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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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6 Magento Alternatives You Should Be Considering After Magento 1

6 Magento Alternatives You Should Be Considering After Magento 1

Magento 1 (M1) will be sunsetting June 2020. While the eCommerce platform will still be accessible and usable by both merchants and devs, it will no longer receive official support from either Magento or Adobe. That means that for the 180,000 merchants running M1, the hunt for Magento alternatives is on. 

Are you unsure where to go once M1’s life draws to a close? Here, we’ll cover some of your options, along with the pros and cons of each. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of where your next step on your ecommerce journey will take you. 


Don’t have time to read this now?

Download the After M1 eBook for a complete list of your best options – for when you do have time.


WooCommerce

You may be surprised by the first alternative on this list. You’re probably thinking that WooCommerce just doesn’t have the capabilities you’re looking for in a Magento alternative. This is especially true if you have any experience in WooCommerce and the WordPress space. And you may be right; WooCommerce isn’t as functional as Magento. However, it does have its advantages. 

WooCommerce sits perfectly between being a SaaS product like Shopify, and being a self-hosted ecommerce CMS you have full control of like Magento. It plays a fine line between ease of use and feature sets, and it does so brilliantly. You may be surprised by the types of stores that are on WooCommerce. It’s not all small businesses. 

In 2018, WooCommerce looked into its user base in more detail. They analyzed stores to see where they are coming from and their size. What they found was surprising

WooCommerce is not the ecommerce platform of small merchants some developers think it is. There are a number of larger stores using it as well. 

A large number of WooCommerce stores actually fall between the $100,000 to $500,000 range, with some extending as far as $1 million in annual revenue. Brands that have made WooCommerce their ecommerce platform of choice include Blue Star Coffee, Weber, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Singer.

WooCommerce is not the best choice for large stores that involve a lot of moving parts. But it is a great Magento alternative for smaller and medium-sized stores looking to take control.

Why use WooCommerce instead of Magento?

  • It’s very easy to use, while still offering impressive flexibility for developers
  • It offers a large number of plugins to increase functionality
  • It has a large selection of themes and templates
  • It’s lightweight, so can load content faster

Why use Magento instead of WooCommerce

  • WooCommerce, while flexible, doesn’t have the ecommerce functionality of Magento
  • Magento is better for growing merchants
  • Magento has a great community that supports ecommerce specifically

 

Stay on Magento 1

Your second alternative isn’t an alternative, and comes with a question. Why make the move at all? Have you thought you need to make the move because of the warnings you’re seeing from the community and in your installation? 

Sentiment regarding the Magento 1 End Of Life is split in the community. Fears regarding security vulnerabilities, loss of PCI compliance, and more are on one side. While devs offering continued support and security updates are on the other. 

As a hosting provider, we will continue to support merchants that wish to stay on Magento 1, by making sure to keep our web application firewall up to date to help with security. We’ll also continue to maintain server-side performance optimizations for the first version of Magento. 

Staying on Magento 1 means doing everything you can to secure your site. From hosting to development, don’t cut corners when the future of your store is at stake. 

If you decide that staying on Magento 1 – even if just for the time being – is the right move for your store, then there are a few things you’re going to want to do. Firstly, upgrade your store to Magento 1.9. Unlike replatforming, this does not require much work or expense and is a simple patching process.

You’re also going to want to upgrade any other software you’re running as part of your application stack. This includes your PHP, MySQL, and Apache versions, along with any other applications you’re running as a part of your stack. The Hostdedi support team can help with this. Get in touch and we’ll make sure your hosting environment is as secure as possible. 

Finally, don’t forget to communicate with your developer (if you have one) about what they think staying on Magento 1 means for your store. Some developers will try their best to accommodate you and put in place safeguards so your store isn’t exposed to vulnerabilities. 

Why Stay on Magento 1 instead of moving to Magento 2?

Download and read After M1 to find out more detailed reasons for why staying on M1 may be the right option for your store. 

 

BigCommerce (For WordPress)

Perhaps WooCommerce isn’t the right fit for your store. Maybe Staying on Magento 1 is out of the question. Where do you go next? 

BigCommerce started out as a SaaS application but has since expanded into the headless (decoupled) market. We offer this as an option in the form of BigCommerce for WordPress. The Advantages? Merchants can use both the backend of BigCommerce for ecommerce management and the frontend of WordPress for displaying it. 

This means is more flexibility, better potential user experiences, and the ability to ramp up your content marketing strategy. Remember, content and product SEO are different, so don’t charge in head-first if your not as experienced with content SEO. 

BigCommerce is the Magento alternative for merchants looking for both great content and product management capabilities.

BigCommerce for WordPress also comes with premium support from both Hostdedi and BigCommerce. In the event something goes wrong on either the application or the hosting side, you’ll immediately be able to reach out to a relevant member of the support staff to resolve your problem. The faster it’s resolved, the quicker you’re going to be able to start selling again. 

Why choose BigCommerce instead of Magento?

  • It offers both great ecommerce and content functionality
  • Both BigCommerce and your hosting provider are able to offer support

Why choose Magento instead of BigCommerce?

  • Magento still offers more in terms of functionality
  • BigCommerce charges transaction fees
  • BigCommerce is a closed source application without the development community of Magento

 

Sylius

Perhaps you’re a developer or merchant that loves to live on the bleeding edge. Maybe you’ve always prided yourself on staying up to date with the latest and greatest. Or perhaps you’re all about taking the reins when it comes to functionality. 

If that sounds like you, then Sylius is probably your platform of choice. 

Sylius is an open source ecommerce platform that runs on Symfony. That means more customization, more functionality, and stronger alignment with dev best practices. Plus, with it being open source, the community for support only continues to grow. 

Currently available in standard and enterprise forms, Sylius is a good option if you’re looking to stay ahead of trends in web development. However, if your store needs to remain reliable, then it may be better to look elsewhere. 

Why choose Sylius over Magento

  • Sylius is cutting edge in ecommerce web development
  • It allows merchants to create a heavily customized ecommerce experience

Why choose Magento over Sylius

  • Magento has a longer history and is a more secure foundation
  • There is a larger selection of extensions for Magento
  • You may be limited by your programming expertise

 

Shopify

On the other end of the functionality spectrum is Shopify; a SaaS application built to make ecommerce easy. 

Shopify is one of the more popular options around, and it’s easy to see why when you take a look at its ease of use. For small merchants, the process of going from store idea to selling is quick and easy. However, this ease of use isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially when a store starts to grow. 

Shopify is a good option for merchants getting started in ecommerce, but as they grow its limitations become increasingly apparent. 

Shopify comes with a number of limitations that can ultimately hurt a merchant’s bottom line. 

One of the most significant of these limitations is transaction fees. While alternatives like WooCommerce and Magento let merchants use a number of different payment processors without needing to pay transaction fees, Shopify only allows you to avoid them if you use Shopify’s payment service. This can cause problems with lock-in once you start needing an alternative. 

Other limitations also start to appear when considering Shopify SEO. These include:

  • A rigid URL structure
  • Limitations to meta titles and descriptions
  • A locked robots.txt files
  • An inability to edit tag pages
  • No good way to handle duplicate content

For merchants that want their store to rank for important search terms, these SEO limitations can quickly outway the advantages that come with Shopify’s ease of use – especially if you’re a merchant with a lot of products. 

Why choose Shopify over Magento?

  • It’s easier to use and get started with
  • It comes with a large selection of templates and themes

Why choose Magento over Shopify?

  • Magento offers more in terms of flexibility and functionality
  • Magento doesn’t have transaction costs
  • Shopify has some serious SEO limitations

 

Prestashop

Prestashop is another option that works well for merchants looking to leverage a platform that offers ease of use. 

Originally released in 2008, Prestashop comes in both self-hosted and SasS forms. While the user base for both has diminished over the last few years, it’s still a strong competitor for small stores.

Moreover, perhaps because of its self-hosted background, when compared with other SaaS platforms, it manages to hold its own in terms of functionality. Some of the main reasons you may decide to use Prestashop include: 

  • Easy to use and intuitive interface
  • A good selection of themes and templates
  • Over 3,900 extensions for expanding functionality
  • A lightweight platform that is usually fast

Despite these advantages, Prestashop, like Shopify, just can’t compete with some of the bigger players in terms of functionality and flexibility. For medium stores or those that expect to grow, it quickly becomes a bottleneck that prevents continued growth. 

Prestashop is a good option if you’re looking for a platform that offers ease of use. But it trails behind some of the more powerful options in terms of functionality. 

Magento, for example, offers a number of complex options and tools for managing omnichannel customer journeys and multi-site stores with localization requirements. This is an advantage that can particularly help stores with international customers. Localization with Prestashop doesn’t offer the same level of detail or a truly “local” experience. 

