Stopping Search Engines Indexing Website Maintenance Pages

There is no schedule for when a search engine will or won’t turn up on your web sites door step and starting indexing it; what happens when they turn up unannounced during scheduled maintenance? Under normal conditions, the search engine spiders will notice the difference between what they crawled last time and will include your changes into their index. Of course, you really don’t want your ‘we are currently performing scheduled maintenance and expect to be back in 1 hour’ message showing up in search engine results when your users enter an appropriate query.

To stop search engines indexing your site while it is in maintenance mode, there are two simple solutions available:

HTTP 404 response code
Search engines don’t immediately remove your web pages from their index because they cannot access it on a given request; just like they won’t remove it if your site is returning an internal server error. Instead, they will take notice that they attempted to crawl a given web page at time particular time and try again later. Only after repeatedly failing to retrieve the document will they mark that particular page as being non-existent and remove it from their index.
META no-index tag
When a search engine spider encounters a no-index meta tag, they should immediately abort indexing that particular page. After the scheduled maintenance is over and the spiders return, the no-index flag is no longer present – so the spiders will proceed with the crawl as normal.

Next time your site is under maintenance, make sure you’ve implemented one of these point or you could be very surprised what’ll show up in the search engine results the following day!