In this post Michael Gray looks at how to shut down a blog.
While there are numerous articles and blog posts with best practices on how to start and grow a blog, there are very few on how to properly shut down a blog. There are many reasons why you’d want to shut down a blog, perhaps the topic cooled down, maybe you’ve lost interest, or maybe you simply don’t have the time to devote to it any longer. In this article I’m going to walk you through some best practices for how to shut down your blog. I’m going to be using some WordPress specific plugins or tools. If you’re on a platform other than WordPress look for ways to adapt the process to suit your needs.
Shutting Down or Just Pausing
The first issue you need to address is are you shutting down the blog “permanently” or are you just putting it on pause for a little while? If you are pausing it leaving the door open to start it up again, you probably don’t want to stop the posts cold turkey. One option is to dramatically slow down the post frequency, instead of your normal posting routine, go to a one or two blog posts per month schedule. This keeps you blog alive in the eyes of a search engine, and avoids those awkward blank spots in your blog. Don’t have the time to do it yourself, outsource the content creation. With short blog posts of 200-400 words costing $7-10 each the expense is fairly minimal.
Letting Your Readers Know
If you have a significant number of readers it’s just polite to let them know you won’t be posting as much or are stopping posting entirely. The danger is of course they will probably delete you from their feed readers, making it harder to start the blog back up again. An alternative would be asking them to join a mailing list so you have a way to let them know if you do decide to start things back up again.
Authors and Contributors
If your blog has multiple authors or editors, you should reduce their level of access. Lower everyone except yourself to contributor or subscriber status. This removes the potential loop hole someone else might post to your blog. Next you want to turn off the ability for new users to register, keeping unauthorized people out of your WordPress back-end is just good security. As of WordPress 2.7 this option is in the admin panel > settings > general settings screen, you want to make sure the “anyone can register” box isn’t checked. While you’re here it’s also a good idea to make sure that the default new user role is set to subscriber, just in case a vulnerability is discovered that allows people to still register as a new user.
Comments and Spam
If you’ve been blogging for more than 90 seconds chances are you’ve had the privilege of dealing with blogspam. Hopefully you’ve installed a plugin to help you manage spam comments such as akismet or bad behavior, to help you block spam comments. You’ll also have to worry about trackback spam you can use a simple trackback spam plugin or disable trackbacks completely. To completely lock things down you want to use the close old posts plugin which allows you to prevent comments on any posts older than a specified number of days you define.
There are a number of backup plugins for wordpress I’m a fan of simple wordpress backups, which allows you to backup the entire database to a file or to email it to yourself. I’m also a big fan of off-site backups so I’ll mail myself a copy and keep it in a gmail account. You should also backup your template folder, and uploads folder (you should do this even if you aren’t shutting down your blog). If something goes wrong with your hosting account this provides you with a bit of insurance.
Since your new posts will have stopped or slowed to a trickle, you can afford to be a little bit more aggressive with your monetization strategy. If you are using AdSense place it more “aggressively” within your template, you’ll probably get the highest CTR in the beginning of your posts. Also consider sponsored banners, advertisers are willing to pay more if they can get prime above the fold real estate. Negotiate a long term deal if possible.
Maintenance and Upkeep
In another article I wrote The Downside of Using WordPress maintenance and upkeep was one of the key issues I brought up as being a negative aspect of WordPress. If you aren’t writing for a blog chances are you aren’t going to be too motivated to keeping it up to date, and this presents a huge opportunity for hackers. Try to remove or disable as many non essential plugins as possible. Before you turn off the lights make sure everything is up to date. Eventually though you will need to come back in and perform some upgrades, just to keep your blog from being hacked. If you are absolutely 110% sure you will never come back to the blog, you can you can use a site ripper like HTTracks to make a flat file HTML copy of the site and upload it in place of wordpress, freeing you from the update cycle. Just make sure you have a backup of the DB first in case you weren’t 110% sure :-).
If you’ve got a monetization strategy in place and it’s covering your hosting and registration costs you could keep things running indefinitely. If it’s been over a year you might want to use the flat file solution, just to keep you from spending any time on the site site at all. If your blog isn’t covering costs, or you simply don’t want the loose end, you may want to consider selling the domain. Contact other bloggers who are in your vertical market about buying your domain. Potential buyers will be much more interested if your domain has traffic, has links, and you are willing to give them copyright to the content.
About the Author
You can find Michael Gray speaking at many search engine industry events such as SES, SMX and Pubcon. Michael has over 10 years experience with internet marketing projects. He consults on their website, marketing, and search engine optimization. You can read his blog at www.wolf-howl.com, companies looking to promote their products can use his new product review service at ViralConversations.com.