Prestashop – just like Shopify-  also falls down in terms of SEO. In fact, stock Prestashop doesn’t even have some SEO features you would expect to see, like meta titles and descriptions. To gain access to that functionality you have to download an extension. 

Overall, Prestashop isn’t the best option on this list. It does, however, offer a suitable alternative to Magento for merchants looking to simplify their commerce experience. 

Why choose Prestashop over Magento?

  • Prestashop is easier to use and develop with. 
  • Prestashop offers a large number of themes and add-ons

Why choose Magento over Prestashop?

  • Prestashop has terrible SEO features
  • Magento offers more in terms of features and functionality

 

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How Hostdedi Helps Your Store Stay PCI Compliant

How Hostdedi Helps Your Store Stay PCI Compliant

Having a PCI compliant store requires the sustained efforts of both yourself and your hosting provider. Although there are no shortcuts, choosing a credible web hosting provider is an effective place to start. Even so, most PCI requirements can only be met by you, the merchant. Read on to learn more about the dividing line between host and merchant, and why it can be worthwhile to go beyond PCI for your customers.

 

What Is PCI?

nexcess locked safeIn ecommerce, PCI is shorthand for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Created in 2004, PCI DSS aim to help protect consumers and prevent credit card fraud. It is required for any organization that receives, processes, or stores credit card data of any of the five members of the PCI Security Council: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB.

The list of requirements is extensive, to put it mildly. The requirements span six categories, and each category is divided into several hundred specific requirements. Some fall exclusively under the domain of either merchants or hosting providers, while some extend to both. PCI compliance is also not a one-time requirement, as the Security Council makes periodic adjustments to address new threats to consumers.

Compliance is not a “one-and-done” event. It requires daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tasks to maintain compliance. There are 12 general requirements divided among six categories. For illustrative purposes, we’ve listed these same categories, but also included more specific requirements from within PCI DSS. 

6 Key Categories for PCI Compliance

Build and maintain a secure network. Install and maintain a firewall. Use unique, high-security passwords with special care to replace default passwords.

Protect cardholder data. Whenever possible, do not store cardholder data. If there is a business need to store cardholder data, then you must protect this data. Encrypt any data passed across public networks, including data passed between your shopping cart, your Web-hosting provider, and your customers.

Maintain a vulnerability management program. Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. Develop and maintain secure operating systems and payment applications. Ensure your antivirus software applications are compliant with your chosen card companies.

Implement strong access control measures. Access to cardholder data, both electronic and physical, should be on a need-to-know basis. Ensure those people with electronic access have a unique ID and password. Do not allow people to share login credentials. Educate yourself and your employees on data security, and specifically the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS).

Regularly monitor and test networks. Track and monitor all access to networks and cardholder data. Maintain a regular testing schedule for security systems and processes, including: firewalls, patches, web servers, email servers, and antivirus.

Maintain an information security policy. Establish a clear and thorough organizational data security policy. Disseminate and update this policy regularly.

PCI non-compliance can result in fines ranging between $5000—$100,000 per month, depending on the size of the offending organization, its severity, and other factors. Non-compliance can also result in legal action, security breaches, and lost revenue.

PCI Requirements for Hosting Providers 

nexcess monitoringIt is virtually impossible for the typical merchant to be PCI compliant without enlisting the services of a compliant hosting provider. Merchants that host their own websites must meet hosting provider requirements in addition to meeting those for merchants. Such a model works for massive enterprises like Amazon and WalMart, but few others. 

Following are some of the highlights of our systems and policies that uphold our status as a PCI compliant hosting provider. The term “cardholder data environment” refers to any system that stores, processes, or transmits credit card data as well as any system that has access to cardholder data environment itself.

We maintain a web application firewall (WAF), which monitors all connections between the cardholder data environment and other networks. ModSec prohibits public access to sensitive areas, identifies untrusted connections, and hides IP addresses and routing information from unauthorized parties. 

We apply industry-accepted configuration standards for all system components that address all known security vulnerabilities. This extends to our internal and external network, our operating systems, and hardware required to host web services.

We apply cryptography and security protocols that encrypt and protect cardholder data even when transmitted across public networks. SSL certificates and other trusted security keys are unilaterally enforced. Only modern TLS ciphers are permitted.

We restrict physical access to our data center with 24-hour security policies and a team trained to implement them. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Video surveillance with 90-day footage history
  • Secured entry with at least two-factor authentication (PIN, access card) in most areas, and three-factor authentication (PIN, access card, thumbprint) in areas housing the cardholder data environment
  • Visible identification on all team members
  • Visitor policy that prevents unauthorized public access; authorized external individuals have access only to required areas and are escorted at all times 
  • Team members are given access to the cardholder data environment only if their role requires it
  • Restricted access to network jacks, wireless access points, gateways, networks, and other lines of communication

We track and monitor access to network resources and cardholder data, though it falls to clients to maintain logs and monitor logins for their own applications (Magento, WordPress, and so on).  

We regularly test our security systems and processes, and perform internal penetration testing at regular intervals as well as after any significant infrastructure upgrade. 

PCI Requirements for Merchants

Secure store with HostdediProperly implemented, PCI compliance helps merchants adhere to commonly accepted best practices of data security. Hosting with a PCI compliant provider is a solid first step, but becoming compliant still requires action on your part.

If your store accepts credit cards as payment, it must be PCI compliant whether you store that data or not. Choosing a PCI Compliant web host is only the first step. Most credible web hosts can provide merchants with materials outlining their respective responsibilities upon request, but ultimately it is on merchants to understand and meet these requirements. 

Regrettably, there is no “one size fits all” checklist. Your specific responsibilities will vary according to your merchant level (1–4, with 1 being the highest), which is generally determined by the number of credit card transactions your store processes annually. 

The general process for most merchants is:

  1. Identify, understand, and implement the appropriate PCI DSS requirements. 
  2. Complete a Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). The SAQ is a checklist outlining the requirements. Depending on your level, some or all of them will apply to you. Level 1 merchants have the most requirements; level 4, the least.
    Resist the temptation to simply “check every box” in the SAQ. Doing so endangers your customers and exposes your business to liability. The PCI stands to lose money from breaches, and in response may investigate your SAQ and AOC.
  3. Submit to a quarterly scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV), an independent, qualified authority that performs external vulnerability scans on your systems. 
  4. Complete the Attestation of Compliance (AOC), a document asserting that you are both eligible to perform and have in fact performed the SAQ to the best of your ability.
  5. If classified as a level 1 merchant, you must take additional steps, including an on-site assessment. 

If climbing the considerable hurdle of PCI compliance doesn’t appeal to you, you’re not alone. Your hosting provider can answer questions related to overlapping responsibility, and third party Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs) can help businesses run the PCI gauntlet (for a price). 

Even businesses offering only PayPal, Auth.net, and other payment services as payment options must be PCI compliant because those businesses must still transmit credit card data.

One universal component is the need to confirm that all of your service providers are PCI compliant. This includes your hosting provider, but also extends to payment processors, payment gateways, POS providers, and any other entities that touch your customers’ cardholder data. 

Some PCI Essentials for Merchants

  • Maintain PCI compliance. Compliance requires ongoing awareness and daily application. Tasks range between daily and annual, but all are recurring.
  • Don’t just check “Yes” to every question in the SAQ. Due diligence protects your business and your customers.
  • Know your code, or use a developer that does. Implement best practices of deployment using staging and dev sites without exception.
  • Establish a secure password policy. Use complex, unique passwords and never allow your staff to share login credentials or use default passwords.
  • Enable two-factor authentication for all of your internal users, and consider providing it as an option for customers logging in to your site.
  • Use a web application firewall (WAF). At Hostdedi, we provide one for all clients and it’s enabled by default.
  • Don’t just take your hosting provider’s word for it. Confirm they’re PCI Compliant and competent by asking for (and getting) their Attestation of Compliance (AOC).
  • Keep your applications and extensions current to the latest stable release, and actively monitor for new threats and versions.

Beyond PCI

If PCI compliance were enough, breaches of high-profile organizations would be far less common. Compliant should not mean complacent.

In reality, PCI compliance is “Cardholder Data Security 101.” It is the minimum acceptable standard and a reasonable introduction, but PCI is far from infallible. Credit card companies require compliance. Merchants adhering to PCI standards will be more effective at protecting consumers than businesses that just pay them lip service, but PCI compliance is only the first step. 

The very nature of PCI — a large, curated document updated only periodically — makes it vulnerable. Standards deemed sufficient in the “current” version are often exposed as inadequate. It can take months or even years for PCI to “catch up,” and bad actors are well aware of its limitations.

The best protection is knowledge. At Hostdedi, we have team members that specialize in web security who stay well-versed in the newest threats, breaches, and countermeasures. Many merchants may be reluctant to enlist the services of a security expert. At the very least, we recommend subscribing to security notifications for your ecommerce application and following at least one credible web security news source. Both sources react much faster than the PCI, and following them will help you “spot the smoke” before it becomes a fire. 

