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Do most web surfers just see it as a "quirk" of the Internet and just try back later, or would they panic and never come back?
I'm certain you've lost a small percentage of new visitors who may have become repeat visitors. If your first time visitor stats are high, logic would tell me that you've lost that once in a lifetime opportunity to capture their attention if the site is down.
I have an interesting situation right now where a client let his domain slip into expiration. He was fortunate to get it back, but there is a 72 hour waiting period for his Registrar to do their thing. This happened on Monday morning, it's now Wednesday and the site is still down. I've got my fingers crossed.
I've had some down time with various sites over the years and "knock on wood" nothing severe has come of it. 12 hours is minimal. But, it depends on when that 12 hour outage is. If it were during a Google crawl or one of the other SE's major crawls, then I might be somewhat concerned! ;)