Not all website downtime is bad. In some cases, it’s necessary to schedule downtime in order to practice maintenance, make needed repairs, run tests, or load new content. However, this planned downtime can be disclosed to customers well in advance and you have the opportunity to redirect visitors to a temporary page that tells them when you’ll be back up and running.
Unscheduled downtime, on the other hand, does not allow you the same preparation. So when visitors seek out your site and get an error message instead of a landing page, they’re going to be understandably disappointed, or maybe even annoyed.
First-time visitors are likely to navigate away, probably never to return. Although regular customers may give you the benefit of the doubt, several unscheduled outings could ruin customer relationships you’ve worked hard to build. Then there are the problems you’ll have when search bots can’t locate your site.
In short, unplanned site downtime can be a real hassle for your business. In many ways, it can bring your operation to a crashing halt. Here are just a few examples of the impact you’re likely to feel when your website goes down.
1. Lost Sales
The biggest halt, of course, will be to online sales. When your website is down your customers can no longer access product pages or shopping carts, hence eliminating your ability to make sales.
This is a major problem for any business relying on revenue from online sales. If you have a brick-and-mortar location in addition to your online presence, it might not be such a big deal, except for the fact that downtime can impact future sales, as well. Online-only stores will find themselves in big trouble if they suffer extended or ongoing outages.
When consumers visit your site and find it unavailable, there is a great likelihood that they’ll never return. They’ll go to competitors whose sites they can access. You will not only lose sales in the immediate sense, but potentially in the long-term, as well.
2. Loss of Service
Depending on your business, customers or clients may rely on your web portal for certain services, or you may need online operations to carry out business. Downtime could throw a wrench in your ability to provide services for your clients.
Just consider what happens when an airline’s website goes down. Not only do they lose the ability to sell tickets, in some cases, but customers may not be able to check in, track flights, or fly at all, even if they’ve already purchased their tickets. The negative impact this has on a business goes far beyond the loss of a single sale, for example.
3. Reallocation of Assets
If your business relies heavily on online operations, your staff may be unable to perform their duties until your site is back up and running. Even those that can continue working might be reallocated to work on finding solutions for the downtime or to deal with angry customers.
4. Reduced Rankings
In addition to raising the ire of consumers, website downtime can be a black mark with the bots search engines like Google use to ensure that their customers get the best possible recommendations for their search queries. In other words, if Google finds your website down too often or for too long at one time, you will likely be penalized.
This could include reducing your rankings for certain searches. In extreme cases you could even be de-listed. This type of damage could take months to repair, ruining all the hard work you did to achieve stellar rankings and leaving you without access to search traffic in the meantime.
5. Damage to Reputation
The long-term effects of site downtime can be difficult to gauge, but it’s fairly likely that the ripple effects won’t be fully realized for quite some time. One major issue you may come up against is damage to your reputation resulting from extensive or frequent downtime.
Positive customer reviews can really boost your reputation, but negative ones can do just the opposite, and if your site is unavailable, inconveniencing customers, negative reviews are sure to follow. In order to undo this damage, you’ll have to find ways to change the opinion of reviewers. Otherwise prospective customers will be tainted by the bad reviews, which could potentially halt your business for good.