WP may be targeting authors – this is my story

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!

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52 responses to “WP may be targeting authors – this is my story

  1. I’m really glad you’re live again through here. I’m sure you’ll get full functionality too. But, yes, all this is very fishy unless the people at WP have algorithms running amuck shutting down people’s sites. I, too, use affiliate links, but I grab the ready-made link provided by clicking on the chain icon on the upper left corner of the Amazon affiliate links toolbar. If I’m on a book’s page on Amazon, I get that black toolbar at the top of the page. You mention inserting your affiliate parameters in links and images manually. That’s a procedure I haven’t done. I’m just throwing that bit in in case it helps.

    I look forward to seeing your brand new site!

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    • Thank you for the positive thoughts, Maria. For some reason, the chain link icon on the top of my Amazon page doesn’t let me grab the link like you say it does for you. If I click that, it opens up an Amazon window but that gives me only HTML for the graphics but free WP blogs don’t allow these. So I manually create the link to put on my blog. if you think it’s there and I can’t see it, please email me privately and walk me through it. It’ll appreciate it. Thanks again for commenting 🙂

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  2. Greed. Stupidity. Arrogance. Selfishness. Mean-spiritedness.
    Capitalism.
    Hate it.

    Thanks for posting. I just poked the WP.com dragon yesterday about their sudden announcement on my “free” site (which they claim has been there for “weeks”!?!) that WP can randomly post ads that I CANNOT SEE (only visible to those NOT logged in…?!?) anytime it wants about any product it chooses UNLESS I PAY $30/year to “OPT OUT.”

    I wrote to them with extreme unction and called that tactic “extortion” in my rant (what would YOU call it?), which caused me to receive a SERIES of extremely hostile, semi-legalese responses from their “volunteer” and paid “Happiness” engineers (customer service), quoting their own TOS and the definition of “extortion.” Awful.

    Now I know what ELSE to expect. Sigh.

    Backing up more posts today.

    I look forward to your tutorial!

    Best to you,

    Sally

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    • Dear Sally, I sympathise so much. It’s so one-sided, isn’t it? But maybe it’s just me being the pacifist, I don’t take the time to vent my frustration angrily with big shot companies. It’s a waste of time honey. They are giants and what are we? The way I see it, the human spirit is vulnerable and peace of mind of paramount importance. I don’t let things steal my peace of mind. Instead of fighting the big bad wolf, I retreat and go find shelter as far from it as possible. That’s what I did this time too. It saves from so much aggro. I hope you will benefit from the tutorial when I blog it soon. Take it from me, taking action helps with anger and frustration. I always say that. It’s being inert and barking at the moon that only perpetuates it. Thank you so much for your visit and input 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing good information. I shall look forward to your new blog site and especially thank you in advance for sharing your how-to information for those of us out here who are novices.

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    • Thank you for your visit Jean! I am progressing fast through the tutorial. Half-way already; it’s so easy. Will share everything with you, guys. Just keep an eye on this blog or failing that, check on me on Twitter as I said 🙂

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  4. Fros, Glad to hear you sorted out your problems with WP, and I’m looking forward to your blog again. But as you said, it all seems very fishy. So I”m looking forward to your NEW blog on a self-hosted site. where you can do whatever the hell you please without the WP police snooping through your posts.Regards, Stephen Hazlett – Author

    Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2014 09:31:16 +0000 To: stevehazlett@hotmail.com

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  5. I’m curious as to what the reasoning behind it all was. Do let us know if you find out.

    You should all keep in mind that you can take a backup of all your content by going to Dashboard > Tools > Export > All (default). This creates an sql file which you can store on your laptop for future reference. I try to do this on a weekly basis just in case. It’s also useful in case someone, say, hacks into your account and deletes your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am starting to think it’s all about coaxing users to buy paid options…..thank you for sharing this invaluable information,Nicholas as I bet many bloggers don’t know. I didn’t know either but when WP suspended my blog they actually prompted me to take this back up!! However, when I tried to create a new free blog and upload (import) that file as to see my precious content again, guess what? WP suspended the new blog too on the spot! You can imagine my reaction. I hit the roof! Still, I do have this file safely backed up and if I ever need to import it, I’ll make sure to ask you for advice 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, it makes sense. If you backed up the version that had the offending piece of code, whatever that was, their anti-spam bot is activated when you try to import the site back. I don’t suppose you have a slightly older backup?

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  6. Thanks for letting us know, Fros, and good on you. I think your own site is the way to go here.

    I have a website and now am going to see if I can figure out how to pop a blog up there. 🙂

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  7. Thank you all for your input and kind words, peeps. I am not responding individually as not to spread the commenting too thin. I think the best lesson learnt here is to do TOOLS->EXPORT from the WP dashboard to back up our content often, See, I didn’t know that till now and to be frank, I trusted WP blind to do it for me so didn’t even look into it. Nicolas, I will take another now that my blog is not suspended so if I ever need that back up it won’t be flagged as spam and rejected by WP. Thank you 🙂

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  8. Hi Effrosyni,

    I’m glad that you were able to get back on line. This is definitely a word of caution for those who WordPress for their websites. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Best wishes,
    Linnea

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  9. Thanks for the heads up! Beware of Twitter, too. I registered a name closely related to my book’s title “Grading the Teacher” which was accepted – and then, without warning, it was suspended. Twitter does not respond at all to any request for explanation or review. No communication whatsoever publicly or privately. I have since created a different name that works: @Gr8Teachrs

    I’m now backing up my blog posts…Thanks!

