Google’s John Mueller says a website going down temporarily likely won’t have a negative impact on search rankings.
This is stated in response to a Reddit thread titled: “Can I recover lost Google rankings after almost 5 days of downtime?”
In short — the answer is yes! But lets go over the background details first.
The site owner on Reddit notes their organic search traffic was growing steadily before a technical issue took the website offline. After getting it back up and running it’s lost 10,000 organic visits per day.
They’ve 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
Answering whether it’s possible to recover rankings after downtime, Mueller says yes. It should take a couple of weeks:
“Sure, that should pop back in a week or two. If it takes longer then the drop wouldn’t be from the downtime.”
He elaborates on this in a lengthy follow-up comment which could have been its own blog post. These are the takeaways.
Not a Quality Issue
Google doesn’t see it as a quality issue if a site breaks temporarily:
“Just to elaborate a bit more, this is essentially just a technical issue — it’s not something that our algorithms would see as a quality problem.
A site breaking temporarily is not a sign that the website is bad and doesn’t deserve to be shown as visibly.”
No Ranking Drop For First Few Days
A website will suffer no ranking drop at all until after it’s been down for a few days.
“If the URL returns HTTP 5xx or the site is unreachable (I think unreachable falls into this too, I’m not 100% certain though), we’ll retry over the next day or so. Nothing will happen (no drop in indexing or ranking) until a few days have passed.”
HTTP 4xx = Deindexing
If a website returns HTTP 4xx Google will start deindexing its pages. Technically that’s not a ranking drop, but if a page is deindexed it can’t get any search traffic.
“If the URL returns HTTP 4xx (like 404, 410, etc), we’ll start dropping these URLs from our index. There’s no drop in ranking, but when your pages aren’t indexed, the total traffic will drop.”
Mueller estimates it will take roughly a week of downtime until there’s a noticeable drop in indexed pages.
“Since this is done on a per-URL basis, and since we tend to recrawl important URLs (super simplified) more often, you’ll almost certainly see a visible drop in search traffic when we start dropping URLs.
We recrawl most URLs somewhere in the range of hours to months, so you’ll generally see a noticable drop in indexing over the first week or so (your 5 days are right in there), with that tapering off for the next months (as we recrawl & drop the remaining pages).”
Pages Get Re-indexed With Same Rankings
After a website comes back online, provided that happens within days of the site going down, its important pages will recover fastest.
Mueller says when the pages return to Google’s index they’ll soon bounce back to the same ranking positions they had before.
“When things come back (assuming this is within the range of days to weeks, and not months after they drop), usually what happens is since we retry the important pages a bit more often, those will come back a bit faster.
As they come back into the index, they’re usually back exactly how they were in the past, but it might be that it takes a bit of time for all of the signals to get reassociated with it, and depending on how much of the site got dropped, the internal linking etc also needs to be back first.”
Google May Protect Sites That Go Down
Based on Mueller’s experience seeing websites recover after going down, he believes Google may have safeguards in place to protect sites from downtime.
“In the cases I’ve looked at, coming back after downtime tends to go faster than the dropping out because of downtime.
My guess is (too lazy to check / ask) that we have some protections against dropping out of the index (slow crawl rate way down), and when things come back, we get excited and try to get that back as quickly as possible (increase crawl rate above normal).”
If Rankings Don’t Recover There May Be Another Problem
If rankings don’t recover after five days of the site being online again, Mueller says it’s likely a sign of another issue. Such as an algorithm update.
“If you’re seeing a drop in ranking after indexing is back, I would assume that it’s not due to the indexing issue, but rather due to awkward timing of quality changes being recognized across your site.
We make algorithm updates regularly, and our systems reevaluate sites over time, and while downtime wouldn’t trigger a reevaluation, it can happen at around the time time anyway.”
Don’t Ignore The Problem
Lastly, Mueller says it’s important not to assume search rankings will automatically return after temporary website downtime. It’s still an issue that needs to be looked into.
“Do not assume that a drop in rankings after a temporary drop in indexing will fix itself — that’s something you need to address, not something to wait out.”