Google gives SEO tips on how to handle day-long site closures


Need to turn off your website for a period of time, but worry your Google rankings will drop? Here are some tips from Google’s John Mueller on how to handle it.

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John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, wrote a blog post explaining how SEOs and webmasters can handle site outages or closures that last for a day or longer. This is when a webmaster intentionally takes down the site for maintenance, site moves, religious reasons or other reasons.

John offers three options:

  1. Block the cart functionality from Google and your users.
  2. Always show an interstitial or pop-up saying your site is offline today.
  3. Switch the whole website off for a period of time.

Each option can be handled differently, but the easiest option seems to be blocking the cart functionality if you don’t want people to buy from your site. This is common for religious practices where they are offline for Shabbat once a week. They do not want customers to transact with their website and earn money on Shabbat.

But some webmasters want to take the whole site offline and offer a warning, such as an interstitial or pop-up with an explanation of why the site is not accessible. Google told those who were worried about this that interstitials for religious purposes are within their acceptable use guidelines. These sites won’t or shouldn’t be hit by the Google interstitials penalty in this case.

When doing this, John Mueller said “the server should return a 503 HTTP result code (“Service Unavailable”) … The 503 result code makes sure that Google doesn’t index the temporary content that’s shown to users. Without the 503 result code, the interstitial would be indexed as your website’s content.”

Same with turning off the site, but also add these tips to your to-do list:

  1. Set your DNS TTL to a low time (such as five minutes) a few days in advance.
  2. Change the DNS to the temporary server’s IP address.
  3. Take your main server offline once all requests go to the temporary server.
  4. … your server is now offline …
  5. When ready, bring your main server online again.
  6. Switch DNS back to the main server’s IP address.
  7. Change the DNS TTL back to normal.

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