CASE STUDY: How Being Offline For 4 Months and 12 Days Affected Rankings?

by Nedim Talovic · Updated 13 Jul 2021

People are always worrying about what might happen if they get penalized by Google, or if their site go offline for couple of days, or even weeks. Common questions are:

  • Will I lose my rankings?
  • What will happen?
  • How long does it take to recover?

Well, I have a REAL example because my site was offline for from 17th May, 2016 to 29th September, 2016.

The site was OFFLINE for 135 DAYS (4 MONTHS and 12 DAYS).

Honestly, I’ll share everything with you since I intentionally left the site offline for this period because I wanted to see how long does it take to return back.

But, before that, let’s see what Google says about being offline.

Matt Cutts, a former head of webspam team at Google, answered on this question.

If my site goes down for a day, does that affect my rankings?

He said that if your site is offline only for a day, then you should be in pretty good shape.

But, if your host is down for weeks, then there’s a better indicator that the website is actually down, and they don’t want send users to a website that’s actually down.

In simple terms, you’ll lose your ranking. However, according to Google, being offline for in a short period isn’t a reason for stress.

Now, let’s go back to my example and see what happened after being offline for 4 months and 12 days. Here’s my organic traffic in the 1st year of the project existance - 2013 year.

  • July 2013 = 46 visits
  • August 2013 = 135 visits
  • September 2013 = 131 visits
  • October 2013 = 517 visits
  • November 2013 = 420 visits
  • December 2013 = 655 visits

TOTAL IN 2013 = 1,904 VISITS

This is the Google Analytics evidence.

2013 Traffic

My traffic was increasing week by week. I didn’t do link building so much, it was just a hobby. The project didn’t have commercial intents at all.

In fact, I didn’t invest a single $1 in the SEO nor other digital marketing channels. Now, take a look what happened in 2014.

  • January 2014 = 654 visits
  • February 2014 = 786 visits
  • March 2014 = 1,004 visits
  • April 2014 = 1,164 visits
  • May 2014 = 756 visits
  • June 2014 = 818 visits
  • July 2014 = 1,183 visits
  • August 2014 = 1,088 visits
  • September 2014 = 1,598 visits
  • October 2014 = 2,639 visits
  • November 2014 = 3,190 visits
  • December 2014 = 4,103 visits

TOTAL IN 2014 = 18,983 VISITS

Here’s the photo from Google Analytics.

2014 Trafic

This wasn’t bad at all.

The best month was December where I had a total of 4,013 visits (session). Nothing great, but still solid since I didn’t invest anything except some of my free time.

Anyway, the 2015 year was even better and here’s the traffic, month by month.

  • January 2015 = 3,673 visits
  • February 2015 = 3,789 visits
  • March 2015 = 3,820 visits
  • April 2015 = 3,818 visits
  • May 2015 = 2,645 visits
  • June 2015 = 2,338 visits
  • July 2015 = 2,208 visits
  • August 2015 = 1,688 visits
  • September 2015 = 2,242 visits
  • October 2015 = 2,672 visits
  • November 2015 = 2,791 visits
  • December 2015 = 3,855 visits

TOTAL IN 2015 = 35,539 VISITS

2015 Traffic

Now, when I compare 2014 and 2015, I can see that 2015 was much better.

Specifically, there was an increase of 88.11%. Bounce rate was a bit lower, but overall, I was satisfied.

2014 vs 2015

I didn’t work so much but the traffic was still increasing. New 2016 year had started fine, too.

Here’s the data.

  • January 2016 = 2,381 visits
  • February 2016 = 3,213 visits
  • March 2016 = 3,569 visits
  • April 2016 = 2,858 visits
  • May 2016 = 1,390 visits

Site went down in the half of the week

Site was online only until the half of the May, and it went down on 17th May 2016.

As you might noticed, there was a small drop of the traffic in the last week of the January.

January traffic drop

At that time, I wanted to see how long will it take to return after being offline for 1 week. The result was quite surprising - nothing happened.

Once I returned back, my traffic returned too. But.. what happened when I went offline for 4 months and 12 days? KEEP READING.

Period of being offline

Here’s how my traffic started returning in the first 6 weeks.

  • Week 1 = 14 visits
  • Week 2 = 253 visits
  • Week 3 = 321 visits
  • Week 4 = 423 visits
  • Week 5 = 357 visits
  • Week 6 = 320 visits

Let’s see how it looks when I display it as Day.

First days after getting back

  • Day 1 = 2 visits
  • Day 2 = 12 visits
  • Day 3 = 25 visits
  • Day 4 = 23 visits
  • Day 5 = 40 visits
  • Day 6 = 40 visits
  • Day 7 = 44 visits
  • Day 8 = 33 visits
  • Day 9 = 48 visits
  • Day 10 = 27 visits
  • Day 11 = 44 visits
  • Day 12 = 45 visits
  • Day 13 = 46 visits
  • Day 14 = 44 visits
  • Day 15 = 57 visits
  • Day 16 = 58 visits
  • Day 17 = 69 visits
  • Day 18 = 33 visits
  • Day 19 = 51 visits
  • Day 20 = 73 visits
  • Day 21 = 66 visits
  • Day 22 = 72 visits
  • Day 23 = 59 visits
  • Day 24 = 50 visits
  • Day 25 = 40 visits
  • Day 26 = 49 visits
  • Day 27 = 45 visits
  • Day 28 = 48 visits
  • Day 29 = 57 visits
  • Day 30 = 68 visits

I don’t know about you, but I thought that in the first 30 days of my return, I would have only 300 - 500 visits, but I had 1,368.

Comparing to the best month ever (December 2014) I recovered 33% of the traffic in the first month. What do you think, was this bad or good?

Next, let’s see what happened from 6th November, 2016 to 21th January, 2017.

From November to January

The best week was the period from the Christmas to the New Year which was absolutely logical since this site is about the food.

This is how it looks from some larger view.

Period when the site was offline

  • September 2016 = 2 visits (site was online for 2 days)
  • October 2016 = 1,470 visits
  • November 2016 = 2,157 visits
  • December 2016 = 2,838 visits
  • January 2017 = 2,160 visits (75% of the month)

As for me, traffic has started increasing very fast. Specifically, it took only 2 months to recover the most of the traffic.

We’ll see what will happen in the upcoming months. I’ll make the update of this case study every month so - stay tuned.

Conclusion

I thought that I won’t recover most of the traffic in the first two months.

Honestly, I assumed that it would require about 6 - 10 months, but it happened really fast. In fact, my site was down for 1 week and the results were surprising. No change in rankings.

However, it doesn’t mean that this will be a case for you, too. It would be interesting if someone of you guys do the same thing so that we can compare the results of the experiment.

Do you know any similar case study because I haven’t found anything. Anyway, here’s the data from Google Search Console.

Search Analytics

I almost forgot to show you the graph.

The number of queries where my site appears has increased in the last 90 days. I hope the trends will continue although I don’t update the site frequently.