You have decided that the time has finally come. You are closing your business to retire; because you are going back to a j-o-b; you lost that election you had your hopes pinned on or perhaps you won Lotto and are heading off to a life of luxury cruising the Barrier Reef. But what do you do with your website? Can you just hit a delete button somewhere and it all just goes away?

As tempting as the scorched earth option is, closing your business will bring up a lot of emotions for you. A mixture of secret relief coupled with sorrow and a tinge of shame is totally normal.

The challenge is to not let the emotions get in the way of doing things properly. Plan your exit so you can leave with grace, poise and in a way where you maintain control of your story.

To help make things easier, here is a checklist of the steps involved to properly close your website and online presence when you close your business.

Rebranding and not closing down? This post will help.

As Soon As You Know That You Are Closing

1.    Tell Your Existing Clients You Are Closing

If you have lead time (1-6 months), let existing clients know that you will be closing so they can download any files they want from your site and find an alternative service if required. 

Explain what is happening, why it is happening, when it is happening and what it means for them.

2.    Disable New Sales/Registrations/Subscription Renewals

As soon as you know you are closing, turn off product purchases and mailing list registrations on your site. You don’t want someone’s first contact after purchase or registration to be a “Sorry we are closing” message.

3.    Review Your Email Autoresponders

If you have email autoresponder sequences set, review them to see if the content needs to be varied, or if the sequence needs to be stopped.

4.    Turn Off Facebook And Other Pay-Per-Click Ads

No point in paying for ads that are no longer needed. Turn off all ads for your business.

5.    Stocktake All Your Plugin/Theme/Hosting/Emails Renewals

A website has a stack of moving parts. Do you know which bits have annual renewals attached to them? Put together a list that shows where each part is located and when renewals (if any) are due:

  • Domain name registration
  • Website hosting
  • Website theme
  • Website plugins
  • Email service (e.g Mailchimp, GetResponse etc)
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Maps API
  • Google Search Console
Stocktake checklist icon.

6.    Stocktake Your Social Media Presences

Check that you can access all of your social media accounts – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google My Business, Pinterest etc.

7.    Notify Your Followers On Social Media

Put up some posts on your social media platforms that your business will be closing on a specific date. Thank your followers for being part of the journey, and tell them what is next for you and your business, and how people can stay in touch.

8.    Start Updating Your Email Account Addresses

Most business owners use their business email address (e.g. [email protected]) to sign up with service providers or personal things for everything ranging from the bank through to shopper rewards cards. Time to grab a few glasses of something alcoholic and work your way through every … single … email you have ever signed up for and change it to your personal Gmail address.

Don’t use any personal email linked to an internet/phone provider (e.g. Bigpond, Optusnet etc.) otherwise you will be stuck with them as an internet/phone provider for the rest of your life as the moment you change providers your emails will also turn off. Future-proof yourself and go with a free Gmail account.

Calendar icon.

One Week Before

9.    Remind Your Clients

Give your clients a final reminder that you will be closing on a specific date.

10.    Remind Your Social Media Followers

Put up some final posts for your social media relating to your last dates and how people can stay in touch.

11.    Design Your Website Closed Page

Talk with your web designer or explore Maintenance Page Plugins (I use the Coming Soon Page and Maintenance Mode by Seed Prod). Work out what you want your website to tell future visitors.

I recommend having a single page for your site that explains that the business has now closed, thanking people for their interest and how people can get in touch with you.

Closed icon.

Close Day

12.    Take A Full Back-Up Of Your Website

Take a full backup of your entire site including all the themes, plugins and databases and store the copy somewhere you won’t delete it (i.e. NOT on your hosting). While you may not want it now, circumstances change, and you may decide to resurrect it down the track.

13.    Export Any Financial Data

If you run an e-commerce site, export all transactions into spreadsheets in case you need to access them for taxation or other purposes.

14.    Turn On Your “We Are Closed” Page

Turn on your “We are Closed” landing page. Use the Maintenance Mode setting to tell search engines that the site is not available to be crawled. What happens is that search engines will gradually remove your site pages from the index as a result.

I recommend leaving the page up for 6-12 months after you have closed. The reason is that emails will continue to come through to you at your old business email address for what seems forever no matter how many times you update things. While you are keeping your emails running, there is no harm in keeping the page up.

