What Happens When Things Go Wrong?

I’m sure the majority of website owners have experienced the dread of their website disappearing off the search engines, their website going down during the busiest period or some other catastrophe.

No website is immune from issues (Facebook has just had an afternoon of limited/no availability). It is the way that website owners react that decides whether their business is going to pull through or not.

There’s a story that has gone viral about a business which was removed from Google’s index overnight. The headline, in true link-bait style, is sensationalised: “How Google Cost Me $4 Million”. The underlying theme is more about how reacting in a positive manner made the business stronger.

Panicking is the wrong thing to do when something goes awry. Very often, there are some simple explanations for an issue that can be easily fixed.

Problem: A first page position for a keyword has disappeared…

Are you looking from a different computer? So many times when I have spoken to someone this has happened to, it is because they are looking from a different computer. What they didn’t realise is that on their ‘normal’ computer, they had Google web history turned on. This meant that their website was listing higher on Google from their machine than it would do for most other people. You can pause your web history to overcome this.

You are using your usual computer and web history is not a factor? Phone a friend who is on a completely different network, and ask them to check for you.

Still no luck? Do a search for your domain name. If that does not come up then you have a problem (more on this in a future post). If it does come up, then it is probably best to wait a while before checking the keyword again – it might just be temporary.

Problem: Your website is down…

Is it just your site? This might sound obvious, but why not check some popular websites like eBay or Facebook, or  perform a Google search? These things will show you whether your internet connection is working or not.

Has your domain expired? It is surprising how common a problem this is. You need to carry out a ‘whois’ check on your domain name and look at the expiry date.

None of the above? Contact whoever is hosting your website. If your web designer manages the hosting, contact them. If you are hosted with someone who you do not have telephone support from, why not check on the social networks? Twitter is probably one of the best for this. Type in the name of your hosting company into the search box and see if anyone else is reporting the same issue.

What if it’s a big problem?

At a time when Social Networking is big news, having an issue with your website does not need to mean a complete loss in business. Your hosting company/web designer will be busy trying to get your site ranked. Your internal web team/SEO company will be hard at work trying to find out why your site has been banned on Google and getting you re-indexed. In the meantime, you can go out there and tell your loyal followers and potential customers that you know you are having an issue, you are working to fix it, but the traditional forms of communication are still open.

It is important that you are aware that your website on the Internet is quite fragile, and it would be dangerous to rely 100% on the site always being accessible, or only focusing on the natural listings on Google, for example. There are many ways to build up your presence on the Internet these days, and all web owners would be wise to explore all avenues so that if the worst case were to happen (and touch wood, it won’t!), you are not going to lose the majority of your trade overnight.