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6 easy WordPress troubleshooting tips that’ll unfuck your site

by | Jan 29, 2021 | WordPress Tips, WordPress for Entrepreneurs

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// Did you fuck up your site? Turns out, the vast majority of website problems can be solved using one of these easy WordPress troubleshooting tips!

At a glance

Quick summary

  1. These WordPress troubleshooting tips will solve most common WordPress problems
  2. Problems include not being able to get to your site, getting random error messages, things changing, disappearing, or appearing unexpectedly, among others.
  3. Try them in order
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Having trouble with WordPress?

If your website is currently fucked up, chances are one of these 6 WordPress troubleshooting tips will unfuck it.

For best results, I recommend completing these steps in order!

6 WordPress troubleshooting tips

Make sure your site is still online

WordPress Troubleshooting // 1 of 6

If you can’t get to anything on your site, that’s when you should try this.

Step 1.1 — Browse to isitup.org

In your browser, head to isitup.org

Step 1.2 — Enter your site’s Domain

In the box, enter your domain (your site URL). Then hit Enter on your keyboard.

Screenshot of isitup.org • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Step 1.3 — Confirm your site’s status

If your site is functioning normally, it’ll say yoursite.com is up:

Screenshot showing a website that's online at isitup.org  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

But, if your site is experiencing an outage, you’ll see yoursite.com seems to be down:

Screenshot from isitup.org showing a site that is offline  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

If your site is down, then your best bet is to contact your Hosting provider. They’ll be able to give you a status report on your site, and possibly an ETA for when it’ll be back online.

If your site is up, then that means there’s not a root infrastructure problem, and you should continue to the next step.

Before continuing, take a backup first!

The rest of these WordPress troubleshooting tips make changes to your live site. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that you take a backup before continuing.

There are quite a few ways to take a backup of your site.

Some Hosting providers (my favorite, SiteGround, is a good example) have features which allow you to take quick backups. I’d suggest logging into your Hosting and checking there first.

Otherwise, a backup plugin will do the trick. I use the Pro version of Duplicator to keep my site backed up, but the Free version of Duplicator from the WordPress Repository will work too!

Backup 1 — Go to the Plugin Repository

In your WordPress Dashboard, on the left side, go to Plugins > Add New

Screenshot showing how to get to the Plugin Repository  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Backup 2 — Install and activate Duplicator

In the search box, type Duplicator. Then, click Install Now on the Duplicator plugin that pops up (should be By Snap Creek)

Screenshot showing how to install the Duplicator plugin  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Once installed, click Activate

Screenshot showing how to activate the Duplicator plugin  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Backup 3 — Take a backup of your site

In the Dashboard, go to Duplicator > Packages

Screenshot showing how to begin taking a backup of your site  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Click Create New

Screenshot showing how to create a new package in Duplicator  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Leave the default settings. Click Next.

Screenshot showing how to continue creating a new package in Duplicator  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Allow the scan to run. It shouldn’t take too long (10-30 seconds), but that will depend on the size of your site.

The scan may flag some issues. In most cases, you should be good to simple proceed to the next step.

Click Build

Screenshot showing a completed Duplicator scan  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Once you do, your site will start creating the backup.

Screenshot showing a package being built in Duplicator  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Once done, you’ll see Package Completed, and there will be two buttons below it.

Click each one to download the file.

⚠ Be sure you save these files in a place you can find them! In case something goes wrong, you’ll need them to restore your site.

Screenshot showing how to download a built package in Duplicator  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Once the files are downloaded, and you’ve stored them in a safe place, it’s time to start troubleshooting! 0815

Backup 4 (Optional) — Take automatic backups

If you’d like to set up scheduled backups, check out my post below!

Install all updates

WordPress Troubleshooting // 2 of 6

Outstanding WordPress, plugin, and theme updates can be a source of problems. So, let’s make sure everything on your site is fully up to date.

Taking the time to complete this step can often save a lot of time spent working other WordPress troubleshooting tips down the line.

Step 2.1 — Confirm updates are available

Head to your WordPress Dashboard and click the Updates notification in the sidebar.

