Google’s John Mueller says a temporarily unavailable website is unlikely to negatively impact search rankings.
This is stated in response to a Reddit thread titled: “Can I recover lost Google rankings after nearly 5 days of downtime?”
In short, the answer is yes! But let’s go over the background details first.
The site owner on Reddit notes that his organic search traffic was steadily increasing before a technical issue took the site offline. After turning it back on, it lost 10,000 organic visits per day.
They resubmitted their sitemap which will ping Google to crawl the pages again. After that, what’s next?
Here’s what Mueller advises.
Google’s John Mueller on recovering rankings after downtime
Responding if it is possible to recover the rankings after a timeout, Mueller says yes. This should take a few weeks:
“Of course, it should come back in a week or two. If it takes longer, the drop would not be due to the downtime.
He expands on this in a long follow-up comment that could have been his own blog post. These are the takeaways.
Not a quality problem
Google doesn’t consider it a quality issue if a site goes down temporarily:
“Just to elaborate a bit more, this is basically a technical issue – it’s not something our algorithms would consider a quality issue.
A temporarily down site is not a sign that the website is bad and doesn’t deserve to be displayed so prominently.
No drop in ranking during the first days
A website will not experience any ranking drops for a few days.
“If the URL returns HTTP 5xx or the site is inaccessible (I think inaccessible also falls into this area, I’m not 100% sure) we’ll try again the next day or so. Nothing will happen (not indexing or ranking drop) before a few days have passed.
HTTP 4xx = deindexing
If a website returns HTTP 4xx, Google will start de-indexing its pages. Technically, it’s not a ranking drop, but if a page is de-indexed, it can’t get search traffic.
“If the URL returns HTTP 4xx (like 404, 410, etc.), we will start removing those URLs from our index. There is no ranking drop, but when your pages are not indexed, traffic total fall.
Mueller estimates that it will take about a week of downtime until there is a noticeable drop in indexed pages.
“Since this is done per URL and we tend to crawl important (super simplified) URLs more often, you will almost certainly see a noticeable drop in search traffic when we start removing URLs.
We re-crawl most URLs somewhere in the range of hours to months, so you’ll usually see a noticeable drop in indexing in the first week or so (your 5 days are right there), with a decrease for following months (as we re-crawl and delete the remaining pages). »
Related: 22 Possible Reasons Why Your Site Traffic Has Dropped
Pages are re-indexed with the same ranking
Once a website is back online, provided it happens within days of the site going down, its important pages will be recovered faster.
Mueller says that when pages return to Google’s index, they will soon return to the same ranking positions they had before.
“When things come back up (assuming it’s between days and weeks, not months after they drop), what usually happens is that since we’re retrying the important pages a little more often, the ones -these will come back a little faster.
When they come back into the index they usually come back exactly as they were in the past, but it may take a little while for all the signals to re-associate there, and depending on how much of the site has been dropped , internal links, etc. must also be back first.
Google can protect sites that go down
Based on Mueller’s experience seeing websites recover from an outage, he thinks Google may have safeguards in place to protect sites from downtime.
“In the cases I’ve looked at, coming back from a time out tends to go faster than quitting due to a time out.
I guess (too lazy to check/ask) that we have index drop protections (slow crawl rate), and when things come back we get excited and try to get them back as fast as possible (increase crawl rate above normal).
If the rankings do not recover, there may be another problem
If the rankings don’t recover after five days of the site being back online, Mueller says that’s likely a sign of another problem. As an algorithm update.
“If you see a drop in rankings after indexing returns, I’m guessing it’s not due to the indexing issue, but rather the awkward timing of recognized quality changes on your site.
We make regular algorithm updates and our systems re-evaluate sites over time, and although downtime does not trigger a re-evaluation, it can happen around the same time anyway.
Related: Can we tell when SEO causes ranking changes?
Don’t ignore the problem
Finally, Mueller says it’s important not to assume that search rankings will automatically return after a temporary website downtime. This is still a question that needs to be considered.
“Don’t assume that a drop in ranking after a temporary drop in indexing will resolve itself – it’s something you have to fix, not something to wait for.”