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What To Do With Your Website When You Are Going Out Of Business

May 22, 2011

Most website advice articles and most projects we work on at Elementive revolve around creating new websites or improving existing websites. The idea is to grow your business through online marketing. We have tons of examples of websites working to achieve great results.

Unfortunately, though, there are economic realities that even the best online marketing simply cannot overcome. As part of the natural course of the economy, some businesses have to shut down. This leads to the question when you go out of business, what do you do with your website?

When you got out of business, there is almost always a transition process – the period where you still have contracts to fulfill or inventory to sell. This is true for businesses with storefronts and websites are no different – especially since websites are your online storefront. You still have inventory to sell, possibly online, and many businesses rely on the website to fulfill custom contracts.

Here are the key steps we recommend for shutting down your website.

  1. Give notification. Inform visitors to your website that you are going out of business. Provide information to existing customers on your website. You want to make sure that this notification is placed in key areas of the website, such as on the shopping cart pages or the contact page. Also, if you are no longer allowing refunds or cancellations be sure to update the appropriate terms and conditions.
  2. Turn off your website in the right order. At some point, your business has no more inventory to sell or simply cannot service new customers for some other reasons. However, typically at this point, you still have current customers to service. As a result, you want to shut down the ability to accept new orders or new leads from your website before shutting off the fulfillment areas of your website (such as the help pages, contact page, online chat, forums, etc.).
  3. Terminate 3rd party services. Most websites utilize some form of third-party services, such as statistics or analytics programs. Other websites run advertisements. Before you turn off your website, ensure all of these services are fully disabled and any recurring payments associated with these third-party services are canceled. In case these services need to reach the business owner in the future, be sure to provide new contact information (an email address, phone number and address not connected to the business). Additionally, shut down any advertisements that you are currently to get traffic to your website.
  4. Backup your website. Yes, you are going out of business and you no longer need your website. However to prevent any future problems, create a complete backup of the content, design, and code of your website. Also, if your website tracks any metrics (such as financial earnings from a shopping cart) check with your accounting personnel to make sure you have downloaded all the information you need.
  5. Delete all files from your server. This one is pretty self-explanatory and is the online equivalent of having all furniture and fixings removed from your retail storefront. You want to leave your server as clean as the day you purchased it. That way when you terminate your website you know you have saved all the files you needed.
  6. Terminate message. After deleting all the files on your website, it is good manners to put up an error page explaining that your website has gone offline. This way anybody who finds your website understands why there is no longer a website available. It is also good practice to provide a message to your former customers on here about what they should do if there are problems. Elementive recommends leaving this termination message up for as long as possible, but at least for one month.
  7. Terminate the hosting account. Contact your hosting company to terminate the account. Depending on your contract and your hosting provider, you might have a penalty fee, a balance due or in some cases a refund. Before contacting your hosting company, be sure to read over your contract to understand what happens when you cancel your service.
  8. Deal with your domain name. Your domain name is the address people type in to access your website. You no longer need it if you are going out of business however many business owners that are going out of business prefer to hold on this domain name for at least the next couple years to prevent spammers (or competitors) taking over the domain name. That way nobody else can pretend to be your company online. This is the best practice for preserving your company’s good name and is the course of action Elementive recommends.If you decide you no longer want that domain name, contact your domain registrar (where you bought the domain) and disable any automatic renewals on the domain. Like with the 3rd party services, be sure to provide updated contact information that is not associated with the business. That way, if the registrar needs to contact a representative of the business they do have valid contact information.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and your needs will certainly change depending on the specific nature of your website. However, following these 8 key steps will ensure your website is shut down in a customer and business-friendly manner.

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