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I'm in the process of changing things on one of my sites. As I don't really have a staging environment I'm planning to take the site offline for about a couple of hours.

How do I handle this gracefully so that if Google visits I don't get penalized?

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Is there a CMS in place? Many of them have a plugin/module/etc. that lets you throw together a quick "maintenance mode" screen. Actually taking the site down isn't the best idea, if that's what you mean. – Su' Sep 23 '11 at 21:20

Pending my CMS question above, there are ways to redirect all traffic to a maintenance page, so that it doesn't look like your site's dead. (It seems like you're thinking of actually taking the site down meanwhile.) Here's a method with htaccess, assuming you're on an Apache server.

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Ok, so you suggest throwing a 302 and sending users and bots to a maintenance page. I think that might be good enough. Would have expected that Google to come up with some protocol to handle such situations. – Lorenzo Sep 23 '11 at 21:41

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