I lost my website: how to start over and recover

Disclaimer – this article is long, but well worth the read to get started with a new site.

My hosting has crashed, what now?

First Off. We want to say we are sorry.

Why?

If you happen to find this article because you have recently became a victim of losing your website, we understand this can be one of the worst situations to happen to your business. While many will rub it off as a “hard earned lesson to back up” it does not change the fact that it is a bitter reality.

With many folks connecting with us having experienced this recently (not naming any company names) we feel for each individual. That is why we felt that it was our duty to create an article to provide some guidance on steps you can and should take if you have just lost your site.

While moving on and setting up a new site is a great way to do exactly that, it’s not the best method.

There are steps and tips that you should cover to make sure you minimize the damage done to your website and your business as best you can.

This resource will guide you through recovery process and help you launch a more reliable, fast, flexible and beautiful website. Note: The ideal case scenario is when you reproduce the exact same site you had before (structure, URLs, content, etc.). However, this isn’t an easy task.

The aim of this article is not to sell you on using WordPress or even Flothemes. The principles in this guide will allow you to effectively set up a new website regardless of platform, hosting or the design you choose to start your new site with.

If some of the steps shared may are overwhelming, you need more help, or you’re unsure about any step feel free to contact us via our contact page and we will happily explain or offer suggestions for you.

If you’d like to know how we can help, feel free to schedule a call with us and we can explain the options.

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First Steps to a New Site

In the following section we’ll aim to provide you with steps on how to get a new site set up as quickly as possible focusing on your most important site content first. This includes how to find your old site content, choosing most important content, and building your sitemap.

If you want us to step in and help you out, we’re offering exclusive discounts to users who have been affected by site crashes and outages.

Step 1 – Finding Old Site Content

There are 2 methods in which you can find your which old content was ranked with Google, using Google search console is the ideal method, however we understand that some users may not have this set up, so we start with SEO Quake first. Then using Archive.org or Google Cache you may be able to view a cached version of any pages on your site. We recommend doing this with the most important content on your site.

SEO Quake

Using the SEO Quake extension for Google you can download all web pages from a search result in Google. Using this method we are going to search for the pages that were indexed in Google by following these steps:

  • With Google Chrome Install SeoQuake extension (make sure that SERP overlay option is enabled in preferences)
  • Go to Google and then go to settings > search settings, then increase “results per page” to 100, then “save”. This will allow us to download 100 results at a time.
  • Now go to Google and type in site:example.com (replacing example.com with your site link, don’t include www or http)
  • Go to the upper left corner, SEO Quake, and then Click on “Export CSV”. Go through each page in Google Search results and repeat the process.
  • You can now compile all the results in a spreadsheet to see what you’re working with.

Google Search Console

If you have Google Search Console on your site, you can easily download all your indexed URLs.

This is how to do it:

  • Login to your Search Console account
  • Go to “Search Analytics section”
  • Select “Pages” in the filter
  • Scroll down and at the bottom left click on “Download”
  • Open the results in a spreadsheet to see what you’re working with.

Step 2 – Viewing Cached Versions of Pages and Posts

If you’d like to see an individual pages content there are 2 good methods. Google Cache and Archive.org. Google Cache is the preferred method and most likely will hold more information, as a last resort you can try archive.org for a cached view.

Google Cache

Even if your site is deleted, it should be still present in Google index. Follow these steps:

  • Go to Google
  • Type in the search using the search operator cache:example.com replacing example.com with any link from your site not including http or www.
  • If you are lucky and your pages are still in cache, you will be able to recover your full content or at least take the text from the page.

We suggest copying this content into text documents to save and use later. If images are present you can save them in folders also.

Using Archive.org

Another way to see your old pages is to use Wayback Machine and do the following:

  • Type in URL of the page you’d like to view
  • Scroll down to the calendar
  • Click on any date that is highlighted to potentially see a cached version of that page

We suggest copying this content into text documents to save and use later. If images are present you can save them in folders also.

