Google warns businesses not to disable their websites

Drastic action amid COVID-19 crisis could damage search rankings

Google is warning businesses to not disable their websites during the coronavirus pandemic as it could result in a significant drop to site search rankings, even when correctly implemented. 

Instead, the search engine company is offering advice for keeping websites online but with temporary limits on function.

Related Resource

Feeding the content-data loop

Like data, content must be well-managed, trustworthy, and secure

Download now

As businesses around the world are experiencing a drop in sales or service due to the spread of COVID-19, Google has issued a list of recommendation in a blog post written by webmaster trends analyst John Mueller. 

The company is advising this as the best practice to help protect firms in the long-term. 

"As a last resort, you may decide to disable the whole website," Mueller wrote. "This is an extreme measure that should only be taken for a very short period of time (a few days at most), as it will otherwise have significant effects on the website in Search, even when implemented properly. 

"That's why it's highly recommended to only limit your site's functionality instead. Keep in mind that your customers may also want to find information about your products, your services, and your company, even if you're not selling anything right now."

Google's best practice in this regard is to disable the cart functionality on your site. This, according to Mueller, is the simplest approach and won't affect your site's visibility. 

He also recommends advertising what the situation is with a display banner or popup with relevant information for your customer base. This should mention any delays to usual shipping, pickup times or changes to delivery options.

If your website uses structured data, you should make sure to adjust it to reflect current availability. Also, check your merchant centre feed and update Google and make requests to limit page numbers.

The company is making it clear that deleting a website is the last resort, but if a company does decide to do so for one or two days, then it should return an informational error page with a 503 HTTP result code instead of all its content.

If the site is going to be down for longer, Google recommends providing an indexable homepage as a placeholder for users to find in Search by using the 200 HTTP status code.

Featured Resources

Choosing a collaboration platform

Eight questions every IT leader should ask

Download now

Performance benchmark: PostgreSQL/ MongoDB

Helping developers choose a database

Download now

Customer service vs. customer experience

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Download now

Taking a proactive approach to cyber security

A complete guide to penetration testing

Download now

Most Popular

REvil threatens to release Apple’s hardware schematics
ransomware

REvil threatens to release Apple’s hardware schematics

21 Apr 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Ultra in every sense of the word
Mobile Phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Ultra in every sense of the word

22 Apr 2021