We’re on the List!

Don’t forget, we’re “On the List” of PCI compliant providers officially recognized by the Visa Global Registry. That means we’ve shown a continued commitment to reviewing and improving our security policies to match and exceed PCI compliance requirements. If you’re looking for a PCI compliant provider, hosting with Hostdedi means you’re hosting with an approved and recognized provider. Learn more about the PCI compliant hosting with Hostdedi. 

For guidance with PCI compliance, contact our sales team between 9 a.m.–5 p.m. eastern time, Monday to Friday.  

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Installing BigCommerce for WordPress, Step by Step

Installing BigCommerce for WordPress, Step by Step

In this post we’re going to go through installing the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin, starting with a mostly empty WordPress install. But before we begin, I want to briefly note that if you’re new to Hostdedi and/or want to add a BigCommerce for WordPress retail plan to your existing Hostdedi hosting account, you can do so by visiting this page, selecting a plan and auto-installing BigCommerce for WordPress in one click. For those who need an enterprise-level solution, you’ll follow the steps outlined in this blog to manually install.

The BigCommerce for WordPress plugin is available on WordPress.org, like most plugins. This makes it easy to install, right from within the WordPress admin interface.

Start by logging into WordPress and in the left admin menu, choose Plugins ➞ Add New.

Easy to install bigcommerce from the plugin directory

 

Then in the top right search area search for BigCommerce. When the results appear, click on Install Now on the BigCommerce plugin.

Once it’s installed you’ll need to activate it.

To get started just click activate

As soon as the plugin is activated it will take you to an Onboarding Wizard to help you configure it properly. Your first step will be to either connect your WordPress site to an existing BigCommerce store or create a new BigCommerce store from right within WordPress.

The BigCommerce onboarding wizard starts automatically

For this post we’ll choose Create New Account.

BigCommerce just needs a few details to create your store

The form is longer than what you see in the screenshot, but it asks for normal contact information like address, city, state, zip, phone, etc.

When creating a new account like this it’s creating a free 15-day trial. If you decide you don’t like it, you can simply let it expire. If you decide you’d like to sign up for BigCommerce you may do that in your Account page in the BigCommerce admin area.

and set up a channel

Once you’ve created an account you’ll need to make a Channel.  Channels in BigCommerce allow you to specify what products appear in what storefront.  For example, Amazon can be a channel, and you can say “These products appear in Amazon”.

With WordPress, each WordPress instance in a channel, so you can show certain products on one WordPress site, and other products on another WordPress site.

Of course if you wish you may show all products on your WordPress site, but this Channel we’re making is the method by which that happens.

As shown in the screenshot above you may choose to have all products immediately imported or have none so that you may go back later and specifically choose which products get imported.

then select how to want to use the bigcommerce plugin

The next option is to choose a Full Featured Store or set up a Blogging store. If you choose Simple Blogging then it will skip helping you set up a Navigation Menu and disable the Cart and the Embedded Checkout. So customers will click to Buy a product and it will send them to the BigCommerce store. If you choose this and change your mind it’s easy to switch back later.

For this post we’re going to choose Full Featured Store.

Once you’ve chosen Full Featured Store, the next step is to optionally set up a WordPress Navigation Menu. Checkboxes are provided for all of the pages that BigCommerce creates during this install, including Product Listing Pages, Brand Pages, Category Pages, Shopping Cart, Checkout, etc. You can also choose a Menu Location, exactly like in the default WordPress menu builder.

After you complete the Navigation configuration you’re essentially done with setting up WordPress.  If you wish you can go into BigCommerce ➞ Settings and make some changes, but that’s not required.

The final page of the Setup Wizard offers some links to finish setting up your store, and these must be done before your store will function properly.  These things include setting up your payment gateway, taxes, and shipping.

Once these last admin things have been set up you’re ready to sell!

Learn more about the BC4WP plugin with Hostdedi here.

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The 2019 Black Friday Ecommerce Prep Guide

The 2019 Black Friday Ecommerce Prep Guide

Every year, on the fourth Friday of November, shopping chaos unfolds.

Stores cut their prices, customers flock to their nearest outlets, and deals are had by everyone.

But not anymore. Thanks to ecommerce, customers no longer have to leave the comfort of their home to take part in Black Friday. Keeping an eye on advertisements and pre-event newsletters, customers can easily turn on their laptop, click add to cart, and checkout as soon as the clock strikes twelve.

For customers, this is great. For merchants, it means competition has only gotten more fierce (if you thought that possible). It’s no longer just about having the best deals; it’s about having the best visibility. 

Why Black Friday Matters

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, with American shoppers spending a record $5 billion in 2017. In 2018, this number then grew by 19%, with over 14.8 million online transactions recorded. With so much money up for grabs, Black Friday can be one of the most profitable days of the year for some businesses. In some cases, it even defines a stores annual profit. 

In the jewelry industry, for example, Black Friday can account for 40% of a business’s annual revenue. With such a large percentage from only a single day, these merchants are often forced to ensure their Black Friday campaigns do better year-over-year. The alternative is something many can’t think about. 

Hopefully, your sales are not so dependent on Black Friday. However, there’s still a lot of money available to those savvy enough to take advantage of the digital opportunities available to merchants. 

But with more demand and more customers, the chance of something going wrong only increases. If you want to be successful this Black Friday, you can’t treat it like any other sales day, or even any other sales event. 

Black Friday Ecommerce Statistics

According to NRF, shoppers who took part both online and in-store were up 40% from 2017, with multi-channel shoppers outspending single-channel shoppers by $93. This year, ecommerce merchants can expect to see another huge increase in online shoppers, following on from 2018’s substantial growth.

With Black Friday now online, shoppers no longer have to venture outside to chaotic shopping centers and can instead make their purchases from the comfort of their sofa. 

This is despite in-store shoppers declining by roughly 1%, and 44% of consumers saying they would shop online in 2017 vs just 42% in 2018. 

Industry Ecommerce Benchmarks for Black Friday

Prior to the 2018 Black Friday event, Blackfriday.com questioned their users on what they planned to look for in the sales. 

Industry Breakdown of Black Friday Ecommerce Interest

Clothing took top spot, with 23% of consumers aiming to score a good deal on fashion items. This was quickly followed by tech, with 22% of consumers looking for their next gadget. 

Towards the bottom of the pile was travel. With it being less of an impulse buy, just 9% of consumers aimed to find some travel deals for the coming year.

If you’re a clothes or tech merchants, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to be the days you want to get ready for. 

Getting Your Site Ready for Black Friday

Getting ready for Black Friday means getting ready for more than just the products you’re going to sell. Expect to see:

  • An increase in traffic
  • An increase in server strain
  • An increase in the potential for things to go wrong

We’ve seen it all too many times. Merchants who wait until the last second to address these potential pitfalls, and as a result: they fall. 

Getting yourself ready for Black Friday doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. But it will mean that you’re able to maximize ROI from the event, and secure your place among the Black Friday customer go-tos for years to come. 

Get Started Early

The earlier you start targeting Black Friday shoppers, the better results you’re going to have. Getting started early means ramping up everything from prep work to marketing strategy. 

Some merchants start their Black Friday marketing efforts as early as October, with others beginning to ramp up marketing in early September. 

When considering how early you will begin your marketing strategy, take a step back and analyze these factors.

 

  • Budget: How much do you have to spend on Black Friday marketing? Where should that budget be spent? Will you increase adwords spend, ramp up email products, or instead focus on more traditional print-media?
  • Resources: November is a resource-intensive time. Christmas is just around the corner, and depending on where you’re located, Singles Day is just a few short weeks ahead of Black Friday. Calculating ROI on resource spend is going to make a huge difference. You don’t want to run out of money before Black Friday has even started. 
  • Potential: While it would be great if we all had unlimited products and opportunities, that’s more often not the case. Perhaps you’re limited in terms of stock or fulfillment processes. The less potential for your Black Friday campaign, the less time should be dedicated to it. 

 

Once you’ve drawn a clear picture of these areas, it’s a good idea to outline the different channels and audiences your aiming to target and assign any associated dates. 

Getting Your Ecommerce Site (and hosting) Ready for Black Friday

If you’re running a Black Friday sale, that means you can all but guarantee an influx of traffic. That means more opportunities for something to go wrong. Don’t let it be your hosting platform. 

As the foundation of your site, hosting problems can mean slow user experiences, broken page elements, and, in the most extreme cases, site-wide outages. Luckily, there are specific steps you can take to ensure a smooth Black Friday experience for your customers and keep those conversions rolling in. 

What’s Your Limit?

How much can your hosting actually take? 

Every hosting package you purchase will have its limits. If your site is seeing more visitors than those limits can handle, then your site won’t crash. Instead, it will slow to a crawl, queuing page load requests until it eventually becomes long enough for the dreaded timeout. 

