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How I Lost 99% Of My Traffic In 5 Days (And How You Can Avoid It Happening To You)

Filed in Case Studies by on July 20, 2014 5 Comments

Traffic Drop

 

NOTE: This was supposed to be posted several months ago but the scheduled post feature failed and I forgot all about it.

So the dates are old but the important lessons you'll learn are still valuable.

 

I'm guessing you don't want to lose 99% of your traffic, right?

Me neither.

But it happened a few months back on NicheHacks.

Tuesday April 22nd was NicheHacks busiest day to date with 508 visitors (NOTE: at the time, the blog now gets over 600 per day).

Then on Sunday April 27th the site received just 5 visitors, the lowest volume to date.

Even before the site 'officially' launched it received more than that.

That's a percentage decrease of just over 99.01%

Can you believe that? Nearly all of my traffic gone over night.

 

G Analytics Traffic

 

 

So what happened?

TL;DR Version: My site was constantly down due to using cheap hosting and dodgy themes so all my audience disappeared in frustration - if you want to skip to the 'takeaway' that will benefit you scroll down to the bottom.

 

If you're a regular visitor to the site you'll know that recently the site was down a lot and loading slow when it was live.

At first HostGator were having problems across the board. Most sites on their servers were down.

Then a few days later the problem seemed to be solely with my site.

I woke up with a pounding headache and hangover from hell around mid day on Saturday 26th to find the site displaying 404 error messages.

I couldn't even log into my dashboard.

Initially I thought it was just Hostgator being rubbish as there's been a lot of reports of them having problems recently.

They told me the 'oik' plugin (generates privacy policy pages) was causing really crazy load times.

So that was removed and I was put back online.

Only to be taken down again a few hours later.

Then I was told it must be another plugin so I removed just about everything and was put back online.

Only for it to happen again.

I didn't go to sleep on Saturday night trying to remedy the issue. Surviving on a diet of caffiene and pizza which caused severe gut ache the following day.

Despite the gut ache I stupidly ate more pizza for breakfast and lunch and dinner. I'd bought enough food for 5 people.

Nothing I did seemed to work as they'd just take the site down again.

I've been a long time user and fan of HostGator. Never before have I had any major problems with them but this was killing me.

I came to the conclusion that I HostGator were just no longer a reliable solution for me – thinking the problem was all at their end.

 

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So what did I do?

I decided I was going to switch hosts immediately.

The problem was in order to switch hosts I had to be able to get access to my site and I wasn't able to for long periods of time.

 

Time to move to WP-Engine

I spent all day Sunday trying to migrate to WPEngine after reading a glowing recommendation from fellow blogger Matt Woodward some time ago.

Two days after I'd switched to WPEngine I read that Matt was having major problems with them and was moving host, uh oh!

Plus the move was complicated and involved messing around with files in areas of the Cpanel I've never dared look at before.

For someone who runs websites I'm not all that technical.

After a lot of problems the WPEngine support staff took over and actually did the install for me which was much appreciated.

Late Sunday evening most of the important stuff was done and the site was in the process of being transferred but none of this is instant and there was still things to be changed with my domain company and to keep my Gmail business email running.

By Monday evening I still wasn't able to log into my site and make any changes but the site was up and running for visitors and it was pretty fast too to begin with.

It's times like this I'm glad I built an email list as I was able to keep my audience updated throughout the situation so they knew I wasn't hacked or gone forever.

Sadly the fast speeds didn't last. Loading time shot up to 26 seconds according to Pingdom tools.

WPEngine gave me a ton of suggestions about how to speed up site, agrressive caching, autopimize plugin, compressing images, cloudflare.

None made any difference.

Eventually after weeks of back and forth emails (no live support!) they said my theme was causing the slow loading times and not their servers.

It seemed to me at this point they were blaming everything but themselves and because none of their previous suggestions had made any difference I was reluctant to believe them.

 

Time to move again?

I hired an independent WP Consultant to take a look and he analyzed my site free of charge concluding that whilst the theme was “beefy” he believed a serious host should be able to handle it.

So I decided that I'd move hosts again this time to SiteGround.

