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On an Inglorious Anniversary...

08/16/20

  02:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 846 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

On an Inglorious Anniversary...

A year ago we woke up to one of the worst surprises a business could imagine - our website was gone!  Read on to see what happened and our journey over this past year…

A Rude Awakening

Last August the runonsun.com website was humming along, generating thousands of visits each and every month, and from those thousands of visits, the majority of our leads.  Apart from boosting the occasional Facebook post, we generated that traffic without advertising. That success was years in the making, producing a high-quality website and an information rich blog.

OopsBut then, on August 15th, when we went to open our browser, what we saw made me catch my breath - runonsun.com could not be reached?  What did that mean?  I checked with my hosting service - everything there was fine.  I could access my host server, all of our files were intact.  But you could not reach the actual website.  What on earth?

I went to check my email to see if there would be some indication of the cause of our problem.  But then I realized - no email!  We could neither send nor receive emails!  Holy crap, this was serious!  What will prospective clients do if their emails to you bounce?

Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it.  The backbone of our operation is our Client Relationship Management system.  The Run on Sun CRM was written inhouse and we track every client contact from initial website connection or phone call, all the way through final inspection of their project.  We schedule our site evaluations through it, and store for display the data we gather there - and suddenly it was all gone!

Fighting Off Panic

I have to admit - as the realization of the scope of our problem dawned on me, I was in a state of shock!  How could this happen?  As I dug into the technical details, I pieced together what had happened.  The registration of the domain name was on a five-year renewal cycle, so it wasn’t like its status was top-of-mind.  The registration was in my former partner’s name, and apparently someone hacked his email account and got the credentials to our account at the domain registrar.  This person then initiated a transfer of the domain to bizcn.com - a notorious registrar associated with lots of unsavory businesses - and because the confirmation emails went to the hacked email account, they were able to confirm the transfer!

We contacted bizcn.com and explained what had happened.  They didn’t care.  We had our old registrar contact them and explain what happened.  The still didn’t care. To this day, runonsun.com is parked at bizcn.com, pointing to nothing.  

Coming Back

While we tried - unsuccessfully - to get the domain back, we needed to come up with a Plan B to move forward.  The first step was to register a new domain name - runonsun.solar - and point that to our website. Then we had to change the Internet records to allow us to send and receive emails at the new domain.  Then we had to change all of the dozens of places where we had links pointing to the old domain and get them changed to point to the new one.  (The simple way to do this - set up a permanent redirection from runonsun.com to runonsun.solar was unavailable to us since we didn’t have control over the old domain.  Sigh.)

We sent Google new sitemaps showing our pages now at the new domain.  Unfortunately, that didn’t immediately change the search engine results page - we would see searches find our content, only to be linked to the dead domain!  This was going to take time!

A Year Later

So it has been a year, how are we doing?  Well, of course this hasn’t really been a normal year for anyone, now has it?  But this image gives a pretty good sense (click for larger):

The orange line is daily users from August 1 to August 16, 2019, whereas the blue line is the same days this year.  (You can clearly see our traffic fall off a cliff on August 15!)  The summary numbers are brutal: users down 67%, same for total sessions, and pages viewed is even worse, off a whopping 82%!  If they can’t find you, they can’t view you!  One glimmer - average session duration has increased by 27% - which means if they get here they stay longer than before!

 But we are making progress: a Google search for “Enphase Ensemble” produces our blog post, “Hands-On with Ensemble - My Trip to Enphase!” as the number seven result, and on a mobile device it is the first listing under “Interesting finds".  Searching for, “I’ve got solar, why are my bills so high?” finds our blog post excerpted at the top of the SERP as a cherished “Featured Snippet” - thanks, Google!

So that is our saga - we are grateful for those of you who have found us, we hope to be a source of quality information for a long time - to say nothing of the best solar installations in the Pasadena area! 

Meanwhile, please tell your friends about us, we still need to grow back another 67% to break even!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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