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8 Ways to Break Through the Holiday Clutter

8 Ways to Break Through the Holiday Clutter

Starbucks has rolled out their Eggnog Latte, which means the holidays are upon us. For consumers, this means being overwhelmed with deals, advertisements, and offers. For you, as a merchant, it means finding a way to separate yourself from your competition, so you don’t lose revenue this holiday season. 

It’s no longer enough to create blanket campaigns that hope to find the right audience. Now, effective ecommerce strategies require retailers to target the right consumers during every stage of their journey. This is especially important during the holiday season. You need to follow consumers from ideation to purchase and provide an experience that delights throughout. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find your store lost in the holiday clutter. 

Don’t panic – bringing together an effective strategy is relatively simple with these eight techniques for standing out from the holiday clutter. Instead of focusing on one, consolidate your strategy, and approach this holiday season from all angles.

Offer a Holiday Bundle

At the end of September, Canon released its new 90d camera. Unfortunately for retailers with a surplus of last season’s model, this meant a potentially large amount of worthless stock (consumers want the latest products, right?).

Old stock doesn’t have to be abandoned. Instead, how about repackaging them as a bundle that addresses consumer needs?

Casey Neistat’s one simple rule for vlogging is to use the best camera you have access to and worry more about the story than the gear. Yes, the 90d has 4K and other fancy features, but the 80d is still a solid purchase. Package it with a decent lens for vlogging and you’ve got a bundle that you can market to people looking to get started with YouTube video production.

And you can take this further. Add an inexpensive mic and make it an all-in-one package for vlogging. Then, put some marketing muscle behind it and market to that video niche.

Before abandoning products, stop and think about how you can bundle and market them to a specific niche as the holidays approach. Combine this with special price points consumers won’t find elsewhere and you’ll be able to bring in revenue that you might have thought was lost. 

Segment Your Email List

Consumers often feel that their inbox is inundated with clutter during the holiday season. This is because most companies sending emails are doing nothing more than blanketing their list with offers. They’re doing nothing to tailor the emails they’re sending to what their subscribers are actually interested in.

Segmentation is the process of taking a list of potential customers and then placing them into smaller groups. These groups (or segments) would be divided based on interests. One group may be interested in camera equipment, another would have shown an interest in fashion. 

Using a service like Convertkit, you can tag users as they view your site. You can then use those tags to segment subscribers for offers that are specific to what they are interested in. According to Campaign Monitor, marketers have noticed a 760% increase in sales after segmenting their email campaigns

Using our camera bundle example above, once the user makes a purchase, you can follow up by sending them information on products that are relevant to their existing purchase. Add-ons like media cards or lights work well here due to being relevant and important tools as consumers continue to work on their video quality.

Share Wish Lists

Wish lists are a great way for consumers to share what gifts they want with family and friends. As a merchant, you need to enable faster gift-purchasing journeys and an improved user experience. 

Unfortunately, not every online store allows its customers to share wish lists with friends. Many don’t even have a wish list functionality available to users. If that’s your WooCommerce store, stop and get the WooCommerce Wishlists addon now. This plugin allows consumers to add a wish list to your store, one that is shareable and publicly searchable. 

Another, often understated, benefit of wish lists is that they can be used as social proof. Banggood.com do this effectively by showing the number of users who have added a particular product to their wish list next to the item description. The most users interested in an item, the more likely another user will make a purchase. 

Offer Back in Stock Notices

In 2018, Retail Dive found that ecommerce stores lost $22 billion in sales due to lack of stock. This statistic hasn’t gotten any better. Instead of waiting, it can be easier for online consumers to find a product elsewhere. They are, after all, only a few clicks away from your competitors. Online shopping narrowly overtook in-store purchasing in February of 2019. To maintain the status quo, ecommerce retailers need to provide a fulfillment experience similar to brick and mortar stores. 

By offering notifications to your customers when products are back in stock, you’re building trust. Multiple stores have seen a significant jump in sales within a month as consumers were emailed when products were available to purchase.

Offer a Webinar

Have you ever purchased something and then realized you didn’t really understand how to maximize its potential? I was like that with my first “nice” camera. I was excited to use it, but also frustrated because I simply wasn’t getting the results I had hoped for. You’re in a perfect position to provide value where your competitors aren’t.

Take the 80d camera bundle. By offering a workshop on how to get started with YouTube videos, you’re offering customers a clear path forward – not only in terms of expanding their product knowledge, but also with regards to offering additional products that can help them advance their skillset.  You can talk about mic placement, what it takes to have a good story, and then walk through some of the basics of prepping your videos for publishing. Each of these touchpoints provides you with the opportunity to offer better equipment that will improve their consumer experience and your bottom line. 

Even if someone hasn’t purchased that bundle yet, let them sign up and then offer the bundle at the end of the webinar. You’ve collected their email to use in your email segments later, and you’ve shown them that you’re an expert, so they’re more likely to trust you over your competition when they’re ready to purchase.

Free Shipping

Free shipping has often been seen as an expensive option for smaller retailers, but it may not be as expensive as you think

By conducting an A/B test, you can compare the difference in order volume between free and paid shipping. In many cases, offering free shipping will increase order volume to a point where the revenue increase is enough to offset shipping costs. 

However, if you find that your free shipping costs more, it’s time to see if a minimum threshold changes that number. Offering free shipping for orders over $40 may turn it into a profit center for you. If so, make sure you tell users when they’re at $38 and offer them an additional product that helps them get free shipping. Then, remind them after they check out that they saved money with free shipping.