If you’re already seeing traffic hover around your limit, it’s definitely worth upgrading your hosting to the next level. If you’re running on the Hostdedi Cloud, you can also enable auto scaling in your Client Portal. Just a flick of a button and you’ll be set for any unexpected (or expected) traffic spikes. 

Prepare for International Sales

International sales can add a whole new level of complexity to a store. For the merchant, alternate payment options, different order fulfillment choices, and tweaks to content are only the start. On top of those, delivering digital assets to countries halfway around the world presents its own problem. 

Yes, digital transfer speeds are fast, but running your website through cables located under the Atlantic is going to lead to some lag, especially if demand is high (like on Black Friday). How can you solve this?

For most stores looking to serve international customers, purchasing a CDN add-on for their store will allow static assets such as images to be held in server locations around the world. This way, regardless of where your customers are coming from, they’re going to be able to access high-bandwidth assets from a local location. That means faster load times and more conversions. 

Check in with Our Support Techs… Why Not?

Our philosophy is that it’s always worth exploring every avenue available to you, to see if there’s something you’ve been missing. That’s why we recommend all of our clients expecting an influx of traffic during Black Friday to check in and see if there’s anything we can do to help.

There may not be. Perhaps you’ve already prepared your store for any eventuality. But what if you’ve missed something and it ends up coming back to haunt you? We’ll often reach out to clients we expect to encounter a problem, so keep an eye on your inbox. Or, start the conversation yourself. 

At the very least, it’s worth letting the team here know that you’re planning to run a sale over those dates, that way our team can take extra steps to keep an eye on your hosting platform and how it’s performing. 

Black Friday Ecommerce Strategy

Start Marketing Early

Any good Black Friday ecommerce strategy means ramping up interest before Black Friday actually begins. After all, some customers spend weeks looking for deals they’re going to jump on during the sales. 

Getting started early means promoting your company’s email newsletter through organic and paid channels. This will give you a lot of leads to follow up with once your really start marketing your discounts. 

The earlier you start marketing your Black Friday discounts, the more customers are going to come knocking on the big day.

Start promotions with enticing statements about how your sales event is unique. Statements like “Over 80% off this Black Friday, sign up to stay ahead of the curve” work well to draw in subscriptions, especially when they’re paired with tantalizing artwork. 

Get Creating Niche Gift Guides

You’ve got awesome products so why not let them market themselves? Your Black Friday marketing strategy doesn’t have to only be about target Black Friday shoppers. There’s a whole internet of customers you have access to. 

This means creating marketing material that will draw in those interested in your niche, but not Black Friday. 

Gift guides are a great way to target long tail ecommerce SEO keywords. They not only target Black Friday Shoppers, but everyone looking for your products. 

One of the best ways to do this is by creating a gift guide that suits your target audience. If you sell shoes, how about creating the ultimate gift guide to Men’s Fashion in 2019? If you sell hats, do the same thing. If you have a larger product range, make your gift guide broader. The possibilities are limitless. 

Prepare Upsells and Cross-sells

With the average person spending $289.19 during Black Friday in 2018, it’s the perfect opportunity to push upsells and cross-sells. This may be grouping items for an improved discount, or providing recommendations for related products during checkout. 

Just remember, a good upsell and cross-sell strategy revolves around providing your buyer value. Don’t just indiscriminately group items together, think of how grouping multiple items provides buyers with a benefit. 

For example, if you’re selling shoes, shoe care products are a great upsell. They can potentially increase the longevity of a product, fitting perfectly within the buyer narrative of saving money. 

If you’re selling a specific type of gift, think about other products that complement it. The more you think about and push the narrative of buyer benefit, the more you’re going to be successful here. 

Prepare Your Email Strategy

Did you know that 25% of Black Friday sales start with an email? At least, that’s what Custora says

That means you should be jumping on the email bandwagon if you want to maximize ROI. But how?

Great email campaigns start with two things: timing and subject lines. 

If you haven’t already, begin testing what times are best for sending emails to your customers. Which days of the week work best and when are they going to check their inbox? 

If you spend 1 hour creating the perfect email, spend 2 crafting the subject line. 

Then work on your subject lines. These sentences should be the core of your content. If you spend 1 hour creating the perfect email content, spend 2 crafting the subject line. The subject line will encourage opens, click-throughs, and sales. 

Learn how to tailor your emails to the customers with our guide to email personalization

Go Beyond Black Friday

There are four days of shopping to be had around Black Friday: not just Black Friday itself. Make sure to target each of these days individually.

Then, think about how your Black Friday marketing strategy can continue to bring sales in even after the sales event is over. Use it as an opportunity to increase reach, and audience knowledge of your brand. 

Don’t Shrug Off Black Friday in 2019

We’ve seen it all too often: merchants not preparing their stores for Black Friday and then suffering from site slowdowns and outages. Don’t let that be you. 

Talking to a sales rep to ensure you’re ready is one of the most crucial steps merchants can make in the run up to November 29th this year.

Interested in learning more about how Hostdedi solutions can benefit you? See some more benefits we’re offering merchants this year and get 75% off of new services or upgrades with code HolidayPrep19.

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How Hostdedi Helps Your Store Stay PCI-Compliant

How Hostdedi Helps Your Store Stay PCI-Compliant

Having a PCI-compliant store requires the sustained efforts of both yourself and your hosting provider. Although there are no shortcuts, choosing a credible web hosting provider is an effective place to start. Even so, most PCI requirements can only be met by you, the merchant. Read on to learn more about the dividing line between host and merchant, and why it can be worthwhile to go beyond PCI for your customers.

 

What Is PCI?

nexcess locked safeIn ecommerce, PCI is shorthand for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Created in 2004, PCI DSS aim to help protect consumers and prevent credit card fraud. It is required for any organization that receives, processes, or stores credit card data of any of the five members of the PCI Security Council: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB.

The list of requirements is extensive, to put it mildly. The requirements span six categories, and each category is divided into several hundred specific requirements. Some fall exclusively under the domain of either merchants or hosting providers, while some extend to both. PCI compliance is also not a one-time requirement, as the Security Council makes periodic adjustments to address new threats to consumers.

Compliance is not a “one-and-done” event. It requires daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tasks to maintain compliance. There are 12 general requirements divided among six categories. For illustrative purposes, we’ve listed these same categories, but also included more specific requirements from within PCI DSS. 

6 Key Categories for PCI Compliance

Build and maintain a secure network. Install and maintain a firewall. Use unique, high-security passwords with special care to replace default passwords.

Protect cardholder data. Whenever possible, do not store cardholder data. If there is a business need to store cardholder data, then you must protect this data. Encrypt any data passed across public networks, including data passed between your shopping cart, your Web-hosting provider, and your customers.

Maintain a vulnerability management program. Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. Develop and maintain secure operating systems and payment applications. Ensure your antivirus software applications are compliant with your chosen card companies.

Implement strong access control measures. Access to cardholder data, both electronic and physical, should be on a need-to-know basis. Ensure those people with electronic access have a unique ID and password. Do not allow people to share login credentials. Educate yourself and your employees on data security, and specifically the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS).

Regularly monitor and test networks. Track and monitor all access to networks and cardholder data. Maintain a regular testing schedule for security systems and processes, including: firewalls, patches, web servers, email servers, and antivirus.

Maintain an information security policy. Establish a clear and thorough organizational data security policy. Disseminate and update this policy regularly.

PCI non-compliance can result in fines ranging between $5000—$100,000 per month, depending on the size of the offending organization, its severity, and other factors. Non-compliance can also result in legal action, security breaches, and lost revenue.

PCI Requirements for Hosting Providers 

nexcess monitoringIt is virtually impossible for the typical merchant to be PCI compliant without enlisting the services of a compliant hosting provider. Merchants that host their own websites must meet hosting provider requirements in addition to meeting those for merchants. Such a model works for massive enterprises like Amazon and WalMart, but few others. 

Following are some of the highlights of our systems and policies that uphold our status as a PCI-compliant hosting provider. The term “cardholder data environment” refers to any system that stores, processes, or transmits credit card data as well as any system that has access to cardholder data environment itself.

We maintain a web application firewall (WAF), which monitors all connections between the cardholder data environment and other networks. ModSec prohibits public access to sensitive areas, identifies untrusted connections, and hides IP addresses and routing information from unauthorized parties. 

We apply industry-accepted configuration standards for all system components that address all known security vulnerabilities. This extends to our internal and external network, our operating systems, and hardware required to host web services.

We apply cryptography and security protocols that encrypt and protect cardholder data even when transmitted across public networks. SSL certificates and other trusted security keys are unilaterally enforced. Only modern TLS ciphers are permitted.

