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$$$ and Traffic – Gone with a Cache
I just had a big and costly revelation today.
Since the start of this month, I saw a drastic drop in earnings on my photography site (http://www.iphotocourse.com) but I didn’t see anything strange.
So I did what most webmasters do, I tweaked the layout a big, arrange the ad units and CTA buttons, etc.
Then I looked at my web analytics and I was shocked that the site lost about 85% of traffic overnight!
We’re talking about from 4-digit daily down to barely 3-digits!
I never knew why and thought some new Google update thing occurred and I got bitch-slapped again, so I just let it be.
I couldn’t figure out what’s wrong as everything looked normal and unchanged since last year.
Today’s the 18th, so after almost 3 weeks, a friend of mine asked me why my site is all garbled.
I checked my site with my own browser, and I don’t see anything wrong, so I opened an Incognito window in Chrome and checked the site again and I was horrified to see this on my screen!
My site’s dead!
Whether you’re accessing the home page or inner page, that’s all the users see!
I checked all my other niche sites and websites and to my horror, 2 of them had similar problems!
Traffic and Income Loss
One of the sites was pretty much a dead site, so I didn’t care, while the other one is a seasonal (summer) niche, that’s why I never paid attention to the health of the site because it was winter in the US.
However, the damage done to my photography site was pretty bad.
Take a look at the analytics stats for iPhotocourse:
The traffic just plummeted around Feb 7.
For the other site, it was the same thing.
As I’ve mentioned, the 2nd niche site was seasonal, so the gradual drop of traffic in December was expected, but it basically flat-lined around January.
Reason for Garbled WordPress Site – Plugin Flaw
So I went into my plugins folder, deactivated everything and checked the sites in Incognito mode, and sure enough, everything was fine again.
I had to activate the plugins one-by-one to see the culprit. Here’s the weird thing.
You’d assume that the ‘lesser known’ plugins will be at fault, right? So I started activating those plugins one at a time, refreshing the page in Incognito every time – no errors.
Then I activated the security plugins, again, no errors.
Finally, I found out the offending plugin. W3 Total Cache!
Sure enough, removing this plugin and replacing it with another caching plugin solved the problem, you can see other people having the same problem as well.
It’s not just this plugin as well.
One of my other sites had a database backup plugin being back-doored by hackers, a lot of users experienced their homepage being hijacked to a different website because of the security issue.
Check your sites often! I probably lost a couple of hundred bucks just for this stupid issue.