Other strategies to use would be to offer free shipping only on your cheapest shipping offer, or only in the geographical areas that make sense. You may even be able to add the shipping cost into product price by increasing it slightly and then highlighting that the product comes with free shipping.

Test Your Abandoned Cart Campaign

At some point, we all head to our favorite eCommerce merchant and add products to our cart, only to leave them there and maybe never make the purchase. Online retailers can see between 55% and as high as 80% cart abandonment rates

However, with a solid cart abandonment email campaign, you can see as many as 45% of those consumers return to their cart and potentially make a purchase. 

Use a tool like Jilt if you don’t have a campaign set up already. Jilt is built specifically for ecommerce and makes capturing emails easy so that you can automate your abandoned cart campaign. You can even use Jilt to offer dynamic discounts on products that have been left in the cart.

A solid abandoned cart campaign will help you stand out from the holiday crowd. Consumers have already been on your site. They know who you are. So while you’re fresh in their minds, sending a clear and actionable reminder will bring their business back. Up to 50% of consumers that click on an abandoned cart email will become purchasers.

Differentiate Yourself This Holiday Season

As the holiday’s approach, ask yourself how you’re going to embrace the season in a way that lets you stand out. Do you have a dog that you can dress up? Can you decorate a tree in your products and share it on social media? 

Use the holiday time to build some marketing pieces that consumers will find humorous and want to share. No, it may not go viral, but you’ll continue to build trust and your brand and drive continued growth. 

Yes, the holiday time is a busy season. We all have many things coming at us trying to get our attention, but with a bit of work upfront, you can make sure your store doesn’t lose revenue this holiday period. 

Differentiate your store this holiday season with managed WooCommerce, an ecommerce platform that offers you the tools you need to break through the holiday clutter as standard. Get started now

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Website Speed Optimization for 2020

Website Speed Optimization for 2020

From SEO to conversions, to user experience and beyond, page speed has a direct correlation to the success of your website. The investment of time and resources into developing a well thought through website speed optimization plan is worth the effort – because when done right, the actions you take can expand your reach, increase click-through, and ultimately lead to revenue. 

Page speed first came to prominence in 2010, when Google officially announced that it would be involved in search ranking calculations. SEO experts quickly began optimizing on-page elements to maintain and improve page rankings. Those that didn’t fell behind.

Before this, speed was significant for one particular reason: conversions. Today, many users expect pages to load in 2 seconds or less, abandoning visits if load times take too long. A 1 second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions

Let’s take a look at website optimizations that anyone can do. We’ll explore the tools, techniques, and technology available to site owners, and provide actionable strategies for implementing speed improvements. This way, you’re able to create the user experience you want and drive towards the site growth you’re looking for. 

Optimize Images

Too often web designers create and upload image files with high resolutions. High-resolution images mean bigger file sizes. Bigger file sizes mean longer loading times. 

A 1 second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.

One of the fastest (and easiest) website speed optimization techniques is image compression. It’s important to consider two core attributes during the optimization process: 

  • size 
  • quality 

Image Sizes for Page Optimization

If images are over-optimized, their quality suffers. According to ConversionXL, users spend an average of 5.94 seconds looking at a site’s main image. If that image isn’t high-quality, those users are going to instantly look elsewhere. Poor-quality images and design can be just as problematic in terms of bounce rate as them not loading in the first place. 

Image optimization is simple with managed hosting. All WordPress and WooCommerce plans come with an image optimization plugin that automatically initiates every time you upload a new asset. This optimizes your time and allows you to work on what you want to, instead of having to focus on how best to optimize an image. 

If you want to manage image files manually: 

  • PNG files are good for graphics and illustrations as they are designed to compress images as much as possible without quality loss. 
  • JPEG files are best for photographs. JPEG compression works well with complex images —  just make sure to check that they remain a suitable quality.
  • Measure how much space an image requires beforehand. If it’s going to sit in a 100×100 pixel space, use a canvas of that size when building it.
  • If possible, SVGs are effective for minimizing file size and maintaining quality due to being code. 

Simplify Web Design

When it comes to website speed optimization, less is almost always more. Instead of adding additional functionality where it’s not needed, consider how features will affect site delivery to users. 

That being said, simple website design doesn’t mean featureless. Rather, it means considering where you want a user to go and how you can make their journey to that point as simple and relevant as possible. 

Visually complex sites are judged as being less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.

It’s also better if website design isn’t complex. In an early UX study conducted by Google, which has set the scene for UX design in the last several years, it was found that users tend to judge a website’s aesthetics within 1/50th – 1/20th of a second. Visually complex sites were almost always judged as being less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.

Simple Web Design Faster Pages

We fundamentally believe that making simple websites should be easy. To that end, we’ve bundled the Beaver Builder plugin with all of our WordPress and WooCommerce managed hosting plans. Beaver Builder helps site designers with a simple and easy to use drag and drop page builder, along with customization options site owners need.

As you simplify your website’s design, pay attention to these things:

  • What is the goal of your website? Where do you want users to land? Considering how to get them from point A to point B is critical, not only for simplifying a site, but also for optimizing the user experience. 
  • Earlier this year, we found that 85% of enterprise stores do not use hero images. This is a core component of their website speed optimization strategy. How important are your hero images?  Can they be simpler? 
  • Javascript code often works behind the scenes on modern websites. Is the JavaScript code on your site relevant and needed?

