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.

Closing Down Website

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.

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

24 Comments

  1. David Pitts Architects, AABC on May 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

    Dear Amy
    I retired as a practising architect October last year, my Websites were with Moonfruit which I just discovered no longer exists.
    I wish to remove all my Website links on Google, etc…. somehow, but do not know how to do this,
    Can you help.
    I have my name and password available.
    01485 210 365
    David Pitts

    • Amy Masson on May 20, 2022 at 8:57 am

      Hi David,

      If you are interested in services, please feel free to request a quote here: https://www.sumydesigns.com/request-a-quote/

      However, once your website is no longer up, your links will eventually drop out of Google on their own.

  2. Cathy Lidster on February 23, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you Amy.
    Do you take on clients to help them adjust their websites going into retirement?

  3. Gary on January 28, 2022 at 7:58 am

    I hired a web design agency to create my website. The website was not presentable, it did not make me happy, the person disappear for 9 month coming back did not want to work anymore, she transferred the website to her partner that did not have access for domain name info this thing have been going for 4 yrs now that I cant access my website it is live but I can’t change anything and I want to do a new website and keep my domain name. I’ve been paying the domain monthly fee and host . I want to start fresh with a new agency and website.
    What should I do to go about it.
    the domain fee is been debt in my account monthly for 4yrs
    Hopefully you can help .
    Thank you.

  4. Lisa on January 1, 2022 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Amy,

    I hired a web design agency to create my website. The project was 95% complete when I had to delay opening my business. I never launched the website. I’ve been paying the agency a monthly fee to host the website ever since (even though it never went live) because I thought I would launch it some day. I’m moving forward with opening my business this year, but I want to start fresh with a new agency and website. When I cut ties with the agency and discontinue hosting the site with them, what would you recommend I do about the website files? I don’t plan to use them, but should I obtain a backup of the website? Are there precautions I should take to ensure the agency won’t use the website?

    Thank you!
    Lisa

    • Amy Masson on January 3, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Hi Lisa,

      I’d definitely request a full backup and save it somewhere just in case you change your mind later. There’s no harm in keeping a copy.

  5. Ellen Murphy on October 13, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Hi I have a website that was made over ten years ago but it hasn’t been updated in years. The company that made the website isn’t in business nor can I contact them. I have no information on logging in or the ability to change anything on the website. At this point I want to make a whole new updated website and get rid of old pricing etc, and one of my children offered to update or make a whole new website but how can I get rid of the existing one? I need the same domain name since that is on all our business literature. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Amy Masson on February 16, 2022 at 5:03 pm

      I am sorry for the late reply, this can be tough to manage. Ideally, you would want to try to contact the company where your domain is registered. If it’s not registered in your name, there are sometimes steps you can take to prove you are the rightful owner and get the domain turned over to you. Once you have access to the domain, you can point it to your new web host and the old site will disappear. The process for this can be different for every domain registrar. You can usually figure out where the domain is registered by visiting here: https://lookup.icann.org/

      Good luck!

  6. Chris Brownlee on July 24, 2021 at 10:32 am

    My site is deceptive now and I deleted the Cpanel I hosted with but the server still got suspended due to the deceptive warning
    What am I supposed to do when my site says deceptive

    • Amy Masson on August 13, 2021 at 12:17 pm

      You’ll want to get a security expert to clean your website.

  7. carole on May 21, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    When my husband retired we closed his website down. It was apparently occupied immediately and now when people go there looking for him, not knowing he’s retired, they get Chinese porn. Is there anything we can do here to stop this? It never occurred to us that his address would be taken over – I wish we had done this differently. Thanks.

    • Amy Masson on May 26, 2021 at 9:28 am

      This actually happens more than you would think, domain squatters buy up domains when they don’t get renewed and point them to spam or other undesirable sites. There’s nothing you can do now, but the best option is to keep the domain for a few years but have nothing hosted on it. That way, by the time you do let it lapse, it’s no longer showing anything in the search results and isn’t useful for someone. The reason they buy up those domains is to direct existing traffic from existing searches to their unmentionable websites.

  8. Robert Cheesmond on May 2, 2021 at 6:03 am

    Hi
    I don’t know whether this is the right place to post a query, but here goes….
    I have a website, hosted by AAbaco, which I built with Sitebuilder. From Last month Sitebuilder is no longer supported for additions or changes, though the site is still out there on the web. How can I transfer the whole site to a new host without changing the domain name?

    • Amy Masson on May 10, 2021 at 7:41 pm

      Hi Robert,

      You’ll have to build a new site with different tools if they are discontinuing your site builder. But you can set up a new site on any host of your choosing and then you’ll point the domain name to your new host by changing the A Record in the DNS settings.

  9. Jim on October 12, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Dropping out of franchise and must de-brand and get rid of old site we have not used for years and stopped paying for domain years ago. Lost passwords, etc. Can we just pay someone to close it or wipe out the brand?

    • Amy Masson on April 18, 2021 at 9:42 am

      I’m sure there are companies you can pay to help, but I wouldn’t know who to recommend.

  10. Olumoto funmilola on July 31, 2020 at 2:33 am

    Please I need a step by step instruction on how to shut down my account on domain dish. Since I registered for it last year I have not used it and my account has been debited for the renewal. I don’t want it anymore. I can’t be loosing money on what have never used. Please help!

    • Amy Masson on July 31, 2020 at 7:57 am

      I’ve never used Domain Dish, but I would recommend logging into your account and deleting the domain and removing your billing information. If you can’t figure that out, you might give them a call for support.

  11. grant on May 30, 2020 at 8:06 am

    Hi Amy,
    I want to shut my website down. I have a link on my main site to the site I want to close down. I have a lot of content which I would like to save and maybe start up a new site later with its content. How can I save my content, and close the site and get rid of the domain too? no point in paying for something I’m not using.

    Thank you

    • Amy Masson on June 16, 2020 at 10:14 am

      I would backup the site entirely. You might copy and paste the content into a Word document for easier storage of the text.

      • Peter on October 7, 2021 at 3:06 pm

        The best way to handle this is to submit the website to archive.org. It will create a complete backup of all the site content for future people to reference and use. I go there a lot to retrieve information and articles from sites that no longer exist.

  12. opuslane on January 31, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    Good article Amy,
    But, I do suggest that businesses keep their domain name, which only cost about $10-$20 per year, for a couple of years. If you just release it for anyone to buy, they will and then continue to do business as you. This could be very bad if they decide to commit fraud with your site name or post disreputable material.

  13. Raq on August 14, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you for this info.
    How about when you purchase someone’s store and you don’t have the domain password or account to use the site or update .
    What are some ways to go about it?
    Can you buy the domain ?

    I hope I can ask the new owner to ask the old owner for the domain with passwords to revise the site.

    Otherwise does the new owner have to change the store name?

    Hopefully you can help .
    Thank you.

    • Amy Masson on August 20, 2019 at 8:08 am

      Are you keeping the website up for the store or letting it go? Either way, you’ll need to work with the store owner to either transfer that domain into your name or have them delete if you no longer want the website.

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