⚠ Note: This notification only appears when updates are available. If no updates, you won’t see it!

Screenshot showing that updates are available in a WordPress site  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Step 2.2 — Install all WordPress, plugin, and theme updates

⚠ Note: Items will only appear in each section if updates are available.

If a full WordPress update is ready, you’ll see An updated version of WordPress is available.

Click Update Now (only after taking a full backup of your site).

Screenshot showing that an updated version of WordPress is available  • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Once done, you may be redirected to another page. To get back to the updates page, click the Updates link in the sidebar again.

Then, scroll down to the Plugins section and click the checkbox next to Select All and click Update Plugins

Screenshot showing how to update plugins • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

This will take somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds.

Once it’s done, click Go to WordPress Updates page.

Screenshot showing how to get back to the update page • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Finally, scroll to the Themes section, click the checkbox next to Select All, and then click Update Themes.

Screenshot showing how to update themes • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Again, this will take anywhere from 10-30 seconds on average.

Step 2.3 — Check to see if that unfucked your site

Once all of the plugins and themes on your site are up to date, check to see if the problem is gone.

If so, congrats! Stop here. No more WordPress troubleshooting necessary.

If not, continue to the next step.

Check plugins — *Most common fix!*

WordPress Troubleshooting // 3 of 6

As the section heading says, most WordPress problems, and the need for any WordPress troubleshooting at all, arises from conflicts between a plugin and your site, your theme, or another plugin you’ve got installed.

The simplest way to check for this is to temporarily disable all plugins and see if the error resolves.

Here’s how to do that:

Disable all plugins

Disabling all plugins is the place to start.

Step 3.1 — Delete any inactive plugins

Before disabling your plugins, I recommend removing any inactive plugins.

This is good not only for site security, but it makes knowing which plugins to re-enable way easier. If every plugin on your site is an active plugin, they all be back on at the end.

To do this, click to the Plugins page from the WordPress Dashboard.

Screenshot showing how to get back to the plugins page • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Then, click the Inactive filter.

⚠ Note: If you don’t have any inactive plugins, this inactive link won’t show up, and you can skip down to the next step.

Screenshot showing how to filter by inactive plugins • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Then, for each plugin, click the Delete button and then OK in the dialog box that pops up.

Screenshot showing how to delete inactive plugins • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Step 3.2 — Disable all plugins

Head back to the main Plugins page (can click the same Plugins link in the left-hand sidebar).

Then, click the select-all checkbox.

Screenshot showing how to select all plugins • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Then, from the Bulk actions dropdown menu, choose Deactivate. Then click Apply.

⚠ Note: This will impact the front-end of your site. If you have users on your site at the time of the change, they may notice missing functionality. Keep calm! It’s only temporary.

Screenshot showing how to deactivate plugins in batch • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Step 3.3 — Check to see if that unfucked your site

Now check to see if the problem is gone.

If so, congrats! You’ve discovered that a plugin is causing the issue. The question is which plugin. To figure this out, head to the next section for my super quick method!

If the problem persists, it means that the issue isn’t coming from a plugin, and you should try the rest of the WordPress troubleshooting tips below.

To re-enable all plugins, repeat Step 3.2, but select Activate instead of Deactivate from the dropdown.

If the problem is a plugin, use the Halving Method to quickly figure out which one

The Halving Method is a quick bonus technique for finding problems. It’s often used when coding to help narrow down trouble spots. It’s a WordPress troubleshooting tip within a WordPress troubleshooting tip ?

For our purposes though, it’ll help find problem plugins way faster than checking each one individually.

⚠ Note: This method is especially effective if you’ve got a lot of plugins installed. If you’ve only got a few (like in the screenshots below), checking one-by-one will work as well.

Halving 1 — Enable half of the plugins

First, be sure that your plugins are all disabled. Use Step 3.2 above for help with this.

Next, click the checkbox next to about half of the disabled plugins. (Doesn’t have to be exactly half.)

Screenshot showing how to select plugins • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Then, click the Bulk actions dropdown, choose Activate, and then Apply.