 

Enable Caching

Caching is site speed’s silver bullet. It helps website owners automatically deliver content to more users at faster speeds.It works by storing page elements on a visitor’s computer the first time they visit a site. During subsequent visits, instead of having to re-download them from the server, the user will be able to use the copy stored on their computer. 

However, there are limits to what caching can and can’t do. Traditional caching only affects static elements. This includes images and some types of code. It does not help with dynamic elements like shopping carts.

There are dynamic caching options available for ecommerce stores, but these tend to require more in-depth customization and set up. 

Enable caching for website speed

Hostdedi solutions come with caching options enabled and optimized by default. The Hostdedi Cloud Accelerator allows for our advanced Nginx caching system to be activated with one click in your client portal, significantly improving website speed.

As you’re considering caching tools for you website, think about the following elements: 

  • Which caching tools are available to you and which is right for your site? If you’re unsure, talk with your hosting provider. Our tech experts are always happy to explain your options to help you make a good decision.
  • Should you also be caching dynamic assets? This is often a good idea for ecommerce stores. Varnish is a good option for Magento storefronts. 
  • Equally as important as caching is the number of PHP workers supporting your site (it’s more important for ecommerce stores). Check how many your solution offers and see if you need to upgrade. 

Explore Different Integration Options

Integrations and functionality add-ons can be just as detrimental to site speed as on-page elements. A well-executed optimization strategy considers to what effect any integrations are utilized and whether they have been implemented suitaby. 

Integrations can include plugins, extensions or add-ons, and they may live on the same server as your site, or they may exist in an external container. Regardless of where they exist, it’s important to consider two things:

  • What are an integration’s resource requirements?
  • What effect does an integration have on the user experience?

Hostdedi solutions come with two options for optimizing your integrations. The first of these is container add-ons. These are designed to run outside of your core hosting account, saving resources for site visitors and website speed. 

Integrations, when employed effectively, can provide solid functionality without sacrificing much-needed resources. 

The second of these is specific to WordPress and WooCommerce solutions – plugin packages optimized for site speed. From Glew.io (analytics that runs outside of a server) to automatic image optimization, each plugin has been selected based on its ability to improve site speed and the user experience. 

When choosing which integrations to add to a site, consider:

  • What are its resource requirements? Analytics software can be particularly resource heavy.
  • Scheduling tools like RabbitMQ. These can help reduce strain from resource heavy integrations by scheduling them to run during off-peak times. 
  • Container-based integrations that run outside of your main hosting account. Explore the different container options offered by Hostdedi

Use a CDN

Have you ever visited an international site and been faced with a homepage that crawls? Chances are that the site is delivering content to you from somewhere else in the world. It’s the time it takes to reach you that’s causing the longer load times. 

The answer is to implement a CDN (Content Delivery Network). A CDN caches static elements (like images) in locations around the world, so visitors to your site can download them from their nearest location. This can increase speed significantly. 

A CDN allows for localized delivery of assets to site visitors based anywhere in the world. 

Hostdedi offers a CDN service with all of our hosting solutions. Depending on your base plan, this may cost extra. If you’re uncertain which plan is right for your site, talk to a Hostdedi team member.

When choosing a CDN, pay attention to:

  • How many locations does it offer? Are they locations near your target audience?
  • What bandwidth does the CDN have? If you’re unsure what you need, talk with one of our experts who can help determine what’s optimal for your business.
  • Does the CDN include an SSL? An SSL certificate will help ensure  your site is secure. 

Prioritizing Website Speed Optimization

Effective website speed optimization strategies are targeted. Optimization is often done with a core objective in mind. To that end, think about which pages are the most important to your site experience and focus on those as a top priority. 

In most cases, homepages are vital. They often function as a starting point for visitors. Ensuring they load efficiently can engage a visitor when they first arrive at your site, and significantly reduce your bounce rate. 

If you’re running an ecommerce store, product pages are also important. They serve as solid, bottom of funnel touchpoints for conversion. If they load slowly, you are going to see a higher than expected bounce rate. 

Optimization should have an effect on your site as a whole. However, focusing on core pages will help you to improve specific, high-value user experiences quickly and effectively. 

Website speed optimization is core to delivering the right user experience. There are numerous methods for optimizing a site, each of which can be adjusted to align with your core objective. Working through each and testing your site speed is key to securing the best results. 

Get started with a managed hosting solution that provides optimizations by default. Learn more.

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Special Considerations for Streamlining Mobile Checkout on WooCommerce

Special Considerations for Streamlining Mobile Checkout on WooCommerce

While the data tells us that many sites are seeing more mobile traffic than desktop traffic, conversions on mobile devices still lag far behind.

Today we’re going to look at some things you can do to make it easy for mobile users to convert to paying customers on your WooCommerce store. As you try these suggestions, remember to A/B test them for your site. Just because they worked for others doesn’t mean that they’ll have a positive impact on your particular checkout process.

Make Form Fields Easy

Mobile devices have this great thing called a software keyboard. That means that if we accurately identify our form fields, mobile users will be presented with a keyboard that’s appropriate to the data that needs to be entered.

Streamlining mobile checkout by making form fields easy

As you can see above, WooCommerce does this by default when it identifies an email field. To make it easier to enter my email, the @ symbol readily accessible, rather than being hidden behind another set of keys.

Other fields to review are the Zip/Postal Code fields and phone number fields. If you want these fields in a particular format, it’s best to pre-program the format, rather than leave it up to the user. More than once, my checkout has been denied because one of the fields was incorrectly formatted. It’s already annoying having to switch back and forth between letters and numbers on a phone keyboard. So, don’t frustrate your users further by forcing them to enter the data you want in an exact format.

