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I'm using Aegir to clone copies of my site under a subdomain name ie test.mydomain.com. These copies are in maintenance mode to keep away spammers and prying eyes. I then use these copies to carry out tests and development work before committing changes to my main site mydomain.com

But am I hurting my SEO by the existence of these cloned sites? Does google crawl a sites which has been put in maintenance mode? Will it penalize me for having so many dead end subdomains?

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about Google internal algorithms, not something specifically Drupal related, nor something we may ever know with any significant level of confidence. – Mołot Jun 29 '13 at 22:49
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    @Mołot How can this not be on-topic? Maintenance mode is a feature of Drupal. There are methods for properly handling this scenario. Asking whether Drupal does the right thing is of use to future readers. – mpdonadio Jun 30 '13 at 1:20
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    @MPD at least part "Will it penalize me for having so many dead end subdomains" is totally Drupal unrelated. The ways Google may get directed to a page in maintenance mode in the first place are Drupal unrelated too. – Mołot Jun 30 '13 at 7:58
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When you put a Drupal site in maintenance mode, non-administrators see the standard maintenance mode page (assuming you clear caches after doing so). If you examine the response, you will see that it is sent back with a HTTP status code of 503, which from RFC 2616 is:

503 Service Unavailable
The server is currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server. The implication is that this is a temporary condition which will be alleviated after some delay. If known, the length of the delay MAY be indicated in a Retry-After header. If no Retry-After is given, the client SHOULD handle the response as it would for a 500 response.

And from the Official Google Webmaster blog:

If my site is down for maintenance, how can I tell Googlebot to come back later rather than to index the "down for maintenance" page?
You should configure your server to return a status of 503 (network unavailable) rather than 200 (successful). That lets Googlebot know to try the pages again later.

So, that gives evidence that Drupal does the right thing, and that Google will revisit your site and index pages the next time it gets back a non 5XX status code.

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    The user login page will continue to return a 200 OK status code (and also display blocks and such that normally aren't visible in maintenance mode (#722434)); however, robots.txt has a Disallow: directive for the login page, so well-behaved bots will still not index it. – Garrett Albright Jun 30 '13 at 2:54
  • This is a good point regarding the maintenance page itself, the 503 response code means Google won't index that maintenance page. – David Thomas Jun 30 '13 at 3:00
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Unless you've done something custom to allow it, Google can't crawl your site in maintenance mode.

Because you need to be logged in to view, googlebot will see the designated maintenance page.

For additional guidelines from Google see the following links:

  • I think the point was that you would not want Google to index the maintenance page. – Fuzzy76 Sep 29 '16 at 7:10
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Your concerns:

If you do not know whether maintenance mode is blocking "everything you want blocked" by 100% (!) -- but at the same time are very concerned about "whether someone like google might still access it". ... then maintenance mode might be a bad choice for blocking your development site in the first place.

Recommendation:

Personally, I recommend simply adding a .htpasswd to your dev sites.

It is simple to automate even inside aegir deployments. It never gets in your way, because your browser and every command-line tool can skip it for you. You can let other people in. It blocks the site in all completeness 100% to google etc.

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