel art. That’s why it might be best to make sure your company name and logo are placed in that space — to make sure they don’t get cut off and cause the viewer confusion as to who’s behind the video content on the page.

If you’re not sure how to take up the entirety of a 2560 x 1440 frame, video production company MiniMatters suggests “build[ing] the image from the middle out,” putting the most important assets in the center, and going from there.

Finally, as to what to put in your banner, we like to follow a few basic rules:

  • Use a high-resolution image. A pixelated or blurry banner doesn’t exactly signal that there’s high-quality video to follow.
  • Keep it on-brand. While your channel art doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of your logo or tagline, it should incorporate visual elements that you want associated with your brand, like certain colors, fonts, or keywords.
  • Your banner should represent what your company does in a timely fashion. For example, if you run a bakery and you’re gearing up for summer, an eye-catching banner might be a high-res photo of a brightly-colored work surface covered with flour and a rolling pin, along with accompanying text like, “April showers bring May flours.”

How to Make a YouTube Banner

“That’s just great, Amanda,” you might be thinking about these tips. “But where the heck am I supposed to get these beautiful design assets?”

Well, you’re in luck — it turns out that there are dozens of free resources for creating a great YouTube banner. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Google: Why not start with the hosting platform itself? Google has its very own channel art templates to help you get started with your banner design. (Note: Clicking this link will prompt an automatic download of the zip file containing these templates.)
  • Canva: One of our go-to destinations for DIY design, Canva offers several free YouTube channel art templates that allow you to use your own art, or its library of stock photography.
  • Fotor: Similar to Canva, Fotor also offers a selection of free templates that allow you to use both your own visual assets or its own library of images.

8 Cool YouTube Channel Art Examples

1) Death Wish Coffee Company

Death Wish Coffee Company.png

In 2016, Death Wish Coffee was named the winner of a small business marketing competition held by software company Intuit. The reward? A free 30-second commercial during Super Bowl 50. Since then, the self-proclaimed maker of “the world’s strongest coffee” has capitalized on that momentum by making sure its branding stays just as robust.

Its YouTube banner is no exception. It’s straightforward, but also, bold. The company’s logo is displayed as the channel icon, as well as a tiled watermark that doesn’t interfere with the text display. And that message doesn’t leave any doubt about what the brand does. “World’s strongest coffee?” Okay, I’m watching.

2) Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud.png

Seeing as turquoise is my all-time favorite color, there might be a touch of aesthetic bias in our selection of Adobe Creative Cloud’s YouTube banner. But color can have quite an impact in marketing — shades of blue, for example, have been found to invoke feelings of trust.

This banner doesn’t just make great use of color, though. In a single photo, it connotes creativity and visual quality — two things that the Adobe Creative Cloud promises with its suite products. The person depicted seems to be creating something remarkable — an ocean inside of a balloon — with accompanying text to confirm it: “Make wow.” Plus, to learn more, social buttons are right there within the image.

3) Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit.png

Is anyone else hungry? It only seems right that the channel art for a food magazine like Bon Appétit should be, well, appetizing. And with a phrase that’s used as frequently as “bon appétit” — before a meal or as the title of a pop song — it’s important that folks who land on this YouTube channel know what they’re getting into.

That’s one thing that makes this banner so great. The branding is clear, from the logo icon to the iconic title text in the center of the image. Plus, the photo itself sends a signal of the type of content visitors can expect to consume — no pun intended — when they start watching the channel’s videos: All things food.

4) TauliaInc

TauliaInc.png

One great thing about YouTube banners is that they can be swapped out or modified whenever you want, time permitting. That makes them especially conducive to temporary promotions or campaigns. That’s what tech company Taulia did for “P2P Superheroes”: a campaign that shows how its software can eliminate difficult, time-consuming tasks, helping everyday professionals focus more on the work that matters and turn them into superheroes.

The banner communicates two things: 1) That Taulia is in the business of P2P (“procure to pay”), and 2) the brand really celebrates procurement specialists. And by using original, cartoon-like art, Taulia is turning what could be a dry topic into something fun and engaging.

