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I was wondering if someone could help me how to manage temporarily inactive website in regards of SEO and search engine.

the case is i managed a big ecommerce site, and sometime i need to put down page(s). could be days, could be weeks, could be months, and it depends on our vendor.

if my visitors land on the page that been temporarily inactive then i can give them a message that the vendor they looking for is not available at this time and he can check back later OR check another vendor with similar products, but how do i send my message to search engine robots?

if i use 301 status and forward URL page to another similar products, then the chance that the current URL being deindex is huge while i still want to use that URL for the future if my vendor want to re-join.

any advise will highly appriciated

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jun 27 '11 at 11:34

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3 Answers

503 Status code is not good if that will be a consistent response for a long period of time (like you have mentioned already -- weeks/months). In this case I'm certain such pages will be de-indexed (what is the point of having a link to pretty much dead page).

In your case (e-commerce site) it is much better to just have a product there, but will additional "functionality":

  • Customer cannot buy it -- "Add to cart" / "Buy now" button is inactive; remove the price (and even "buy" button) completely, unless you want to keep it for the price reference (so customer knows the approximate price you can offer).
  • Have a message: "Item is out of stock" or "No longer available" or something like that (to explain to the customer why he cannot buy it right now)
  • Add related/similar/alternative products -- this will not hurt SEO but will definitely help customers to find alternative product on your site.
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You should use "HTTP Error 503 - Service unavailable" - Google will come back a bit later to check again.

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I don't know if a 503 Status code is actually the correct one. That error code is supposed to be used if there is a server error that causes a page to be offline. That's not the case here. You're taking a page down because of vendor issues (I'm assuming the product is out of stock or seasonal). Since it is not a server error and the pages will return I would say use a 307 Temporary Redirect status code.

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