Google is providing guidance to businesses who wish to pause their online activity as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.
These recommendations are geared toward helping businesses pause online activity while minimizing the impact on search rankings.
Google says this advice is applicable to any business with an online presence, though it’s especially relevant for those who have temporarily stopped offering products or services online.
Here’s What Google Recommends
If your business hasn’t permanently closed, and there are plans to eventually reopen, then Google recommends keeping your site online and limiting the functionality.
You can do this by marking items as out of stock or restricting the cart and checkout process.
Google recommends taking this approach because it minimizes any negative effects on a site’s presence in search results.
Here’s a full set of action items:
- Disable the cart: This is the easiest way to pause business activity without any impact to a site’s visibility in search results.
- Inform your customers: Make sure customers are aware of what’s going on with your business by displaying a banner with the appropriate information.
- Update structured data: Adjust the structured data for things such as products, books, and events to reflect their current status (out of stock, cancelled, etc.)
- Check your Merchant Center feed: If you use Merchant Center, follow the best practices for the availability attribute.
- Inform Google: Use Search Console or sitemaps to ask Google to recrawl your pages and display the latest information.
Here’s What Google Does Not Recommend
Google explicitly does not recommend disabling your whole site.
“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.”
Instead, limit your site’s functionality as this will ensure both Google and customers know your business is still around.
Customers may still want to browse and read about products they intend to buy later.
However, if you decide to go against Google’s recommendations and disable your site, here are some options:
- Return an informational error page with a 503 HTTP result code if you need to urgently disable the site for 1-2 days.
- Provide an indexable page as a placeholder if you need to disable the site for a period of time longer than 1-2 days.
- If you quickly need to hide your site while you think about what to do next, you can temporarily remove it from search results using Search Console.
For further guidance, see Google’s blog post here.