Your users should never have to deal with this. Take the time to write some JavaScript to format the field how you want after their done typing, or handle the formatting server side. Any other option is putting an extra burden on your user, making them less likely to purchase.

Format Field Errors Well

Have you ever clicked “checkout” after wading through form fields only to be greeted a stack of errors the site says you made? WooCommerce is just as guilty of making users hunt for issues with their checkout information just as any other platform out there. Sure, they provide that little red * beside required fields, but if you miss one, all you’re going to get is a big red box at the top of the page. You’re on your own to hunt down the issue with the notification provided.

mobile checkout by formatting field errors well

There are a couple of better approaches to this system, with my favorite being validating the fields as you enter them. Don’t make the user wait, show them right away if the field is right or not.

The second option I like is showing the field errors directly inline. That means when you have an error, highlight the field in red and explain what the issue is in the same view. If you want the implement this, Business Bloomer has a great tutorial on adding errors inline with WooCommerce fields. I’ve used this on a few client sites and have been very happy with the results.

Don’t Hide your Checkout with Notifications

While you may be able to get away with some upsell tactics on a desktop checkout experience, it’s far too easy to ruin a mobile checkout experience. Touch targets are often far too small, and sometimes even off-screen when popups display on mobile devices.

smart offers for mobile checkout

Instead of popups or other visual clutter, look at Smart Offers to increase your total order value. Rather than asking a user to add something to their cart before they’ve made a purchase, Smart Offers asks them after they’ve completed their initial checkout action.

Check Reachability

Research exists on how users interact with their phones, but I have yet to find anything on how gender affects phone interaction. This is a critical gap in research since women, in general, have smaller hands than men, potentially affecting reachability. Since programmers are overwhelmingly male, this means that the people building online stores aren’t testing the reachability of their interfaces for 50% of the population.

Testing how people interact with your checkout form is crucial to ensuring that you have solid conversions. But, don’t fall into the trap of only testing with those that are convenient. Make sure that you put effort into testing across a broad spectrum of hand size and device size.

With one client, there was pushback on tweaking the checkout for smaller hands because they didn’t have a broad base female customers that purchased on mobile. I convinced them to make a few small tweaks to help make the checkout process better for smaller hands, and within a few weeks, we saw an increase in the purchasing by female customers from their mobile devices. We didn’t see female customers before, because the checkout wasn’t built with them in mind.

Site Speed

Another consideration you need to take into account for mobile checkout is understanding site speed in the context of where your target market is. While users in cities will get 4G speeds, rural users may only have 3G connections and severely limited data plans.

Even looking at the countries you are targeting can mean you need to think about different things in terms of site speed. In Canada, we have decent speeds, but anemic data plans compared to many other places in the world.

When you’re developing your mobile checkout experience, make sure you test it on throttled internet connections. It’s fairly easy in Firefox and Chrome.

wifi and mobile checkout

 

If you’re testing on Safari, then you’re going to have to look at a 3rd party tool like Charles Proxy or install the Network Link Conditioner tool for xCode to simulate slower connections. You can even use this tool in conjunction with your iOS test device to throttle the live connection as you test your site on a properly mobile device instead of a simulated one in the browser.

Make sure you test your site against the slow connections that your users may have, instead of checking only against the connection you have at work.

Visible Trust Marks

A trust mark is an image from your SSL provider or some other icon that shows you have a secure and trustworthy payment provider. Often these are relegated to the bottom of a site for desktop users, but it’s worth reevaluating where you put them for your mobile layout.

For one client I worked with, we experimented with putting them small right at the top of the checkout. That way, when the user came to the checkout on their phone, the first thing they saw was the small marks that said we had a secure site without malware on it. This small change produced a 1 – 2% increase in conversions, which adds up to a bunch of extra earnings over the year.

Password Filling Applications

One of the final ways to help increase users completing your mobile checkout process is to make sure that any user account fields work with tools like 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass. Passwords are enough of a pain sitting in front of a full keyboard, but they get even worse when you enforce secure passwords that require switching back and forth between the different keyboards.

auto fill password with a password application

Testing this is fairly easy; Grab a free copy of all the above tools and put your password into them. Then, try to checkout using them to fill in any passwords or user fields that are in your checkout form. Don’t forget to use each of these applications to create an account at checkout as well.

Possibly the worst mistake you can make here is blocking the ability to copy and paste passwords into your account fields. This is how password applications work, and any user that is creating secure passwords is highly likely to leave once they see they can’t add their nice long random password in without manually typing it.

Building a good checkout process is crucial to having a profitable eCommerce site. And, with the rise in mobile purchasing, it’s even more important to make sure that you provide a top-notch experience to mobile purchasers. By working through the steps here, you can make sure that you do provide an excellent experience for your mobile users. They’ll be happy, and you’ll convert more purchases, which makes you happy.

Build a High-Performing WooCommerce Store

Create a store that converts traffic with Hostdedi Managed WooCommerce Hosting solutions. They come standard with Jilt to help you recover abandoned carts, performance tests whenever you need them, and the platform reduces query loads by 95%, leading to a faster store.

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Revisiting the DCKAP Summit with Jeries

Revisiting the DCKAP Summit with Jeries

Last week, our team attended DCKAP Summit, one of the few agency-organized conferences in North America. Not only did we sponsor the event, but we also volunteered our time to prepare and give presentations to the conference attendees on how managed ecommerce solutions are paving the way for merchant success. 

