Blog, Interrupted – Or How I Got Kicked Off WordPress.com and Ended Up on WordPress.org

Some of you may have noticed that this blog was shut down for almost a week, and I must say that it’s been somewhat, err, stressful. Here is the chain of events that has brought me to WordPress.org:

1. Last Friday, I breezily logged into my dashboard, thinking of all the posts I needed to start working on for Sci-Fi November, and to my surprise and dismay, saw THIS:

Your site has been suspended from WordPress.com for violating the Terms of Service. If you believe your site was suspended in error, please contact us as soon as possible and we will review your suspension. (To learn more about what is and is not allowed, please see section 2 of our terms and our types of blogs page.)

To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was horrified! I immediately clicked on the link to see what Terms of Service they thought I had violated, and I ran across this:

Blogs that violate our advertising policy or fall into one of the following categories are not allowed on WordPress.com:

  • Book tour blogs: Blogs that consist of pre-written publicity material, as opposed to original book reviews, for the purpose of promoting books and driving traffic to other promotional and giveaway sites.

I realized I had posted not one but two blog tour posts that very week. Was that the reason I was suspended? (I may never know, because WordPress is refusing to answer any of my inquires.) But wait—it says “Blogs that consist of pre-written publicity material, as opposed to original book reviews.” Neither one of my posts (for Endsinger and The Shotgun Arcana) consisted of any “pre-written publicity material,” unless you count the author bio info that was given to me by the publisher. My review was 100% original, as are all my reviews.

2. I immediately clicked on the contact form link so that I could get some more information, all the while hyperventilating but thinking to myself, “This must be a mistake! I’m no criminal! I’m certainly not a ‘Book tour blog'”! I told WordPress this, and anxiously waited for a response, thinking there must be hundreds of “Happiness Engineers” (yep, that’s what WordPress calls their crew) standing by, ready to shoot me back a response explaining the whole debacle.

And I waited. And waited some more. *crickets*

Several hours later, I received this response:

We are sorry for the inconvenience, but you agreed to the Terms of Service when you signed up. Specifically: “the Content is not spam, and does not contain unwanted commercial content designed to drive traffic to third-party sites.”

Although WordPress.com welcomes sites that post original book reviews, blogs which repost promotional materials from professional book tour companies are prohibited on our network.

If you wish to continue to use WordPress software for your site, you might consider a self-hosted WordPress installation. You can export your content via Tools -> Export in your dashboard.

What they told me, in a nutshell, is that my only option was to move my blog to a self-hosted site. According to this email, they were not even going to consider reinstating my blog on WordPress.com.

3. I did some research and found out I had two options in order to switch over to a self-hosted blog: 1: Download the XML file (which contains your entire blog, or at least most of it) and use this file to migrate to WordPress.org myself, after choosing a hosting site and signing up with them. Or 2: Pay WordPress $129 to do the migration for me. I chose Option #1, because, hey, I was mad at WordPress and didn’t want to pay them anything! Except…I tried to download the file, but it wouldn’t work.

 4. I sent another email, explaining that the file wouldn’t download, and I received a response that more or less said, hey, we’re sorry, we’ll send a request to our developers to generate the file. And by the way, we can’t tell you how long that will take, so you’re stuck in limbo until we decide to get back to you! (And BTW, I never did get another response from that particular “Community Guardian.” Oh yes, apparently some WordPress folks are called Community Guardians! I can’t tell you how safe I feel…)

5. Gritting my teeth, I decided to pay the $129 and get the hell off WordPress.com. I was seriously missing blogging, plus I had set a pretty intense schedule for myself in November and I wanted to get back to it. You know, it’s amazing how quickly things start to happen when you pay for something. After purchasing the transfer option, I received an email about ten minutes later from a lovely woman who continued to answer all my crazy questions and transferred my blog over relatively smoothly. (Although I am working out a few glitches.)

Now, I’m not trying to bash WordPress.com. I had a really wonderful three-and-a-half years on that site, with very few issues. But I was very disappointed in the way they handle suspensions, and while I sort of I understand why they don’t have to give you a warning or even explain themselves, I never did get my questions answered, and I doubt I ever will.

I’m writing this post mostly as a warning for you bloggers out there who have free WordPress-hosted blogs. Go back and check out their Terms of Service and make sure you aren’t in violation, particularly if you have ever been part of a blog tour or “book blast.” Even though I feel I didn’t violate any of their terms, I was completely locked out of my dashboard and had very limited choices for how to resolve the problem. I suppose I could have dug in my heels and waited for them to send me my XML file, or waited for a better response about why they suspended me. But the bottom line for me was, I just wanted to start blogging again.

gnome
Hello, I am your Community Guardian!

What did I learn from all this?

