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How To Pause Your Business Online In Google Search

Google Search Central Blog - Pause Business Online

As the effects of the coronavirus grow, we’ve seen businesses around the world looking for ways to pause their activities online. With the outlook of coming back and being present for your customers, here’s an overview of our recommendations of how to pause your business online and minimize impacts with Google Search. These recommendations are applicable to any business with an online presence, but particularly for those who have paused the selling of their products or services online. For more detailed information, also check our developer documentation.

Recommended: limit site functionality 

If your situation is temporary and you plan to reopen your online business, we recommend keeping your site online and limiting the functionality. For example, you might mark items as out of stock, or restrict the cart and checkout process. This is the recommended approach since it minimizes any negative effects on your site’s presence in Search. People can still find your products, read reviews, or add wishlists so they can purchase at a later time.

It’s also a good practice to:

  • Disable the cart functionality: Disabling the cart functionality is the simplest approach, and doesn’t change anything for your site’s visibility in Search.
  • Tell your customers what’s going on: Display a banner or popup div with appropriate information for your users, so that they’re aware of the business’s status. Mention any known and unusual delays, shipping times, pick-up or delivery options, etc. upfront, so that users continue with the right expectations. Make sure to follow our guidelines on popups and banners.
  • Update your structured data: If your site uses structured data (such as ProductsBooksEvents), make sure to adjust it appropriately (reflecting the current product availability, or changing events to cancelled). If your business has a physical storefront, update Local Business structured data to reflect current opening hours.
  • Check your Merchant Center feed: If you use Merchant Center, follow the best practices for the availability attribute.
  • Tell Google about your updates: To ask Google to recrawl a limited number of pages (for example, the home page), use Search Console. For a larger number of pages (for example, all of your product pages), use sitemaps.

For more information, check our developers documentation.

Not recommended: disabling the whole website 

As a last resort, you may decide to disable the whole website. 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. That’s why it’s highly recommended to only limit your site’s functionality instead. Keep in mind that your customers may also want to find information about your products, your services, and your company, even if you’re not selling anything right now.

If you decide that you need to do this (again, which we don’t recommend), here are some options:

  • 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 home page 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 it from Search.

For more information, check our developers documentation.

Proceed with caution: To elaborate why we don’t recommend disabling the whole website, here are some of the side effects:

  • Your customers won’t know what’s happening with your business if they can’t find your business online at all.
  • Your customers can’t find or read first-hand information about your business and its products and services. For example, reviews, specs, past orders, repair guides, or manuals won’t be findable. Third-party information may not be as correct or comprehensive as what you can provide. This often also affects future purchase decisions.
  • Knowledge Panels may lose information, like contact phone numbers and your site’s logo.
  • Search Console verification will fail, and you will lose all access to information about your business in Search. Aggregate reports in Search Console will lose data as pages are dropped from the index.
  • Ramping back up after a prolonged period of time will be significantly harder if your website needs to be reindexed first. Additionally, it’s uncertain how long this would take, and whether the site would appear similarly in Search afterwards.

Other things to consider 

Beyond the operation of your web site, there are other actions you might want to take to pause your online business in Google Search:

Also be sure to keep up with the latest by following updates on Twitter at @GoogleSearchC and @GoogleMyBiz.


What if I only close the site for a few weeks?

Completely closing a site even for just a few weeks can have negative consequences on Google’s indexing of your site. We recommend limiting the site functionality instead. Keep in mind that users may also want to find information about your products, your services, and your company, even if you’re currently not selling anything.

What if I want to exclude all non-essential products?

That’s fine. Make sure that people can’t buy the non-essential products by limiting the site functionality.

Can I ask Google to crawl less during this time?

Yes, you can limit crawling with Search Console, though it’s not recommended for most cases. This may have some impact on the freshness of your results in Search. For example, it may take longer for Search to reflect that all of your products are currently not available. On the other hand, if Googlebot’s crawling causes critical server resource issues, this is a valid approach. We recommend setting a reminder for yourself to reset the crawl rate once you start planning to go back in business.

How do I get a page indexed or updated quickly?

To ask Google to recrawl a limited number of pages (for example, the home page), use Search Console. For a larger number of pages (for example, all of your product pages), use sitemaps.

What if I block a specific region from accessing my site?

Google generally crawls from the US, so if you block the US, Google Search generally won’t be able to access your site at all. We don’t recommend that you block an entire region from temporarily accessing your site; instead, we recommend limiting your site’s functionality for that region.

Should I use the Removals Tool to remove out-of-stock products?

No. People won’t be able to find first-hand information about your products on Search, and there might still be third-party information for the product that may be incorrect or incomplete. It’s better to still allow that page, and mark it out of stock. That way people can still understand what’s going on, even if they can’t purchase the item. If you remove the product from Search, people don’t know why it’s not there.

We realize that any business closure is a big and stressful step, and not everyone will know what to do. If you notice afterwards that you could have done something differently, everything’s not lost: we try to make our systems robust so that your site will be back in Search as quickly as possible. Like you, we’re hoping that this crisis finds an end as soon as possible. We hope that with this information, you’re able to have your online business up and running quickly when that time comes. Should you run into any problems or questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to use our public channels to get help.

Source: Official Google Webmasters Blog

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  1. Im glad I saw this because we are going to be completely revamping our website and our business is getting rearranged completely here in the next few months. The last thing we need is an influx of customers (more than we already have) pushing us when we are in the midst of a change. We are moving locations and working out how the business is going to work in the meantime between all that has already been tough enough.

