How long does it take before Google starts de-indexing your pages on server failure

I recently got the opportunity to discover how long Google would keep showing my content on the search engine result pages when my web server was unavailable. Predictably, I only had a short window of time before my content got removed. And the first content to go was my top ranking pages.

Last month I was managing some DNS records and accidentally wiped the A-record for blog.paranoidpenguin.net, making this blog effectively unavailable. I noticed the issue but thought it would be interesting to see how much time Google would grant me before starting to de-index my pages. Entering the unknown, I proceeded to delete the remaining sub domains from my DNS to remove any trace of life.

Tracking progress

Using Google Search Console, I kept track of the issues presented and followed the subsequent de-indexing from SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). The image below shows the development as logged by Google from the initial removal of my site on 15.08.2018 (dd.mm.yyyy) until its revival on 19.08.2018.

Google sitemaps report
Google Search Console – Sitemaps report showing de-indexed pages.

In short, I was given a 48-hour grace period before Google consistently started to de-index my content. Pages enjoying a SERP rank between 1 – 5 were the first to get removed. This is perfectly understandable as it would be detrimental for Google to have dead links on top of a SERP.

I restored my blog on 19.08.2018 but soon noticed that Googlebot wasn’t particularly interested in visiting me anymore. I gave it another day before I resubmitted my sitemap in Google Search Console, hoping that would entice Googlebot to resume regular visits. That did seem to do the trick and in a week’s time all of my previously de-indexed pages had been restored to their former glory, keeping their old SERP rank.

Lessons learned

  • Exceeding the 48-hour unavailable mark resulted in de-indexing.
  • De-indexed pages were likely not deleted but temporarily masked as unavailable.
  • De-indexed pages kept their original SERP score when reintroduced to the index.
  • Not having a blog was kind of relaxing.

Unexpected results

During the de-indexing stage, I performed multiple searches for keywords where I previously had a high SERP rank. I was rather surprised to see Google still promoting my original content, but sailing under an entirely different flag. It turns out my content had been frequently re-published by some Chinese sites living large on Google AdSense. Those Chinese sites instantly disappeared from SERP when my content was re-indexed.

Thank you for reading!
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