Keeping your website available makes your business appear available. With our website maintenance services we often have to deal with maintenance and upgrades, and it’s important that you communicate the right message to both the humans and robots (search engines not as cool as it might sound) that might be looking for you.
The two most common mistakes made when a website is temporarily unavailable are:
- All pages are removed from the server, causing a 404 error that says the page is gone.
- A single page is put up with a message that the page is temporarily unavailable
While the second mistake provides some information to humans, it isn’t the best answer.
Webpages use HTTP Status Codes to communicate what is happening at the time of access. The basic codes that tell the requester what is going on are:
- 200 – Everything’s fine and returns the webpage
- 301 and 302 –Page moved permanently to new location
- 404 – Page not found
- 503 – Page temporarily unavailable
The 404- code leads humans and search engines to think the page no longer exists. Period. An information page may give a human visitor comfort to “try again later”, but a search engine robot won’t necessarily come back, depending on the HTTP Status Code. The code could mark the page as not valid and hurt your rankings in search engines.
To ensure your downtime doesn’t down your business, look for someone who provides website maintenance services to help you create a better ‘unavailable’ solution. With the 503 status code, you can send a message that this is a temporary site and not a replacement site. You can also include code that tells both humans and robots when they can try to return to this page. This will help keep your status in the search engines intact, and with that, your business.
And if you’re active on social media, add icons to the page that link to your accounts on respective networks. This way current and potential customers know that you’re both alive and kicking and where/how to reach you online. We’ve found that many people have actually gone to our clients Facebook, Twitter and (sometimes) Google+ accounts because of this, Liked/Followed/Circled them, and are highly interactive as well. And with social media being a driving force for both brand engagement and SEO, especially after the Google Penguin update, this is now more rewarding than ever.