5) Refinery29

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We’re big fans of showcasing the people that make your brand great. That’s one thing that Refinery29 does well, by frequently featuring its writers, editors, and content producers in its videos. As it turns out, they’ve all become quite popular personalities — which is why the brand put them front-and-center in its channel art.

Creating a banner of this nature is two-fold. First, you have to find a way to incorporate your company’s talent into video content in a way that’s engaging and appealing to your target audience. Here at HubSpot, we have our blog writers, for example, recount important information from blog posts in video and audio summaries. Then, once you’ve produced enough of that media consistently — and if it’s gaining the right kind of attention — you can use those personalities to promote your channels.

6) TripAdvisor B2B

TripAdvisor B2B.png

TripAdvisor is a resource used by millions of travelers to discover and rate lodgings, restaurants, and much more information about endless destinations. But did you know it also offers B2B services for hotel and other property owners to make the most of their presence on the site?

We like to think of it as a B2B hybrid of review site Yelp and vacation rental site Airbnb. On the one hand, TripAdvisor B2B helps business owners create a profile with photos, descriptions, and other information that’s going to be helpful to travelers. But, like Yelp, it also allows them to monitor and respond to the reviews their businesses receive.

That’s represented in the YouTube banner by portraying what the site is all about — travel — but also depicts the act of visitors giving feedback on their experiences by way of rating symbols.

7) Nuvolari Lenard

nuvolari lenard-1.png

The thing that stands out to us the most about this banner is its simplicity. It represents a Italian yacht design company Nuvolari Lenard, which is known for work that emulates a luxury and chic lifestyle. And while the channel art itself doesn’t portray anything specifically nautical, the use of capital letters and tiered monochrome does connote a brand that’s high-end.

Those kinds of digital aesthetics create what’s often known as aspirational marketing — the kind that symbolizes something that’s unattainable by most, but still has a vast following of people “who covet the look and feel of the brand,” as Mediaboom puts it. Can I afford a yacht? Of course not. But seeing something like this makes me want one anyway, and makes me want to consume the video content pertaining to it.

Channel Your Creativity

It’s important to note that really cool YouTube channel art is just one part of a comprehensive video content strategy. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your banner is, for example, if your channel lacks in quality video, or hasn’t added anything new in several weeks.

So, along with great design must come consistency. And as you begin to create both, you can turn to these examples for inspiration.

What are some of your favorite YouTube banners? Let us know in the comments.

landing-page-design-ebook

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-youtube-banners

How to Host an Instagram Takeover in 7 Easy Steps

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Influencer marketing is a trendy topic these days, but it doesn’t require a lot of work or a ton of money to harness the power of influencers on your brand’s social media channels.

One of the lowest-effort and most organic ways to work with another person or brand to advance your marketing goals is by hosting an Instagram takeover.

Download our essential guide to Instagram for business for more helpful tips  and tricks.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Instagram takeovers involve a person or brand posting on your Instagram channel to give followers a peek at new and unique content from another perspective. Here’s an example of our friends at WeWork taking over our Instagram account:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQfnT35jz_P/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7#%7B%22ci%22%3A3%2C%22os%22%3A13153.770000000002%7D

In this post, we’ll dive into how to host your own Instagram takeover to drive engagement, brand awareness, and more positive outcomes for your brand.

What’s an Instagram Takeover?

Instagram takeovers consist of one user taking over another Instagram account temporarily and sharing original content with their audience. Takeovers usually take place between influencer and brand Instagram accounts within the same industries or geographic locations. For example, here’s a post from a one-day Instagram takeover when we hosted Wistia on HubSpot’s Instagram and Instagram Stories:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BREYqH2DV8f/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7#%7B%22ci%22%3A4%2C%22os%22%3A13162.215000000002%7D

Other types of Instagram takeovers can include:

  • Employee takeovers
  • Customer or community member takeovers
  • Event takeovers
  • Product or offer promotions

Instagram takeovers are mutually beneficial for the guest Instagrammer and the host account. The host can bring valuable new content to their followers without having to create it themselves, and the guest is able to reach an entirely new audience by posting on another account. Plus, Instagram takeovers help cultivate good-faith relationships between influencers that can create inroads for future collaboration and cross-promotion.

