For SEO, Downtime Does Matter

Downtime is definitely something that sucks, but its effects can last even after your websites are back online. The obvious problem with downtime is the traffic, clicks, and sales you miss out on – but there can be lasting SEO effects that persist for at least weeks following service restoration.

Its been debated on webmaster boards before, “Does downtime effect SEO?” This time, I can pretty confidently answer “YES!”

As you may have noticed from our own downtime or my last post explaining the perils of vacation, I lost service on my sites for about 10 days at the beginning of the month. Eventually, everything was restored – but the traffic coming in from search engines has a long way to go before it reaches its pre-downtime peak.

Important URLs Crash Harder

Pagerank has affects on your search rankings and how the search engines index your site, and as such its the higher pagerank URLs that get checked up on by the search spiders most often.  If and when your site goes down, the search engines are going to notice the problem first on the pages you’ve spent the most time promoting.

In my case, this means a lot of the pages that convert into sales!  Since Google came to visit them not just once but twice during the downtime, they’ve decided that the URLs aren’t as good for the search results as they used to be.  As a result, some deep pages went quickly from PR4 and PR3 to N/A and completely being de-indexed.

Sure, Webmaster tools still counts hundreds of backlinks to those URLs, but that hasn’t been enough to get the pages indexed again after 10 days of being back online.  I’ve tried gathering some new links too, but to no effect (yet.)

So… Stay Online!

Obvious advice is obvious – the challenge is to see exactly how close you can get to always being online and always having your sites available.  So this is part of the competition among webmasters and hosting providers, just like you’re already competing for more links, better keyword density, and more popular content.

Hopefully, the search engines will eventually realize that the sites are back – and hopefully for me the downtime wasn’t so long as to completely unravel the value of some highly promoted URLs.  Either way, it will be a lesson learned and I’ll be sure to keep you updated as events and SEO results evolve.

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