Site Down? Use a 503 Status Code To Avoid Disappearing From The Index

Site down and worried the pages might disappear from the Index? Use a 503 status code to avoid getting your pages dropped.
Marie Aquino
January 22, 2022

In the Google Search Central’s SEO Office Hours January 21 episode, a user has reported that his site was hit with a technical issue which caused the site to be down for over 15 hours. After this, they have found that a lot of their pages were missing from the search results.

John Mueller responded that for instances when technical issues are encountered for a short period of time, pages can drop out of the index but they would usually pop back in fairly quickly, after they have been recrawled.

Aside from this, Mueller has provided advice on what could be done, should sites be down, so that they would not disappear from the index.

According to Mueller, the best way to protect against this kind of issue is to make sure that you have an existing system in place that can serve a 503 result code when things to wrong.

With the 503 status code, what happens is that when the pages are crawled and the crawlers see the 503, they will see that there is a problem and they will ignore it and come back later to double check.

If you can serve the 503 status code, for a period of a day or two, they will just see it as a temporary glitch and will not drop the pages from the index because they think the pages still exists.

In comparison, if a 404, an empty page, or an error page is encountered, then they might assume that the pages are actually gone and they will drop them from the index.

Great advice from Mueller, I think, and one that all site owners should have – a system that can trigger and serve a 503 whenever technical issues are encountered on the site.

We never know when issues might come up that can result to our pages or sites going down. This would ensure that the pages do not end up disappearing from the index. While the pages would reappear, a day or two of not showing up in the results can still have a big impact on the site – traffic loss, sales lost!

Check out the SEO Office Hours episode: