Blog Hacked: My Journey to Recovery and How You Can Avoid the Same Fate
Almost three years ago, I started a blog. Unfortunately, I knew very little about building websites or how they operated.
I thought you needed special skills and lots of money.
Thanks to Google and Youtube, I learned it was super easy to set up, cost little, and didn’t need any expert skill.
You could even start one for free.
I also learned a free website wasn’t the best idea, especially if you plan to turn it into a business.
Table of Contents
What inspired me to start a blog?
I am always looking for opportunities to earn passive income. A friend introduced me to Inteletravel.
To cut a long story short, I needed ways to market my new business, and after doing extensive research, I concluded that starting a blog was the best option.
I had no writing experience and no idea how to write a blog post, what it was, or even how search engines work. I was ignorant of the blogging world.
The setup for my first WordPress blog
After days of experimenting with a combination of letters and words, I finally came up with a name for my blog. I was somewhat disappointed because it didn’t fit what I wanted, but I was getting frustrated, so I had to decide on a name.
Edbtravel is not the most attention-grabbing name, but I settled.
Furthermore, the domain cost only a few bucks, not a few thousand dollars, like some of the other names I liked.
I was surprised to learn that a domain name could cost over 25,000 USD.
With the domain purchase, I decided on Blue Host as my host provider. I chose the most affordable package and signed up for three years. Unfortunately, I didn’t even realize I got a free domain name with my purchase; this was my first misstep.
It was an omen for future events. So many mistakes, wasted money, time, and sleepless nights.
With the domain name and host decided, it was time for publishers. How To Start A Blog With WordPress And BlueHost“>WordPress was the logical choice. It was free and had tons of applications. Even though I had no idea what those were.
But everybody who claims to be an expert recommended WordPress, so I followed the expert’s advice.
I followed the step-by-step guide on Youtube and walla! My blog was ready.
That was relatively easy, I thought.
The First Post
So after countless hours of fiddling with my blog design, it was time to write my first post and make it public.
But what do I write?
I didn’t know about keywords or keyword research.
Since this was my first post, I thought I should introduce myself and tell my “readers” why I started blogging.
I did just that. After three days and countless hours of writing and rewriting, I published my first post.
I didn’t have an editor or anyone to prof read. So I was left with the painstaking task of reading and checking for grammatical errors.
Reading my writing to me is like punishment. My brain is lazy; it would read what I intended to write rather than what I wrote. Overlooking details that made a considerable difference.
After reading countless times and forcing myself to pay attention, my errors started to glare at me.
I followed the expert advice on Youtube, which says you should read your writing aloud to detect any mistakes.
Reading my blog post aloud sounded like a first-grader writing a blog for the first time.
I was embarrassed.
I questioned my sanity for wanting to start a blog.
Is this what I am going to publish?
They are going to think you are an idiot.
You can’t write to save your life!
Those were the self-limiting thoughts that floated in my mind.
After recovering from the massive dose of mental flagging I administered, I was ready to write a second post.
This time I did some research and learned what keywords were and how to use Google Trends.
The coronavirus was emerging, so I wrote a hypothetical post on what would happen if this deadly virus made its way to Jamaica. Days after posting, I got some traffic from Bing. I was so excited; this thing seemed to be working. In a short while, I thought I would get thousands of visits.
After a few days, it stopped; I was no longer getting any views. The feeling of optimism and hope turned to despair.
Looking back, I was the first to post about the coronavirus in Jamaica. However, since it was a hypothetical post and not what was happening in the country, it did not satisfy the reader’s query. The search engine realized this and thus started ranking it lower when better articles were available.
I published a few more posts, then took a break to fiddle with other great passive income ideas — the hallmark of my adult life. Get passionate about an idea, give my full attention, then leave for months or years to pursue other passions.
Great Passive income ideas I tried
While scrolling across Youtube, the source of infinite knowledge on creating passive income and getting wealthy while in your bed, I found an interesting video.
This guy was talking about setting up an online store to sell any product you want without having a physical inventory or owning the items. He called it dropshipping.
Being the curious cat, I wanted to know more. So I spent countless hours watching youtube videos about dropshipping and reading many blogs. Finally, I came across a Youtuber who called himself the Dropshipping King. I followed his guide, clicked on all his links, and used his recommended services.
Before I knew it, I was dropshipping.
Looking back, this guy probably made more from his affiliate links than his stores, if he even had any.
I was excited with my little store on Shopify, testing some popular items the Droppingshippin King recommends.
My side hustle is going to make more than my job. I can now quit my 9–5.
I ran a few Facebook ads and got some visits to my store, but no purchases. Finally, after a few weeks, I realized that it was unsustainable.
I couldn’t afford Facebook ads, especially in my target market, the USA. So, my dropshipping project ended before making any profit.
During my short dropshipping journey, I learn how to source products directly from manufacturers in China instead of using third parties on Aliexpress or Alibaba. Cutting out the middleman means you get your inventory at a fraction of the cost.
So, I decided to import the items and sell them locally. Shipping would be easier and faster. I chose to use Ecwid; it cost much less than Shopify and was easier to set up.
I turned to Facebook ads again, but the advertisement was much cheaper this time. I got a few interested, several calls and messages, but made only a few sales.
Most people inquired if I had a physical store where they could view my products. For some reason, they didn’t feel comfortable buying from an unknown online store. Also, many were selling the same product. So they called or texted with no intention of buying but getting one up on the competition.