  • I really love to blog, and I really love the blogging community. I felt SO out of touch last week. Not only was I upset about my blog, but I had no one to talk to about it. Until I remembered, yes, I have blog friends I can tweet to and email, and they all made me feel better. Thank you, you know who you are:-D
  • I am a very impatient person. I was not willing to wait God knows how long for WordPress to figure out how to let me download my XML file. I was so impatient that I willingly paid the enemy to transfer my site over!
  • Having a self-hosted blog isn’t FREE, but paying for it will be worth it in the long run. I’m obviously still learning the ropes, and any advice is appreciated. I’m excited that I’ll be able to embed Rafflecopters and other java script code in my posts.

So, let’s talk: do you have a free WordPress blog? Are you worried about being suspended, or has this ever happened to you? Any tips for running a self-hosted blog?

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Posted November 14, 2014 by Tammy in Blog Discussions / 49 Comments

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49 responses to “Blog, Interrupted – Or How I Got Kicked Off WordPress.com and Ended Up on WordPress.org

  1. I’m so glad you’re back, Tammy!! Seriously though…what fresh hell is this? $129 to get your intellectual property back in your hands? I’m angry on your behalf so I can’t even imagine how you’ve felt going through all this. Sounds like those Happiness Engineers may need a title change! Hopefully now that you’re self-hosted these issues will never crop up again. It’s just really weird because I know you’ve done book tours before… and I see them all the time on other free WordPress blogs! Bizarre.
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuireMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks Danya! I’m so confused by the whole blog tour thing. If I had just been able to get an actual PERSON to talk to and state my case, maybe I could have avoided all this.

  2. I saw that notice on your blog and was wondering what ridiculous rule they had set that you may have accidentally broken. Girl, I feel your pain! I was thrown off Goodreads because someone turned me in for ‘selling’ book reviews!! I tried to tell them that I wasn’t selling anything but I got a canned response that basically told me that no one cared. I write FREE book reviews for my blog and FREE book reviews for a teen literacy site. I write book reviews on Amazon/kindle that I get paid for but that is only through Amazon. No authors ever give me money and my reviews are always honest. It’s a fine line between being an honest blogger/reviewer and a criminal in the great world wide web, lol.
    Cindi Clubbs recently posted…Tweet Revenge by Rickard B. DeMille ReviewMy Profile

    • Tammy

      That’s awful, Cindi! Most of us book bloggers are honest folks who just want to share our love of books, and it’s so stupid when the big corporations feel like they need to control us, and then don’t give us any way to defend ourselves.

  3. Yikes! This is a big reason why I’ve always been adamant about keeping all of my content on my own, self-hosted blogs. Installing WordPress on them is really simple, and all of the content will always belong to me, so it’s never really been an issue. I would definitely suggest that anyone hosting a serious blog (i.e. writing more than once a week) should consider investing in self-hosted space, since it’s really inexpensive (I pay $10/month for hosting with HostGator, and variable fees of no more than $20/year for the annual renewal of my domain name with GoDaddy) and it’s well worth the avoidance of hassle. Sorry to hear about your troubles!
    Laura Roberts recently posted…I’ve been cheating…My Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks Laura! I’m glad to know I made the right decision, I only wish I’d made the switch when I could have done it MY way and not feel bulldozed into paying money to make the transition.

  4. Oh my goodness, I didn’t know that the terms were that strict… it’s made me a bit pari now? I’m glad you got everything up and running again but sorry you had to deal with this drama .

    • Tammy

      Thanks Jeann! I would have liked to switch over on my own, but I guess sometimes things don’t go the way you expect!

  5. Good Merlin, that’s awful! I can’t believe WordPress didn’t actively try to take care of this, but just pointed out their TOS and basically said FU. Have you tried reaching out on Twitter? A tweet @Wordpress or their support? Sometimes I get way better responses doing that than emails to support.

    I know I’ve seen hundreds of blog tour posts, but you’re the first blog that I’ve ever seen that has been banned. To be honest, it seems a very weird thing to ban for, since posters generally do not get paid for blog tour posts.

    Yay that you are self-hosted now (I think it’s always better) but boo that you were forced into it. Maybe do periodic downloads of your XML file in the future (or there are plugins that do backups directly to dropbox) just in case.
    Leeanna @ Leeanna.me recently posted…Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy EwingMy Profile

    • Tammy

      All great suggestions, thanks Leeanna! I hope some of the bloggers who do frequent blog tours, and who are on WordPress.com, read this so it doesn’t happen to them.

  6. Omg what a freaking horror story! This is definitely a good case for once you are pretty sure you’re sticking with it to just go self-hosted since otherwise the free service can screw you over like Blogger deleting blogs without notice too D: I did a couple of posts about my transition to self-hosted when I switched: Self-hosted journey part 1 and part 2 in case they are helpful at all 🙂
    Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings recently posted…Sci-fi and Fantasy Friday {ARCs and $5 Giftcards Weekly!}My Profile

  7. Wow! That must have been stressful. I would’ve been so impatient in your shoes. ): Especially having to shell out $129 just to migrate your content over. I would have been peeved.