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    • Thank you for your input Nellie. Very strange. I don’t think the title could be the reason, unless by coincidence there’s a title like this on another product and someone reported you? Goodness knows. In any case, great to hear you got in with a different handle ok. I bet Twitter cares even less to give explanations, especially if what I imagine is what happened; ie if someone reported you for whatever reason. I made the mistake once to send too many tweets to Twitter handles and got reported for a spammer. Thankfully, Twitter offered me the chance to promise I won’t do it again after slapping my wrist, and they reinstated my account ok. With big shot companies like that, you can’t be too careful…

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  10. There’s an export option to back up your blog, just in case something happens. Might be easier than putting your posts in a Word document!

    Admin dashboard -> Tools -> Export

    If you start a new blog for any reason (like setting up a new WordPress blog on a personal website) you can easily import your posts and pages from the old blog to the new blog.

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    • Yes, I am now aware of this and I take this backup occasionally now. How thoughful of you to mention this. However, I take individual backups as Word documents too for just a handful of posts because I might need them to post somewhere else, for example a travel piece for a magasine. Therefore, I need more than just the option to restore the whole blog if I lose it. Again, very kind of you; thank you for your visit 🙂

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  11. This sounds very disturbing indeed. I was not aware of that and had Amazon picture links, removed all of them after reading your post. It’s rather ugly that they are doing this to push the paid solutions, just like Facebook showing the author page posts to only 20% of the people unless you pay to boost your posts. It’s disgusting! Indie authors are not wealthy people, most of us barely make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck, some of us don’t even have the paycheck! Such greed…. It’s unbelievable.

    I have my own domain and hosting, and hosting your own wordpress site is much better in terms of customization and plugins etc. but it’s also hell of a lot harder to get traffic and followers. The only reason I started my book blog here is to connect with the others, cause it’s a community. I can follow other blogs, comment on them, follow them, and they can follow me. It’s not as easy to do with self-hosted site.

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    • Thank you for your input Leona. Please note that WP allows to have Amazon links on the images, but won’t allow it if those Amazon links have affiliate tags embedded in them. Just clarifying in case you took out Amazon links without affiliate tags unecessarily. Anyway, I am sure having a self-hosted site gives more flexibility but involves more hassle too in other ways. I hear it’s a pain to keep spammers out for example but I will install a program for that to make sure comments can come in from genuine readers. I am keeping this free blog too and will only blog seldom from the website though, I will keep referencing one site to the other and vice versa too. Mainly the website I’m building will serve as a place for readers to look up my books, get excerpts, sign up to the newsletter and email me direct. I will keep this blog as my main blog. As you said, things are easier here for bloggers so why not still reap the benefits. Also as it’s been an active blog for a year it’s got a great headstart in terms of ranking etc. Why lose that, right?

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    • Thank you for your kind advice, Eduardo. I’ve already taken action: bought a domain and hosting services and am building my site these days. Very excited about this, I know what you mean about it coming across more professional. Have a great day 🙂

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  12. Glad to see you’re back up and running (sort of O.o ). It really is a big problem for people who can’t afford to host their own website, and I know many bloggers who have left WordPress because of it. And it’s just hurts WordPress, or it will start to if they keep going. I know of another company who makes a CMS program who started imposing limits on things and charging a large up front fee, and they lost over half their previous users. Now the software is free again.

    However a lot of people aren’t aware that you can still use WordPress however you like and that hosting isn’t that expensive (less than $5 a month with some companies), sometimes even free. You can use a version of WordPress on your own hosting, with access to heaps of themes and millions of plugins for free (you don’t have to pay WordPress for upgrades and features!), and not have to learn a whole new administration system. When it’s on your own hosting you can post any images and links you like (as long as they’re not spammy/malicious, obviously), and even sell your books (or whatever) right from your website – for free 🙂 🙂

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    • Thank you Michaela for your feedback and kind advice. I took under consideration both .com and .org options with WordPress but in the end went for another solution, getting the domain and the hosting services as mentioned in the online tutorial I did. I got very low prices and step-by-step instructions on how to build my own site – it was fab, especially as it involves a plugin that’s designed to showcase books, just for authors. It’s perfect. Again, thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂

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  13. I read this with interest because I’ve been noticing with some of my older com blog posts that what I had once embedded ( like YouTube videos) were starting to display as broken links. Even embedded images from Getty (that WordPress com was bragging we could do) were just reduced to words. I realized I was outgrowing the com blog, and have started a self hosted WordPress site so that I can take advantage of the many plugins and other perks of having a real website.
    Even when the price of my hosting goes up after a year, it’ll still be cheaper than the premium option for WordPress com.
    That must have been a very frustrating and scary experience! Best of luck with your new website!

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    • Many thanks for your visit, James, and for sharing your own experience. Yes, having my own self-hosted site worked well for me. No more fear of WP closing me down overnight! I hope you got yourself set up nicely too. Wish you success and best of luck 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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