I’ve been blogging for over six years, and I still make a lot of mistakes. One of them proved to be detrimental for one of my blogs at the beginning of this week, and I thought it might be a good lesson/reminder for any bloggers who are working hard to build their blog with great content.
On Monday morning, after a weekend spent with family and not checking any stats or anything to do with work at all, I noticed I had zero visitors to my blog that normally has the most amount of traffic among all my blogs.
I honestly thought I had been dropped from Google’s search engine because that is what brings me most of the traffic on that blog. I lost traffic that way on one of my blogs years ago, so I was feeling pretty devastated that even though I had done everything right, I still was being penalized by Google for some reason.
I haven’t been working too hard on that blog lately because I have other priorities at the moment. So I wondered, ‘Could not creating content be the reason Google dropped me?’
I started to dig into it. It’s funny how little information there is out there about something so big. You really have to know where to start if you want to find some real answers – and I didn’t even know where to start.
Starting To Get Somewhere…
After some useless searching, I checked my email and noticed that Google had sent me a message. I geared up to be told that I had been dropped from the rankings, but, instead, I found out that the Google bots were unable to crawl my site.
I did what Google suggested and used Google’s ‘fetch as Google’ to see what the bots were seeing. Apparently, they were not able to get anything from my site because I was getting the message ‘unreachable’ as a status when they tried to crawl my site.
I use Google Chrome as a browser, so I quickly checked my site and I was able to see it fine. I cleared my browser cache and I could still see it fine!
I started to search for why Google’s bots would be unable to crawl my site, and eventually I found a how-to article that I thought would help me. I can’t even remember what it was about or what it was supposed to do for me, but, obviously, I thought it might help in some way.
It required me to download Firefox, so I did. And, once I opened up Firefox and tried to open up my site, I realized that my site was down giving a ‘500 internal Server Error’ Message.
A quick look into that message made me realize that it might be a server issue, so – even though I hate doing it – I picked up the phone and called GoDaddy to see if they knew what was going on.
GoDaddy Couldn’t Figure It Out
I was on the phone for 1 1/2 hours. The girl on the other end could not figure it out, and eventually she said that something must have happened to the index page. Meaning I added some sort of code or something into it.
I was sure I hadn’t done that, but I’m not as computer savvy as the GoDaddy techs, so I didn’t argue.
She told me I would have to restore my site to the latest backup I had done OR they could do a backup for $150 CAD. I checked to see when they last time I backed up my site was and it was 3 MONTHS AGO!
Since I hadn’t been working on the site much, I opted to just go back three months by myself and avoid the cost.
The funny (frustrating) thing was that after I did the backup, my site still wasn’t working.
Fixing It By Myself
I stepped away from the situation for a while and when I was a little more clear-headed I came back to it.
I decided to disable to open up Google Chrome -where my site was still accessible for me – and disable all of my plugins to see if that did anything. And it did! The site was working all of a sudden.
Using Google’s ‘fetch as Google’ in Google Webmasters, I rejoiced when I saw that it was finally getting access to my site. I was getting the green message ‘complete’ instead of the red message ‘unreachable’.
So, I started to add back a plugin at a time and check in the ‘fetch as Google’ after each add. Eventually, I found out that one of the plugins (W3 Total Cache) was causing the problem.
On Friday, I had updated the PHP version in my hosting. I don’t really know what that means (told you I wasn’t computer savvy), but I remember that one of my plugins (Compress JPEG & PNG images) was telling me that I had an outdated PHP so some of its features were not working properly. So, I went into my GoDaddy hosting, figured out how to update it, and then updated it.
Thanks to my stats showing a drop to zero traffic on Friday afternoon, I’m assuming that right after I updated the PHP version, my site when down. But because it looked fine on Google Chrome, I shut my computer off and never bothered to check it again until Monday morning.
The Most Annoying Part?
The fact that it was just a plugin issue meant that I didn’t need to restore my site to three months prior. If I had just disabled all of my plugins and added them back one at a time, my site would have been fine.
Why didn’t GoDaddy do that?
How NOT To Lose Your Content While Blogging
There are two lessons here. First, backup your site often. At least once a week. That way if you have to, you won’t lose all of your hard work that you’ve put into your content.
In fact, I would suggest backing up before you update anything on your blog, after you write a long post that you worked hard on, after you put up a guest post on your site, and after anything else that involves your blog.
Second, trying disabling your plugins and adding them back one at a time before you resort to restoring your site. Over the years I’ve had a few problems with plugins and my site, so it was something that came to mind (a little too late, but better late than never!)
Losing the content that you worked hard on is frustrating. Yes, you can find a cached version of your site and copy and paste the blog post back in, but that’s a lot of work. It’s much easier to backup your site and click ‘restore’ to bring all your content and hard work back to life.
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