Now, let’s dive into how to get started with your Instagram takeover.

How to Host an Instagram Takeover

1) Choose what you want to accomplish.

It’s important to determine what you want to get out of an Instagram takeover before choosing a guest and executing. Ideally, your Instagram takeover will achieve multiple positive results, but choosing a primary goal of the campaign will help determine which type of guest to invite.

Instagram takeover goals could include:

  • Increasing brand awareness. This can be measured by the number of new followers of the Instagram account as a result of the takeover.
  • Promoting a product, event, or offer. This can be measured by the number of event registrations, offer redemptions, or lead form submissions as a result of the takeover.
  • Driving engagement within the Instagram community. This can be measured by the number of likes, comments, video and Story views, and link clicks as a result of the takeover.

2) Pick your guest Instagrammer.

Determining the goals of your Instagram takeover will help you decide who to choose to host it. For example, we wanted to increase brand awareness and promote working at HubSpot, so we hosted a takeover by our recruiting team on our Instagram Story:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSB2NQ2DR-H/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7#%7B%22ci%22%3A5%2C%22os%22%3A13166.210000000001%7D

But we don’t always do employee takeovers. There are a few types of guest Instagrammers you can invite to create content for your takeover:

  • Influencers within your industry
  • Employees at your company
  • Community members or customers

Now, this isn’t to say that these Instagram takeover guests can only accomplish one of the goals we outlined in the previous section. But generally speaking, we recommend choosing your guest with the most effective strategy in mind.

  • Influencers will draw their audience of followers to your Instagram with their endorsement of your brand, so they’re the best fit if your primary goal is to increase brand awareness by growing followers.
  • Employees will attract interest from their friends and colleagues who want a behind-the-scenes look at what they do at work every day. They’re the best fit if your primary goal is to drive engagement on Instagram.
  • Community members and customers will post enthusiastically about your brand and show the value of your product. They’re the best fit if your primary goal is to promote a product, event, offer, sign-up, or download.

Again, these goals aren’t mutually exclusive. Ideally, the content your guest creates will be highly engaging, shareable, and compelling to the viewer. 

3) Decide on the content format and takeover logistics.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish and who will host your takeover, it’s time to nail down the specifics of how the takeover will run. Below are our suggestions of questions to answer when you meet with your takeover host:

  1. When are you hosting the Instagram takeover? Will it last one day, or one week?
  2. Who will manage the account? Will the guest get access to your Instagram credentials, or will they send you content and captions to post on their behalf?
  3. How many times per day will you post takeover content? If you have an optimal publishing schedule in mind, what times per day will the host need to post?
  4. What hashtags will be used? Will you create a custom hashtag to promote the takeover? Is there a maximum amount of hashtags you want the guest to use in any given caption?
  5. Which types of content will be shared during the takeover? Will the guest post photos, videos, Instagram Stories, or live videos? Will they post a combination of these formats?
  6. How will both the guest and the host promote the takeover on Instagram? Will you agree to promotion on Instagram or other channels leading up to the event?
  7. Are there any guardrails? Is there anything the guest shouldn’t record or mention over the course of the takeover?

Once the details of the takeover are nailed down, decide how you’ll measure success over the course of the event.

4) Determine metrics to track during the takeover.

Depending on the goals of your Instagram takeover, some of these metrics will be more important than others. Below are the metrics we recommend tracking over the course of your takeover:

  • # of new followers
  • # of likes
  • # of comments
  • # of mentions
  • # of direct messages
  • # of Instagram Story views
  • # of live video viewers
  • # of Instagram Story clicks
  • # of offer redemptions/app downloads (if you promote a landing page)
  • # of attendees or sign-ups (if you promote an event)
  • Total social referral traffic to your website

Qualitative metrics to keep track of could also include positive comments on Instagram.

5) Promote the takeover across multiple platforms.