We restrict physical access to our data center with 24-hour security policies and a team trained to implement them. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Video surveillance with 90-day footage history
  • Secured entry with at least two-factor authentication (PIN, access card) in most areas, and three-factor authentication (PIN, access card, thumbprint) in areas housing the cardholder data environment
  • Visible identification on all team members
  • Visitor policy that prevents unauthorized public access; authorized external individuals have access only to required areas and are escorted at all times 
  • Team members are given access to the cardholder data environment only if their role requires it
  • Restricted access to network jacks, wireless access points, gateways, networks, and other lines of communication

We track and monitor access to network resources and cardholder data, though it falls to clients to maintain logs and monitor logins for their own applications (Magento, WordPress, and so on).  

We regularly test our security systems and processes, and perform internal penetration testing at regular intervals as well as after any significant infrastructure upgrade. 

PCI Requirements for Merchants

Secure store with HostdediProperly implemented, PCI compliance helps merchants adhere to commonly accepted best practices of data security. Hosting with a PCI-compliant provider is a solid first step, but becoming compliant still requires action on your partt.

If your store accepts credit cards as payment, it must be PCI-compliant whether you store that data or not. Choosing a PCI-compliant web host is only the first step. Most credible web hosts can provide merchants with materials outlining their respective responsibilities upon request, but ultimately it is on merchants to understand and meet these requirements. 

Regrettably, there is no “one size fits all” checklist. Your specific responsibilities will vary according to your merchant level (1–4, with 1 being the highest), which is generally determined by the number of credit card transactions your store processes annually. 

The general process for most merchants is:

  1. Identify, understand, and implement the appropriate PCI DSS requirements. 
  2. Complete a Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). The SAQ is a checklist outlining the requirements. Depending on your level, some or all of them will apply to you. Level 1 merchants have the most requirements; level 4, the least.
    Resist the temptation to simply “check every box” in the SAQ. Doing so endangers your customers and exposes your business to liability. The PCI stands to lose money from breaches, and in response may investigate your SAQ and AOC.
  3. Submit to a quarterly scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV), an independent, qualified authority that performs external vulnerability scans on your systems. 
  4. Complete the Attestation of Compliance (AOC), a document asserting that you are both eligible to perform and have in fact performed the SAQ to the best of your ability.
  5. If classified as a level 1 merchant, you must take additional steps, including an on-site assessment. 

If climbing the considerable hurdle of PCI compliance doesn’t appeal to you, you’re not alone. Your hosting provider can answer questions related to overlapping responsibility, and third party Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs) can help businesses run the PCI gauntlet (for a price). 

Even businesses offering only PayPal, Auth.net, and other payment services as payment options must be PCI-compliant because those businesses must still transmit credit card data.

One universal component is the need to confirm that all of your service providers are PCI-compliant. This includes your hosting provider, but also extends to payment processors, payment gateways, POS providers, and any other entities that touch your customers’ cardholder data. 

Some PCI Essentials for Merchants

  • Maintain PCI compliance. Compliance requires ongoing awareness and daily application. Tasks range between daily and annual, but all are recurring.
  • Don’t just check “Yes” to every question in the SAQ. Due diligence protects your business and your customers.
  • Know your code, or use a developer that does. Implement best practices of deployment using staging and dev sites without exception.
  • Establish a secure password policy. Use complex, unique passwords and never allow your staff to share login credentials or use default passwords.
  • Enable two-factor authentication for all of your internal users, and consider providing it as an option for customers logging in to your site.
  • Use a web application firewall (WAF). At Hostdedi, we provide one for all clients and it’s enabled by default.
  • Don’t just take your hosting provider’s word for it. Confirm they’re PCI-compliant and competent by asking for (and getting) their Attestation of Compliance (AOC).
  • Keep your applications and extensions current to the latest stable release, and actively monitor for new threats and versions.

Beyond PCI

If PCI compliance were enough, breaches of high-profile organizations would be far less common. Compliant should not mean complacent.

In reality, PCI compliance is “Cardholder Data Security 101.” It is the minimum acceptable standard and a reasonable introduction, but PCI is far from infallible. Credit card companies require compliance. Merchants adhering to PCI standards will be more effective at protecting consumers than businesses that just pay them lip service, but PCI compliance is only the first step. 

The very nature of PCI — a large, curated document updated only periodically — makes it vulnerable. Standards deemed sufficient in the “current” version are often exposed as inadequate. It can take months or even years for PCI to “catch up,” and bad actors are well aware of its limitations.

The best protection is knowledge. At Hostdedi, we have team members that specialize in web security who stay well-versed in the newest threats, breaches, and countermeasures. Many merchants may be reluctant to enlist the services of a security expert. At the very least, we recommend subscribing to security notifications for your ecommerce application and following at least one credible web security news source. Both sources react much faster than the PCI, and following them will help you “spot the smoke” before it becomes a fire. 

We’re on the List!

Don’t forget, we’re “On the List” of PCI compliant providers officially recognized by the Visa Global Registry. That means we’ve shown a continued commitment to reviewing and improving our security policies to match and exceed PCI compliance requirements. If you’re looking for a PCI compliant provider, hosting with Hostdedi means you’re hosting with an approved and recognized provider. Learn more about the PCI compliant hosting with Hostdedi. 

For guidance with PCI compliance, contact our sales team between 9 a.m.–5 p.m. eastern time, Monday to Friday.  

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WooCommerce Is The Ideal Solution For B2B Sales

WooCommerce Is The Ideal Solution For B2B Sales



WooCommerce has gained massive popularity in the B2C eCommerce market, but it is also an excellent choice for businesses that sell primarily to other businesses.
Compared to consumer eCommerce, B2B eCommerce developed along a different path because it was subject to different pressures. B2B buyers expect more interaction with salespeople, buyers spend more and more products are bought at the same time, and B2B buyers, especially in larger corporations, have requirements that consumers do not. In consequence, B2B eCommerce was slow to take off and was often built on “enterprise” eCommerce solutions with a hefty price tag.
But, in recent years, B2B sellers have adopted many of the lessons learned by their colleagues in the B2C space. Millennial buyers, when appointed to buying roles within their business, expect the same convenience and customer-focused approach from B2B as B2C. The rise of B2B eCommerce makes comparing and assessing suppliers easier than ever before. The double pressures of a fluid market and greater expectations have influenced B2B sellers to up their game.
As Michael Del Gigante puts it, “With so much of their bottom line on the line, B2B e-commerce companies need to start evolving their businesses by reorganizing their websites to serve their business clients as consumers.”

B2B with WooCommerce?

One of the ways B2B eCommerce users can adapt to B2C-shaped expectations is through the tools evolved to serve the needs of consumer-focused eCommerce businesses. Estimates vary, but about a quarter of the eCommerce sites on the web use WooCommerce, and, although primarily designed to serve the needs of B2C retailers, WooCommerce can easily be made into a powerful B2B sales platform.
But what does it take to turn WooCommerce into the ideal B2B eCommerce application? Not a lot. Out of the box, WooCommerce is secure, reliable, and battle-tested. It is capable of supporting many thousands of products and product variants. Its category and tag hierarchies allow for complex custom catalogs. It is free but so popular that support is widely available. If vendor support concerns cause hesitation with WooCommerce adoption, you needn’t worry. Many businesses exist to provide that support.

Bringing B2B Features To WooCommerce

WooCommerce lacks some features that are necessary for B2B and wholesale selling, but they are available as free or paid extensions. As a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce benefits from both WordPress’ massive plugin ecosystem and its own range of extensions.
Dynamic Pricing adds the ability to configure bulk discounts. It includes custom configurations for building finely graded pricing plans that can be applied according to volume purchased or to specific groups of buyers.
B2B sellers often need to restrict categories of products to groups of buyers. There are several WooCommerce extensions for restricting product access according to various criteria. With WooCommerce Protected Categories, sellers can password protect product groups according to category and lock-down product categories by role or user. The extension can be used to create private areas for individual clients and separate B2C and B2B or wholesale areas. The related WooCommerce Private Store can lock-down a store to create a members-only WooCommerce site.
WooCommerce, with the addition of a small number of plugins, is a robust and reliable B2B sales platform, capable of growing as your business grows and adapting to its changing needs.

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Ecommerce SEO: A Complete Guide for 2019

Ecommerce SEO: A Complete Guide for 2019

Do you run an ecommerce store but aren’t sure how to improve its SEO? Worry no more, this is your complete guide to ecommerce SEO.

From keyword research to technical audits, this expert guide takes you on a detailed journey through the ins and outs of ecommerce SEO tactics for ranking your products on page one of Google. 

What are you waiting for, let’s get started!

Laying the Groundwork for Ecommerce SEO

A concrete ecommerce SEO strategy is exactly that: a strategy. And all good strategies start somewhere.

For ecommerce SEO, that starting point is keyword and category research, upon which you’ll build site structure, on-page and technical SEO, and backlinks. 

These, in turn, influence the buyer’s journey. From click to homepage, to checkout, your keyword research should provide a clear rationale for the journey a customer takes, even extending off-site into guest posts and social channels. 

