We recently had one of our client’s website unreachable by Googlebots for over 10 days. Whilst analysing and resolving the problem, we realised that there is very little help and knowledge shared on the Internet. Other than the Webmaster forum, Google offers no support on DNS lookup timeout errors or any other issues with Googlebot or site reachability. You are left to battle this out with your web agency, your domain name registrar and your hosting provider. In response we have compiled some support notes below.
Your site is unreachable - the symptoms:
- Webmaster crawl stats show zero Googlebot activity.
- Crawl error analysis show Google encounters ‘DNS lookup timeout’.
- Your sitemap submission process fails.
- Your robots.txt is not showing as expected or is unreachable.
- Your site’s SERPs have all dropped to page 10 and beyond.
- You don’t even rank for your company or brand name any more.
Don’t panic your site has not been banned
Unreachable and unresponsive sites are not caused by bad search engine optimisation techniques. Link building has nothing to do with this problem. Googlebot is still following your inbound links, but can’t reach your site. Your site has not been banned, penalised or de-indexed. Unresponsive sites drop in the rankings because Google naturally protects its search engine users. If you site can’t be reached there is no reason for Google to show your site in their results pages.
Make your site reachable as soon as possible
If Google encounters the errors for a significant number of visits, your rankings will drop substantially and Google may even pull the site from their index. In our case, after 24 hours , the site was no longer ranking #1 for the brand name and the number of indexed pages dropped from 150 to just 5 within a week. In any case Google will downgrade your rankings for as long as your site is unreachable. Urgent action is required.
Guide to resolve DNS lookup timeout errors
As the error message clearly indicates ‘DNS lookup timeout’ it is a DNS issue. Don’t waste your time checking for coding errors on your site. The problem has nothing to do with robots.txt, sitemap.xml, htaccess files or your code. DNS error occurs before Googlebot is even reaching your site.
The problem is either with your hosting provider and/or your domain registrar. It depends how your DNS is resolved, where and how you host. It could be a server setting, configuration or firewall issue. Unless you host in-house, it is not your fault and you are in the hands of your hosting provider. Only your hosting provider or registrar can resolve DNS issues. You have to escalate the problem fast. First line support won’t be competent enough to help you with DNS issues. If you don’t get instant expert support, change your hosting provider immediately.
Hosting providers routinely upgrade servers, move websites, change configurations and upgrade firewalls. Any upgrade could potentially cause a number of issues including DNS errors. A good hosting provider will want to resolve this issue fast as it is likely that other sites are affected too. A poor hosting provider is keeping problems hidden from you and may even blame your website code for the errors. Don’t fall for it, if your hosting provider does not resolve the errors within 48 hours, move your site.
Steps to take if your hosting provider does not resolve DNS errors
Try the following steps to resolve the issues
Upload your site to another hosting provider and re-point nameservers. You will find out within 12 hours if the problem has been resolved. If resolved, move the site permanently. Make sure you pick a quality host. If you can’t change the nameservers, change the A records. You will find out within 12 hours if the problem has been resolved. If resolved, move the site permanently. Make sure you pick a quality host. If you can’t resolve the issue by hosting your website with a different provider your problem may be with the DNS server. Transfer your domain name to a different host. This requires a little more planning as your emails might be affected by the change. Once done you will find out within 24 hours if the problem has been resolved. You should be able to work through all of the above in less than 7 days.
DNS errors won’t harm your SERP permanently
Clearly if Google can’t reach your site for a long period of time it is not good news. We have worked on a range of unreachable sites and monitored the impact on SEO. From our experience, most rankings come back to previous positions within 48 hours of the site being reachable. Once Google is able to fully crawl your site it will generally reinstate the site to its previous previously ranking. This however will depend on your content, how well the site is optimised and how frequently your content is refreshed. We never experienced any permanent damage to SERPs following one of our sites being unreachable by Googlebot.
For more information, questions or any help with your website optimisation contact us