Businesses across the globe are grappling with the effects of the coronavirus. Most of them are even looking for ways to pause their activities online.
Here’s an overview of recommendations of how you can pause your business online. Do note that these recommendations are particularly for businesses that sell their products and services online.
Google recommends - LIMIT YOUR SITE FUNCTIONALITY
If you are in a temporary situation and plan to reopen your online business then limiting your website functionality is a great option for you.
For instance, you can restrict the cart, mark items as out of stock or restrict the checkout process. This approach can help minimize any negative effects on your website’s presence in Search. Users will still be able to find your products, services, read reviews and add to wishlist to purchase sometime later.
Recommended SEO Techniques during Pandemic
1. Disabling the cart
Disabling the cart will not affect your website’s visibility in Search.
2. Notifying your customers
This is an important thing to do. You need to inform your customers about your business status. Use banners or popup div with appropriate information to let your users know. You can mention shipping times, pick-up or delivery options, any known and unusual delays, etc.
3. Updating your structured data
Make sure to adjust your structured data such as books, products, events, etc according to the availability of products or changing events. If you have a physical storefront, you can update Local Business structured data to display current opening hours.
4. Letting Google know about your updates
Use Search Console to get Google to recrawl a few pages like your homepage. For more number of pages such as your product pages, you can use sitemaps.
5. Checking your Merchant Center feed
You can follow some of the best practices for the availability attribute if you use Merchant Center.
What is not recommended?
Avoid disabling your entire website.
Disabling your website is an extreme measure and you must use it as a last resort. Also, this step should be taken for a short duration as it can have significant effects on the website in Search, even if it is implemented properly. Therefore, it is highly recommended opting to limit your site’s functionality. Keep in mind that your customers will want to know about your products, services, and company even if you are on a break for a short while.
Have a look at some of the options you can explore.
If you disable the site for 1-2 days, make sure to return an informational error page with a 503 HTTP result code
If you have to disable the site for a longer duration, make sure to provide an indexable homepage. It will allow users to find in Search by using the 200 HTTP status code.
If you have to hide your site for a short while in Search, you can temporarily remove it from Search.
Why you should not disable your website completely?
Here are some of the side effects if you decide to disable the whole website.
Your customers will not know what’s happening with your business if they won’t be able to find your business online at all
Your customers won’t be able to find or read first-hand information about your products, services, and business in general. Users will not be able to find reviews, past orders, specs, repair guides or manuals. Remember, third party information may not be as accurate or comprehensive as what you can provide. It will also affect future purchase decisions.
Knowledge Panels may lose your contact number and site logo
You will lose all access to information about your business in Search as the Search Console verification fails. Additionally, as pages get dropped from the index, Aggregate reports in Search Console will lose data.
Resuming after a prolonged period will be difficult if your website needs to be reindexed first. Also, there is no guarantee if your site would appear similarly in Search later or how long it would take reindex.
Other actions that you need to consider
Before you pause your online business in Google Search, you will have to consider taking some actions such as;
Check for guidance from Google My Business on how to change your business hours or inform about temporary closures
For events, look for new properties for making them virtual, canceled or postponed
Check for resources from Google My Business on how to communicate with employees and customers, for working remotely and changing advertising campaigns
Understand how to make changes to your Google Knowledge Panel or how to claim it (if you haven’t done it earlier)
In addition, make sure to check for the latest updates from Google Webmasters and Google My Business.