    I was on the self-hosted site for a bit, but then I switched to self-hosted to be able to use GFC. (Then they stopped supporting that on blogs not hosted by blogger. Boo.) I guess it’s lucky I switched before they did anything like this to my blog. It would’ve been a nightmare. I am glad for the switch, since there is a bit more functionality and leeway with the self-hosted wordpress. 🙂 It’s been a good decision for me so far. 🙂
    Kim @ Book Munchies recently posted…Really Really Short Reviews: Legend by Marie LuMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I’ve heard many stories from bloggers on different sites who have either lost their blogs completely or had them shut down for no reason. It just amazes me that there aren’t better systems in place to keep these things from happening.

    • Tammy

      Well, I think it was up and running quickly because I paid someone to do it for me. I still have a lot of behind the scenes things to learn. Nathan, who hosts your blog?

  8. I wondered what happened to your blog- I kept trying to hit refresh to get it to boot up. I’d heard of the dastardly blog tour rule when they put it in their TOS, but assumed since other, more tour heavy blogs remained on WordPress that the rule was just talk. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about it since I’m on blogger and have never done any blog tours, but it seems an odd rule to me- some of the normal book reviews contain a synopsis from Goodreads and an author bio- if you had omitted the words ‘blog tour’ would you be in the clear?
    Anyway, glad you have it under control now, but sad you had to be part of a witch hunt.
    ~Litha Nelle

    • Tammy

      I also wonder about all the other links that we book bloggers put in our posts, like I always link up buy links for my book reviews, and technically that is sending readers to “third party sites.” So I have no idea why this happened. All I can think is that some computer is searching through blogs looking for the words “blog tour.”

  9. Hey Tammy! I followed your predicament on Twitter and my heart went out to you! What a crazy and disappointing experience! It makes me nervous that they can just pull the rug out from under you with no warning. I hope you share more info about your self-hosting experience because I bet a lot of us have entertained the thought of making the switch.

    So glad you’re back! I look forward to seeing your posts again!
    couchtomoon recently posted…WordPress 4.1 Beta 1My Profile

    • Tammy

      Thank you! You have no idea how happy I am to be back:-) I will certainly keep you posted as I navigate the seas of self-hosting. Being a newbie, I know I have a lot to learn!

  10. Glad to see you’re back. Looking forward to your continued posts. I’ve toyed with the notion of self-hosting, but have been uncertain about it. Your predicament certainly is an argument for it…

    • Tammy

      I was thinking about self-hosting before this, but I was nervous as well. I guess there’s nothing like being FORCED into action to make a decision!

  11. Oh what BS. I get their terms but if yours were reviews as part of blog tour that is ridiculous. What they charged you is outrageous too. Most migrations cost from 50 to 75 dollars. Well at any rate welcome to the Dark Side where you are the pilot of your own space and no one can take you down! Ooo now you can get UBB plugin. Heck yes..worth it just for that.
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Caffeinated Confessions: I Have Become an Audiobook JunkieMy Profile

  12. Eliza Tilton

    Their terms make no sense. What if you were re-posting for a friend or part of a tour?

    I have a wordpress site but Godaddy hosts it. So I guess that means I’m okay?

  13. What the…?! I’m so sorry for you this is horrible! And even though I don’t participate in book tour, I read many book tour reviews and they never felt pre-written! I can’t believe they shut you down without warning or discussion.
    This is the main reason why my blog is self-hosted. It’s easy really and gives you independence. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you need any technical assistance with your new install, I’ll gladly help.
    Angélique recently posted…Stacking the shelves: from dark fantasy to non-fictionMy Profile

  14. Wow, I’m sorry to hear you had to go through all of that crap. I don’t think I could have paid WP the money. We moved our site, willingly to a self hosted, and it is amazing. So I hope you are able to get something positive out of this situation. I did take us a loooot longer to move though, so kudos to you for doing it so quickly!

    • Tammy

      I guess paying for the move was why it happened so fast, but I would have rather used that money for something else:-O

  15. First of all, a big welcome back to the blogosphere! So glad you’re back up and running and again.

    And second, I guess all along I thought you were self hosting. This is definitely a great post to warn other bloggers of the kind of crap you have to put up with when WP.com just ups and decides to be assholes about something. It’s so strange though, as we see book blog tours ALL THE TIME and apparently they are no-nos, at least to the peeps at wordpress anyway?

    That email you got is BS too. Stinks of cut and past auto response to me, it’s like they didn’t even read it.

