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: Say a customer is an observant Jew and wants his site to be offline on Shabat - SEO problem? Someone here might have experience with this problem (it's not my personal problem and never has


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Someone here might have experience with this problem (it's not my personal problem and never has been):

Say you have a customer who is an observant Jew and he wants his site to be offline somehow (or at least online but unavailable for surfing) during Saturday - Shabat in Hebrew, Sabbath in English.

Is there a way to achieve this goal without causing SEO problem of any kind to the site?

The way I can think of is a full-screen Lightbox that will cover all the site with a small message, but might not actually hurt the SEO as the site itself will be online but without surfing.

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Never ever block search engine spider too often, it is bad SEO at all.

As per my view the best solution is use unavailable after meta tags. I am surprise nobody talking about this tag :p

With perfect timing, you can show anything in your webpage, it can be 404 error or blocked warning or anything else, which you don't want to show to user.

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No, because a site which is only available 6/7 of the time is worse for the user than an otherwise identical site that is available 7/7 of the time, no matter what the reason for the downtime might be, thus search engines should downrank it.

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The literature is clear:
In the real world how many observant businesses tear down their signage and shop front and have to rebuild it again every week?

It's not about whether the web site is up or not, it's whether they're using it. If they are observant than they will not be turning off/on electricity, cooking, or going near a computer / phone. They will not be interacting with the site and that is sufficient for them to be observant. If they want the rest of the world to be observant too, well that's a different matter entirely.

But... going back to the OP's question:

he wants his site to be offline somehow (or at least online but unavailable for surfing) during Saturday...
Is there a way to achieve this goal without causing SEO problem of any kind to the site?

To address this strictly you need:

every single page on the site to not be missing or give an error so as to not upset incoming links, visitors, or spiders
presenting a page in each that does not degrade the searchable content of the site. That is, you haven't materially changed the presentation of purpose or use, just disabled it.
timed to the appropriate local blackout period
not mysterious to a user. That is, giving a reasonable explanation so as to drive a customer away.

In short, a Javascript solution that dims the page, pops up explaining that the site is observing a religious observance, and when they should return.

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Just imagine if all street lights and police cars and fire trucks couldn't be used on Shabat.

Observant Jews have insisted on some interesting technological quirks. First, a telephone that uses LEDs/phototransisters to sense when a button is pressed. Thus the user is not causing the LED to light, but merely interfering with its path. That has also been done to elevators.

But since G-d never wrote in Holy Scripture that other things should cease to function, one must realize that our Creator looks into our hearts. He knows that when you press that telephone button the resultant machinery will expend power. Same for elevators. But it is what is in the heart that truly matters.

To answer the question directly: There is no way to cause your search engine results to disappear one day each week. Let alone to synchronize the sundown-to-sundown duration of the Jewish day. Not even a reference city on which to base the sundown time.

Sure you can manually take down the server. And in your heart you are trying to obey. That is all He asks of any of us.

But there is no prohibition against your infrastructure doing its job.

Keep in mind that Shabat is the day of rest. One should focus on learning and prayer. Let the web server run on its own. Expend your energy towards knowing Him better each week.

I wish you the best.

Shalom, Brother

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We often think of E-commerce sites as digital stores. If any finance portions can be deactivated on the Sabbath, it might be more appropriate to think of it in this case as a digital poster or booklet. Would you take all of your posters down for the Sabbath?

If that's not enough, I would try to convince them of the JavaScript solution. Tell them it's a "closed sign". It's very reasonable to think of it in that way.

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Sometimes with arguments such as these, it's better to ask questions than to argue. Is your web server is just another machine like your refrigerator? Do you unplug your refrigerator on the Sabbath? If you or your family get food out of your refrigerator on the Sabbath and ate it, are you working or merely enjoying a nice meal? If someone browses to your web site on the Sabbath, are they working or merely enjoying your web site?

