How To Blackout Your Site (For SOPA/PIPA) Without Hurting SEO

Google-Webmaster-SEO-Rep-1304428070A number of websites are (or were) planning to “go black” this week while the U.S. Congress discusses issues related to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The website blackouts are part of a larger social media effort against the bills that our Greg Finn wrote about this morning on Marketing Land.

You may be thinking about joining the website blackout movement, but yikes … what about the SEO implications? How do you take your site offline in protest without messing up your visibility in Google’s search results?

Well, Google’s Pierre Far shared several tips earlier today on Google+ in a post called “Website outages and blackouts the right way.”

In short, the advice is to use a 503 HTTP status code to tell spiders that the website is temporary unavilable. With a 503 status, Google won’t index the content (or lack thereof if you’re blacking out your site) and it won’t consider the site as having duplicate content issues (when all of the pages are blacked out).

But Far adds a couple important caveats to this advice regarding the robots.txt file and what will happen in Webmaster Tools if Google finds your site blacked out. Another Googler, John Mueller, adds additional information in the comments, so you’ll want to read the original Google+ post if you’re thinking about blacking out your website this week for SOPA, or in the future for any other reason.

Of course, also keep in mind that Bing may not handle things the same way if you do blackout your site.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | SEO: Blocking Spiders | SEO: Duplicate Content | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://facebook.com/ModelRania Rania

    If these bills are, in fact, enacted, users who stream copyrighted content 10 times in 6 months may face up to five years in prison. Ridiculous
    Read & Decide: Are you for or against SOPA/PIPA? http://bit.ly/w0E1ar

  • AustinHoffman

    This is just terrible….SOPA is the equivalent of curing a headache with a guillotine. It may stop piracy, but it would shut down our economy and unconstitutionally erode our most basic freedoms in the process.

    I just hope that everyone realizes how important this is and does their part to save the internet & our economy! …here is another good video that explains the consequences of SOPA pretty well:
    http://www.peeje.com/peeje-goes-strike-stop-web-censorship-bills-congress-209/

    1,000s of more websites have joined the force and went dark today, we need EVERYONES help!!!!

  • Martin Prehjan

    Self Censorship???

    …on the internet?

    What country are we living in? IRAN???

    Surprise folks! Iran has such a law!

    …something called juriprudent! (…basically watch out on what you say or think…and always put yourself in the “clerics” shoes considering what they might find “inappropriate or offensive…yeah illegal!)

    Soon we will have the same legislative structure as Iran! (…a bureau of “voice and communications” where every letter of the alphabet is scrutinized and rejected for “perceived” meaning and such!!! …then we can move to the next step…closed door trials where the accused will not know what they are being charged with…not to mention secret jails/prisons and then hit squads!!!)

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

    If this so-called law passes here in the US we will be moving backwards a few centuries!!! (We the people must consider a new revolution!!!)

    If you pass this “law” you must also pass a law where you must wear “head gear” while passing future laws! (just like the ayatollahs!!!)

    Do not “sell out” the forefathers and their wisdom/legacy!!!

    The people have spoken Mr/Mrs lawmakers/representatives…consider your actions and while passing such laws…because your will be doing it without representing me!!!

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