Don’t Let “403 Forbidden Error”​ Be the Last Words Seen on Your Website

Exit landing page how it should look when you close your businessHave you ever typed in a favorite website to see an “Error 404” message? How about the famous “403 Forbidden Error” message? This messaging may be temporary, and you might want to check back later. After “later” has come and gone, what happens next? If you think this will never happen to you, or you don’t care – read on.

Why you should care–it’s about public relations

When you launched your business, you worked hard to build a community of support. You relied on that community for referrals, testimonials, and moral support. You probably still do. What would happen if they referred a potential client to your website and that referral found no trace of you? What?? Oh no! It looks like you’ve dropped off the face of the earth without even a goodbye note.

In one moment, you’ve lost credibility for both your business and for the generous person who tried to send you that referral. You both look like an unreliable resource.

It is always important to respect the perception of your brand for yourself and others. This is honoring the internal public and external public, respectively that are affected by your brand (company).

Perhaps you were helping them post events that mean a lot to them. If you were using to post upcoming events for your client, guess what pops up? Did you happen to notice the image I used for this article? Yes, a big “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign. I discovered this when I recently visited their site to promote an event for one of my clients. I have no idea what happened to them. Did they rebrand? Sell the name? Did someone pass away? Did they just shut the doors and retire? The only thing I know for sure is that I can no longer rely on them as a solution and I now have to find an alternative for my clients.

The business you create is part of your legacy. Show it the respect it deserves and let your public know why it is no longer available. And when you expect to be back, if this is temporary.

Keep it simple

Having a fun sign on your landing page is a great start, but I need more information. Tell me what is going on so I know what my next steps should be. It is the right thing to do. It shows integrity, respect, and loyalty.

Here are a few things that could be added to that landing page to bring more valuable information to someone visiting your website:

Add a thank you message and…

  1. Inform the public you are permanently closed in writing below the graphic on the landing page (bare minimum, but at least you are informing).
  2. If the business has been sold say who bought it and inform the public where to find the new owners (unless you are unable to do so via contract).
  3. Add a warm or fun message that mirrors the nature of your brand. If your brand is more serious, you can still bring warmth. Let people know if there has been a death, if you are retired, or that the brand name or web domain is for sale.

Think: Six Months

Remember to let people know – your internal and external publics – what you are up to and why. If you plan to shut your doors, plan to broadcast your messages for at least six months on your website and across your social media platforms. You don’t want to keep them hanging.

As a business owner, it’s also important to have a clear plan in writing in case of a sudden emergency (unexpected death or disability) that results in closing or suspending your business. This should be a simple set of instructions for your business advisor, assistant, spouse, etc. that outlines how you want the messaging handled on your website and across social media. Remember to include your login information and passwords!

This way, in a time of hardship, those responsible do not have to make any decisions on your behalf. They simply implement according to your guidelines.

That is good public relations.

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