In attendance was Jeries Eadeh, the Hostdedi VP of Channel Sales at Hostdedi, Amber Hamad, Strategic Partner Development Manager, and Anna Brown, also Strategic Partner Development.

The event took place over one day and saw 15 speakers make their way to the stage to present on diverse topics, such as how to monetize customer support interactions and how to solve ecommerce pain points with integrations and PIM. 

In total, the event brought together some of the best minds in ecommerce across the US. The knowledge shared provided insights into core merchant pain points and offered actionable advice on how to realize the potential of a storefront. 

Below is a roundup of how it went, what we thought and what we learned.

From Humble Beginnings 

The morning keynote and general session were MC’d by Christopher Cuenza, who was a key figure not only introducing the speakers, but he always stopped to remind us what a special opportunity this event was for everyone.  Throughout the day he reminded us to make sure to meet someone new, learn a few things about them and share some genuine interest in one another. 

Found and CEO of DCKAP, Karthik Chidambaram, naturally kicked off the morning keynote with some preparation for topics and discussions to be presented throughout the day. Karthik shared inspiring stories about DCKAPs humble beginnings in Chicago, Illinois.  

Thanks to Karhik, and the entire team at DCKAP, in attendance was an amazing group of agencies, technology providers and merchants All of them there to discuss various topics from modern development to cloud services, product customization platforms, QA testing and much much more.

Exploring Modern Ecommerce Trends 

This was followed by Karthik was Marc Ostryniec Global SVP Sales at BigCommerce, who presented a riveting story around modern-day commerce trends. He connected today’s best practices back to some great American businessmen and provided advice on how merchants can drive growth with their businesses. Of particular interest was how folks like King C. Gillette and businesses like the Dollar Shave Club followed the same business model to disrupt an entire industry.  

We learned from some other extraordinary people like Mohan Natarajan, Praveen Venugopal, Bhavani Ramasubbu.  Who all took the opportunity to help merchants solve some challenging problems with product customization, management strategies, and simple quality assurance testing tools. It’s clear the DCKAP team have been putting their heads together and working incredibly hard to solve many common pain points for merchants.  

We finished up the day with another round of presentations from Sivaranjani Ramamoorthy with DCKAP, Stephen Cohan from Dot Digital and Steve Hoffman from Avalara.  All of these touched on important and relevant topics for today’s modern retailers. The afternoon group tackled challenging subjects like ADA compliance, growing your business with marketing automation, and managing both federal and local state sales taxes as a remote company operating across multiple state lines. 

Speaking on the Tools and Features Modern Merchants Need

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to present and speak with everyone at the conference.  

As we continue to network and meet merchants, agencies and technology providers, we’re learning that cloud computing, information security and performance-tuned architecture remain to be some of the most critical challenges facing today’s merchant.  I talked about the tools and features we’ve implemented for our clients. This included auto scaling, 1-click development sites, and more. 

Thank you to DCKAP and the entire team who organized the event.  It’s clear this event will be a must-attend next year. We look forward to working with everyone again to make the next event even more successful.

Learn more about how managed hosting can help you create solutions that do more

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What are PHP Workers and Why You Should Care

What are PHP Workers and Why You Should Care

Have you ever browsed through your favorite coffee shop’s website and as you check out with that new order of coffee, you end up getting a 504 error after a delay?

Or maybe you were browsing your favorite sports website and as you try to load the next page, it takes a while to load and comes back with a timeout error?

These situations are frustrating, and not what we expect when we look at a site. In both cases, the cause may be not having enough PHP workers allocated to a site. Without enough PHP workers, a site can’t process all site requests that come in if there are a higher number of them. It’s not a good situation, as site speed is incredibly important for converting visitors to sales leads and customers.

What is a PHP Worker?

A PHP worker is essentially a mechanism that handles requests for a website that require back-end processing. Generally, any non-static or cached files that require processing are handled by PHP workers.

This is usually active tasks like an inventory check on a specific item or it could be something as complex as viewing and listing all prior orders for a customer. When a PHP worker is started, it remains persistent until processes are completed or certain conditions are met.

Think of PHP workers as a check-out line at a grocery store where each item that is to be scanned is a PHP process.

If you only have one PHP worker (one checkout line) then everything must go through that single checkout lane, and the cashier can only work through one order at the time. PHP workers can limit the number of concurrent, or simultaneous, transactions on a site. As previously mentioned, if you have only four PHP workers (four checkout lines) the site can only process four transactions at once.

However, this does not mean that the fifth customer (PHP process) or beyond does not get processed. PHP processes are placed in a queue for the worker which means it processes the first request in line then moves onto the next PHP process in the queue. In other words, a long line forms and people start waiting.

Luckily, PHP workers process the information faster than grocery store cashiers. They work very quickly and can clear many and most processes within milliseconds. By having only a few additional PHP workers, you are able to have many more concurrent processes that can be run at one time, meaning more customer orders can be processed at once.

What Happens When You Have Too Few PHP Workers

Let’s say you have only two PHP workers on a site and you have several plugins and a heavy theme. Those two PHP workers will constantly be used only to process plugins and theme processes leaving a queue to build up immediately for new page requests from visitors to your site.

If you are running an ecommerce site on top of this, it will only increase the queue amount. Much like customers waiting in line, some PHP processes will abandon the line. Processes that are not written to abandon the line, or time out, and will sit and wait. Then, they will begin to put a much higher load on server resources. It’s like the checkout line is now wrapping around the block!

PHP processes on a WordPress website can be as simple as the submission of a contact form or a request to geolocate a visitor based upon their IP or zip code.

