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What to do when you no longer need your website
There may come a time when, for a variety of reasons, you no longer need your website. The question is, what to do with it when you’re done? I have some suggestions to help you move forward in the best way possible.
There are many reasons why you may not need your website anymore. Maybe you’ve closed your business for a new adventure, run out of time to continue to maintain your blog, or closed up a location. All legitimate reasons for no longer needing the website. However, just closing down the website won’t stop people from attempting to go to your website. People will still land there and get an error page. It takes several weeks for your URLs to fall out of the search engine results, and possibly longer if you have a lot of backlinks.
There are right and wrong ways to close up your website, especially if you think you may need your followers again one day. This occurred to me because it’s election week, and a lot of candidate websites are going to need to make changes now that election day has passed. However, many of these candidates may decided to run for another election in the future, so just shutting down isn’t going to be the best option.
Don’t Just Shut it Down
It does cost money to keep a website up, at the very least you have your web hosting and domain name expense. So there’s a temptation to just cancel everything immediately. However, the better option is to shut down all the individual pages of your site and add a message so that any site visitors who land on your site know what is going on.
If you don’t include a note or message about where your site went, the people who land on it and don’t know won’t know what has happened. I recommend leaving this message up for as long as you can afford to maintain the web hosting and domain. (At a minimum a couple of months.)
What to do instead
Recommendations for Candidates
If you’ve won your race, keep your domain and website and put up a message, thanking your customers/supporters. Leave this in place until you are inaugurated. At that time, redirect the domain to your official website for your new position. Don’t let your domain expire – you may want to run for that office again when your term is up.
Your “thank you” message should also include a place for folks to sign up to hear from you in the future. There may come a time during your tenure that you need to reach out to your constituents, and of course, you may need those subscribers if you run again when your term is up.
If you didn’t win, I have the same advice. Keep your website up as long as possible with thank you message and a subscribe form, so if you want to run again in the future you still your online presence and your subscribers.
If you want bonus points, turn your website into a blog where you write about the issues at hand, and build up a following for your next race.
Recommendations for Businesses
Your business may no longer need a website for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve closed one of your locations, or moved on to a new career path. Whatever the reason, resist the urge to just shut down the website. Add in a message informing your customers what’s going on, why your website/business is going away. (And include a sign up to collect their info for future notifications. You never know when you may want to start up the business again or reach your clients for some reason.)
On the flip side, resist doing nothing. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a fully live website for a business, then showing up to the business that’s closed for business when you went to their website and it appeared they were still open.
How to Close your Site with a Goodbye Message
If you have a WordPress site, there are some very simple options for closing your website. I typically use a plugin called Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd. It’s free in the repository, and easy to install and configure.
It has a very simple interface to walk you through setting it up. You can add your logo, a headline, and a message, as well as your SEO title, description and your Google analytics code. (Always add in that tracking so you can see who is visiting your site while it’s closed down.)
It even gives you some basic settings for design, but understand this is going to be a very simple page if you stick with the lite (free) version. There is a Pro version for $30 a year which gives you lots of templates, stock photos, social media integration and shortcode options. Personally, I’ve never needed the pro version and found the free version suitable.
Why not just put the message on the homepage and leave the rest?
I’ve seen plenty of people do this. You write up a message and apply to the homepage, either in place of your homepage content or in a popup. And that works… sorta. However, not every person enters your website on the homepage, so if you only have that message on the homepage, anyone who lands on other pages will miss it.
You may think you can just delete your other pages, but then your visitors will get a 404 error when they land on those pages. Additionally, if you use a maintenance mode or coming soon plugin, your entire website will remain in-tact, but hidden, so that if you need it again all you have to do is disable that plugin.
Finally, terminate your services
There may come a time, after you’ve informed your customers or subscribers that you’re no longer around, that you need to go ahead and turn everything off. Don’t just let it expire. Cancel your services with your providers. Cancel your web hosting account. Delete your domain if you’re sure you won’t need it. There’s no reason to continue to pay for these services if you no longer need them, and it’s a good idea to close accounts you don’t need. I’ve heard stories of people who just let their credit cards expire and never actually cancel. The service providers have a right to know you are no longer using the service, so take a few minutes to close out your accounts when you’re sure you’re completely done. (This also eliminates the potential for your account to be hacked.)
There are wrong and right ways to close down your website. Neither is hard, so take a few minutes to plan an exit strategy when you no longer need your website.