3. Finding Most Popular Content

There are a few ways where you may be able to see your most popular pages. If you don’t have Google Analytics, or Google Search Console, you’ll have to go on your intuition when building a new sitemap.

Google Analytics

If you have Google Analytics on your site, you can see statistics and analyze your content, user flow, traffic sources, goals and many more. In order to get more info about your content, simply follow these steps:

  • Login to your Google Analytics account
  • Browse to Behaviour -> Site content
  • Analyze “All pages”, “Content drilldown”, “Landing pages”, “Exit pages”
  • Review the most popular content. This will be the first content you’ll want to get start building again.

Google Search Console

If you have Search Console implemented on your site, you can see your most popular pages and keywords that brought the most of traffic. Here is how to do it:

  • Login to your Search Console account
  • Access “Search Analytics” section
  • Select “Queries” or “Pages” to see what were the most popular pages or search queries.
  • Sort the results by clicks to review the most popular content on your site (pages, posts, products, etc.)

4. Site structure and sitemap

When deciding on the structure of your site, you should define its hierarchy, navigation, menus, internal links and more. Ideally, users should click no more than 4 times to get to any page of your site.

This is why you need to outline a sitemap – which is a representation of your website’s structure. A good sitemap will help both visitors and search engines easier navigate and understand your website.

We suggest keeping things simple to start so you can get your main pages up quickly, and as you progress, you can extend your site further. If you have access to Google Analytics or Google Search Console from the last point, you’ll be able to understand what is important for your site.

If you don’t have this data, use your intuition and create something simple and logical. We suggest keeping your main links in the sitemap to under 6 links. Need some inspiration, check out what your competitors are showing on their sites also.

5. Preparing Content

Now that you have a list of your old links, hopefully some content, your sitemap, its time to put them into folders and prepare any final content to get started. Gather any images that you need (check out our guide on how to save images for the web) and finalize any other text you want to include for your site.

Preparing everything offline can also act as a last resort back up, if you ever lose a page, post, image, you’ll have it saved in a folder. For Flothemes.com we created a full folder with images and text like so:

Now it’s time to start building your site.

Building your site

In the following section, we give you a quick checklist so you can approach building your site in a structured manner. You already know what old content was available, hopefully the most popular posts and pages on your site, and you’ve picked the platform for your new site. If not now’s a good time to do so.

Step 1 – Choose your Platform

We suggest looking at 2 platforms, Squarespace or WordPress. Sure there are lots of other options out there, but why look any further than the 2 most popular platforms available?

WordPress

Interested in building your site with WordPress, you’re in the right place. We have a ton of resources on our site, including a 7 Days of WordPress course, full documentation, hints, tips tricks and more on our blog.

Why WordPress? And please do not mistake this with wordpress.com, as we’re speaking in this article purely about the self-hosted WordPress (see difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org).

It’s simple really. WordPress is a robust and very flexible platform, it’s power is in its extensibility. There are tens and thousands of customization options, plugins and extensions through which you can build just about anything on your website. You are the one hosting your website (please choose a hosting provider wisely), which means your website’s performance, page loading speed and many more depend solely on YOU – no constant site outages, no limitations in terms of design or SEO. You have control over all aspects within your website.

Additionally, since there are around 75 million websites built on WordPress, this means that just about any type of question, issues or bug that you may encounter – has been found, dealt with and fixed already somewhere, by someone. You just need to research it (read as ‘google it’) or ask our Support Team for assistance (valid for all Flothemes clients).

And although the learning curve for WordPress is steeper, in comparison to Squarespace, once you get used to it, it’s fairly simple and straightforward. Thats especially true when you’re building a website with a solid framework (check out our new framework), good support, and well documented tutorials.

If you need more reasons to choose WordPress for your site read this article.

Squarespace

Squarespace is another awesome platform, it’s really ease to use, due to it’s customizable templates and drag and drop page editor. An absolute newbie can quickly understand how it works, tweak a template, and publish a new website. That’s why many new photographers and new website users choose it for their first website.

