Phew! Today is a good day. The last three days however, have been a nightmare and a half.
Last Saturday, I was updating a post when suddenly, my dashboard shut itself down and WordPress displayed the message that my blog had been suspended for violation of their terms. You can imagine my reaction. Panic isn’t the word. I sent them a message appealing the suspension and while I waited, I started googling for WP terms and guidelines and also asked a lot of authors for advice.
My findings soon led me to a few solid conclusions, which I hope any fellow bloggers out there will find insightful. But before I lay them out before you, I must explain first that I introduced affiliate parameters to my blog last week, having signed up with Amazon Associates. When my blog got suspended, I had just amended my widgets with the Amazon Associates disclaimer that they urge you to put up on your homepage. My guess is that by 99%, my blog got suspended because their automatic programs picked that up and investigated further. Admittedly, I had done a boo-boo, but it was an honest mistake, simply because of my ignorance.
I explain everything in my conclusions and here they are:
- WordPress allow free blogs to use affiliate parameters on the posts but only as text or hyperlinks. They forbid it in images. So for example, if I link up to a book on Amazon, I can add my affiliate parameter to the end of the link and put that in a hyperlink but I cannot edit the image and add a URL with my affiliate parameter set up inside that image.
- WordPress formally advise in their terms that they don’t allow linking up to third party sites. I have no idea what that means because this term in itself would render any book blog out there eligible for suspension. Furthermore it contradicts their advice that they allow affiliate links when sending people over to Amazon. Isn’t Amazon a third party site? Makes no sense. I guess with this term vaguely put in place, it means that any blog out there is at risk of being suspended. That’s any free blog, at any time, folks! Beware. I don’t know about you, but I used to be living in ‘la-la’ land till last Saturday. Now, I wouldn’t leave anything to chance when it comes to this free WP blog.
- And now, if you’re a fellow author, here comes the scary bit: recently, WP have been targeting authors on a large scale, suspending their blogs without notice. As I said, I spoke to a few people who reported this back to me and even stumbled upon a blog post on the very matter. I have no answer as to why WP are doing this to authors. I can only assume the wonderful, pay-it-forward, information-sharing indie community we belong to is perhaps doing something that’s bothering them. Still, I believe that the very unity that characterizes the indie author community will be the one to remind WordPress that their good name and reliability are being compromised here. Our power is in our solidarity. To inconvenience us in large numbers would only mean that at the end of the day, they can only lose our custom by equally large numbers. I am not making threats (obviously! Who am I anyway?) but this is only what my basic logic suggests.
- A couple of fellow authors mentioned that WP may be doing this to push a blogger with a suspended blog to a paid solution. I didn’t fail to notice either that the suspension message on my dashboard didn’t fail to suggest to me to consider a hosted (.com) or self-hosting (.org) option with WordPress (both paid).
I doubt that WordPress are reading this humble blog post but having spent the last three days in panic and devastation, I will say a few words regardless.
I’ve spent the past year putting in 10-hour days working on this blog. WordPress gave me this opportunity. WordPress gave me a voice. Through this blog, I’ve been blessed with the attention of fellow authors and bloggers. Many of them have thanked me over time for tips and advice posted here. Some even bookmarked them for future reference. Fellow authors have benefited from the interviews and reviews I have done which I made sure to promote on Twitter for them in the long run.
And then, just like that, WordPress came one fine day and took it all away from me and from all these people in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, I sent five emails to them brimming over with frustration and apologies, asking for an explanation. It took them three days to get back to me. By then, I had grown devastated by the fear of having lost it all (I trusted WP blindly till now and had backed up only a handful of my posts) and also appalled by their lack of response.
Today, finally, they wrote to say that my blog had been flagged by their automatic anti-spam programs. They apologised and removed the suspension. I was able to access it, that’s true, but its functionality is currently limited. At the moment, it doesn’t allow me to insert images or hyperlinks into my posts.
This means that until they fix it, I can’t post any new interviews or reviews. I am in contact with them and hope they’ll sort it out soon. What is also strange, is that they said nothing about my affiliate parameters that I had inserted in hyperlinks and images on a couple of posts (the most recent). However, having revisited these posts I see they have removed the links to the books from my hyperlinks, which is very peculiar.
The whole thing, right from the start, has been nothing but strange, nothing but vague. Three days later, I may have redeemed my precious blog but as I said, it is not fully functional plus I was never given clear advice as to know how to proceed. Sure, I went to the images and removed the affiliate links but how do I know they don’t mind them in hyperlinks? They have offered no advice. If they allow them, why did they delete them from there? Isn’t there a risk for me if I put them back on? See what I mean?
I don’t know how all this sounds to you but to me, the word is ‘fishy’. I cannot give my trust where there is no clarity. So beware people if you’re using a free WP blog, especially if you’re an author. As far as I’m concerned, I am treating this blog from now on as something I could lose forever at any given moment.
This means two things:
a) I am in the process of backing up into Word DOC files any of the posts that I deem important.
b) Having purchased a domain and hosting services with Hostgator yesterday, I am now in the process of building my own website. Gone are the days I depended foolishly on the kindness of any given ‘landlord’. I am building ‘my own house’ where I make my own rules.
If any of you out there think you need more assurance such as the one I’m seeking, keep an eye on this blog. Let’s hope WP keeps it live long enough for me to blog the details of this super-cheap and super-easy solution I have found, thanks to the wonderful, sharing indie author community I spoke of earlier. And now, it’s my turn to share it with you all.
If this blog goes bust again before I do this, look me up on Twitter where I’ll make sure to announce my own site when it’s up and running. From there, if not from here, I’ll make sure to share with you all soon an 11-video tutorial that takes you by the hand and shows you how to build your own site easy, cheaply and fast, step-by-step. I don’t know anything about website building or web hosting but if I can do it, then so can you.
UPDATE: I have now built my site, Effrosyni Writes, with the aforementioned FREE tutorial. Head over there now to get the link to the tutorial and to check it all out. If you like what you see, now you can make your own site too without any website building cost and without having to learn any code!