How to pause your online store without affecting SEO

  • What if I have to pause my online store? We are going to give you some guidelines so that you do not lose, in a few days, the positioning you have been working on for years.

  • Coronavirus is turning to be very difficult for some eCommerce too

    We hope that it is affecting you as little as possible, but it is likely that, given the difficulties that arise (problems with suppliers, logistics and others), you will find yourself in the need of closing your business temporarily. 

    Of course, in the case of retail, stores are shut down and will be opened when calm is back . There are many things to do and it is quite traumatic, but when this becomes a bad memory the store will continue to be in the same place to welcome your customers. 

    When we talk about pausing the activity of an online store, the thing is, paradoxically, more complicated from a technical point of view. We cannot or should not "unplug" and that is all because, when we want to plug it in again, our page may have sunk in SEO rankings
  • Google recommendation: limit functionality

  • When we talk about SEO, Google's recommendations are actually more than just advice. They are the authentic guide and a manual of what to do. It is your search engine and they are your rules. 

    Let's start by thinking about the scenario we are facing to. This is an unusual situation that involves stopping temporarily

    Google does not understand this type of things too well, so keeping the web page operational  would be preferable so that the URLs do not disappear, that user continue to access the blog, the reviews and, why not, the wishlists to do purchases when possible
  • Unfortunately, the essential function of an eCommerce cannot be fulfilled, so you must avoid deceiving the user. For this, it is important that you take two types of steps: some techniques and others communication

    It is vital that you are transparent about the circumstances that make you stop. Report it on any page that is capable of generating organic traffic by itself

    A good option is to use a pop-up that informs visitors without a doubt. Although banners are useful, this time a little more invasiveness is appreciated with a pop-up window. 

    Update the structured data of the page to ensure that they do not show availability in rich snippets in those products that are out of stock it (in this case all). It is worthwhile updating meta tags, especially descriptions to report and eliminate conflicting calls to action (buy now, ship within 24 hours ...)   

    Deactivate the cart. Since it cannot be sold, do not let customers go through the whole process to find out at the last minute that it is not possible to buy. Of course, make sure to report it again so that this lack of functionality is not associated with a technical error. Show this fact prominently on the product sheets. 
  • As we are talking about a product, it is also interesting that you update the page so that it does not show stock where there is not (even if it does exist, but it is the most summarized and efficient way of avoiding purchases temporarily). 

    If you are present in Google Shopping, it is important that you update the feed with the corresponding attribute so that it is not shown as available. 

    Obviously, this is a reminder rather than advice: you must stop active SEM campaigns (Google Ads, Facebook Ads ...) to avoid losing money during this period of inactivity. Same reminder for Google My Business: update the sheet as soon as possible. 

    Finally, I would recommend that, once the on-page changes have been applied, crawl pages in Google. If they are not many, you can send the bot directly from Google Search Console; but if, on the contrary, the change is bigger, you should update the sitemaps and upload them again. 
  • Shutting down the entire site is not recommended

  • We have already said that shutting down the website is not a good idea. Keep in mind that, if Google tracks it and it begins to generate errors, in the end it will end up understanding that it does not exist indefinitely. Therefore, it will remove the website from rankings because it is not providing customer service and, thus, it is not relevant. 
  • When this cessation of activity is during a very limited period - as, for example, when maintenance work is being carried out - an informative page that returns a 503 code works (service not available). Although this would not be applied in our case. 

    If you have decided to take the radical route anyway and you still want to close completely, you can temporarily de-index the site from the Google Search Console - but this would have a very negative effect on your page's SEO

    I hope this post has been useful to you and, above all, that if you have to close your store it will be for the shortest period of time. Sure that is so. 
  • Which method do you use to pause your online store? Do you prefer to put some limit or or shut it down completely? Share your thoughts and decisions with us.

  • Images | Unsplash.

Jordi Ordóñez

Jordi Ordóñez is an eCommerce and SEO consultant with 16 years of experience in online projects. He has advised clients such as Castañer, Textura, Acumbamail, Kartox or Casa Ametller. Write in the official blog of Prestashop, BrainSINS, Marketing4ecommerce, Photography eCommerce, Socialancer, and SEMRush among others. He is an editor on the Oleoshop blog.

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