What constitutes a WordPress emergency? In your clients’ minds, something like a broken link or an outdated logo might be classified as an “emergency”. But these are the kinds of things you can easily tackle on your own as the requests come in.
So, what, then, is a real WordPress emergency? And what should you do when one occurs?
A WordPress crisis is generally one that requires assistance from a third-party. While many developers might associate an “emergency” with serious security breaches, there are actually a number of areas where you’ll need to seek out emergency help for WordPress:
- Data loss
If any one of these should fail, your client’s WordPress site will need an immediate resolution. And, in many cases, you won’t be in a position to provide that emergency help.
The following guide will provide you with:
- The kinds of WordPress emergencies for which you will need help.
- What steps to take when a WordPress crisis arises.
- Who to reach out to for WordPress emergency services.
When You’ll Need Emergency WordPress Help ⁉️
No matter how well you know a WordPress website inside and out, there are things that happen that either has you befuddled or nervous about implementing a fix (especially if the issue lives server-side). Rather than think:
“I’ll reach out for emergency WordPress help when something happens.”
Take action now. Arm yourself with the information you need to identify a WordPress crisis and take action to resolve it ASAP.
First, start with the identification of WordPress emergencies:
WordPress Emergency Help for Security
Starting in WordPress 3.7, WordPress automatically began pushing security updates to users’ websites. Although WordPress can help with security patches that are urgent in nature and stem from the core, plugins, and themes, it’s not enough to rely on them.
Yes, the underlying code of the CMS and any themes or plugins you use on it can be particularly vulnerable to attack. However, hackers will find other ways into your clients’ websites if you don’t prepare for them. (Even then, security breaches can still happen.)
So, when you see any of the following emergencies, don’t waste any time hoping WordPress will issue a patch to resolve it. Get help immediately if you can’t troubleshoot and fix it on your own:
- The white screen of death - Instead of a WordPress dashboard or a WordPress website, all you see is a blank screen and error message.
- Admin login error - You visit the wp-admin or wp-login page, only to find that your credentials no longer work.
- Website infection or defacement - You have access to both the WordPress dashboard and website, but the website looks garbled or contains pages that don’t belong there.
Of course, implementing a security measure like two-factor authentication is helpful in cutting down on brute force attacks. But it won’t do you much good in cleaning up during an emergency.
WordPress Emergency Help for Performance
Websites are not the easiest things to build. Sure, you know what kinds of components are required to do so:
- Web hosting
- WordPress content management system
- Up to a dozen or so plugins
- And maybe some custom fonts
The more you add to the website, the larger it gets. And the more things that can go wrong and compromise its performance.
While there are certainly ways to tune the performance of your website, what do you do when:
- There’s a significant drop in speed that everyone notices but no known changes were recently made to the site?
- Your uptime monitor reports one or more unplanned instances of downtime each day?
- WordPress times out whenever you try to upload something new to it (an image, a plugin, etc.)?
- Your client spent loads of money on a new ad campaign and the site crashes due to the overwhelming response to it?
Whether it’s the speed or uptime status of your website that’s been compromised, if it’s costing your client money every minute it’s out of service, you need a quick resolution.
WordPress Emergency Help for Data Loss
Data loss is often associated with security breaches as hackers look for ways to tear down a business and walk away with valuable information. But that’s not always how this type of WordPress crisis happens. As In-tuition Cloud Services explains:
“Imagine your WordPress site being damaged, corrupted, or changed without your permission. The impact could be far-reaching. Not just some lost words which you have to retype. But quite possibly lost enquiries (and sales if you are running e-commerce), removal from search engines and damage to your reputation. And more often than not, clicking ‘Save’ won’t prevent the problem…”
So, how exactly does data loss come about?
- Human error - One of your WordPress users trashes content from the website.
- Plugin configuration - A plugin meant to capture data — like a contact form — is not set up correctly and data ends up in a black hole somewhere instead of your client’s inbox or CRM.
- Corruption - Hackers and other visitors who don’t belong in the backend of your website damage the underlying code or database.
- Web host - A server without a backup or a failover server could lead to data loss if the equipment is damaged or if it’s become vulnerable to attack.
Of all the types of WordPress emergencies that can happen, this is the one your clients will instantly be aware of. The second they stop making money, they’re going to come screaming to you to fix it, so it’s crucial you know where to go for help.
WordPress Emergency Help for SEO
One of the unfortunate victims of a security breach or significant performance drop is SEO. Roger Montti explains in this Search Engine Journal post:
“Once a site is hacked and the search traffic disappears, security rapidly becomes an SEO nightmare. So why wait until your site is hacked to add security to your SEO toolkit? Add security to your SEO routine and avoid the crisis of losing traffic. SEO is as much about retaining traffic as it is about gaining it.”
While it’s easy to point the finger at hackers for a website dropping in rank or, worse, getting blacklisted by Google, that’s not always why the state of SEO becomes an emergency.
