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As promised, Google has put together both a blog post and a detailed developer document on how to pause your online business. This document helps you manage and retain your search rankings while not accepting business online.

This is obviously due to all the changes with COVID-19. Google wrote “If you’re unable to fulfill orders or many of your products out of stock, you may be considering temporarily closing your online business. If the situation is temporary, meaning you expect to be able to sell products in the coming weeks or months, we recommend that you take action that preserves as much of your site’s standing in Search as possible. This guide explains how you can safely pause your online business.”

Google said it is best to “limit your site’s functionality” as opposed to just taking it offline completely. Ways to limit your site’s functionality include:

  • Disable the cart functionality
  • Display a banner or popup
  • Update your structured data
  • Check your Merchant Center feed
  • Tell Google about your updates

If you must disable your whole web site, which Google highly discourages and does not recommend, Google says “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.”

Here are some options Google said when doing this:

  • If you need to urgently disable the site for 1-2 days, then return an informational error page with a 503 HTTP result code instead of all content. Make sure to follow the best practices for disabling a site.
  • If you need to disable the site for a longer time, then provide an indexable homepage as a placeholder for users to find in Search by using the 200 HTTP status code.
  • If you quickly need to hide your site in Search while you consider the options, you can temporarily remove a website from Search.

There is a ton more detail both on the blog post and the developer document, so check it out. I hope you don’t have to use any of these measures but if you do, here is what you should do.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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