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Together with our "Crisis management" Team, we plan to make an "Twitter-like" frontpage for our website only activated during an "disruptive and unexpected event".

Whats the best way to not lose Google rankings during this time period?
Is a 302-Redirect to a subfolder/subdomain (/crisis) the best way?
Or are there other, better ways?

  • How long would you expect this crisis situation to last? There is a big difference for SEO if it is less than a day compared to more than a day. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 12 '18 at 14:00
  • Are you planning to take down every page on your website, or are you planning to just replace the home page and leave the rest of the site intact? – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 12 '18 at 14:01
  • Thanks for your answers. I think normally this "situation" will be not longer than a few hours or days. Currently on the homepage is planned. – user966660 Oct 12 '18 at 18:06
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Edit based on the clarification that the website is to display information about an external crisis, not about web services going down:

If there is nothing wrong with your site or any of your web services during one of these crises (i.e. they are external crises you are reporting on like plane crashes, like you mentioned), I would recommend just having your important content just do a front-page takeover rather than using HTTP status codes. Have two versions of your home page - one for "normal" situations with your normal content, and one for your "important notice" situations where you replace whatever you usually have above-the-fold with a big eye-catching notice with your info feed. Serve it at the same URL (/), because during a crisis, your home page IS the info page and it's just doing its job.


Original Answer:

If the purpose of the page is to say something like "we're down for (planned/emergency) maintenance, but we'll be back soon", then this is a perfect use case for a 503 status code.

503 - Service Unavailable

The server is currently unavailable (because it is overloaded or down for maintenance). Generally, this is a temporary state.

Wikipedia

I've seen this countless times on countless professional websites. It's industry standard and it's what Yoast recommends too:

503 Service unavailable. This is the one you want to be returning to Google when you’re dealing with site maintenance. It tells Google that you are in fact working on this page or that something else went wrong. Google knows that when this status code is returned, to check the page again later on.

Yoast

  • With the caveat that even with a 503 code, Google will likely start removing the sure from the search results after 24 hours. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 12 '18 at 17:25
  • From what I can tell, there is no hard answer for when the cutoff is that Google will deindex the page, but a Google employee confirmed that it is definitely less than "a couple weeks". My gut feeling is that a 503 would be fine for even a few days, but any longer would be pushing it. – Maximillian Laumeister Oct 12 '18 at 17:31
  • I think we are talking about different reasons. Our target is not an planned maintenance, I mean unexpected situations, like an air plan crash near our university, or something else (cell phone failure, panic, ...). This site should be the main information source for parents (of our students), for press and others... – user966660 Oct 12 '18 at 18:11
  • @user966660 See the edit to my answer. – Maximillian Laumeister Oct 12 '18 at 18:24
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    I'd add that they should continue to use their normal title for their home page even in crisis mode. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 12 '18 at 20:02

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