If this is you, and you’re not considering using WordPress, know that our sister company offers Design Kits for Squarespace via Squaremuse.

If you need help with styling your current Squarespace site, and giving it that extra touch of elegance and uniqueness, check out these Squarespace design kits.

Step 2 – Build Important Pages First

One you have the platform chosen, focus on building your most important pages first.

Remember the sitemap we created earlier, use that as a guide.

Start with the home page first, your portfolio, information about you and a way for people to get in touch (with a good contact page).

Step 3 – Re-create Popular Posts

Now that you have a solid base created, you can start restoring old blog posts. If you don’t have the content available, we do suggest creating some pillar posts for your blog. These could be examples of your work, told in a story format. If you’re a wedding photographer for example, you may want to write a series of posts about weddings in different locations.

Read the following article to learn how to blog like a boss.

Step 4 – Share your Site

If you’ve just went through the hassle of building a new site, you’ll want to make sure that when you share it, you get the most out of it you can.

Check out the following guide on how you can get the most exposure from a website launch.

Your work isn’t done yet, check out the next 2 sections for next steps and how to prevent further damage to your site.

Next Steps

In the following section we explain how you can setup Google Analytics, Google Search Console (if you don’t have them set up already), how to submit your new site for indexing by Google, some quick SEO tips, and more.

Step 1 – Installing Google Analytics

If you already have Google Analytics created, great, add it to your new site and you can skip this section. If you don’t check out the following video showing how you can create a new Google Analytics property for your site.

To add Google Analytics to your new site, we suggest checking your site provider documentation, as it will vary from platform to platform.

Step 2 – Installing Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console)

If you have Google Search Console already set up for your site, great, you can skip this set. If not check out the following video to find out how to setup Google Search Console for your site. Once setup it will automatically start tracking data.

Step 3 – Submit the Site to Be Indexed

Once your site is ready, feel free to submit it to index via Google Webmaster Tools (even if you don’t have a big website, you will want to let Google that you have a new site). This will let Google know to start indexing your site.

Later, you can implement a full XML sitemap, and submit it via Google Webmaster Tools so search engines could easily find your new pages and index them. Check your platform provider for full details on creating a Sitemap.

To do this follow these steps:

  • Login to Google Webmaster tools
  • Go to Crawl > Sitemaps
  • Click add / test sitemap (button in the top right corner)
  • Enter sitemap_index.xml in the value field (this may be different depending on your platform)
  • Hit submit

That’s should do the trick, Google will know to start crawling the pages in your sitemap.

Step 4 – More SEO

You probably spent a few years advertising your site on web. Once it’s gone, your organic rank will probably go down. There are hundreds of SEO factors that determine the rank of your page. You won’t be able to restore all of them. However, keep in mind these 4 major factors:

  • Content – make sure you have unique and high quality content on your website. Include relevant keywords in meta titles, descriptions and body of you webpage. Use a natural language and don’t stuff pages with keywords. This tool can help you find new keyword ideas.
  • Backlinks – if you had a lot of sites pointing to your home page or specific pages, make sure that those pages are live (if these pages don’t exist anymore, consider re-creating them).
  • Mobile friendliness – your site should be responsive. Test it here.
  • Focus on Technical SEO – your site should be fast and secure, easy to crawl by search engines, handle duplicate content well, include relevant headings, include structured data markup and more.

Step 5 – Backups

Losing your site once is bad enough, don’t let it happen again. We highly suggest that you invest into a backup solution for your site. Check with your website provider how you can make relevant backups of your site.

If you’re using WordPress Check out how to backup a WordPress (or any site with FTP) site in the following article.

Backup Your Website

Tracking Results and Damage Limitation

In the following section we give a quick overview of how you can use Google Analytics to track your newly created site, and how to prevent further damage by using Google Search Console.

Google Analytics

To best understand how your new site is performing you’ll want to look at some of the important Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) in Google Analytics. It will be best to let the site run for a few weeks to track performance more closely first so you have some data.

