Google has issued a number of guidelines and helpful FAQs for website owners to try to minimize the damage caused by online and offline shutdowns due to the corona virus pandemic worldwide.
The company states that the most important piece of advice is to avoid deactivating a website altogether as long as it is possible to continue paying hosting fees. Some domain registrars, such as GoDaddy and Namecheap, offer support to customers who are concerned that they will not be able to maintain websites that are affected by the shutdowns. According to Google, deactivating a website can affect the search ranking if it is brought online again.
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“If your situation is temporary and you plan to reopen your online business, we recommend keeping your website online and limiting functionality,” said John Mueller, senior webmaster trend analyst at Google. “You can, for example, mark items as out of stock or restrict the shopping cart and ordering process. This is the recommended approach because it minimizes the negative impact on your website’s presence in search. People can still find your products, read reviews or add wish lists so they can buy them later. “
Some options that a website owner should disable instead, according to Mueller, are disabling the shopping cart, sending a banner or other form of informational notifications on the website to notify customers about restricted features, and using the Google Search Console tool, to prompt the search engine to prompt the search engine again – index the limited number of pages.
Mueller says deactivating a site should be the last resort. “This is an extreme measure that should only be taken for a very short period of time (a few days at most), otherwise it will have a significant impact on the website in Search, even if it is properly implemented,” he explains. “For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you limit the functionality of your website instead. Remember that your customers may also want to receive information about your products, services and company, even if you are not selling anything.”
However, if this needs to be done, according to Müller, there are measures to limit the permanent damage that could be done to the broader visibility of the website:
- If you urgently need to deactivate the site for 1-2 days, return an information error page with a 503 HTTP result code instead of all of the content. Make sure you follow the best practices for disabling a site.
- If you need to disable the site for an extended period of time, provide an indexable homepage as a placeholder that users can find using the 200 HTTP status code in the search.
- If you need to quickly hide your site in the search while considering the options, you can temporarily remove it from the search.
At the end of the page you will also find a FAQ with further useful information, e.g. For example, what happens if you only deactivate a website for a few weeks and how you deal with inventory when you do an e-commerce operation.