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Website Downtime And How it Relates to SEO Metrics

by Aaron Wittersheim
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Website Downtime And How it Relates to SEO Metrics

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps improve website search results and search page rankings, in turn raising your digital profile and drawing more visitors to your website.

Building solid SEO takes time and effort and requires the continual monitoring of metrics to ensure optimization strategies are working as intended. Unexpected website downtime can harm both SEO and SEO metrics.

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The Importance of SEO

SEO plays a critical role in getting your website noticed. When your business first goes online, your digital reach is limited. By creating relevant digital content that’s optimized for high-volume keywords, companies can start building a reputation for trustworthiness and authority, which is reflected by a rise in search engine rankings.

It’s also possible to boost SEO by ensuring that sites are quick to load, easy to search and responsive to user devices — sites should be equally accessible across desktop and mobile touchpoints.

Consistent SEO offers can increase the likelihood that user searches of target keywords will lead them to your site. Metrics such as keyword rankings, the number of backlinks to your site and the volume of organic sessions — visitors that arrive on your site through organic search — help measure the efficacy of your SEO efforts.

How Downtime Impacts SEO Metrics

When your website, mobile app or social media channels go down, users can no longer interact with your brand. As a result, your SEO can suffer.

The initial impacts are felt in the first hour of downtime. Regular visitors to your site won’t be able to access your content, product pages or shopping carts, even though these results are returned by search engines. Depending on the nature of the error, users may be redirected to error pages or may find themselves faced with a webpage that never fully loads.

After six to 12 hours, you may see a drop in search engine page rankings (SERPs). Let’s say your site was ranked number two in a Google search for your target keywords. As more and more users try (and fail) to access your website, its relevance and authority begin to fall. This causes your site to slip lower and lower on search rankings. Considering that just 0.63% of people click through to the second page of search results, even small drops can have a big difference.

If downtime continues for more than a few days, search engines may “de-index” your site. This means that even once you’re up and running again, search queries won’t return your site as an option. It’s the natural outcome of ongoing evaluation by search engine crawlers — pieces of code designed to continually evaluate sites and ensure they’re up and running. Sites that are down for prolonged periods don’t offer value for users and are therefore removed from search indexes.

Ways to Reduce Digital Downtime

To reduce the impact of downtime, start with a website monitoring tool or service. These options provide early warning of issues that could cause your site to go down, such as configuration issues or traffic flow problems.

It’s also worth creating cloud-based backups that are tied to secondary website addresses. If your primary site goes down, you can point users to a secondary source of information and reduce the risk of SEO losses.

Some downtime is inevitable. Causes include sudden hardware failure, software updates that produce unexpected results or potential cyberattacks. To help mitigate the impact of this downtime, implement an automatic HTTP 503 code for your site, which effectively tells search engines to check back later.

Up and Running

More uptime means more reliable SEO. While it’s impossible to avoid all downtime, you can minimize SEO impact by implementing continuous monitoring, creating backups and making sure that search engines know you’re not gone — you’re just taking a quick break.

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