This December has been a tough one for the blog. Starting on November 30, my page views soared. That’s a GOOD thing, right? Well it is if you get the attributed visitors along with those views. Thus began a saga of fits and panic to recover and retool www.abandonedcubicle.com into a better, faster blog.
Those page views were an indication that something in my Jetpack plug-in was flaking-out. Jetpack does a lot of cool things for a WordPress site. It manages your comments, provides real-time stats, and has publicize features so your posts can get spun out to Twitter and Facebook.
See those spikes? At the time I thought maybe the Ukrainians were coming after me for something I’d done in my deep, dark past. I went out to Cloudflare and set “Under Attack Mode”, thinking, “Holy Shit! Don’t take down my poor little blog, Viktor!” Eventually the page hits would cease right around 5,000. Some small part of me was excited to see even fake page views. A sort of false-positive boost to a writer’s fragile ego.
Finally, this mighty upstart blog hit a brick wall on Saturday, December 2nd. I couldn’t access the WP-Admin, which is where you write posts and manage plug-ins, and all that jazz. Toast.
How the blog recovered from corrupt forces of evil (i.e., me)
I had to call on my mighty support guru, Grayson Bell, to bail me out once again. You see, before I reached out to Grayson, I thought I could perform my own surgical procedure to cut out the cancerous, corrupted wordpress files in my Bluehost control panel. I thought, “Hey, I’m a tech guy. I can DIY this thing!”
Yeah, no. If any of you follow my RSS feed, you may have noticed one or more “Hello World” default posts, squirted out that Saturday from hell, courtesy of my flailing attempt to reinstall a fresh version of WordPress. Some people just have to learn shit the hard way.
Grayson at first was flummoxed. The log files didn’t show any denial of service or other insidious outside intrusions attempted. He was able to rebuild the site with back-up files I keep on my personal DropBox account. Thank goodness for Updraft Plus and my wise decision to implement a backup solution almost one year into starting this blog. A-hem…
By Sunday evening, we’re back in business. I’m even able to start drafting a new post. Monday comes and goes with no flakey fake page views.
Then, Tuesday morning…
The page views from hell start AGAIN. At this point, I’m about to cry. “What the F*CK!?!!?!?!?!?!” My WP-Admin is slow as m o l a s s e s , and I’m barely able to save updates to my draft on glorious feminism.
I muddle through it. I publish my post on Wednesday and decide to use the rest of the week to research the root cause of my woes. By Saturday, I’m ready to say “See ya!” to Bluehost.
It’s worth noting that Bluehost support is pretty responsive. I prefer to use the real time chat feature for any of my questions and there’s always someone available to help within minutes. The problem was, no matter what my problem, Bluehost support agents NEVER could solve it.
It was further frustrating that after removing my caching plug-in (W3 Total Cache), my page load speeds were hovering around 3 to 5 seconds. Now, as a newish blogger that really shouldn’t concern me. But hear me out. I don’t drive a Corvette. I’ll never own a Porsche, or a jet plane for that matter.
In some areas of life, I just wanna go fast. At least give me some fast page load speeds, k??? Besides, apparently, a faster site yields a better reader experience, and better Search Engine Optimization (SEO.)
Adventures in Website Migration
Sunday, December 10 was the date. I decided to go “all-in” and migrate from Bluehost over to SiteGround. I read up quite a bit from a number of independent sources on how much faster and reliable SiteGround is compared to BH. And by the way, their customer service can actually SOLVE PROBLEMS. *GASP!*
I methodically copied my Updraft Plus backup files to my laptop hard drive to be extra safe. I then followed the instructions at SiteGround after signing up for their basic plan. After opening the ticket, my site was fully migrated within just four hours.
First off, I really prefer SiteGround’s admin pages. Easier access to a more intuitive C-Panel. And just plain more intuitive overall.
Keep in mind I basically migrated a corrupted site over, so I still had some work to do. My next step was to install a fresh copy of WordPress. First I had to delete the old config files using FTP (I use FireZilla.) That was white-knuckle right there. Tell you what. After what happened the previous weekend, I was a tad nervous about the prospects of sabotaging myself yet again.
To my surprise, the reinstall of WordPress went just fine. After I changed my names servers at Bluehost to point to Siteground, I was able to do a restore of my posts and photos. THANK GOD that worked. Holy shit if I f*cked up that part. I’d be done blogging I swear to God if I lost all that stuff. (I know you fine readers would shed a tear as well.)
I changed my Theme too
Because I don’t do things half-assed all the time, I took this opportunity to implement a new theme. I wanted something that reflected my bias to minimalism, but it had to appear as if I wasn’t ripping off Cait Flanders.
I stumbled upon the designer for Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist site, Brian Gardner. He offers up a few really clean and sharp looking themes for free. The catch is these are “child themes” and you need to purchase the Genesis Framework parent theme as a prerequisite.
By this point, I’m ready to invest in my passion. $59 is a small price to pay for blog cleanliness. Please tell me you like the new look so I can feel better about it, okay??? Self-esteem is so overrated…
After installing the theme which was pretty easy, I had to find a few plug-ins to complete the Genesis Theme customizations that don’t come with the theme package itself. Not a big deal. The “simple” plug-ins are in fact light-weight and allowed me to remove tag and category references, and add sharing buttons.
About that speed thing?
There was quite a bit of monkeying around to get all my shiz setup again. Fortunately, SiteGround has very easy “plug-in like” tools for adding SSL (https) to your site and also for setting up Cloudflare. I had to manually turn on GZIP compression (to help speed up the site) but again, that was a simple icon in the C-Panel.
After all was said and done, and after letting my precious cache rebuild, I went to check www.abandonedcubicle.com’s speed over at GTMetrix.com:
Well, I have nothing to complain about now. If your site is loading in under 2 seconds, you’ve got a good thing going. As the caption notes above, I have seen timings as low as 1.0 seconds.
Curious about all the tweaks and configs needed to boost your site’s speed? I recommend using GTmetrix.com. They offer up some quick hit changes you can make, and they have a neat waterfall visual to show where your overhead is originating from (it’s usually display ads and plug-ins.)
SiteGround support reps are my new friends
I’m still in the process of migrating my domain registration from Bluehost over to SiteGround. This isn’t required and it cost me another $15, but I figured it wise to keep everything managed in the same place. I guess I was just THAT disappointed with Bluehost that I wanted get free and clear of them.
SiteGround’s chat-line support staff are lights-out helpful. They resolved some setup and config changes with ease. They didn’t waste my time asking for the last four characters of my password either, like Bluehost does. Annoying!
So there you have it. I have a fresh new site with a new host and a new theme. Pretty exciting. Now I just have to regenerate that list of topics for future posts. Got any ideas, dear readers?