So before we launch into a detailed look at implementing or improving your ecommerce SEO, let’s take a look at the groundwork you need to cover, and why it’s important, first.  

 

Why Ecommerce SEO Matters

Why does ecommerce SEO matter? Is it really just a form of dark magic held by wordsmiths of a digital age?

Let’s break that down. 

Firstly, yes, ecommerce SEO matters. It matters because it’s the key to finding customers and selling products organically. This means without having to pay for advertising. 

Sound pretty sweet, right?

93 percent of online activity begins with a search75% of searchers will not go past page 143 percent of ecommerce traffic is from organic search.

93% of online activity begins with a search, with less than 75% of searchers proceeding past the first page of search results. That means that in order to play the organic game successfully, you’ll need to compete and beat out the competition.

Moreover, as we’ll look at throughout this guide, SEO doesn’t just affect your organic search rankings, it has implications that run throughout your entire site. From UX to structure, SEO is the key to creating buyers journeys that are unforgettable and targeted.

So what about the second question. Is SEO just some form of dark magic?

No. 

Despite what some “experts” would like you believe, SEO is actually a fairly straightforward process (for the most part) that revolves around you proving the relevancy of the pages and content you create. 

For ecommerce, that means attributing value to your products and telling a search engine that is the case. 

What’s best, it’s all easily done by following a simple formula. That’s what we’re going to be looking at here. 

 

Defining Ecommerce Products and Categories

Ecommerce search engine optimization is a little different than typical content SEO.

Google handles content differently, buyers expect it to act differently, and the competition is different. 

Where ecommerce and content SEO differs is in how products should be treated when compared with blog or other content pages. This is especially true if your store offers a large number of products across several categories. 

Take, for instance, if you’re opening a store selling headphones. 

Simply stating “headphones” when it comes to the product title and description isn’t enough. Going even further, the category “headphones” won’t do much to help either the buyer or your SEO either. 

Modern audiences are looking for personalized and detailed buying experiences. These buying experiences mean understanding the differences between, say, “headphones” and “earphones”, “in ear” and “over ear”.

 

Understanding the Difference Between Ecommerce and Content

Ecommerce and content SEO is not the same. 

Why?

To start, visitor intent is different. Content SEO often has the long game in mind. Ecommerce SEO aims to optimize the sales process. Sometimes this means the long game, other times it means more immediate engagement. 

Secondly, ecommerce is arguably a lot more competitive. There are a huge number of products which are very similar. Product attributes then become increasingly important, with even the smallest addition or subtraction potentially making or breaking a sale.

Thirdly, Google handles transactional search queries differently. We will look at this in more detail later. However, what’s important to know is that transactional search queries have search features you won’t find with informational or navigational queries

Finally, site content will be different. Product pages should be treated a little differently than, for example, blog pages. They should still follow the same general rules of focus and relevancy, but they also need to sell a product. This means you’re going to have to intertwine some emotional resonance in that copy. 

As we cover pretty much everything you need to know about ecommerce SEO, keep in mind that every store is different and should be treated differently. 

To create incredible, future-proof ecommerce SEO, make sure that your copy is relevant, informative, and useful. 

Then do the rest. 

Your Ecommerce SEO Stack

Your ecommerce SEO stack should be a collection of applications and websites that enable you to quickly and effectively research and/or confirm your keyword and category suspicions. 

Your ecommerce SEO stack is your main toolset for laying the groundwork and building your store’s online presence. WIthout a good stack you’ll struggle to implement a proper keyword strategy. 

Here’s exactly how you can use a huge range of applications to isolate product differences, find buyer intent, and understand a product’s market. 

 

The Keyword Map

Before you launch any further into this section, you’re going to need a place to store all of your juicy keyword information. Everything you collect needs to be recorded for later!

If you have nothing else available, we recommend pulling up a spreadsheet and creating something which looks like this:

KeywordProductMonthly VolumeCost Per ClickKeyword Difficulty

We’ll come back to what all these different sections mean shortly. For now, you can focus on keyword and product. Here you’ll put any of the keywords you find through your research and the product they are associated with. 

Secondly, create a smaller table that looks like this:

KeywordCategory

This is potential categories. Categories are much larger than keywords. For instance, “Headphones” and “Earphones” may be individual categories as they have large differences. More specific attributes would fall under the keyword sections. 

While conducting keyword research, keep an eye on the different keywords that appear and try to gain inspiration on what categories may and may not work. 

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to get researching!

 

When Google Is Replaced by Amazon

The first tool you have at your disposal is Amazon. As the most popular ecommerce outlet, with a huge range of products, did you think we would (could) start anywhere else?

Amazon is to ecommerce SEO as Google is to content SEO. 

Optimizing internal search is one of Amazon’s priorities, and contributed significantly to a 2018 revenue number in excess of $230 billion.

9 in 10 consumers use amazon to price check a product before making a purchase elsewhere. By positioning the right products in the right places along a buyer’s journey, they increase the chance of making a sale.

To do this, they have had to optimize and perfect their internal search engine and ecommerce SEO to deliver only the most relevant results. 

So, amazon is the perfect place to get started with keyword research

Since we’re interested in selling headphones, we’re going to start by typing “headphones” into search and taking a look at Amazon Suggest

using amazon suggest to search for product suggestions

This gives us two different types of information: ideas for keywords, and ideas for categories. 

Primarily, the keywords we see above are what we call long tail keywords. They are search terms that are actually being searched by real customers and they provide a lot of insight into what they are looking for. 

Taking a quick look, we can see that “headphones for kids”, “headphones with microphone”, and “headphones over ear” are a couple of keywords that stand out.

Since headphones are very close to earphones, we can also take a look at this search result to see if there is any crossover or new long tail keywords we can play with.

Immediately, “earphones with microphone” stands out, as does “earphone splitter” as a potential upsell product. 

Product categories with Amazon Suggest copy

We can also take a look at the categories referenced in these searches. Cell Phones & Accessories appear in both search results, meaning it’s an important category to consider moving forward.

Take this Further

You can take this research even further by using a tool called Keyword Tool Dominator.

Using keyword tool dominator to scrape amazong search suggestions

This tool scrapes a huge number of amazon search suggestions for you, providing keywords for you to add to your keyword and category map.

This can help save a lot of time and provides a fairly big long tail keyword base to work from. As you can see above, the results are different than when we used amazon directly, but are still just as valid moving forward. 

 

The Power of Reddit and Wikipedia

Both Reddit and Wikipedia should be used for generating a longer and more complete list of keywords. 

Taking a look at how headphones are discussed on Reddit

Reddit should be your first port of call as its community is often teeming with advice and recommendations on what others should or shouldn’t purchase. These posts provide a huge amount of information regarding product market, target audience, and keywords.

Of course, this often depends on what type of product you are looking to sell. However, there is often some kind of online community (whether in reddit or not) which talks about products from the perspective of a buyer. 

Wikipedia is also an asset when it comes to keyword research. Just search for any product idea you have: like headphones. 

Wikipedia search for headphones

We’ve highlighted a few key things which appear in the wikipedia search. First we have synonyms. These are words with the same or similar meanings, and are great keyword targets. Even the slang term “cans” is a viable search terms. 

Second is potential categories. We already know that mobile phones are a viable category from the Amazon suggest results. We can now add musical instruments, radio, and video games. 

Finally, we’ve also marked up some words which may be helpful for building out a more complete keyword strategy, including keywords like “bluetooth”, “DECT”, and “high fidelity headphones”.

Wikipedia table of contents

Tip: Don’t forget to take a quick look at the table of contents too. Here you’ll find some good ideas for both categories and keywords. For headphones, we can see a couple of options listed under types. 

 

Identifying Semantic Keywords

Additional bits of language conceptually related to your keywords or products are what are known as semantic keywords (LSI – latent semantic indexing). They are not one of your primary keywords. 

Semantic (LSI) Keywords are those that are linked conceptually.

We can also identify these as Qualifiers and Attributes. They are excellent for building our and understanding categories, as well as for bulking up your keyword strategy. 

For example, LSI keywords for Headphones may be”

  • Bluetooth
  • Noise Cancelling
  • Beats 
  • Microphone 
  • On-Ear

These link conceptually and co-occur with instances of “Headphones” frequently. However, they do not have the same meaning. 

In the wikipedia example above, two examples may be “open back” and “closed back”. These are potentially great binary categories, and provide customers with a clear UX path to purchasing the product they want. 

Remember, these keywords should always be checked with a keyword tool (which we’ll get to later). 

 

Google Trends

Google trends is useful tool for seeing what kind of trends are taking place in the market currently. In the past, we’ve found this tends to require a lot of sifting of data, but it can help you to find golden SEO opportunities if done right. 

auto suggest with google trends for headphones

To begin, we’re again going to want to use the auto suggest feature to see what kind of searches are popular. Luckily, there are a few suggestions for headphones, including the popular search term “noise-cancelling headphones”. We can add that to our keyword map. 

