With many businesses forced to temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak, Google has issued a blog post advising them not to disable their website.
Businesses unable to continue operating should limit their sites rather than take them down altogether, as doing the latter could undo any search engine optimisation (SEO) work they have done on the site and mean that once up and running again, it could take some time to regain visibility in search.
Google recommends to use the home page of the website to tell visitors about how your business has changed. This can be done via a pop-up or banner, perhaps informing that your business is temporarily closed, or that there are changes to your opening hours or delivery times.
Other small changes that can be made include disabling your shopping cart if you have one, as this has no effect on Google search visibility. Webmasters are also advised to check carefully that any items that have fallen out of stock, or any events they had planned that are now cancelled, are clearly marked as such on the site. Once necessary updates have been made, they can then get Google to recrawl the site’s pages with a request via Google Search Console.
Should a website need to be disabled entirely, the advice is to use 503 Service Unavailable pages. However, Google stresses that this is “not recommended” because it could lose your site’s search rankings and positions in Knowledge Panels, besides the fact that it gives your customers no information on the status of your business. There is an option to temporarily remove a site from search, which may more beneficial for those undecided about what to do with their site.
As we discussed last week, although all businesses are facing challenges due to the pandemic, there are also opportunities being created that are unique to the web. However your business plans to get through this situation, we can make sure your website is a help rather than a hindrance here at Engage Web.