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Reminder: A web-server isn't Jewish and doesn't parse human morality. I'm not sure why it must be shut off to traffic because of what an old book said.

Anyways the way I would handle this is display a friendly message to humans, something along the lines of "YOU'RE A SINNER!", then use a 503 header wrapped with source side (metas or JSON-LD) to continue to display backend information for bots trying to index.

Easy peasy, no hassles involved.

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Consult with a rabbi.
My guess is it can't be done in a way that doesn't look like your system is actually failing. Even if the site returns a 404, the HTTP server, DNS server, etc. are still doing work.
OTOH, if you are gentile, and the DNS and HTTP server are yours, they might pass muster.
Consult with a rabbi.
Conditional URL rewriting taking anything in the customer's domain to a "Shabat shalom!" page?
Don't forget that days in Judaism start at sundown on the evening before, i.e. Shabat starts at sundown on Friday.


Also, remember that customer in Leviticus... it is clearly stated that web developers asked to implement such a feature have to be paid 300% more than the price initially agreed.

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I would show a message explaining the situation and then people (jews or non-jews) can leave or click the button "i understand, let me continue". Orders or whatever are of course processed when the shabat is over.

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Placing a website on a temporary hold should it be downtime for maintenance or for religious reasons will not harm your on-going SEO. It may however lower search results temporary until the website is backup, but obviously this should be expected, but long-term, no problem.

The tip to placing a website on hold temporary without any serious impact on SEO is to use the correct status code. In all scenarios its always best to return a HTTP header response of 503 (Service Unavailable). Preferably it's best to use 503 without using a 302 redirect first, this is because the bots will see the status of 302 before it detects the 503 (good point by w3dk).

This can be done either in the HTML, PHP or HTACCESS. Since the majority of answers currently cover various htaccess methods I thought I'd add a PHP method in case someone will prefer an alternative solution.

Setting Header 503 Status in PHP

$protocol = "HTTP/1.0";
if ( "HTTP/1.1" == $_SERVER["SERVER_PROTOCOL"] )
$protocol = "HTTP/1.1";
header( "$protocol 503 Service Unavailable", true, 503 );
header( "Retry-After: 3600" );

The Retry-After is in seconds, so 3600 is 1 hour. If you need more downtime then simply change the number to whatever you require. Simply Google how many seconds in X hours.

Varnish and other caching setups

If using a Varnish or any other setup that caches HTML, then you will need to purge the cache for the changes to take place as headers are generally cached.

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Check out how B&H Photo/Video handles this. They allow the site to remain active but inactivate the cart functions.

This handles the no work/commerce on the sabbath.

There will be an SEO issue if you deny access to the content.

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Removing the website during one day will hurt SEO, but not as much. Depending on the traffic, some crawlers (the ones not scheduled to visit your site during Sabbath) won't even notice. But it will hurt for the users and for the others.

Putting a lightbox or a javascript code is not the best solution either, because it can be bypassed/disabled easily.

One solution is to set a server-side routine that changes the main page to a "closed for Sabbath" version, with the main controls disabled.

But your customer is going too far. From what was gathered in judaism.SE, there is little problem to leave automated systems run during the Sabbath, as long as they don't interact with the people observing Sabbath.

So a more sensible option is to leave the site running, and just disable automated notifications (email, sms, app) to the owners, and/or disable either the user login page or the shopping cart. This way users won't be able to "shop" during Sabbath.

But you can Tell your customer there is no problem on leaving the website on, even if it is E-commerce.

From judaism.stackexchange:

The Torah says you need to let your animals rest; what about your machinery? ("Shvisas keilim"). We follow Beis Hillel that it's not a problem, so your server can go on doing whatever it was doing.

There's also the problem of doing business on shabbos. A more complicated case is leaving my online store open on Shabbos (then after shabbos, you read the orders and ship them); Rabbi Heinemann shlit'a first prohibited this, but then reconsidered and allowed it. It's somewhat analogous to people putting envelopes in your mail slot; you deal with them after Shabbos.