Once we’ve done this, we can scroll down and take a look at the related topics and queries. These can provide us with some good, long tail keywords, and help us to gain deeper insight into the categories we’re looking to create. Oculus VR can probably fall under video game, MacBook Air can fall under computers, and AirPods can fall under mobile phones. 

Tip: Sorting through Google trends can take a long time but it really does offer a wealth of information for merchants that are able to act quickly. Remember that trends are exactly that: trends. There is no guarantee that what is popular now will be even 1 month down the road. 

 

Google Keyword Planner

Once you’ve collected all of your keywords, it’s time to run them through a keyword tool to see what kind of buyer/searcher intent exists. There are a lot of options available to merchants, but we’re going to start with good old Google Keyword Planner. 

Yes, Google, not Amazon. 

The reasons we’re using google is because a large number of ecommerce searches come from search traffic outside of amazon. While Amazon has grown to be larger than Google in terms of ecommerce searches, Google still accounts for over 34% of product searches.

So, taking a look at the list of keywords we’ve found, we’re going to start putting them into the keyword planner to see what it suggests and what we’re looking at in terms of search volume and competition. 

Google Keyword planner used to search for headphones

Starting with the keyword “earphones with microphone”, taken from our first look at Amazon suggest, we’re given a deeper look at how that keyword would perform and several additional options.

But what numbers are we really looking at here and what do they mean?

Avg. monthly searches

This is the average number of searches you can expect each month. Google keyword planner isn’t accurate in this area and we’ll be using another tool later for a better number. 

Competition

This is how hard it is to rank for the keyword. On your keyword map, we’ve called this DIFF.

Top of page bid (both high and low)

These provide a guide to how much an ad would cost per click. This number gives us a really good indication of competition. The higher the cost, the more competition. The lower the cost, the less competition. 

Go through your keywords and add the numbers you find here to you keyword map. We’re going to be using them more later. 

Unsure if your product idea is profitable? We took a deeper look at evaluating whether there is a market for ecommerce ideas

 

Other Keyword Tools

Once you’ve completed everything else, we recommend taking your keyword map and exploring it further with a paid keyword tool. 

For the purposes of this guide, we’re using Mangools’ KWFinder. It’s lightweight, provides a lot of the information we’re going to need, and we’ve found it to be pretty accurate at predicting success in the past. 

Other tools you can use include Ahrefs and SEMRush.

Using a Keyword tool to check the keyword headphones

We’re going to start this section of our research just like each of the other ones: by searching for “headphones”.

Here, we’re given a lot of information on how useful our keywords are. We’ve got a lot more detailed information on search volume, a clear idea of the cost per click (CPC) and an easy metric for judging ranking difficulty. We can also see how search volume has changed historically.

All of these metrics are ones we can use. 

searching headphones with autocomplete in the keyword tool

It’s also possible to take a look at autocomplete suggestions and questions that are asked using the keyword. These sections also provide detailed information on search volume, CPC, and difficulty. 

Once you’ve looked through all of this information and moved what you think is relevant into your keyword map, you’re ready to start sifting through and putting together your primary keywords. 

 

Sifting Through Keywords

Well done on getting this far. If you’ve proceeded through each of the previous steps, you should now have a fairly expansive list of keywords, potential categories, and metrics available to you.

But it’s probably too much. How are you going to take that list and shorten it to create a clear idea of what keywords to use and where to use them? After all, you can’t just stuff it all onto one page.

To solve this problem, we’re going to need to take a deeper look at those metrics we pulled earlier. 

When looking at keywords and metrics, it’s important to remember three general rules:

  • Higher search volume means more potential

  • Lower difficulty means easier ranking

  • Lower CPC means less competition

Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the types you metrics you’ve gathered and what they mean. 

Don’t forget to check the semantic keywords you found as well. These can come in handy during category creation.

 

Search Volume

Search Volume is a good indicator of how much traffic you could potentially see to your product. Know that this is searches, not click throughs. Even result number 1 doesn’t receive all of that traffic (but a fairly significant portion of it).

Knowing what number is good here is really about understanding how niche your target audience is. Clearly, headphones are a large consumer market (who doesn’t own a pair in the mobile phone age?).

As a result, large numbers are going to be good here. We would say anything with over 1,000 searches per month is going to net you a return. If you’re looking to sell more specific or specialized headphones or products, such as headphone amplifiers, a smaller search volume is ok. 

Headphones with mic as a high search volume keyword

“Headphones with mic” has a search volume of 2,400. This is pretty high and means that if you make it to the first page, you’re probably going to get a good amount of traffic. For merchants who stock this product, they would probably want to add priority to this keyword. 

 

Keyword Difficulty

Before looking at CPC, we’re going to take a quick peek at keyword difficulty. 

Different tools measure difficulty in different ways. KWFinder measures it in terms of the link profile strength from other competitors on the first search engine results page. We like this method as it provides a nice understanding of page 1 ranking competition. 

The lower the score, the better. It’s going to be harder to rank for higher numbers.

Low keyword difficulty is a good indicator of high-value keywords

KWFinder’s color coding here is really helpful. Anything in green is usually very easy to rank for  – depending on a few factors. These are low hanging fruit and you’re going to want to target them if possible. 

In the example above, keywords like “neckband headphones” have really high search volume and low difficulty. A combination of these two metrics makes this a high-value keyword. Similarly, “best DJ headphones” is another with this perfect combination of factors.

Finding this golden SEO combination is the key to isolating the best keywords available to you. 

 

Cost Per Click

Cost per click (CPC) indicates how much an individual click will cost in Google ads. 

But wait, you want to rank organically, not for paid ads. Why does this matter?

CPC is a great indicator of competition. The higher the value of a click, the more merchants are bidding for a smaller customer pool. This number can fluctuate a lot. According to Search Engine Watch, the most expensive keyword in terms of CPC in 2016 was “best mesothelioma lawyer”. Each click was valued at $935.71. 

CPC for the keyword headphones with KWFinder

You should not expect numbers anywhere near this large. The most expensive CPC for headphones is just $3.24. This travels all the way down to just $0.14 for “gumy headphones”. 

What you’re really looking for is a number in the middle here. You don’t want to go for a keyword with too little competition as there’s probably a reason for that (it doesn’t lead to a high conversion rate). You also don’t want to go for something too high as it may be because it’s too hard to rank for or compete on.

Taking the top and bottom numbers of “headphones”, we’ve set a range between $0.60 – $1.50. This actually only filters out a handful of results and leaves us with a pretty broad spectrum of results. 

 

Bring It All Together

Once you’ve done this, you should now have a pretty complete picture of what your keyword strategy should look like.

Take those keywords remaining on your keyword map and organize them based on relevancy and metrics (remembering the general rules above).

 

Site Structure

Once you’ve completed your keyword research, it’s time to put that research into practice by using it to inform your site structure (or site architecture).

Site structure is already an important part of SEO for any site. However, with ecommerce sites, it’s even more important due to the number of products and pages. 

A clearer site structure makes it easier for customers to find specific products, for search engines to index them, and for merchants to create exquisite buyer journeys. The more pages and products you have, the more important this stage will be. 

Don’t Skip this

 

Optimizing site structure means following two simple rules:

  • The rule of simple scalability
  • The rule of proximity to your homepage

These two rules embody two core principles behind best practices web development: simplicity and connection.

They show that it’s important to add pages to your site in a way that supports simple site architecture, while also ensuring that no page is more than 3 clicks away from you homepage. 

These two rules relate heavily to “deep” site architecture

 

Creating “Deep” Site Architecture

In general, most external links (packed with backlink juiciness) are going to be directed towards the homepage. This means that most of your authority is going to exist on this page (probably). 

As you build out your site, you’re going to want to create a clear pathway for that authority to “flow” from the top to the bottom. 

In the example below, domain authority filters from the home page down through to the product pages (which are just 2 clicks away). 

A good Site Structure is simple and easy to navigate

With more complex sites with more pages, this would probably have to be built out even more. It would include multiple mid-level pages and many, many more product pages. Whatever you do, it’s important to ensure that product pages are no more than 3 clicks from your home page.

If you have fewer products, it’s important that they are no more than 2 clicks from the homepage. This ensures a streamlined customer journey and makes for easier indexing by search engines. Take a look at some of your competitors if you’re unsure and see how they do it.

Tip: don’t put too many pages in level 2 if you can help it. The more pages on each level, the lower authority each page is given. The “deep” structure is designed to dilute that authority vertically instead of horizontally. 

 

Bad SEO Site Structure 

Bad site structure is easy to diagnose. It flies in the face of both simple rules above:

  • The rule of simple scalability
  • The rule of proximity to your homepage

Instead of allowing for authority to drip down from the top, it creates meandering mazes that create uneven buyer journeys and hard to navigate UX. 