Once you’ve figured out the details of your Instagram takeover, it’s time to start getting people excited about it. 

Start promoting your upcoming Instagram takeover within a day or two before the event. If there are any contests, giveaways, or other incentives for people to follow along, make those clear in your promotions.

Promote the takeover on Instagram — especially if the takeover is happening within Instagram Stories or Instagram Live, and you want to drive visitors to view those spots within the app.

Promote the takeover on other social media channels to get as many eyes on your campaign as possible — especially if your brand’s Instagram account isn’t as developed or engaged as other channels.

Here’s how we promoted an employee Instagram takeover last year:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BCL3gDwjxGv/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7#%7B%22ci%22%3A6%2C%22os%22%3A13532.02%7D

And here’s how the employee promoted it on her Twitter handle:

The host and the guest should promote the takeover on a few of their channels leading up to the event to get both audiences as engaged and excited as possible. 

6) Launch the takeover.

On the day of the takeover, it’s all systems go.

Make sure you have one team member monitoring comments and one team member uploading content to Instagram (if applicable). You can now upload content from desktop computers in addition to the mobile app to make the process easier from the office.

Throughout the day, cross-promote content that the guest is posting on their channels to help draw new people to your own Instagram takeover event.

Make sure to communicate when the takeover is starting and ending. Note in captions when the first and last posts are happening so viewers aren’t confused or abruptly left in the lurch, wondering if there’s more content forthcoming. 

7) Analyze the results.

Once the takeover is over, analyze how it performed, and use those learnings to determine how (or if) you’ll do your next takeover differently. Here are some questions to ask in your post-mortem analysis:

  1. Did we achieve our goal? Did you earn more Instagram followers, achieve high levels of engagement, or get visitors to sign up for your offer?
  2. Did we achieve secondary goals? Did the takeover result in other net benefits for your brand and your business?
  3. Was the takeover worthwhile? Did it save you time and energy creating your own content, or did it create extra work? Did it drive a push of traffic and engagement, or did numbers remain mostly the same?

Even if the takeover doesn’t drive hard numbers for your business’s bottom line, takeovers are authentic and real, and they provide an inside look at an aspect of your brand or community followers don’t normally see. Social media is about being social, so pay attention to qualitative feedback, too. If commenters respond positively to the takeover, take their feedback and use it for ideating future Instagram campaigns.

Now that you’re armed with a simple checklist for launching your takeover, follow up with us if our suggestions bring you success. For more ideas on how to drive results for your brand, follow us on Instagram, and download our guide to Instagram for business here.

Has your brand ever hosted an Instagram takeover? Share with us in the comments below.

Register for HubSpot's Free Inbound Marketing Course

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/instagram-takeover

Top tips to make sure you reap the best results when you give away free samples … Hotcow

Although social media and digital marketing is more powerful than ever, there’s still no real alternative to product sampling when it comes to showcasing your wares. Prospective customers love to get all touchy-feely, and according to research, 96% of customers who had an interest in a product said they were more likely to purchase as [more…]

from TheMarketingblog http://www.themarketingblog.co.uk/2017/05/top-tips-to-make-sure-you-stay-on-track-and-reap-the-best-results-when-you-give-away-free-samples-hotcow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-tips-to-make-sure-you-stay-on-track-and-reap-the-best-results-when-you-give-away-free-samples-hotcow

10 of the Best Ads from May: Hot Dogs, Rhinos, and an Accidental Viral Hit

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In May, agencies got creative with alternative advertising mediums.

While there were still plenty of traditional video and print ads on our radar, some crafty designers and copywriters turned to apps, bottled scents, modeling clay, and even an icy road trip to get their messages across. 

Among other things, this month’s roundup features an accidentally viral print ad, an unusual Tinder profile, and a pop-up travel agency that uses custom scents to encourage spur-of-the-moment excursions. Check them all out below.

10 of the Best Ads from May

1) Visit Sweden

In a clever stunt to generate some tourism buzz, the entire country of Sweden recently listed itself on Airbnb.

