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

If you need to turn off your server for a long period of time and you are afraid of your Google ranking dropping, then here are some tips from Google’s John Mueller on how to handle it.

Google’s John Mueller wrote a blog post on how SEOs and webmasters can handle site outages or closures that last for a day or longer. This is where a webmaster intentionally takes down a website for maintenance, religious practice, site moves or other reasons.

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John who is a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, gives three options:

  1. Block the cart functionality from Google and your users.
  2. Allow the use of interstitial or pop-ups saying that your site is offline today.
  3. Switch the whole website off for a period of time.

Each option can be handled in different ways, but the simplest way is to block cart functionality from Google to stop users from buying from your site for that period of time. This is common for religious practices where they are offline for Shabbat once a week. They do not want customers to interact with the website in any manner or earn money during this religious part of time.

Some webmasters want to take down the website completely and offer a warning, such as an interstitial or pop-up with an explanation of why the site is not accessible. Google has informed that those websites which use interstitial for bring down their website 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 which is “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 content.

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

  1. Set your DNS TTL at a low time 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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