A few days ago, I noticed site traffic had suddenly dropped.
Day 1 and 2, I didn’t do anything. I had noticed that the traffic was unusually low midway through the day on the first day, and thought it was curious, but I didn’t really worry about it. I was pretty busy those days and didn’t have time to look into things. I figured it might just be a fluke, much like I will occasionally see a traffic spike, and that it might correct itself.
After the second day, I wondered what was up. Had I been de-listed from google? I checked, I had not. I started googling “sudden traffic drop wordpress” and read a few articles.
Then I noticed that wordpress wasn’t serving the site properly. I had only been in the admin console and didn’t check the actual site, but when I went to read the home page, the web server just spat out a bunch of encoded gunk.
At first, I wondered whether the site had been hacked. I logged into the admin console and now WordPress reported that one of the plugins I use was giving an error. I disabled the plugin, and the site started serving properly again. Phew! I removed the offending plug-in entirely, and things seem to be back to normal.
Traffic bounced back almost immediately — yesterday I lost about a half day’s worth of traffic because I fixed the problem around the middle of the day. Today, at around 10am I already had a little over 50 hits, which seems about normal. By the end of the day I’d expect to have somewhere over 100 hits, which is back within the normal range of what I have been seeing in recent weeks.
I’m still not 100% sure about a few things.
Site stats during the “outage” days were very low, but still not zero. If wordpress was serving corrupted junk, I would expect that the stats should have been exactly zero. Stats for those days show that certain articles were still able to be reached, albeit by a much smaller number of visitors than previously. So, I’m not entirely sure when the plug-in error began or when it resulted in wordpress serving corrupted pages. It could be that stats counting is off somehow (wordpress documentation suggests that it is somewhat inexact, although I don’t fully understand the causes), or it could be there’s some other explanation (does a visit to a google cache of my site somehow increment my stats, perhaps?)
I think it would have been nice if WordPress could have been a little more active in notifying me of the error. I liked that it displayed an error message when I logged into the admin console, but it didn’t do that until three days into the low traffic — I think probably because the account I normally use to log in with is just an authoring account that doesn’t have full administrative privileges. When I logged in with my account that had admin privileges, I saw the errors, and it immediately told me where the problem was so I was able to fix the problem quickly. Which, is great and all, but even better would have been if WordPress had sent a notification email to me, so that I would have been aware of the problem right away, without having to log into the site.