If you previously had Google Analytics, you’ll most likely see a dip in your sites traffic, and an increase in your bounce rates. Some of the KPI’s you’ll want to track are:

Sessions

Sessions reveal the number of interactions a user has while on your site. You should understand what users are doing on your site, as it will allow you to make changes on your site to influence their behaviour, which can lead to better conversions.

All usage data is associated with a session – pageviews, events, eCommerce and more. Sessions are recorded based on 2 factors, time and campaigns which are the different traffic sources users come from such as facebook, search engines, or other tracked URL’s.

A visitor can leave your site, and return, and it will be counted as the same session, as long as it’s under 30 minutes. If a user is on your site but is inactive for over 30 minutes and then returns, it would also be a new session. this is known as time-based expiration. This can also occur if a user is on your site at 11:59pm and continues on your site at 12:00am it would be 2 separate sessions.

Campaign based expirations occur when a user comes to your site via one source, leaves and then comes via another, for example via facebook, leaves then returns via Google.

To view sessions go to Audience > Overview > View Sessions.

Unique Users

This tells you the number of unique visitors to your site over a period of time. This metric is important as you can find out if your site traffic is growing over a period of time. Particularly useful if you’re implementing marketing strategies with the aim of increasing the number of users coming to your site, such as Facebook ads or PPC marketing.

To find the number of unique users in any period, go to Audience > Overview, select the date top right, and then on the left just below the graph, you’ll see users.

Sources of Traffic

Sources of traffic will explain where your users are coming from, what channels, sources, mediums, specific campaigns, and even from specific content. It is important to have a balanced portfolio of traffic sources. This way you’ll prevent major losses in traffic / revenue.

For example, if Instagram or Facebook was shut down tomorrow, would your business survive?

Ideally you’d like to have the largest portion of your traffic come from Organic search around 30-40%, around 25% from Referral (this may not be the case or photographers), 20-25% direct traffic and the rest from social / marketing campaigns.

If your organic search traffic is too low, your content quality may be low or isn’t ranking well, you’ll want to focus your efforts on creating more organic traffic via blogging, or improving your existing content to target some specific keywords.

If referral traffic is low, it means your link building strategy or marketing campaigns aren’t working. Focus on a link building strategy and create better shareable content.

If direct traffic is low, it could mean your branding is not strong enough, your domain is too difficult to remember or customer service could be lacking.

If social / other channels are too low, work on improving your social presence, try FB and Instagram marketing, and increase engagement on these platforms.

To view your Traffic Sources, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. If you’d like to see more detail on any channel, simply click the channel group and it will drill down to all traffic sources for this channel. Again you’ll be able to see which specific sources are driving the most traffic, and may find opportunities in other areas.

To understand where users are coming from in relation to content, you’ll first need to link search console to Google Analytics. Once linked, you’ll be able to see what pages users are landing on, again this will allow you to find content that is underperforming, and which content is doing well. You can then decide what content can be removed, and what can be improved to boost your traffic, and lower bounce rates.

Bounce Rates

The number of users who leave your site without viewing a second page. It is important to understand bounce rates. High bounce rates my mean that your content is poorly performing, your site usability is bad, your site is too slow, users don’t understand your content, or what they are finding isn’t relevant to what they searched for.

There will be occasions where your site has higher bounce rates, for example your blog posts may answer a specific question, about a venue for example, the user finds what they need and then they leave. Just make sure to analyse each page and pieces of content to understand why this may be happening.

To view bounce rates for site / various pages, go to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages.

The top value will be the average bounce rate for your site, and then you’ll also see there is a value for each individual page. You can then filter by the higher bounce rate pages to find what isn’t working for you.

I’d also suggest looking at your most important pages, you can then review and see if there are some options to improve the bounce rates here also. You could dig deeper and also check which channels are producing higher bounce rates.

You can do so by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

Are there specific channels that have particularly high bounce rates, i.e. social media / referrals? You can click down into the specific channels and review where the clients are landing and what content is performing poorly.

