Hold Everything! Is a Website Holding Page Right for Your Business?
When something good is coming, you want to make sure people know about it.
This is precisely what a business website holding page does; it gives your business a temporary-yet-impactful online presence while your full website is being built. A good holding page informs, engages, excites and reassures your visitors, letting them know you’re there and that there’s a great deal more to come.
But hold on just a moment. A website holding page isn’t always the right way to go for every business, and could potentially do more harm than good – especially when it comes to SEO.
SEO, for those who don’t know …
… is what makes sure your website is found in search engines and generates the traffic (visitors) you need. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is essential for online search engine success, and any significant changes to your web presence can have enormous effects on how visible, findable and authoritative your website is.
But before we go down the cons route, lets look at some holding page pros.
When a Holding Page Could Be Good for Your Business
The use of holding pages, from an SEO perspective, is most beneficial for start-ups and businesses with no previous web presence.
Because at this point your web presence, rankings and visibility has nowhere to go but up. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros of having a holding page for a new business or web presence:
Getting Your Foot on the SEO Ladder
Setting up a holding page with your company name, optimised meta data and a little info about your key offerings gives you a convenient head start in your website’s SEO optimisation. As it will use your company domain name, any optimisation work you do for your holding page will continue to work its magic when you do eventually launch your full website. The earlier you start, the better.
Putting a Face to the Name
A holding page is relatively quick to set up and gives your business a solid web presence while you’re waiting for your full site to be completed. It essentially helps put a face to the name, allowing you to showcase your branding and start telling potential customers what your business is all about. It also means you can begin building up a bit of a buzz around the upcoming website launch, as you will be able to direct people to a solid online location where you can leave content tidbits and teasers for what’s in store.
A Destination for Driving Traffic
Speaking of a solid online location, a website holding page is also the ideal place to start pushing your first waves of online traffic to. Using Google Adwords you can begin driving paid traffic to your holding page by bidding on appropriate keywords. This will in turn give your holding page more visibility in search results and let any potential customers know your business exists.
An Anchor Point for Your Social Media
Most businesses these days have a social media presence, but this on its own is usually a turn-off for customers looking for trustworthy, professional products and services. The sooner you can link up your social media profiles to a solid web presence the better, and this is where having a holding page becomes an advantage. This way, any potential customers that happen upon your business via social media will instantly be able to access what will eventually be your website, plus it means they’ll know it’s there for the future.
So it’s all good news if your business is brand new to the web, but what happens if you run an existing business that’s about to undergo a website domain change?
When a Holding Page Could Be Bad for Your Business
If you have an existing website and established web presence, you might be surprised to learn that ditching your site in favour of a temporary holding page and a brand new domain could have some very unwanted consequences from an SEO perspective.
Because, unlike start-ups, you’ve got a lot to lose – especially if you’ve spent years building up a healthy flow of traffic, visibility and authority in the background. Let’s take a closer look at why you need to be cautious when using holding pages for an existing website domain switch:
SEO Efforts Obliterated
The moment you take your existing website down in favour of a holding page on an entirely new domain, you will lose every scrap of SEO optimisation you ever carried out, along with the benefits it brought. This includes all your search result ranking positions, keywords, domain authority and backlink profile. In other words, you’ll be starting from scratch and near-invisibility as far as the search engines are concerned, which is an almighty waste of all your hard work.
A Conversion Black Hole
If your existing website serves an ecommerce or lead-generation purpose, taking it down and replacing it with a non-functioning holding page will unsurprisingly lead to a drop in conversions, sign-ups and new business leads. As much as we understand you may be eager to leave an old brand identity behind and start afresh, it’s usually much better to leave your existing website up and running while you wait for the new site to go live, especially if it is still generating revenue.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being met with endless 404 error codes when trying to navigate a website or find a particular web page. ‘404 Not Found’ error messages occur when the server cannot find the requested page, and often gives no indication of why or whether or not the issue is permanent or temporary. Replacing an existing domain with a new holding page can lead to all kinds of complications when users try to access pages from your old site, and being met with 404 error codes may lead your visitors to think your business has disappeared altogether.
While we’re on the topic of misleading signals for customers, it is also worth mentioning that the deletion of your existing website can be disadvantageous if it holds important information for your customers. Things like business contact information, product information and event information would be highly useful for customers, so deleting it all could cause difficulties both for them and your business.
So What Do We Do?
Don’t despair. If you do have an existing website and you’re looking to shift to a whole new domain, we’ve got some advice for you.
It’s not every day that somebody will say this to you, but this is one of those times where you should have your cake and eat it. To avoid annihilating all of your hard work and accumulated SEO value, we would always advise businesses with existing, established websites to keep them up and running while the new site is being built.
This means you can continue reaping any benefits your current site is still generating and avoid confusing or putting off your existing customers. Then, once the new site is ready to launch, all of your existing web pages can be redirected to their corresponding pages on the new website using 301 redirect codes. This means no confusing 404 error codes for your customers, plus you get to keep any SEO value from those pages, as this will be fed through to the new domain.
The Exception to the Rule
There is one exception to this general rule of thumb. If an existing website is relatively small, poorly designed, generating very little business value or generating very little traffic (or all of the above) then there’s very little benefit in keeping it going. In these cases a brand new, beautifully designed holding page with all the key information and fresh optimisation efforts will all be far more beneficial than keeping the old site alive any longer
How Do We Know Which Route is Best?
It’s all in the analytics. Your website traffic levels, rankings and revenue can be analysed in great depth to determine whether or not a holding page is the right option for your business; nothing is left to chance and guesswork.
If you’re looking to set up a new website for your start-up or existing business and you’re wondering where to start, give the Design by Day team a shout. Our website design and ecommerce team can guide you through every step of the process to ensure a perfectly smooth transition.