    Anyway, welcome back again! I missed your reviews 🙂
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…YA Weekend: Mortal Gods by Kendare BlakeMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks Mogsy! I’m so happy to be back, and I’m looking forward to my new-found freedom:-)

      I guess most bloggers have wised up and gone over to self-hosted. I may have been the last one to make that move, ha ha!

  16. This just happened to me and I got the exact same response from WordPress. I never was able to download the entire XML but I was able to go and download the XML as posts month by month and my pages. I still haven’t chosen which new self-hosted site I’ll be using though. I’m so bummed I’ve lost all of my stats and followers and will have to start from scratch. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to know and so happy your transition was mostly smooth:)
    laura thomas recently posted…A #Pointergate Response From the Mayor of MinneapolisMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Oh wow, so sorry Laura!! I know exactly how you feel. Because I decided to have WordPress do the migration for me (and I had to fork out the $$), they only give you a choice of two host sites, and I chose Bluehost because I’ve heard good things about them. WordPress did all the work for me, and it took about 24 hours or so, but I have to say I’m still having some issues if you were to just type in my URL, it still takes you to a page that says “Page not available” which is frustrating. But I have a WP person who is supposed to fix that kind of thing as part of the package, so I’m hoping to get that resolved soon. If you have the money, it’s really easy to switch over and have WP do it for you.

      • Thanks Tammy. I took the same route you did and forked out the dough to WordPress. The only reason I did this was because I tried to move it myself and had so many problems I cancelled the site and went to WordPress so they could deal with it. I’m hoping they respond back to me as quickly as they did for you:)
        I was worried about my URL doing that too. Let me know how yours was resolved.
        A question? Were you able to transfer your followers and stats too?
        laura thomas recently posted…A #Pointergate Response From the Mayor of MinneapolisMy Profile

        • Tammy

          My email subscribers transferred over, thankfully, but my Twitter and Facebook followers don’t show up under my “follower” numbers like they did on WordPress.com. I think there is a way to make that happen, but I haven’t figured it out yet. My stats also came over, the only difference is I can’t see the “tickertape” stat line that used to show up on the top of my dashboard or whenever I was logged in. I miss it! Maybe there is a plugin that can bring that back??

  17. I am so sad this happened to you. I can’t imagine how much I would panic if that happened to me! Luckily I am already using self hosted wordpress as I switched earlier this year.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if more people switch thanks to this new policy of wordpress.com
    I run a blog tour company and I really wonder why wordpress.com is so against blogs tours. I mean if a blogger wants to participate why can’t they? It’s their blog and they can decide what to do with it. And indeed there are enough options to get an original content posts.
    Lola recently posted…Sunday Post #101My Profile

  18. I actually had a blogger blog (The free one) awhile back and noticed the HTML,JAVA and my meta tags were not working and I was getting no where with their forums on my questions. I also wanted a different name for my blog. I wasn’t feeling the ‘between the pages’. So, I decided to go through go-daddy and do a self hosted site and use wordpress.com. Because I went through go-daddy, I’m not under the same terms and conditions. Which is nice and a lot more expensive I think. But that’s also cause I bought a 3 year plan. I do use the free customizable templates tho.
    I always download the XML file every month. Just in case I need to back it up or something happens.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I stumbled on to your blog from Oh The Books Weekly Recap.. Great post and thanks for the heads up!
    Johannah recently posted…November Recommendations ContinuedMy Profile

  19. I had heard that this was a possibility before, but it’s scary to think it actually happened to someone – I’m going to check back through my tour posts, because like you the author bio may be the same, or the book blurb, but I changed it up and gave my own opinions. It’s scary to be honest, and I’ve thought of going self-hosted before, but I’d rather do it on my own terms than be forced into it.
    Rachel recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Books On My Winter TBRMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I agree, if you decide to do it, it’s much easier to switch when you’re not fighting with WordPress.

  20. Just started blogging about a week ago. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I am posting book reviews and writing pieces. I’m working on my first novel (likely story, I know), so I’m trying to get a platform under me.

    And this morning I decided to use GoodReads.com’s autopublish option. Just one time. To save me the hassle of copying and pasting text. Now I’m worried that I’m going to get suspended. Just when blogging stopped being a bit scary and a lot of fun. So your thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Keith
    Keith recently posted…Review: The Name of the WindMy Profile

  21. Needless to say, I am *appalled*. Anybody that has ever read your blog knows that your reviews are original and far from promotional stuff (let alone well written, entertaining and informative, which I believe WordPress doesn’t care about). I am seriously considering moving myself, because I don’t appreciate this censor-like misplaced attitude. All my support, Tammy – keep going!!

  22. Sharni

    I THINK THIS HAS JUST HAPPENED TO ME 🙁 The only thing I can think of is that I copied and pasted the Goodreads summary in a post?!?! Freaking the F out.