Down Time – SEO

What is website down time?

Essentially this means that a website or webpage is not available to users or search engine crawlers. Two common reasons why a website will be unavailable are when doing a site moves and server maintenance. It’s important to manage website down time correctly to maintain SEO search positions and provide a high quality user experience.

How to manage website down time?

Normally when a server is down for maintenance it will only be a matter of hours and this won’t have any affect on search engine rankings. The length of time a website is down when doing a site move is completely up to the web designer. It is recommended to get a site back up and running as soon as possible. If it is down for longer than two weeks it could potentially hurt the websites search engine status and there are a number of methods listed below that can be used to manage and maintain this.

One of the most important methods is to let the users know that the site is down. This can easily be achieved by placing some text on a 404 page that include a reason and a re-establishment time.

301 redirects come in handy if the site moves to a different host that doesn’t allow the URL structure to remain the same as the previous host. 301 redirects will also pass on quality link authority from the previous URL to the new one.

302 redirects are similar to a 301 though they are used to indicate a temporary redirect and will also pass on the link authority.

A 404 webpage not found, will be shown to users when a URL is unavailable. Every website should include a 404 page. Though it’s important to note that a webpage will eventually be removed from the search engine indexes if it continues to show a 404 response for a long period of time.

503 service unavailable code is used to tell search engines that a website is temporarily down due to server maintenance.


If a website is down for longer than two weeks you might expect it to lose its position in top search engine results page. It would be rare for a web server to be down for this length of time. Though it would be wise to change servers if this was the case. Utilising the above methods when managing down time will ensure that a websites placement will not drop in the search results.