SiteGround did the move for me, for free, which was fantastic.

However they were unable to load my theme on their server due to seriously high loading times because of the amount of page queries the theme was sending.

After them spending hours debugging it they concluded they had no working fix for the problem and it would have to be something the theme developer looked into.

Fair play to them they tried and they gave me better advice than HostGator or WPEngine had.

 

Theme issues

It was clear that this point that the issue WAS with my theme, even though it had worked no problem for 6 months, and perhaps not so much with either HostGator or WPEngine.

Thought HostGator certainly did have problems with the site being down even before my theme was playing up so they aren't reliable enough IMO anymore and reading about some problems other bloggers have had with WP-Engine shows they aren't perfect either.

So I contacted my theme developer who were adamant that the theme wasn't the issue it was my server.

After endless emails back and forth over a period of about 2 weeks explaining that THREE hosts were having problems with the theme they agreed to investigate it.

They never did come to a conclusion on what was causing the problem so I stopped talking to them. Waste of my time.

 

Switching themes

I didn't really want to wait so I decided to switch themes to Genesis Generate which I also own.

That proved to be problematic because when switching from my previous theme to Genesis, basically everything went to sh*t.

The site was a mess. Luckily I'd made the change in my WPEngine 'staging' area to avoid affecting the main site.

I didn't have the patience to fix all the problems so I hired a Genesis Theme expert to switch me over to Genesis Generate.

He tried his best to get the site looking like I wanted it but ultimately it didn't look good at all and there was no way I could put the site live.

So I bought a new theme called 'SuperBlog' from ThemeForest which is a pretty cool theme but there were a few things that I wanted that weren't available as standard so that was going to be more hassle.

At this point in time I'm not sure if the theme will do everything I want it to but it's certainly an option if I do change later.

The one issue I have with using this theme is I really don't think it's a well tested theme and I could potentially run into similar problems as I have with WP-Radiance down the line.

Switching themes has proved to be a bit of a nightmare so far and I've yet to find one that is has powerful or flexible as WP-Radiance which just has loads of cool tweaks and features that are great for bloggers.

For example it has tons of different home page layouts and by using the current one I've dropped home page bounce rate by about 7%.

It has also different page types so I can easily create sales, landing and thank you pages and more without the need for plugins or tools.

Add in all the customizable features they have built in it makes it a great bloggers theme but the reality is if it's slow then it has to go!

 

Update from now 18/07/2014:

I'm still using WP-Radiance as the slow speeds sorted themselves out for some time.

However it's still not as fast as it should be plus it loads in stages making the site sluggish and clunky.

Plus sometimes it takes forever to scroll down pages.

So ultimately I am going to have to change themes as soon as I have a few spare days.

Sorry to anyone who's been affected by the speeds. No one is more annoyed by it than me.

Thankfully after a few days of being back online my traffic bounced back to around normal levels (thank f*ck for my email list) and has since increased.

 

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So how can you avoid loosing all your traffic overnight?

 

There's 3 things you need to do:

1. Move your site to a DEDICATED WordPress host now and not a regukar shared hosting – your site will be faster, more secure, and better for your audience.

2. Build an email list so you can keep in touch with your audience even when your site is down and continue to build your relationship and run your business whatever happens with your site.

3. Pick a proven premium blogging theme with a solid framework from the start because it can be a nightmare to move later and you'll likely have less problems.

 

Dedicated hosting is essential...

If you're running anything other than a hobby blog that you don't care much about then you need to move from cheap shared hosting to a DEDICATED WordPress host immediately.

If your website makes money, you plan to make money with it, is part of your business then you absolutely NEED to move to a more serious host NOW!

Don't wait until a problem occurs and your traffic drops 99% like I did because you might never get that traffic back.

People don't have the patience for websites that are down or constantly slow. They just stop visiting.

They might assume you've gone AWOL, taken the site down or been hacked.

It's not very professional and you're going to look bad even though most of my audience has been pretty understanding about the situation.

Plus there are stories of shared hosts removing websites all together and refusing to put them back up because of their CPU usage so that could cause you a whole load more problems too.

