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Whoops! I made a mistake! (For WordPress Users)

Yes, even web design super heroes can make mistakes.  I wanted to share my experience with the hope it will help others.

Here is my story.

I started in January 2010 redesigning this site. To try something new, I simply installed a new version of WordPress in a subdirectory, using the CPanel Fantastico installer. Everything was great and I launched the new design on February 15th, 2010.

Then, just to check things out in Google earlier this week, I did a search for “La Crosse Web Design“.  I wanted to see if my new design had made a difference to my rankings.  Now I have held the number 1 or 2 position for that key phrase since 2003 in Google. When I checked the results, my stomach fell and my jaw hit the floor. I WAS GONE! I mean completely gone!!! My listing was no where in sight – I checked the next page and the next page and nothing.

Can you say panic? Google is essential to drive traffic to my website, and it appeared I was kicked out of their index.  OMG! Now what????

I immediately jumped into my Google Webmaster Tools and realized my site had dropped off right around the launch of my new site.   I also noticed the my sitemap files had not been crawled recently.  I was getting nervous.  I was playing by the rules of Google of course (no funny stuff)  and there was no reason that I knew of that I would be banned or dropped from Google.

Next, I thought I would resubmit my sitemap to Google using the Webmaster Toolkit. I had to do something!

When I went back to my site, I had to reinstall the Google XML Sitemap plugin for WordPress, and that is when the lightbulb went off and hit me in the face like a punch! Though, I confess a welcome punch, because any mistake on my end is far easier to correct than Google deciding to drop my site listing.

There in Big Red Letters it read ” Your site has been set to block search engine traffic” – or something along those lines.  Now I have seen the question appear when manually installing WordPress asking if you want to all search engine access, but other than that it was something I never gave much thought to because the default installations via Fantastico always granted search engnine access. That is until WordPress version 2.8.4 (from what I have researched), and I was installing 2.9.2.

What I have since learned ist that now by default, any WordPress installation that is made with Fantastico that is installing WordPress 2.84 or older  is setting your Privacy option to block  search engine traffic. This is obviously not good if you have launched your site and want folks to find you!

So what’s the fix?

Super easy! Just go to Settings >> Privacy and tick the top radio button that says to you would like your blog to be visible to everyone, including search engines. And then click Save Changes , of course.  See the image below:

If your bottom option is checked, beware that Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. cannot access your site and they will heed your command and remove your site from their site’s index. It’s great if you want a private site, but if you want search engine traffic, this is the kiss of death. And I still  have lip marks on my cheeks — you know the kind your grandma leaves as she greets you at Christmas.

So, now the wait begins.  I was alerted to this on Tuesday of this week and made the correction immediately. How long will it take me to regain my position? Should be interesting to find out. I am hopeful I will get back my previous rankings back, but I will have to wait and see. What a painful lesson I have learned, but it has made this web designer a little bit smarter!

Now go check your privacy settings!

***UPDATE 3/11/2010 (same day I wrote the article) ***

Amazing! While I just checked my site’s ranking in Google just before firing off this post, I checked it after (yes – I am obsessed), and I am back to my number 2 position! WooHoo! I am back in action!

So that means it took me about 2 days to get my site back into Google’s index. A testimony to me of the POWER if WordPress to make or break you in the search engines.