Gothenburg-based agency Forsman & Bodenfors (you might know them as the agency behind Volvo’s “Epic Split” ad) developed a stunning video to advertise the listing, showcasing Sweden’s natural beauty and explaining Allemansrätt — The Right of Public Access that enables Swedes and visitors to explore the countryside freely. 

 

2) Syoss

While most hair care ads depend on formulaic, slow-mo shots of unnaturally swishy, sparkly, CGI-enhanced hair, this new work for Syoss by walker Zurich highlights a hair dilemma most of us can actually relate to: where do you find the time to properly style your hair before your morning commute?

Laced with existential dread (and fabulous copywriting), the ad portrays harried commuters as helpless victims of lost time and bad hair. “With this film, we wanted to create something that was different to the usual mould that hair ads stick to,” Pius Walker, Creative Director at walker Zurich, said to Adweek. “We’re lucky enough to have a client who allows us to do this and push away from the conventional.”

 

3) Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Sudan is the last male Northern White Rhino on Earth, and he needs some help finding a mate. So naturally, he joined Tinder.

Since Sudan can’t mate under normal conditions, scientists at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy need to raise money for research into Artificial Reproductive Techniques to help him breed through one of the 7,000 Southern White Rhinos currently in existence.

Ogilvy Africa launched a campaign around the effort, starting with signing Sudan up for a Tinder account. When users on the dating app swipe right to “match” with Sudan, they’ll be sent a link to donate money via the app’s messaging system. 

Chris Wall, Ogilvy’s late vice chairman who passed away earlier this month, was notably one of the writers on the viral campaign. 

 

4) Thalys

Particular smells can conjure vivid memories and stir up old emotions, but can they spur us to travel somewhere new? In this inspired campaign for French rail company Thalys, Paris-based agency Rosapark set out to bottle scents that captured the essence and energy of different European cities.

Thalys then set up a pop-up travel agency in a Brussels art gallery, inviting people to select trips on the spot based on their favorite bottled scents. The stunt is captured in the artful spot below.

 

5) Merck Consumer Health

In an effort to change the perception that you can’t learn new skills after a certain age, German pharmaceuticals company Merck Consumer Health teamed up with Ogilvy Italy to film this “social experiment” with parents of the Turin diving team. 

As the parents watch their children practice in the pool, they’re asked if they would ever take up diving themselves. Their responses are pretty unanimously: “I’m too old to start.”

Perfectly on cue, 79 year-old Pino Auber executes a perfect dive from the highest-platform, spurring applause from the parents. We learn that Auber didn’t start diving until age 57, setting the ad up for its main message: “Today we’re living longer. There’s always time for a first time.”

 

6) The Friars

Thanks to some seemingly lazy but actually ingenious copywriting, this simple ad for an English pub went viral in May after someone uploaded an image of it to photo-sharing website Imgur.

The ad features a text conversation between the owner of The Friars, a Bridgnorth-based pub, and designer Dave Blackhurst. At first glance, it looks like Blackhurts simply used a real conversation as the ad, but it turns out he cleverly fictionalized the whole thing. 

“The irony is I don’t have a smartphone, I have a Nokia C2, so it took me about three minutes to come up with the idea but a few hours to put it together with an online message generator and Photoshop,” Blackhurst said to a local paper, The Shropshire Star.

friars-ad.jpg

Image Credit:
Tom Wysocki on Twitter

 

7) Oscar Mayer

In an effort to bring hotdogs to every remote corner of America, Oscar Mayer’s team of professional “Hotdoggers” (yes, this is their official title) hopped into the iconic Wienermobile and trundled off towards Whittier, Alaska.

The branded adventure, orchestrated by Mcgarrybowen, Olson Engage, and Starcom, was documented in the below film. Watch as the two Hotdoggers — Kayla and Franscico — heroically navigate precarious roads on their quest to bring nitrate-free joy to Whittier’s 220 citizens. 

The whole thing is like a fever-dream version of Ice Road Truckers — in a good way. 

 

8) Play-Doh

In honor of the company’s 60th birthday, Play-Doh teamed up with DBB Paris to create a series of epic, imaginative sculptures for use in a print and poster campaign. 

