OVH servors fire: how to react to avoid an SEO impact?

Lucas Perrosé . March 11, 2021

During the night of March 9 to 10, 2021, a fire in the premises of the hosting company OVH destroyed several servers, causing more than 3.5 million websites to go offline. As the different services are not expected to be back online before Monday March 15th at the earliest, the situation presents a real SEO risk for the downed sites, which may then be downgraded in the search results by Google.

What actions should be taken to avoid an SEO loss?

Since this extreme situation will take several days to resolve, the SEO response must be done in two stages.

Put the site in maintenance with an answer code 503

In order to manage the situation urgently, we recommend sending a 503 response code (site under maintenance) on all pages, telling the search engine bots to come back later. This solution saves time in the interpretation of the unavailability of the site by the bots, which will not react immediately.

However, this situation will not prevent a downgrading in the search results within 24 to 48 hours if the 503 code is maintained. It is therefore essential to set up an alternative solution, so as not to leave a site inaccessible for almost a week, while OVH solves this problem.

Put a back-up of the site online on another host

If a previous version of the fallen website is available (back-up), we recommend to put it online on another host than OVH, then to point the DNS to this new host. This temporary solution will allow users and search engine bots to explore the website again (potentially different depending on the age of the backup).

If no back-up is available, it is still possible to reassemble a static version of the site (at another host) based on web archives, available on free tools like archive.org. This solution will allow to secure the strategic pages in SEO by allowing the bots to browse them again, while waiting to be able to re-propose a dynamic site 100% functional.

Note that there is no perfect solution to manage this emergency, but the alternatives proposed here are effective to avoid – or limit to the maximum – the SEO damage of this exceptional situation. Our teams remain available to accompany you in this period, do not hesitate to contact us.