(emphasis mine)

From another question: mentions that one can keep a vending machine open on shabbos, because the pay one is getting is paid "Behavlaah" (Though I don't understand why, unless we're dealing with a contractor).
When one buys and sells through the internet, the transaction isn't finalized for a few days. Moreover, then it isn't "Schar Shabbos" because the work that one is getting paid for took place before Shabbos.

Credits to J for linking the questions in the comments above.

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J. has already pointed out in his comment that it seems not to be a problem that a website is open on Sabbath. If you want an extended discussion, you can point out that neither non-Jews nor machines are prohibited from doing tasks during Sabbath (Sabbath clocks).

If you do not feel to discuss the issue (The whole thing is ridiculous from a technical standpoint anyway; electricity is not fire and there are no "sparks" generated by servers) and/or you want to act on the notion that the customer is always right, you can ask him how long the site should be shut down.

Should it be only for his timezone or should it be for the clients's Sabbath ? If it is a client, it means the whole world and that means he need to close from Friday to Sunday (The exact timespan depends on location).

If the person is still adamant in shutting down the website, set up a 503 page for Sabbath (503 is the correct HTTP code), then use
.htaccess on the root directory:

RewriteEngine On

# The TIME_HOUR must be adjusted to whenever it is dawn on Friday
RewriteCond %{TIME_WDAY} 5
RewriteCond %{TIME_HOUR} >18
RewriteRule .* - [L,R=503]

# The TIME_HOUR must be adjusted to whenever it is night on Saturday
RewriteCond %{TIME_WDAY} 6
RewriteCond %{TIME_HOUR} <19
RewriteRule .* - [L,R=503]

It should work, but test it before.
It is absolutely not your problem for SEO optimization if the customer demands that the website is down. Simply do if it is the customer's decision.

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If the search engines are working correctly then they will be able to tell that the site is unavailable on a Saturday and is therefore potentially less useful to some people than a site that is available seven days a week.

Although it might be possible to trick the search engines into not noticing that for a time, such tricks are unreliable and have the potential to do more damage if the search engines detect that you're trying to trick them.

So I would think that's not reasonable to expect to make the main function of the site unavailable for a day every week without reducing search engine rankings.

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Remind your customer that the webserver is not Jewish and doesn't need the day off to go to the local synagogue. The functions of the site can remain active and any incoming inquiries can simply wait until Monday. The customer's physical store can certainly turn everything off and thus will not be "doing business" on Shabbat.

If they really want it "offline" I would do a javascript function to cover the page with a "Closed today" layer rather than disabling the site. If you go that route, also remind the customer that "Saturday" also has to have a timezone attached. Your Saturday morning is someone else's Friday evening.

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Should never mix business & religion.

I assume during Sabbath, you don't do business or any transaction. If that's your objective, you don't need to bring your complete website down.

The best possible solution would be

If it is a ECommerce business, then in check out page have a message/wishes/whatever to your client on this Sabbath. This way, you can capture the leads and inform about your current situation. Next day, you can call the client and do the business / transaction
If it is a service, then in Contact us page or a popup with in home page with message/wishes/whatever, then it conveys the message without bringing your website down.

I hope, it solves the problem.

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I haven't thought about this before. But I believe it will probably hurt your SEO but might not if you do it right. You will need to make sure to retrieve a "503 Service Unavailable" http header status, for. Then make sure to tell google or other bots to comeback in X time. To do this you need to create a php file with the script to create a header with the appropiate instructions
I will do something like this:

1) Create a 503-http-status.php page
2) In that page insert the
headers information with a php script to tell google to comeback in
XX:XX:XX time
3) Make sure to write the .htaccess every 7 days or
Saturdays with instructions to direct traffic to your
503-http-status.php page. Something like this:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} !^
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !/503-http-status.php$ [NC]
RewriteRule .* /503-http-status.php [R=302,L]

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