When it comes to detecting and repairing SEO emergencies, security and performance issues will be the first place to look. However, if you’ve fixed them (or there were none to begin with) and the SEO crisis persists, it’s time to look at the SEO strategies employed by your website.
Astra has some good questions to ask:
- Is any of the content plagiarized?
- Does your blog aggregate content from the web that it has no permission to?
- Does it use cloaking to present different versions of the site to visitors than to Google?
- Has someone purchased links?
Black hat SEO techniques like these (whether intentional or not) can cause serious harm to a WordPress website. Unless you’re a writer and SEO and know how to repair the damage done by these, you’ll need to employ an expert to help out.🎩 Black hat SEO techniques can cause serious harm to a #WordPress website. That's actually where that emoji came originated. #nope Click To Tweet
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WordPress Maintenance Services
Firstly, you have the option of turning to a maintenance company to handle your WordPress emergency service. While many of these companies only offer standard maintenance plans, emergency support isn’t always part of it.
The real kicker is if you had a maintenance plan in place, to begin with, would you have even had the emergency?
WP Buffs, however, includes 5-minute WordPress emergency support in each plan.
Not only is it important to have a maintenance service team that is there for you 24/7, but it's also important to know that they have your back. Emergency situations are super stressful and a solid team will not only be there for you when you need them but also be supportive during the whole process.
Whether it's 3 pm or 3 am, a WordPress emergency services team has to be there!
What to Do in a WordPress Crisis? ℹ️
There are plenty of ways to get outside assistance for WordPress, like websites with help chat support and dedicated support forums. But when you’re in WordPress crisis mode, the response time on some of these options or level of expertise of the people behind them may be lacking.
So, here’s what you need to do instead:
1. Don’t Panic
It’s easy to panic or draw a blank in an emergency situation, especially when your client is putting pressure on you to fix the problem already.
Don’t let the pressure cause you to panic. You need to be clear-headed and calm so you can take swift action and the right kind of action.
If someone reported the WordPress emergency to you, be sure to confirm it before you rush to take action or get someone else involved. You can use different tools based on the type of emergency to confirm a major problem:
WordPress speed testing tools will tell you when there are issues with performance.
- Invalid pages
If you suspect the issue to be related to security, there’s a wealth of resources online you can use to conduct a malware or overall security check. Check with your security plugin first. iThemes provides a number of ways to review your site’s security, for instance.
In terms of SEO, a tool like Screaming Frog is probably best. Use this SEO spider to crawl your website and look for broken links and pages, duplicate content, and other issues.
If your site has completely disappeared from search results, Sucuri SiteCheck will tell you if it’s been flagged or blacklisted along with providing other security assessments.
And, of course, sometimes the old fashioned way is the best way to test for an emergency.
- Is the WordPress admin page inaccessible or login mechanism broken?
- Is the website offline?
- Have you encountered a phishing page?
- Is the site taking too long to load?
Step through the site (if you can) and verify that there’s something wrong.
You know how when someone says they misplaced something, the response is usually:
“Do you remember when you had it last?”
That’s exactly what you should do. Ask yourself:
“When was the last time the WordPress site was in an unperturbed state?”
Then, work your way backward. Was there something you, a team member, or the client did between now and then that could’ve disrupted its otherwise calm ecosystem? Perhaps you updated the WordPress theme or a plugin? Or someone attempted to update a page?
If it wasn’t any of your WordPress users that did anything, is it possible the WordPress team made a change that affected the state of things? Go to the list of WordPress Versions in the Codex to see if a new update was automatically pushed to your site.
4. Restore Backup
If you can trace the source of the emergency to an action taken on the site and know that you have a stable version saved, restore the WordPress site from backup.
If that’s not an option or it didn’t work, do the next step.
5. Fix It
If you can trace the issue to a recent update or you’re nearly positive it’s a plugin or theme causing the problem, you can try to fix this yourself.
If you have access through the WordPress admin page, go to Appearance > Theme and deactivate the current one. Set the default WordPress Twenty Nineteen theme in its place.
If you don’t have access, go to your FTP or file manager and deactivate the theme thereby changing the name of the content/themes/ folder. You may need to do the same to the content/plugins/ folder if you still don’t have access.
Then, do the following:
- If the issue resolves with the theme deactivation, there’s an issue between the theme and the WordPress core or one of the plugins.
- Go to the list of Plugins and deactivate all.
- Reactivate plugins one-by-one to identify the troublesome plugin and remove it altogether.
- If the issue is gone, you know it was the plugin. If not, then it’s the theme.
Now, removing a problematic theme or plugin will “fix” the problem, but it’s still wise to get the original developer involved so they’re aware of the conflict or otherwise bad code that caused the issue in the first place.
