How I Grew An Audience of 3 Million Visitors In Only 4 Weeks.. And Lost It All Overnight

It was September 2008. I can remember that it was a warm day.  I’m sitting in the Doctor’s office.  The doctor walks in and announces that I have diabetes. Type 1.5 diabetes to be exact, which is Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults. I look at her and ask “what does all of this mean?”.

Needless to say that discussion with the doctor went on for quite a while, but I still had a lot of unanswered questions.

Online health website imageWhen I finally walked out of the doctor’s office I decided I had to do my own research.  I spent the next several days doing research online, visiting every online community that I could find and became more and more depressed with each visit.  The lack of a good website with good information that I could understand and use was frustrating.  It was depressing.

After talking to my wife about the lack of a good website with easy to understand help and information, she said “well, if you think you can do better, do it!” – A challenge!  I love a challenge, so I was off to build a better online community about diabetes.

Building an online community is harder than I thought!

Like every new webmaster or blogger, I planned on having the biggest and best community on the internet.  A community that would encourage people to get away from the computer, deal with their condition, and not become depressed.  Little did I know the challenges that lie ahead.

The Diabetes Online Community or DOC as it is known, is a very tight-knit group of diabetics who do not like change. I quickly became the black sheep of the online diabetic community – but because I am from East Coast I actually enjoyed it, and played the role better than Pappy Boyington.

After some time and moderate success we decided to move to online magazine format based on WordPress, complete with professional writers.  It would be like “Mashable for diabetes”, covering mutiple topics like technology, research, entertainment and mobile apps for diabetics.  Our visitors would get the full range of great information.  We would build a great following by giving them a great online magazine that they could count on and trust.

Build it and they will come.  And, they did!

Within 4 weeks they came..  And kept coming!   They came to the tune of three million visitors.  Three million! I was going nuts. I could not believe received three million visitors in only 4 weeks – It was amazing.

This quick success was fantastic. We had six writers, all posting daily. We had a great Chief Information Officer providing all the information to the writers if needed, as well as writing himself. I was editing like a wild man.  Things were growing fast and everything was going perfect.   Things were going so well that we tooted our horn about our success and 3 million visitors on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else people would listen.

Then it happened

Less than a day after letting the world know about our quick success, our website was hacked.  An apparent simple hack through an unsecured plugin.  It turns out we didn’t have anyone on the team thinking about security.. or backups – both were key factors in our downfall.

The hacker removed everything on the site.  Every post, every picture, every comment.  I was in complete and utter shock.  I could still log in to the blog, but I was greeted by nothing but empty pages, and a dead, empty skeleton of categories.  Everything was gone.  It was over.

It was all easily avoidable

I know what you’re thinking, “amateurs”.  And you would be right.  I knew very little about WordPress, plugins, security, or anything else about the nity-grity of running a blog.  I trusted my administrator/webmaster and he failed me and the entire team.  I learned a very tough lesson.

An unsecured WordPress Plug-in was the culprit, along with the lack of any backups, all due to poor management on my part. I take the blame for not knowing what I should have known. I take the blame for not asking about a backups. It was my website and I take responsibility for everything that happened.

What I learned

The best I can do now is learn from my mistakes, move on, not dwell on the past, and hopefully help others.

The biggest lesson I learned?  Always back up everything you do and everything that you care about.  If someone is doing the backups for you, ask for a copy and test the backups.  Second, the DOC (diabetes online community) as with most online niches, is very competitive.  Being the black sheep can be dangerous, so keep your cards close to your vest.  I also learned that writing the truth, even if it ruffles a few feathers is what people want.  This was the key to my success.

Get right back on the horse

Three million visitors in less than 4 weeks was a huge accomplishment that I hope to achieve again one day and I’m not going to let my previous failings stop me from trying. This time I have learned from my mistakes and will be more cautious.  I will find the best people that I can and surround myself with them and learn from them.   But for now I’m back to using blogger and Google Plus.  It’s a slow climb back to the top.

One thought on “How I Grew An Audience of 3 Million Visitors In Only 4 Weeks.. And Lost It All Overnight

  1. That’s the spirit Mark! Never give up because giving up means you admit defeat. Always remember that back-ups are crucial in every website because the internet is full of covetous persons and also obtain plug-ins that are trusted from the wordpress site itself so that you can minimize casualties on your future sites. Good Luck and Cheers!. Thanks for sharing your experience Mark. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.