The Day Wordfence Crashed

gaUPDATE: a solution has been posted at the end of this article.

UPDATE 2: if you’ve had this problem, I highly suggest verifying your SERP rankings. See the end of this article for details.

So, I just discovered has been online, but inaccessible for at least 10 days. I should check the site more often. 🙂

It turns out the Wordfence error does not make an appearance when I am logged in, it only shows up when viewing the site as a guest, and that’s why it took me so long to discover it.

Here’s what I’m seeing:

Wordfence Live Update: Fatal error: Out of memory (allocated 33554432) (tried to allocate 55 bytes) in …/wp-content/plugins/wordfence/lib/wordfenceHash.php on line 328

Fatal error: Out of memory (allocated 33816576) (tried to allocate 1310976 bytes) in …/wp-content/plugins/wordfence/lib/wfBrowscapCache.php on line 51353

I’ve lowered the Maximum Memory Usage from 256 MB down to 16 MB, but the problem persists. Disabling Wordfence for now…I’ll follow up when I have a solution.


(UPDATE) The solution is easy, just re-install Wordfence manually. There is an issue with the auto-updater for this plugin surrounding the recent versions (5.1.9 and prior). You can re-install Wordfence manually by downloading the latest version of Wordfence, extracting the wordfence folder from the ZIP file, then uploading this folder to your wp-content/plugins folder via FTP, overwriting the existing files.

(UPDATE 2) After applying the fix above, I soon discovered that my SERP rankings for some URLs was non-existent. It was as if Google had just blacklisted my site; I could barely find half my articles in Google Search. What I discovered was that Google’s crawler was still seeing the Wordfence error, even though anonymous visitors were no longer seeing it. This was observed by using Google Webmaster Tools > Crawl > Fetch as Google > Fetch and Render. Once Google is done processing the URL in question, you may click the link to view Google’s rendering of the page. If the rendering looks wrong, you’re going to notice a sudden drop in traffic since your SERP rankings have been severely compromised. In my case Google was seeing a Wordfence error instead of real content:


I should also mention that Google provides a Submit to index button in their Fetch as Google tool (seen above), but this doesn’t always work. Luckily, I was able to fix my SERP rankings by disabling Wordfence (again) and publishing an “empty” update for any pages that weren’t showing up in Google Search to refresh the modified date. This seems to signal to Google that the page should be re-indexed immediately. I could not get these previously indexed pages to re-appear in Google Search any other way.

I’ve shelved Wordfence until I can find a definite explanation as to why this happens, or what may be causing it.


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1 Comment

  1. Same problem happening on a couple sites here as well! Thanks for the fix and solution worked for me! But this is a pretty bad oversight by WF as there are a fair amount of folks complaining about it and WF doesn’t seem to be very helpful thus far.

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