Will I be penalised for my website having downtime?

Many websites run smoothly for indefinite periods and only need changes or adjustments when items need updating or adding. Sometimes however, a website breaks and experiences a period of downtime. Depending on the scale of your business or size of site, and how much you monitor metrics on a day-to-day basis, you may not actually be aware of this for quite some time. The obvious worry in this case would be your rankings and how they will be affected. In our latest article, we will take a look at some latest Google discussion which addresses this very question.

The good news is that according to Google, if your website is down for a short period of time, it is unlikely to affect those critical rankings. The next question may be that ‘how long is a piece of string question’ – i.e., what is classed as a ‘short period’?  An example was posed about the period of 5 days downtime and Google thought that this was still a reasonable time.

The indication is that after a short period of downtime, someone should expect their rankings to recover within 1 to 2 weeks. Note here that the question (and purpose of the post) is not will my rankings be affected from downtime, it is will I be penalised. Rankings will inevitably be affected by any period of downtime, and thus Google is making people aware that it is to be expected, but a recovery should follow. If your website has been down, and your rankings do not recover after a couple of weeks, then it is likely that there is another cause or issue which would warrant further investigation.

One relief that many people may be glad to hear is the association with websites breaking and the quality of that website. Google does not consider a website breaking temporary as a poor-quality issue and something which would not deserve to be highlighted in terms of favourable search rankings.

A further interesting piece of information from this Google session on the subject, concerns when the rankings will be impacted in relation to the site going down. Google suggests that it is unlikely that rankings will be affected for the first few days after the website has broken. This may seem to give the view that if you are quick and lucky enough to spot and sort the problem very early, you may not actually notice much difference. The take from this? Monitor your website regularly and very carefully so you can be in a much better position should any problems occur.

If your website does go down, once it has been addressed, Google advises that webmasters are likely to see their most important and main pages experience the fastest recovery first. As pages have to be re-indexed in these cases, it can take a bit of time, but most people can expect things to return to where they were – especially if the downtime was only short.

One final piece of information and advice Google gives on this matter (one which we would echo) is to not sit on the problem. Acting quickly is key, because you can’t always assume your rankings will recover as though they have never been affected, following a period of downtime. Not a threat, but a friendly warning maybe?

Has your website been affected by a penalty? Take a look at our Google Penalty Recovery page to find out how we can help.