It also means less work in that you don’t have to submit removal requests to get the site de-indexed from search engines. Just leave it run, and the site will be naturally de-indexed over time.

15.    Delete All The Plugins And Themes You Are No Longer Using

Once the maintenance mode plugin is running, you can safely delete all the pages, posts, themes and plugins you are no longer using. By stripping your site down to the basics, there will be less for you to maintain.

16.    Close Down Any Social Media Profiles

Close down any social media profiles that you will no longer be maintaining or using.

Make sure you mark your location as permanently closed on your Google My Business listing.

17.    Remove Your Facebook Pixel From Your Site

As you won’t be re-targeting people on Facebook, remove your Facebook pixel from your website.

18.    Disconnect Your Google Map API

With the changes to Google Maps, billing for maps is now part of most website lives. Disconnect your Google Map billing from your website, and delete the API.

19.    Close Any Other Services Linked to Your Website

Did you mail out products? Then close down your courier/drop shipping etc services. Did you send out a newsletter or autoresponder? Then close down your Mailchimp or other accounts

Maintenance icon.

After You Have Closed

20.    Keep Your Site Maintained Until You Are Ready To Fully Close

Just because you have closed, doesn’t mean the hackers will leave you alone. Remember to regularly log into the site to keep your WordPress and any remaining themes and plugins updated.

21.    Keep Updating Your Email Account Addresses

By now you will swear that you had somehow signed up for every email list on the planet – and still the emails will come in! Keep updating every email that comes to your old email account to your new email address.

22.    Monitor Your Google Analytics & Google Search Console

Keep an eye on traffic to your site. You should see a natural decrease over time. Any spikes are worth investigating.

Nuclear bomb icon.

When You Are Ready To Close Down Your Website Fully

When you are 100% certain that there are no more essential emails coming through to the old email address, then you can fully close down the site. This is nuclear stuff. There’s no coming back from here.

23.    Delete Your Website Files

Log into your hosting cPanel/Plesk or via FTP and delete all the files relating to your website.

24.    Delete Your WordPress Database

Once you have deleted your files, then delete the WordPress database via your hosting cPanel/Plesk.

25.    Delete The Database Users

Delete all database users via your hosting cPanel/Plesk.

26.    Terminate Your Hosting Account

Formally notify your web host that you no longer require website hosting. Unless they get your notice, they are legally entitled to keep billing you.

27.    Keep Your Domain Name

Keep your domain name registered to stop scammers from trying to take over your domain name. Never give up your domain name. You never know when you may want it again!

Last Thoughts

You can do this! Closing down your business is a challenging time for anyone. Just take one piece of the puzzle at a time and tick if off your checklist.

Be gentle on yourself and celebrate that you gave your dream a right royal go, and that that was more than most people do in their lifetimes.

If you need a hand with closing your website down, get in touch.While we specialise in building websites, we are also supportive in helping close things down.

Checklist icon.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR WEBSITE WHEN YOU CLOSE YOUR BUSINESS –  CHECKLIST

As Soon As You Know That You Are Closing

  1. Tell your existing clients you are closing.
  2. Disable new sales/registrations/subscription renewals.
  3. Review your email autoresponders.
  4. Turn off Facebook and other pay-per-click ads.
  5. Stocktake all your plugin/theme/hosting/emails renewals.
  6. Stocktake your social media presences.
  7. Notify your followers on social media.
  8. Start updating your email account addresses.

One Week Before

  1. Remind your clients.
  2. Remind your social media followers.
  3. Design your website closed page.

Close Day

  1. Take a full back-up of your website.
  2. Export any financial data.
  3. Turn on your “We are Closed” page.
  4. Delete all the plugins and themes you are no longer using.
  5. Close down any social media profiles.
  6. Remove your Facebook pixel from your site.
  7. Disconnect your Google Map API.
  8. Close any other services linked to your website.

After You Have Closed

  1. Keep your site maintained until you are ready to fully close.
  2. Keep updating your email account addresses.
  3. Monitor your Google Analytics & Google Search Console.

When You Are Ready To Close Down Your Website Fully

  1. Delete your website files.
  2. Delete your WordPress database.
  3. Delete the database users.
  4. Terminate your hosting account.
  5. Keep your domain name.

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.
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