How to use Analytics to prevent further issues

Once your site is up and running, your Analytics account is recording the most important stats – you should always monitor the performance of your site and check for possible issues. Here are a few things that can help:

  • Notifications – Analytics will notify you if something is wrong with your stats. Check the Notifications icon in the upper right corner of your account. You can even set up custom alerts by going to Admin – > View – > Custom Alerts, where you can define the rules (for example: Bounce rate is > 90%) and get alerts on your email or phone (SMS notifications are available for US users only).
  • Intelligence – is a smart feature based on machine learning and prediction models. This options will show you different anomalies, major changes, opportunities and more. You can even ask specific questions (for example: what was the average visit duration last month?) and get relevant statistics.
  • Real time data – monitor the current performance of your website. This options shows you real time data about your site’s visitors, their geographical location, traffic source, occurred conversions, etc.
  • Audience / Overview – here you can quickly view how your website is performing. Keep an eye on most important metrics on a daily/weekly basis (sessions, bounce rate, time on site, pageviews, etc.) and identify big drops or spikes.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is going to be one of the most important tools you can use after a site crash. It’s going to allow you to track your site errors, and allow you to take action to improve your site. In the last section we shared a video showing you how to setup Google Search Console. Now we explain how you can use it to prevent further damage to the site and make fixes.

Please note that if you previously used Search Console and you are launching a new site with the same domain name, you will have a lot of errors and warnings. Try to fix them all and constantly monitor your website’s performance and health. If you can fix as many 404 errors as possible your site will perform better in the long run. Again focus on the pages and posts that drive you the most traffic first.

Read the following article to learn how to fix crawl errors.

There are some metrics that you should check with search console over the coming weeks:

  • Crawl Errors – you should monitor all the errors (especially 404 pages). you then have 2 options:
    • 1) Leave them as is, if you don’t need them anymore, and Google will remove them from index.
    • 2) Redirect them using 301 code to the most relevant blog posts, pages, product, categories, etc.
  • Index Status – constantly monitor the number of pages that are indexed. It might take 2-3 weeks once the sitemap is submitted, until your site is fully indexed in Google. If the number of indexed pages suddenly goes up or down, it probably means that you have a problem with your site.
  • Sitemaps – this option will allow you to see how many URLs are submitted to index and if there are errors. Keep in mind that Google can index pages that are not located in your sitemap, that’s why you should review the Index Status as well. If there is a big difference between submitted URLs and indexed URLs, you should check if something is not blocking your pages to show up in search result pages.
  • HTML Improvements – here you can review duplicate titles/descriptions, missing titles, short/long titles and other data. Use it to properly adjust your titles and descriptions.
  • Keywords – here you will see your most popular organic keywords and how do they performs in search results (clicks, impressions, CTR, position). You can use filters to further break down the data by device type, country, search type and more. Use this data to plan your further SEO activity and find new keyword ideas.

How to use Search Console to prevent further issues

Search Console is a great tool for everything related to Google index, crawl, search appearance, organic traffic and many more. In order keep your site healthy and prevent possible issues, consider constantly reviewing these options:

  • Messages – always check your messages in Search Console. If something important happens with your site, Google will notify you instantly
  • Security issues – if you site is hacked or infected with malware, you will get a notification. You should instantly solve all the security issues.
  • Manual actions – if you are not following Google’s best practices and guidelines, your site might be manually penalized. Avoid this by using legit promotion on web, posting unique content and keeping your users happy.

How we can help?

Flothemes offers WordPress themes for Creatives and Photographers. We have years of experience helping users transition from other platforms to WordPress, helping users with setting up new sites and offering advice on best practices for the web.

If you’d like to know more about our features, check them out at our tour page.

We are offering a unique deal for those affected by a website crash our outage.

Get $80 Off on any theme or $120 on setup and theme bundle.

To get the discount codes click GET Started below.

GET STARTED

 

If you’d like to schedule a call to see how we can help, set up a call with us at the following link:

SCHEDULE CALL

 

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