It is no more a surprise to know that businesses are one of the most affected in the rise of the COVID-19 outbreak. And Google is one of the biggest tech giant companies and has started working diligently to help small business owners as well as online business sites. The company has also updated its FAQs with new information that will help the website owners to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on their business.
According to the tech giant, the most feasible decision taken by an online business website at the current scenario will be not to shut its website if it can continue paying the hosting fees. Google says, if a website is disabled even for a short duration of time, it will greatly impact its search rankings when the website is life again. Popular Domain registrars like Namecheap and GoDaddy has also started offering its customers with support as some of the website owners are afraid that they won’t be able to maintain it properly.
A senior webmaster trends analyst of Google, John Mueller, said that “If your situation is temporary and you plan to reopen your online business, we recommend keeping your site online and limiting the functionality.” He further continued by saying, “For example, you might mark items as out of stock, or restrict the cart and checkout process. It is the recommended approach since it minimizes any negative effects on your site’s presence in search. People can still find your products, read reviews, or add wishlists so they can purchase at a later time”.Source
Mueller advises website owners not to disable the site completely but instead choose to disable pages or functions like add to cart, or payment, or order options. Also, he says that it will be a good idea for websites to display a message to the visitor informing them about the limited functionality that will be provided to them due to the impact of Coronavirus. It will make sure that the websites are still functioning and appearing in the search results of Google, without compromising their ranking.
Other than that, John Mueller also stated that website owners could also use the Google Search Console tool that will help them in re-indexing the limited number of web pages they want to be displayed.
In his statements, Mueller said, “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.” Explaining further, he added that disabling a website should always be the last option as that harms the ranking and online presence of it.
He added, “That’s why it’s highly recommended only to limit your site’s functionality instead. Keep in mind that your customers may also want to find information about your products, your services, and your company, even if you’re not selling anything right now”.
Not only this, but Mueller also has some strategic plans for online business website owners who have to disable the site, despite Google’s warnings. Therefore, to reduce the impact or damage caused by it, Mueller has provided some tips. He says if a business owner needs to close or disable his website for 2 to 3 days, the best practice will be to display the 503 HTTP result code, instead of showing the entire content. It is a way of displaying an informational error page.
In case the business owner wants to disable his website for a longer period of time, which is more than 7 3 days, he suggests they place an indexable home page that will be used by visitors to search or find in search. It can be done using the 200 HTTP status code.
The last resort for a business owner who wants to temporarily hide his website from appearing in search, then he can choose to temporarily remove it from search in options.