“I had written a series of headlines that each described one aspect of this world that is governed by the imagination and positive values,” Jean-François Bouchet, senior copywriter at DBB Paris, said to Adweek. “And with [senior art director Emmanuel Corteau], we thought it would be wonderful to actually hand-make the ads and be 100 percent in the DNA of the brand. We also wanted to speak both to parents and adults, who could each discover a multitude of details in each print and experience the excitement of a child in front of a Christmas shop window.”



Image via
Adland

 

9) Apple

In this charming, energetic spot from Apple, the iPhone 7 plus’ new Portrait Mode setting helps transform a quiet neighborhood barber shop into a popular destination.

When one of the barbers starts snapping professional-looking pictures of satisfied patrons and displaying them in the window, word quickly spreads — and pretty soon there’s a line around the block. The ad excels at showing how easy it is to use Portrait Mode, without boring us with the specific details. 

 

10) Alzheimer’s Research U.K. (in collaboration with Shazam)

To raise awareness for the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s Research U.K. worked with agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. to create “The Day Shazam Forgot.”

The popular app, which can identify song names on the spot, started to temporarily “forget” the names of songs and artists. Once the app “remembered”, users would be directed to a page on Alzheimer’s awareness and encouraged to donate.

What were your favorite ads from May? Let us know in the comments.

free-infographics-templates 

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-ads-from-may

Evidence of the Surprising State of JavaScript Indexing

Posted by willcritchlow

Back when I started in this industry, it was standard advice to tell our clients that the search engines couldn’t execute JavaScript (JS), and anything that relied on JS would be effectively invisible and never appear in the index. Over the years, that has changed gradually, from early work-arounds (such as the horrible escaped fragment approach my colleague Rob wrote about back in 2010) to the actual execution of JS in the indexing pipeline that we see today, at least at Google.

In this article, I want to explore some things we’ve seen about JS indexing behavior in the wild and in controlled tests and share some tentative conclusions I’ve drawn about how it must be working.

A brief introduction to JS indexing

At its most basic, the idea behind JavaScript-enabled indexing is to get closer to the search engine seeing the page as the user sees it. Most users browse with JavaScript enabled, and many sites either fail without it or are severely limited. While traditional indexing considers just the raw HTML source received from the server, users typically see a page rendered based on the DOM (Document Object Model) which can be modified by JavaScript running in their web browser. JS-enabled indexing considers all content in the rendered DOM, not just that which appears in the raw HTML.

There are some complexities even in this basic definition (answers in brackets as I understand them):

  • What about JavaScript that requests additional content from the server? (This will generally be included, subject to timeout limits)
  • What about JavaScript that executes some time after the page loads? (This will generally only be indexed up to some time limit, possibly in the region of 5 seconds)
  • What about JavaScript that executes on some user interaction such as scrolling or clicking? (This will generally not be included)
  • What about JavaScript in external files rather than in-line? (This will generally be included, as long as those external files are not blocked from the robot — though see the caveat in experiments below)

For more on the technical details, I recommend my ex-colleague Justin’s writing on the subject.

A high-level overview of my view of JavaScript best practices

Despite the incredible work-arounds of the past (which always seemed like more effort than graceful degradation to me) the “right” answer has existed since at least 2012, with the introduction of PushState. Rob wrote about this one, too. Back then, however, it was pretty clunky and manual and it required a concerted effort to ensure both that the URL was updated in the user’s browser for each view that should be considered a “page,” that the server could return full HTML for those pages in response to new requests for each URL, and that the back button was handled correctly by your JavaScript.

Along the way, in my opinion, too many sites got distracted by a separate prerendering step. This is an approach that does the equivalent of running a headless browser to generate static HTML pages that include any changes made by JavaScript on page load, then serving those snapshots instead of the JS-reliant page in response to requests from bots. It typically treats bots differently, in a way that Google tolerates, as long as the snapshots do represent the user experience. In my opinion, this approach is a poor compromise that’s too susceptible to silent failures and falling out of date. We’ve seen a bunch of sites suffer traffic drops due to serving Googlebot broken experiences that were not immediately detected because no regular users saw the prerendered pages.