For eCommerce websites, this can look a little different. Items such as new orders being processed, carts, and customer logins would all utilize PHP workers. The products or descriptions will usually be cached so that generally would not require a PHP process for viewing. Having only three to five PHP workers means that you can only have that many simultaneous transactions on the website and that the PHP workers will process requests in the order they were triggered (just like a shopping line).

How To Lighten The Load For Your PHP Workers

A common problem area to start with for PHP workers is having too many plugins and heavy themes. You can generally help alleviate issues caused by a bloated website with these tips:

  1. Add site caching with a plugin
  2. Reduce external calls to remote sites
  3. General site optimization

Site optimization can get complicated, especially with sites that experience heavier traffic which requires more attention to detail. Generally, the larger the site, the more efficient the site must be in the way it requests its styles, products, orders, and customers. This way, you utilize the PHP workers for general site functionality less and PHP workers can process what matters – your traffic – effectively.

Hostdedi plans come with enough concurrent users for even the largest of sites to manage traffic.

With Hostdedi, you already have 20 concurrent users as part of an XS plan. This increases in increments of 20 as you move up to the XXL plan (which has 120).

Other managed application platforms offer anywhere from two to four PHP workers in introductory offerings. Hostdedi Managed WordPress and WooCommerce also have server-side caching built-in which helps minimize the use of PHP workers to process static content, allowing the PHP workers to process requests from the people who matter most: your customers.

Maintain a Faster Site with More PHP Workers

PHP workers can manage thousands of processes each, however; many factors come into play, including:

  • How many exterior calls are they making?
  • How many plugins are competing with inquiries to the database?

Additionally, adding PHP workers to a site will also increase the resource allocation being used from the server. The more PHP processes running, the more RAM and CPU allocations will be needed, thus creating heavier loads on the server and having as much optimization as possible can reduce that server load. PHP workers are key, but they are not magic, one-size-fits-all solution.

The more plugins (even inactive ones), the more PHP workers are utilized to process non-static requests. The same applies to heavily featured themes. For this reason, it is always a good idea to use caching and a CDN to help reduce the task load for PHP workers. This will optimize your site to process customer requests in the fastest manner possible.

  Start your WooCommerce store knowing that it’s ready to handle traffic requirements. Learn more.

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How To Improve Product Search On Your Magento Store

How To Improve Product Search On Your Magento Store

Product search: you can’t live without it. At least, that’s until you start using cumbersome and awkward solutions that don’t deliver the right results. Choosing the right product search for your Magento store means finding an integration that allows for both easy customization and that delivers the results consumers are looking for. Magento’s default product search is a good start, but it’s certainly not the product querying mastermind you could be using.  

Bringing in the right solutions means being able to sell more and sell better. After all, visitors that use product search are 200% more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. Maximizing revenue from this group is key to securing a potentially loyal group of return customers. These customers will then see you as an authority in the space. You just need to make sure their searches return the results they want.

Typically, consumers expect results that are on-par, if not above, those of Google. Google is particularly good at returning relevant results even when users search using muddled or imprecise queries. Magento’s default search isn’t nearly as powerful. While It works well for smaller catalogs – those with a few products and a handful of attributes – it falls down as store size and complexity grows. Losing the ability to deliver relevant results will almost immediately mean a loss of revenue and push you further from the store growth you’re looking for.

Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways you can use to get your product search back on track with Hostdedi. We believe that product search shouldn’t be complicated or an expensive addition, and to that end, we’ve put together a couple of changes you can make yourself in little to no time. 

 

Choose Search Attributes Wisely

You’re given the ability to add associated attributes when creating Magento products. These can be as simple as a product name, color or size, or as complex as long descriptions. Attributes are included as a way to narrow down relevant results when a user searches for products,. For product colors and sizes, this works incredibly well, allowing consumers access to faceted search features whereby they can filter large result sets down to a handful of relevant ones. However, attributes need to be selected carefully. When they aren’t, irrelevant products quickly start to seep into otherwise relevant results. 

Attributes should be chosen with care

Magento product attributes should be chosen with care.

Take attributes that include large amounts of text. The longer the text the most likely it is that longtail phrases are included. For example, let’s say you’re searching for a pair of headphones with the phrase “headphones with long extension cable” on an electronics store. Yes, the results will likely include relevant results. However, the inclusion of the phrase “extension cord” may lead to electric extension cords appearing in results as well. 

Accuracy and speed can be improved by limiting search to the most important attributes; those that contain the most relevant keywords. Attributes can be removed from search results in the Product Attributes page of the Stores menu.

 

Take Control of Search With Magento Search Terms

Store owners are able to control what happens when specific search terms are entered in the Magento search box. For example, it’s possible to direct users to a custom page on the store by adding and configuring a search term. This might be a content page, a category page, or a product page.

A fashion store owner might note that many shoppers search for “t-shirt”, and decide to build a dedicated landing page with a custom product selection, copy, and images. When a shopper enters the query, they’re directed to the custom page instead of the default search results. The search terms functionality gives store owners precise control over the search experience.

Search terms are also useful for handling synonyms and misspellings because each search term can be associated with a set of synonyms. If you notice that shoppers frequently misspell a product name, you can use search terms to ensure they find what they’re looking for.

Control over the search terms can mean better visibility and conversion rates

Control over the search terms can mean better visibility and conversion rates

You can configure custom search terms under Marketing -> SEO & Search -> Search Terms in the Admin sidebar.