    1. Thank you, Carol, for sharing your situation and concerns. I understand that undergoing significant changes and revamping your business can be challenging, especially when you’re also in the process of moving locations. It’s great that you came across this article on pausing your business online in Google Search. Pausing your online presence during this transitional period can help manage customer expectations and allow you to focus on the necessary changes without additional pressure.

      Taking the time to revamp your website and adjust your business operations is a wise decision to ensure a smooth transition. If you need any further assistance or have any specific questions about pausing your business online or any other aspects of your online presence, please feel free to ask. Good luck with your upcoming changes!

  2. 503 HTTP.
    The cheat code!

    1. Thank you, Frank, for your comment. The 503 status code is indeed a useful tool when you need to temporarily pause your business’s online presence. It signals to search engines that your website is undergoing maintenance or experiencing temporary unavailability.

      By utilizing the 503 status code, you can effectively communicate to both search engines and users that your website is temporarily offline or undergoing changes. This can help manage expectations and prevent customers from accessing outdated or incomplete information during the maintenance period.

  3. The pandemic has changed the way we purchase things. Hence, I do not fully understand how businesses can pause their online presence when most people right now rely on online shopping. Is it because of too much traffic? Or is it because they cannot act on the demand for more products? Either way, this was an interesting read. I just hope more and more businesses engage into the power of the internet.

    1. Thank you, ROEYNA, for sharing your perspective on the importance of online presence, especially in the current era where online shopping has become prevalent due to the pandemic. Pausing an online presence can indeed seem counterintuitive, considering the increased reliance on online platforms for purchasing.

      However, there could be various reasons why a business might choose to pause their online presence temporarily. It could be due to undergoing significant changes, such as website revamping, business restructuring, or relocation. In such cases, businesses may need to temporarily halt their online operations to ensure a smooth transition or manage customer expectations during the changes.

      While pausing online presence might seem contradictory, it’s important for businesses to balance their operational needs with the long-term goal of providing a better customer experience. Engaging with the power of the internet is crucial for businesses, and strategic pauses can be a part of that process.

  4. Disabling the cart functionality rather than completely shutting down the site should be considered a preferable emergency option. Your customer still got to see the first-hand information you got to offer. Good read!

    1. Thank you, Helen! Disabling the cart functionality instead of shutting down the site is indeed a preferable emergency option. It allows businesses to provide important information to customers while managing orders. We appreciate your feedback and insights!

  5. How can we update the structured data? Can anyone help me with this?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Lauren. Updating structured data for your website can be done by implementing changes to the HTML code of your web pages. It’s crucial to ensure that the structured data is accurate and up to date to provide the correct information to search engines and users. If you need assistance with updating structured data, it’s recommended to consult with a web developer or an SEO professional who has experience in working with structured data. They can help you implement the necessary changes and ensure that the structured data is properly updated and reflects the most current information for your business.

  6. Taking pre-order became popular these days. Still, there are complaints about delayed delivery. Marchant center feed could be a clue for this.

    1. Thank you, Nathan, for sharing your insights on the popularity of taking pre-orders and the challenge of delayed delivery. The Merchant Center feed can indeed provide valuable insights and clues regarding this issue. By utilizing the Merchant Center feed, businesses can effectively manage and optimize their product data, including availability, shipping, and delivery information. Ensuring that accurate and up-to-date information is provided in the feed can help set clear expectations for customers regarding pre-orders and delivery timelines. If businesses experience complaints about delayed delivery, reviewing and updating the Merchant Center feed can be a valuable step in addressing the issue. By providing transparent and accurate information, businesses can manage customer expectations and work towards improving the delivery process.

  7. For some products, restricting the cart & checkout process is the best option I think. It ensures a symmetrical distribution. Useful article. Thanks, Taylor

    1. Thank you, Douglas, for your comment on restricting the cart and checkout process for certain products to ensure a symmetrical distribution. You make a valid point that by implementing restrictions, businesses can manage the demand for specific products and create a fair distribution process.

      Restricting the cart and checkout process can be a useful strategy when dealing with limited availability, high-demand products, or during special promotions. It allows businesses to control the flow of orders and prevent overwhelming demand that may lead to stockouts or customer dissatisfaction.

  8. The customer should get to know what’s going on. It’s their right! So it is better to let them know what is happening. Thus you won’t lose your credibility and retain the loyalty.

    1. Thank you, Dennis, for emphasizing the importance of keeping customers informed about any changes or pauses in the business’s online presence. You’re absolutely right that customers have the right to know what’s going on, and transparent communication is key to maintaining credibility and customer loyalty. By providing clear and timely updates to customers about any temporary pauses or changes, businesses can effectively manage expectations and demonstrate their commitment to customer satisfaction. Openly communicating the reasons behind the pause and any anticipated timelines can help build trust and retain customer loyalty.

  9. Limiting site functionality can save the day rather than losing data in the search console. It can save the pages from dropping off the index.

    1. Thank you, Kelly, for your comment on the benefits of limiting site functionality during a pause rather than losing data in the search console. You bring up an important point about preserving the indexing of pages and avoiding potential drops in search engine rankings.

      By limiting site functionality, businesses can maintain a presence on search engine indexes while ensuring that customers are aware of any temporary changes or pauses. This approach helps in preserving the visibility of important pages and prevents them from being removed from search engine results.

      It’s indeed a proactive strategy to prioritize data preservation and maintain a consistent online presence, even during periods of limited functionality.

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