These days, if you need or want JS-enhanced functionality, more of the top frameworks have the ability to work the way Rob described in 2012, which is now called isomorphic (roughly meaning “the same”).

Isomorphic JavaScript serves HTML that corresponds to the rendered DOM for each URL, and updates the URL for each “view” that should exist as a separate page as the content is updated via JS. With this implementation, there is actually no need to render the page to index basic content, as it’s served in response to any fresh request.

I was fascinated by this piece of research published recently — you should go and read the whole study. In particular, you should watch this video (recommended in the post) in which the speaker — who is an Angular developer and evangelist — emphasizes the need for an isomorphic approach:

Resources for auditing JavaScript

If you work in SEO, you will increasingly find yourself called upon to figure out whether a particular implementation is correct (hopefully on a staging/development server before it’s deployed live, but who are we kidding? You’ll be doing this live, too).

To do that, here are some resources I’ve found useful:

Some surprising/interesting results

There are likely to be timeouts on JavaScript execution

I already linked above to the ScreamingFrog post that mentions experiments they have done to measure the timeout Google uses to determine when to stop executing JavaScript (they found a limit of around 5 seconds).

It may be more complicated than that, however. This segment of a thread is interesting. It’s from a Hacker News user who goes by the username KMag and who claims to have worked at Google on the JS execution part of the indexing pipeline from 2006–2010. It’s in relation to another user speculating that Google would not care about content loaded “async” (i.e. asynchronously — in other words, loaded as part of new HTTP requests that are triggered in the background while assets continue to download):

“Actually, we did care about this content. I’m not at liberty to explain the details, but we did execute setTimeouts up to some time limit.

If they’re smart, they actually make the exact timeout a function of a HMAC of the loaded source, to make it very difficult to experiment around, find the exact limits, and fool the indexing system. Back in 2010, it was still a fixed time limit.”

What that means is that although it was initially a fixed timeout, he’s speculating (or possibly sharing without directly doing so) that timeouts are programmatically determined (presumably based on page importance and JavaScript reliance) and that they may be tied to the exact source code (the reference to “HMAC” is to do with a technical mechanism for spotting if the page has changed).

It matters how your JS is executed

I referenced this recent study earlier. In it, the author found:

Inline vs. External vs. Bundled JavaScript makes a huge difference for Googlebot

The charts at the end show the extent to which popular JavaScript frameworks perform differently depending on how they’re called, with a range of performance from passing every test to failing almost every test. For example here’s the chart for Angular:

Slide5.PNG

It’s definitely worth reading the whole thing and reviewing the performance of the different frameworks. There’s more evidence of Google saving computing resources in some areas, as well as surprising results between different frameworks.

CRO tests are getting indexed

When we first started seeing JavaScript-based split-testing platforms designed for testing changes aimed at improving conversion rate (CRO = conversion rate optimization), their inline changes to individual pages were invisible to the search engines. As Google in particular has moved up the JavaScript competency ladder through executing simple inline JS to more complex JS in external files, we are now seeing some CRO-platform-created changes being indexed. A simplified version of what’s happening is:

  • For users:
    • CRO platforms typically take a visitor to a page, check for the existence of a cookie, and if there isn’t one, randomly assign the visitor to group A or group B
    • Based on either the cookie value or the new assignment, the user is either served the page unchanged, or sees a version that is modified in their browser by JavaScript loaded from the CRO platform’s CDN (content delivery network)
    • A cookie is then set to make sure that the user sees the same version if they revisit that page later
  • For Googlebot:
    • The reliance on external JavaScript used to prevent both the bucketing and the inline changes from being indexed
    • With external JavaScript now being loaded, and with many of these inline changes being made using standard libraries (such as JQuery), Google is able to index the variant and hence we see CRO experiments sometimes being indexed

I might have expected the platforms to block their JS with robots.txt, but at least the main platforms I’ve looked at don’t do that. With Google being sympathetic towards testing, however, this shouldn’t be a major problem — just something to be aware of as you build out your user-facing CRO tests. All the more reason for your UX and SEO teams to work closely together and communicate well.