Screenshot showing how to batch activate plugins • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Halving 2 — Check to see if that re-fucked your site

If the problem is back, you know that the problem plugin is in the group of active plugins.

Otherwise, the problem plugin is in the group of disabled plugins.

We’ll call the group of plugins that the problem is in the Trouble Group.

Halving 3 — Repeat 1 and 2 with the Trouble Group

Now, simply repeat Halving 1 and Halving 2 above with the Trouble Group.

The only difference is you’ll toggle half of the Trouble Group to the opposite state (i.e., if the Trouble Group is all active plugins, toggle half to inactive, or vice versa).

Keep doing this until you identify the problem plugin!

Temporarily switch to another theme

WordPress Troubleshooting // 4 of 6

If the problem persists after checking your plugins, the next thing to check is your theme.

You can do this by temporarily switching from the theme you’re using to a different one. Ideally, you’d switch back to one of the WordPress defaults.

By the way, I’d recommend that you leave all plugins disabled while you try this.

⚠ Note: The WordPress default themes are always the names of the years, but spelled out. e.g., Twenty Twenty-one, Twenty Twenty, Twenty Nineteen, etc.

Here’s how to switch:

Step 4.1 — Go to the Themes dashboard

In the WordPress sidebar, click Appearance > Themes.

Screenshot showing how to get to themes dashboard • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

Step 4.2 — Activate a different theme

Your active theme will appear in the upper-left corner of the grid.

To check if the theme is causing the problem, activate another one. Ideally, you’ll use the most-current default theme. At the time of writing, that theme is Twenty Twenty-One.

To activate it, hover over it, and click Activate.

Screenshot showing how to activate a theme • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

⚠ Note: Keep in mind that this will affect your live site, and any users will see the change. But, it’s just temporary, and you can change it back quickly.

Step 4.3 — Check to see if that unfucked your site

See if you can reproduce the problem with the new theme activated.

If so, congrats! You’ve found the problem!

If not, continue to the next step.

Step 4.4 — Reactivate your original theme

Once you’re done testing, be sure you reactivate your original theme.

Repeat the Steps 4.1 and 4.2, but activate your original theme instead.

Restore a previous backup

WordPress Troubleshooting // 5 of 6

If you’ve made it this far and haven’t located the problem, now might be the time to consider restoring a backup.

If you know when your site last functioned normally, you should select a backup that was made prior to that.

Instructions get a bit tricky here

Actual steps will vary depending on how you’re taking backups (you are taking backups at least daily, right?).

At minimum, your Hosting provider may have a backup solution that’s automatically enabled.

SiteGround, my preferred Hosting platform, takes automatic backups daily, and those backups can be restored with a single click.

Screenshot showing how to restore a backup in SiteGround • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

If you’re curious to know more about why I pick SiteGround, take a look at my post on it.

Using quotes, Google the exact error

WordPress Troubleshooting // 6 of 6

Most WordPress problems are common. So common that they’ve been solved in lots of other blog posts and articles.

When I get stuck with a problem, a quick Google search is one of my go-to strategies.

A handy trick for improving your searches is to wrap the exact error in quotes.

A quick example:

Here’s a common WordPress error:

Screenshot showing a database connection error • WordPress Troubleshooting Tips

If I were unsure about how to solve this, I’d drop the following search into Google:

wordpress, "error establishing a database connection"

I did a couple things here:

First, I added “wordpress” to the beginning. This helps focus results on WordPress.

And second, I included the exact error, and I wrapped it in quotes. This forces Google to look for that phrase exactly.

⚠ Note: The comma is ignored by Google — it’s just a habit of mine to include it. Also, capital/lowercase letters don’t matter.

At this point, browse the first few results and see if they point you in the right direction.

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Still stuck? Leave a comment!

If you’ve tried all of these WordPress troubleshooting steps and you’re still stuck, give me a shout in the comments below.

I will try my best to help guide you!

And, if the problem is bigger than the scope of the comments section, we can chat one-on-one about additional, and more advanced, WordPress troubleshooting tips for getting the problem fixed. In this case, head over to the Contact page and drop me a note!

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