 

Which hosting company do I recommend?

Three options:
1. Wp-Engine
2. SiteGround
3. Traffic Planet Hosting

Well right now I am using WP-Engine.

Things have been OK with them aside from a few minor issues but that will be the case with any host.

However reading about Matt W's treatment, someone who no doubt sent them a lot of customers and could have been a good ambassador for them, worries me.

SiteGround who I moved to very temporarily had great live chat support and seemed very helpful, plus are recommended by Dave Schneider who's opinion I value.

However I haven't really fully experienced them yet as when they told me the issue was with my theme I just switched back to WPEngine.

Another company that was recommended to me was Terry Kyles Traffic Planet hosting.

No personal experience with them but I know Terry is a stand up guy and his Traffic Planet forum is the best place on the net for SEO advice.

So choose wisely based on your own research here but definitely get a DEDICATED host that specialises in WordPress (I'm assuming you use WP) and not a cheap, general, shared hosting company.

 

You MUST build an email list...

Also if you're not building your email list then you need to start NOW!

You should have been doing so from the beginning because if you're site goes down you can let your audience know what's happening.

In an even worse scenario if your site was hacked or went down and your back up had failed you wouldn't be able to tell anyone what had happened without an email list.

You could potentially lose your site forever and all your audience.

No thanks!

Having an email list means that even if the worst of situations you've still got a business and can contact your audience.

>> Get a $1 trial of Aweber on this link.

 

Choose a good theme from the start...

Options:
1. Studiopress
2. DIY Themes

Don't try and save a few bucks by using a free theme and avoid themes that aren't tried and tested.

Stick to well known themes by Studiopress for example.

Some of the most popular sites on the net are running these themes and every problem that can occur has happened to someone else before and can be fixed.

They are solid & powerful themes that do exactly what you need a theme to do as a blogger and chances are they aren't going to break after 6 months and be unfixable.

When you choose lesser known themes by smaller developers that aren't widespread you risk not being able to get the help you need should something go wrong.

I have personal experience with Genesis Generate and it always worked well for me.

I don't have any personal experience with DIYThemes BUT they create the Thesis Theme which is tried, tested, and proven and have a good reputation.

 

The takeaway for you...

You don't want to lose your traffic and audience over night because of host or theme issues.

So pick a dedicated host with a good reputation and a theme from a reliable developer.

If you do run into problems you want to be able to let your audience know what's going on so build your email list NOW and don't wait until it's too late.

You'll be thankful for all this later. Sure it might cost a little bit extra but it's not worth the headache that can happen later if you don't do it.

My problems have been going on for months now and are still not completely fixed because soon as one issue is resolved another pops up.

I've spent hundreds of dollars on trying to solve the issue and still got nowhere.

Most of these issues would probably be avoidable if I'd just went with a Studiopress theme and a dedicated WordPress host from the start.

Don't make the same mistakes I have. Your online business depends on it!

 

Which hosting company do you use and would you recommend them?

What is your theme of choice?

Tell me in the comments section below...

SAY GOODBYE TO BORING NICHE RESEARCH FOREVER!
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Comments (5)

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  1. ProteinFAQ says:

    Sounds like a nightmare. I recently had to switch themes myself as I had a feeling it wasn't very SEO friendly as the links to posts within the post loop didn't contain any anchor text and was just blank (Explicit theme from Themeforest). My 20 pages of content was only showing up in google for about 22 search queries even though a 3 page website of mine was appearing for 4 times as many. I could just be paranoid though as I have only just got into internet marketing.

    Luckily there was only 20 pages of content on it so it could have cost me alot more time, although as it was a review theme a lot of changes still had to be made.

    • NicheHacks says:

      Yeah it's been a nightmare. I will have to switch themes eventually I am sure. I wish I'd just went with a Genesis theme from the beginning.

  2. owuogba says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful info. I have a question for you, Is there anything wrong to go for blogger customize account?

    • NicheHacks says:

      I'm not sure what that is, so I don't know.

      I'd use self hosted WordPress on your own hosting and domain every time though.

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