Split tests show SEO improvements from removing a reliance on JS

Although we would like to do a lot more to test the actual real-world impact of relying on JavaScript, we do have some early results. At the end of last week I published a post outlining the uplift we saw from removing a site’s reliance on JS to display content and links on category pages.

odn_additional_sessions.png

A simple test that removed the need for JavaScript on 50% of pages showed a >6% uplift in organic traffic — worth thousands of extra sessions a month. While we haven’t proven that JavaScript is always bad, nor understood the exact mechanism at work here, we have opened up a new avenue for exploration, and at least shown that it’s not a settled matter. To my mind, it highlights the importance of testing. It’s obviously our belief in the importance of SEO split-testing that led to us investing so much in the development of the ODN platform over the last 18 months or so.

Conclusion: How JavaScript indexing might work from a systems perspective

Based on all of the information we can piece together from the external behavior of the search results, public comments from Googlers, tests and experiments, and first principles, here’s how I think JavaScript indexing is working at Google at the moment: I think there is a separate queue for JS-enabled rendering, because the computational cost of trying to run JavaScript over the entire web is unnecessary given the lack of a need for it on many, many pages. In detail, I think:

  • Googlebot crawls and caches HTML and core resources regularly
  • Heuristics (and probably machine learning) are used to prioritize JavaScript rendering for each page:
    • Some pages are indexed with no JS execution. There are many pages that can probably be easily identified as not needing rendering, and others which are such a low priority that it isn’t worth the computing resources.
    • Some pages get immediate rendering – or possibly immediate basic/regular indexing, along with high-priority rendering. This would enable the immediate indexation of pages in news results or other QDF results, but also allow pages that rely heavily on JS to get updated indexation when the rendering completes.
    • Many pages are rendered async in a separate process/queue from both crawling and regular indexing, thereby adding the page to the index for new words and phrases found only in the JS-rendered version when rendering completes, in addition to the words and phrases found in the unrendered version indexed initially.
  • The JS rendering also, in addition to adding pages to the index:
    • May make modifications to the link graph
    • May add new URLs to the discovery/crawling queue for Googlebot

The idea of JavaScript rendering as a distinct and separate part of the indexing pipeline is backed up by this quote from KMag, who I mentioned previously for his contributions to this HN thread (direct link) [emphasis mine]:

“I was working on the lightweight high-performance JavaScript interpretation system that sandboxed pretty much just a JS engine and a DOM implementation that we could run on every web page on the index. Most of my work was trying to improve the fidelity of the system. My code analyzed every web page in the index.

Towards the end of my time there, there was someone in Mountain View working on a heavier, higher-fidelity system that sandboxed much more of a browser, and they were trying to improve performance so they could use it on a higher percentage of the index.”

This was the situation in 2010. It seems likely that they have moved a long way towards the headless browser in all cases, but I’m skeptical about whether it would be worth their while to render every page they crawl with JavaScript given the expense of doing so and the fact that a large percentage of pages do not change substantially when you do.

My best guess is that they’re using a combination of trying to figure out the need for JavaScript execution on a given page, coupled with trust/authority metrics to decide whether (and with what priority) to render a page with JS.

Run a test, get publicity

I have a hypothesis that I would love to see someone test: That it’s possible to get a page indexed and ranking for a nonsense word contained in the served HTML, but not initially ranking for a different nonsense word added via JavaScript; then, to see the JS get indexed some period of time later and rank for both nonsense words. If you want to run that test, let me know the results — I’d be happy to publicize them.

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New : Gorgeous girls of fishing – an appreciation

Gorgeous Girls of Fishing @GorgeousGirlsofFishing This article was created in appreciation of the Gorgeous Girls of Fishing! (47) Gorgeous Girls of Fishing – Photos https://t.co/1HbM3aTOCR retweet pic.twitter.com/0MXb94x0f1 — Will Corry (@slievemore) May 28, 2017

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