 

Use ElasticSearch Instead

Since the release of Magento 2.3, all versions of Magento support ElasticSearch, an enterprise-grade search engine that is faster and more accurate than Magento’s built-in MySQL-based search. We previously compared Elasticsearch with other Magento product search alternatives and found that not only is it faster, but it also offers your development team more flexibility.

ElasticSearch provides a wide array of features that enhance the Magento search experience, including support for stop words and synonyms, fast indexing that doesn’t impact search or store performance, support for multiple languages, and more advanced product search options. ElasticSearch is easy to integrate with Magento; after a simple initial configuration, ElasticSearch will begin returning improved search results immediately.

At Hostdedi, our ElasticSearch cloud hosting makes it even easier to deploy a scalable ElasticSearch instance in seconds. ElasticSearch is fully supported on our Magento cloud hosting plans, and we’re happy to help clients to integrate their ElasticSearch instance with Magento.

The post How To Improve Product Search On Your Magento Store appeared first on Hostdedi Blog.

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WordCamp US 2019 Roundup from Hostdedi & Liquid Web

WordCamp US 2019 Roundup from Hostdedi & Liquid Web

Liquid Web is a proud sponsor of the WordPress community. This year was our first year as a global sponsor, which means we sponsored every WordCamp in North and Central America. That also included WordCamp US 2019 in St. Louis at the platinum level. This is part of our ongoing commitment to support the WordPress open-source community that supports us.

WordCamp US 2019 is the largest WordCamp in North America each year. Not only did we sponsor the event, but also two of our colleagues, Chris Lema and Steve Grunwell, volunteered their time to prepare and give presentations to the conference attendees on their active areas of expertise. In total, about 20 of our Liquid Web teammates went to WordCamp US. Below is a roundup of how it went, what we thought and what we learned.

The Liquid Web Booth at WordCamp US

State of the Word

One of the highlights of WordCamp US every year is the keynote speech given by one of the co-creators of WordPress, and CEO of Automattic (makers of WordPress.com), Matt Mullenweg. During the State Of The Word, over 1500 conference attendees gather for an update on this year’s latest developments in WordPress. After this, Matt Mullenweg opens the floor for an open Q&A session with any attendee. It is a very unique event. 

Among some of the more interesting developments in WordPress during 2019 was the release of the Open film, a film about the WordPress open-source community, ongoing developments with the Gutenberg block editor, and other items. Additionally, Matt Mullenweg referenced the 9 goals set for WordPress at the State Of The Word last year in 2018 in this blog post. Most have been accomplished!

Alex Denning, owner of Ellipsis Marketing Agency, gathered a live Twitter thread of the rest of the updates delivered at the State Of The World.

The Talks

Of course, the main attraction during WordCamp US is the community-presented talks. WordCamp US consisted of two days of talks, and each day had three tracks. The last day was a Contributor Day event. At WordCamp, no speakers are paid–the whole conference, in fact, is volunteer-driven. Our teammates Steve Grunwell and Chris Lema presented. Steve spoke to us about testing in WordPress, and Chris spoke on business and strategy. 

In addition, Nathan Ingram from our sister company over at iThemes hosted a panel called “How The WordPress Community Can Embrace The Next Generation.” In this panel, we watched younger WordCamp speakers present on what they’re excited about and what gets them interested in the community. It was an excellent reading and inspiring session.

How The WordPress Community Can Embrace The Next Generation

We also attended the highly anticipated workshop by Rebecca Gill. Rebecca walked attendees through a holistic understanding of what it means to have a solid SEO strategy. As we know for both ourselves and the merchants that we serve, having a solid understanding of SEO is key to success as a web professional in 2019.

All WordCamp US events end with a Contributor Day. Contributor Day is a collaborative effort among the attendees of WordCamps to give back to the WordPress project. Attendees gather in a large room and learn how to make the WordPress open-source project better through their contributions. Contrary to what some think, you don’t need to code to contribute to WordPress. Many teams focused on improving open source marketing, providing support for the open source project, and more. Our team sat in on the development, hosting and marketing contribution teams. 

The People & Their Feedback

Of course, for our teams at Liquid Web and Hostdedi, one of the most exciting parts of going to a large event like this is getting to talk to new and existing customers. This was a great opportunity for us: at our final count, we talked to over 110 people over the weekend! We also met some of our favorite customers such as DC-based Knucklepuck and the fully-remote Beacon Agency. In addition, some of the other sponsors were also people we were excited to meet. We were pleased to see AWS Lightsail and Google sponsoring WordCamp US. Opportunities for technology and collaboration that make the life of a web professional easier and better are apparent at WordCamp US.

The people & their feedback

We also use this opportunity to listen deeply. Our partner team representatives consistently asked one of two questions to prospects depending on if they were technically minded or business minded. Either “Tell me about your business strategy for the coming year” or “What hosting and business processes have you changed to make your life easier?”

We learned about what’s making the web better, and we contributed information about our highly profitable affiliate and partner programs, as well as the time and cost-saving benefits of our Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce plans. 

The Activities

Of course, no event is complete without a host of activities to keep everyone entertained and engaged. At the Liquid Web booth we had a photo booth that both employees and attendees used to take photos of themselves, share them with friends, and learn more about our offerings. It was a fun opportunity to kickstart conversations and share in the fun.

We believe that our Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce offerings allow web professionals the flexibility and freedom to focus on what really matters: growing your business and staying happy and healthy. For this reason, we decided that one of our swag items would be Liquid Web-branded hammocks. These hammocks were a huge hit! Our key agency partners and affiliates were invited to receive a Liquid Web hammock, and in addition, we gave them to potential new partners and affiliates to enjoy after the event.