Eventually, I made a few sales to people I knew, but another problem was after-sale service. Since I was selling electronic devices, it would take a significant effort to offer good consumer service.
Not having the time nor patience to deal with I got discouraged, closed my store, and sold my inventory to friends and family for a fraction of the cost. In less than four months, I started two online stores and spent hundreds of dollars without making a profit.
My return to blogging
After failing twice, or should I say quit, I learned that you need an audience to sell anything online; you either pay for it or acquire it free; free is better because it costs nothing, and you have their attention because of some value that you give.
So I am back where my online journey begone _ blogging.
With confidence and new skills, I was ready to take on the world. So I thought.
I set out to create the most successful blog ever. First, I learned that site speed was a good way to rank high on Google; the fewer plugins on your site, the better.
So after publishing a few more posts, I set out to create a lean and fast machine. Any applications that were not critical to the site function got chopped.
I should have considered the importance of security; I even deleted the free security plugin_Wordfence, that Youtube experts recommended.
Why would anyone want to hack my site? I thought. I only have a few posts and get no traffic; no one would be interested.
My blog wasn’t ranking on Google, but I got some traffic from Bing and Duck Duck Go.
It was encouraging.
After countless hours of sleepless nights writing, fiddling with site appearance, reading, and watching youtube videos on how to be a better blogger, I was getting somewhere. My writing, understanding of SEO, and how blogs operate also improved.
I also discovered tools such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid, which were blessings.
The message from almighty Google
I occasionally get messages from Google when I sign up or install one of their products. So I was surprised to get a letter from Google Search Console.
“Social engineering content detected on Edbtravel.com.”
Screenshot of one of many messages from Google
Social Engineering what?
I had no idea.
I googled and learned and tried to fix it.
I installed a free version of iThemes and thought that would do the trick, but it was too late. My site was already severely compromised; only removing the infected files and getting a premium security plugin could help.
The cleanup effort
Not having the funds to get professional help, I attempted to do it myself. So I logged into my site backend and started chopping. Any files that didn’t look like they belonged got deleted.
I Knew nothing about coding or any backend stuff, but I could identify some files, including hundreds of pages advertising products, forums, and Chinese writing. So I deleted those, plus more.
Guess what happened?
My site broke.
I didn’t know what I was doing, so it was inevitable.
Luckily, Bluehost customer support came to my rescue.
Why didn’t I thought them earlier?
They restored my site and deleted the infected files. Also, recommend that I install a premium security plugin. I got iThemes Premium security because it was an affordable option.
I was relieved. Felt I could get back to writing and growing my blog after countless hours trying to fix the security problem.
Things were going great for a few days, then that dreaded message from the overlord. “Social engineering content detected on Edbtravel.com.”
I didn’t panic because now I had a trusted companion in my battle against these hackers. So again, Bluehost came to my rescue.
Daily I had to contact Bluehost and ask them to scan my site. I was frustrated and considered shutting down the blog. Before, an helpful agent advised me to get better security. He recommended Sitelock.
Because iThemes was on my server, it was easy to bypass since my site was compromised. Therefore my security plugin was only useful with an external firewall.
Sitelock, however, offered much more protection. All traffic when through the Sitelock server before going to my blog. Therefore any security threat or brute-force attack got dealt with there.
Although it was a little expensive, I paid for the premium service. Sitelock security experts removed infected files and patched vulnerabilities. Since then, I have had no problems.
Important Lessons Learned From Getting Hacked
I learned that security is an important thing to consider when starting a blog or any website. If you can’t afford the paid version immediately, get the free one but upgrade as soon as possible.
While it is easy to start a WordPress blog without technical skills, having them is an asset, and there is always time to learn.
Pay an expert to help you if you need to know what you are doing and need more time to learn. It costs less in the long run.
Get a site administrator if you can afford it. You can source one on Fiverr but be careful. The cheapest option is only sometimes the best.
Tools I Would Recommend
I have learned much from trial and error and research over the years. If I was starting a blog, these are the tools I would use for security, speed, and ease of design. However, I am not an expert, just a student learning and sharing my thoughts and experience.
- For information on WordPress site building, I used wpbeginner. They offer helpful tips and have a comprehensive database for building and fixing problems on your WordPress site. A non-technical person can easily understand their information.
- For hosting, I used Bluehost. Hostgator was an option I considered, but I will switch to Hostinger because of their price and speed.
- I used iThemes and Sitlock on my blog because I didn’t know better. So I had the two of them. While iTheme provides some level of security and offers hosting and other premium features, Sitelock is better. They did an excellent job protecting my site, and I like their customer service. However, I am switching to Securi because they do the same for less, and I have heard great things about them. Wordfence is an excellent free option if you can’t afford to pay now. Also, Malcare is another option worth considering.
- I currently use Generate Press because it is lite weight and fast; however, learning to use elements took me a little while. I have tried several paid and free themes, but I prefer Generate Press.
- I used Mail Chimp for email collection and tried Sendiblue, Hubspot, and Constant Contact. The free version of Mailchimp works because I had only a few emails. And I wasn’t building a massive email list or doing any email marketing. However, the others on the list are perfect if you plan to expand.
- SEO is a big deal, so I use Yoast SEO; there are many others, but I have never tried. Yoast paid, and the free version works well. I will use All In One SEO for my next project.
- Google site kit is an essential tool to track your website visits, and it’s free.
You made it to the end; thanks for reading. I will post more content like this, sharing my blogging experience and passive income ideas I have tried.