6. Find WordPress Emergency Help
If you’re unable to fix the urgent problem or you have no idea what’s caused it in the first place, don’t delay. Get in touch with WordPress emergency services ASAP.
Just be sure you have the following before you reach out:
- The website link (or specific pages affected).
- A phone number or email you can be reached at.
- The emergency or error that needs resolution.
- Screenshots of the error message or page.
- Details on how long or when it happened.
- Any recent changes made to the website.
- Login credentials for WordPress.
- Login credentials for web hosting.
- Login credentials for FTP manager.
- A credit card number.
Come prepared so the emergency services team can get on it right away.
Who to Go to for WordPress Emergency Help? 🆘
Now, let’s talk about who exactly is going to be equipped to help you out of a jam with WordPress.
Your Web Host
Before you do anything else, your web hosting company needs to be looped into the situation.
If you happen to know who your contact is at the web hosting company — like Tom at Kinsta or Michelle at Pressable — reach out to them first as they’ll already have some idea of what your situation is. Otherwise, get in touch via live chat or phone so you can speak to a support representative in real time about what happened.
Web host support personnel have direct visibility of the backend of your website and also know everything going on within their servers, so they should be your primary contact. Even if they’re unable to roll back the change or remove the offending corruption, they can point you to what happened so you can provide someone else with details of the issue.
WordPress agencies generally aren’t just in the business of developing websites. These days, they understand that the management of a website requires end-to-end care, which is why they often provide a whole set of website-related services, including WordPress emergency support.
If you work with or for an agency, you should have a point-of-contact already that can provide you with 24/7 emergency assistance. If you’re a freelance developer or an employee put in charge of your company’s site, look online to see if you can hire an agency to help. Chances are good that if they offer WordPress maintenance services, they’ll also have emergency help available.
Here's an example of a WordPress agency that provides emergency support:
Now, this agency does something of note:
- It lists the kinds of emergency help they provide for WordPress.
- It provides hours of operation, if not 24/7.
- It includes a contact form so they can gather details and provide you with a quote before doing any work.
- It explains pricing for WordPress emergency services.
So, if you were wondering, the answer is “Yes, these guys will charge you.” Unless you have a WordPress agency already working for you, expect to have to pay for emergency services.
Dedicated Cleanup Support
There are other WordPress companies that are strictly in the business of providing emergency as well as standard hired support. These kinds of businesses have seen it all and maybe the best resource for troubleshooting and fixing an urgent issue that no one else can solve.
These cleanup support providers typically provide a contact form and a phone number for immediate assistance. Some even assign a dedicated team member to deal with your site issues on a regular basis. That way you're not explaining your site's life story to someone new over and over again.
As you can imagine, most companies in the business of securing WordPress have an emergency service readily available to paying and new customers. There is actually a lot to choose from, so the decision may come down to which WordPress security plugin or service you already use. If not, the following options will serve you well:
MalCare sells a malware cleanup package and guarantees same-day service in case you’re nervous about getting help right away:
And then there are the great reviews left online for Malcare! If your website is hacked, they're definitely one of the go-to solutions.
Joe, our Head Buff, also got the chance to hang out with the Team from Malcare at WordCamp Europe 2018. They're some of the friendliest people he's met in the WordPress space and are driven by making malware cleanup frictionless for their customers.
— Akshat Choudhary (@akshatc) June 13, 2018
Sucuri has an even better turnaround time guarantee:
The only catch is that the package is more costly. That said, it will cover you for the next 365 days instead of just this one instance.
SiteGuard provides emergency malware cleanup:
SiteGuarding, on the other hand, provides a number of WordPress emergency services. To start, you have a choice of a 24-hour malware removal service or an urgent 1- to 3-hour malware cleanup:
SiteGuarding also has a dedicated blacklist cleanup and removal offering, which GeekFlare recommends:
SiteLock doesn’t have a one-off WordPress emergency service option. However, it does include a hacked website repair service in its SecureSpeed plan:
This is a smart move on their part since it’ll encourage those seeking emergency help to be more proactive about securing their website in the future.
Wrapping Up 🎀
Remember: it costs far more to leave a site unsecured, unoptimized, and unmaintained than it would if you would just pay to have someone take care of it for you. And, as you can see above, WordPress emergency services are not cheap.
So, do yourself, your business, and your clients a favor and make sure you’ve been proactive about managing their websites. Put the right security, performance, and SEO tools in place and then get someone to monitor all of it (if not yourself). It’s worth it.
Want to give your feedback or join the conversation? Add your comments 🐦 on Twitter.
Brenda Barron is the blog editor for the WP Buffs WordPress blog and a freelance writer from southern California. When not working, she’s spending time with her family, homeschooling her kids, knitting, and getting outdoors. Find out more about her at Digital Inkwell. If you want some freebies, check out our free speed and security ebooks, webinars for WordPress professionals, WordPress blog or WordPress podcast all about building monthly recurring revenue.