 

Finally, the Liquid Web booth served as the recording location over the weekend for theWomen in WP podcast. They interviewed attendees who identify as women about their experiences. At Liquid Web, we have an ongoing commitment to increasing diversity in technology and it shows. Check out the Women in WP podcast recorded episode at our booth on their home page, as well as our own Liquid Web Women In Technology series. 

 

Wrapping It Up

Our team contributed and gained a lot from attending WordCamp US 2019. But you don’t have to travel all the way to St. Louis in 2020 to do the same thing. By checking out the WordCamp Central page, you can find a local WordCamp event near you–and if it’s in North or Central America, we’ll see you there! In addition, 2020 will also bring us WordCamp Europe and WordCamp Asia, in Porto, Portugal and Bangkok, Thailand respectively, for our international WordPress fans. We’re excited to go into 2020 energized for more success with WordPress and WooCommerce. When it comes to your next choice in hosting and managed services for your WordPress and WooCommerce site, consider our Liquid Web application hosting on our Hostdedi platform.

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Carrie Wheeler Talks Innovative Solutions with WIWP at WCUS

Carrie Wheeler Talks Innovative Solutions with WIWP at WCUS



Another year of WordCamp US has come and gone, and we hope everyone who attended – and didn’t attend – found the best hosting solution for their business. This year, our partner Liquid Web was in attendance. Not only did they offer some incredible booth experiences (recap article to come!), but team members also hosted sessions and talked community.

Carrie Wheeler, executive vice president and COO of Liquid Web, talked with the Women in WordPress, discussing her journey to where she is now and how Liquid Web and Hostdedi are offering innovative solutions that help both merchants and content creators to do more. Below are some of our highlights. 

 

On her journey to where she is now

“It’s been a “three decade journey. Started in consulting. I started in software development. Spent a couple of decades in telecommunications […] and along that path got super passionate about cloud hosting.” 

 

On why she has such a passion for cloud hosting

 “I’ve just seen the entire explosion of technology […] and it is just such a huge enabler for businesses.”

 

On creating innovative solutions for the community

“We could not be happier to be a big part of this community. We love the fact that it is the democratization of publishing. [And] we’re putting together the best platform you could possibly have for both content and commerce.” 

 

To hear the full podcast, watch the video below or visit womeninwp.com.

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Why WooCommerce is a Powerful Affiliate Marketing Platform

Why WooCommerce is a Powerful Affiliate Marketing Platform

The goal of ecommerce marketing is to expose a store’s products to people most likely to buy them. There are many ways to achieve that goal: display advertising, email marketing, content marketing, and more.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular marketing strategies: 80 percent of brands use affiliate marketing to promote their products. It’s also one of the most cost-effective; unlike display advertising or content marketing, there are few upfront costs because affiliates take on the burden of content creation and promotion.
WooCommerce is an excellent platform for building an affiliate marketing program. A WooCommerce store combines WordPress’s strengths as a content management system and WooCommerce’s sophisticated ecommerce features. With the addition of one of the affiliate marketing plugins we are about to discuss, WooCommerce is fully capable of supporting the largest and most complex affiliate marketing programs.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing provides rewards, typically a percentage of the value of a sale, to third parties that refer customers to an ecommerce store. The affiliate fees give marketers, bloggers, and other retailers an incentive to promote the store’s product. Amazon’s affiliate program is a great example. Many blogs and review sites are supported entirely by money paid by Amazon to affiliates who refer customers.
A retailer of high-end audio equipment might create an affiliate program to encourage audiophile blogs to write about their products, for example. The bloggers write reviews, make YouTube demonstration videos, and promote the products on social media. Because the blogger already has an audience of audiophiles, the products are promoted to customers who are already inclined to buy.
It would be expensive for the retailer to pay for social media promotion, blog articles, and video content, but with an affiliate program they don’t pay anything unless a customer is referred and buys a product.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

First, a retailer creates an affiliate marketing program on their store. Then, prospective affiliates join the program. Affiliates are given links with identifying codes to use when promoting the store’s products. When a customer clicks on a link on the affiliate’s site, the store knows whose link was used. Any products bought by the referred customers are recorded by the store, and, at fixed periods, the affiliate marketer is paid their percentage of the sale value.
That’s the nutshell explanation of affiliate marketing, which can get a good deal more complicated, but with a decent affiliate marketing plugin, most of the details are automated. An affiliate marketing plugin also provides a range of analytics tools to help ecommerce retailers to optimize their affiliate program.

Affiliate Marketing Plugins for WooCommerce

There are many affiliate marketing plugins available for WooCommerce, but we’ll highlight two of the best, one premium and one free.

AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP is a premium affiliate marketing plugin with a comprehensive array of features and its own add-on ecosystem. AffiliateWP is designed to be easy to use, and anyone familiar with WooCommerce should have no trouble installing it and configuring a basic affiliate marketing program.
Standout features include excellent integration with WooCommerce and membership plugins, powerful affiliate management features and analytics with real-time reporting, reliable affiliate tracking, and handy asset management for providing affiliates with branded visual resources and text links.

Affiliates Manager

Affiliates Manager is a free WordPress affiliate plugin that integrates with WooCommerce and other WordPress ecommerce plugins. It’s not quite as feature rich or slickly designed as AffiliateWP, but it has all the features a WooCommerce user needs to recruit, manage, and track their affiliates.

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