A bad site structure has no structure

The example above also puts 6 pages between the homepage and the product. 

That’s 7 clicks between arriving at the site and finding the product they want. Not only is this terrible UX, it also all but guarantees that your conversion rate will drop significantly (unless you happen to have an audience that loves website mazes).

Tip: If your site structure looks like it does above, don’t rush into moving everything around and changing your site structure. This will lead to changes in URLs, which means a lot of pages will lose their existing SEO value. Before engaging in a site redesign, we recommend getting in touch with an SEO professional to help, if it’s something you feel needs to be done. 

 

Categories

Now that you know the basics of site structure, we can start to apply the keyword research we performed in the last step. 

Where this is mainly going to make a difference is on the category pages. Do you remember those qualifiers and attributes we identified in the first section? We also called them semantic (LSI) keywords

These terms are great for creating categories. Make sure that you check them with the keyword tool as well.

For the purposed of this exercise, we’re going to start with two category pages, “open back” and “closed back”. These provide us with a nice way to split any products we have down the middle, despite not necessarily having some of the best keyword metrics around.

If you structure your site for best results, your URL structure should mimic your site structure. 

Take the “open back headphones” and “closed back headphones” example from our wikipedia research. These would create two different categories “open back” and “closed back”, and the following URLs:

www.myheadphones.com/open-back/

www.myheadphones.com/closed-back/

Products would then fall under these categories and the URL would look like this:

www.myheadphones.com/open-back/product

 

Product Variations

Product variations should not be addressed in your site structure. Differences such as color, size, material, or similar attributes should be addressed with your ecommerce CMS.

The line between these variations and genuine categories is a thin one. Generally, best practice is to keep niche attributes with high volume or competition as categories, while taking more general attributes such as color and size, and setting them as variations. 

set attributes for products in Magento 2 easily

Magento is particularly powerful when it comes to setting up product attributes. Not only does it allow you to set different values and settings, it also allows for attributes to be displayed differently in different parts of your store or different regions. 

Other applications like WooCommerce are also very capable of managing attributes, but don’t have some of the advanced functionality you’ll find with Magento. 

Tip: Before actually putting together your site structure, it’s a good idea to compare the differences between ecommerce CMS. Make sure to check for features which line up with your requirements for SEO. We recommend Magento in most cases as it allows for much more customization.

 

The Best Ecommerce SEO Site Structure

The best ecommerce site structures follow the two simple rules above and ensure that all authority and links flow from the homepage towards categories and then out to products. 

An example of a good site structure where authority flows down

In the example above, the categories have been separated into two levels, allowing for more products to be represented and simplifying the buyer’s journey. In turn, these level two categories flow into the product pages along the bottom. 

If you were setting up site structure for an earphone/headphone site, you may place “earphones” as one top level category, and “Headphones” as another. Level two would then diversify into other features such as “Noise Cancelling”, “bluetooth”, or other options. 

We do not suggest going past this 4 level structure as that would mean more than 3 clicks from the homepage to reach a product. This will lead to a bad user experience and a hit to conversions.

 

On-Page Ecommerce Search Engine Optimization

Ok, you’ve made it this far. 

You’ve got your keyword map and you’ve created a solid site structure. Now it’s time to start creating the actual pages and optimizing them for SEO. 

Here we’re going to show you how all that groundwork you’ve prepared is going to pay off. We’ll walk through keyword placement, on-page optimization factors, and what makes ecommerce SEO unique. 

 

 

The Ecommerce Focus

There are 3 primary query types defined by Google and each shows different types of results.

  • Transactional
  • Informational
  • Navigational

Optimizing SEO for ecommerce is different because Google treats ecommerce search results differently than they do other queries.

Since we’re talking about ecommerce SEO in this article, we’re going to focus on Transactional search engine results pages (SERPs).

To do this, let’s take a look at a simple ecommerce search query and break down what we see. The query we’re going to use is “buy bluetooth headphones”.

Ecommerce SERP sponsored carosel results

Immediately, the first thing we’re shown is a sponsored product carousel. These are products that Google has deemed relevant to your search query and are based on you own ad selection settings. They are paid ads (we can tell by the sponsored tag in the top right), so ranking here is going to depend on numerous factors, including your ad spend. 

Directly below this, you can see the delivery of an adwords ad, along with typical search query results. These usually last for a couple of results before moving back into another ecommerce SERP feature. 

Product recommendations

In the case of our search query, that is a carousel for the best bluetooth headphones and headsets. This is actually more of an information section, providing information scraped from popular sites and displayed in an easy to read manner. It is organic.

People also ask in Ecommerce SERPSScrolling down a little, we are then shown the “People also ask” box. Here, long tail questions with higher search volume are listed and answered in easy dropdown text boxes. This is also organic and not paid. 

Product research through Google SERPS

Further down still and we’re shown a series of articles relevant to our search query. These allow for buyers to perform even more research before making a purchasing commitment. These are also organic.

Refine product search by brand in SERPS

Below this, we’re able to refine our search based on brand. We’re offered a couple of options here. Clicking on one takes you to a google search for that brand’s name combined with your search query above. 

Map of local businesses to buy a product from

Finally, the last thing you will see if a map with the location of local businesses you can purchase the product you’ve searched for from. To really make the most of this section you need to optimize your local businesses SEO. 

 

The Move to Informational

Following some level of criticism over too much paid placement in search results, Google have dialed it back a lot more recently. A lot of the information we see on the results page is actually informational – despite the fact that we have a transactional query. 

This means that content and a solid content strategy is an ever increasing part of ecommerce search optimization. 

Take a look at your keyword map and see if there are any clear opportunities for content creation. Then take a look at whether you think it is a good idea to start a blog on your website. 

We’ll be picking up on how to implement an SEO content strategy for ecommerce sites a little later.

 

A Deeper Look at Keywords

How Many Keywords?

It’s often one of the first questions asked by merchants trying to solve their SEO woes: “How many times should I use this keyword”. Well, there’s no precise answer to this question, but just as with everything SEO, there are a couple of rules you can follow. 

  1. Keep usage clear, relevant, and precise (no keyword cramming)
  2. Consider use of semantic keywords
  3. Make keywords meaningful

We’ve seen articles that state you should only use them 3 or 4 times. We’ve seen articles which state they should be used 5 or 6 times. 

Yes, best practice states that using a keyword less is better than using it more. However, there’s also something to be said for how Google (and language processing networks in general) analyze text. As long as your keywords are making semantic sense and appropriate, write away. 

If that’s not good enough, as a general guide, use 1 keyword per page and use it 3-5 times per 1000 words.

Mix in a small number of semantic keywords where needed and you’re good to go.

Take the text below as an example of a product description for a pair of noise cancelling headphones we want to rank.

The Audio Creator To the Beat Noise Cancelling Headphones are some of the best on ear, active noise cancelling headphones around. Take your music wherever you think it’s needed with either bluetooth support or the 3.5mm jack. Experience high fidelity sound like you never have before.

The words in bold above are semantic keywords we identified during our keyword research. We’ve included a lot of them in the product description, but they all make sense and none are out of place.

Long Tail vs Short Tail Keywords

When putting together content, you’re going to see that there are primarily three different types of keywords you have to play with. The first two are short tail and long tail keywords.

Short tail keywords are exactly as you would expect: shorter. They tend to have much higher monthly search volume and difficulty. But that’s ok because these pages should be closer to the homepage. That means they will have more authority flow into them: and so will have more power to rank. 

An example of a short tail keyword would be “bluetooth headphones”, or even just “headphones”.

Long tail keywords are longer. They have lower search volume and difficulty. More and more, long tail keywords and mimicking natural language patterns; usually in the form of questions. 

An example of a long tail keyword would be “what are the best bluetooth headphones?” or “The best bluetooth headphones of 2019”. 

We recommend using a mix of short tail and long tail keywords on pages when possible. The higher up in the site structure, the more you’re going to want to optimize for the short tail. 

 

Optimizing Category Pages

Keyword Structure for the different products

In this example, the category pages are optimized for Noise Cancelling and Wireless short tail keywords. These pages would contain some text about the different attributes and internal links to the top products. 

Below these would be the long tail keywords for the products themselves. The Audio Creator To the Beat headphones would be searched by fewer customers than just “Noise Cancelling Headphones”. We still want to rank for it, but because of the lower search volume and difficulty, it’s ok to place this on the product page – further from the homepage. 

 

Semantic Keywords for Ecommerce (LSI)

On top of short tail and long tail keywords, you also need to consider semantic keywords. This are also known as LSI (or Latent Semantic Indexing).

As we discussed earlier, semantic keywords are those that are conceptually linked to the main keywords. For ecommerce, these are often product attributes and features. 

Examples of semantic keywords in Amazon search results of noise cancelling headphones

If you’re unsure about what semantic keywords there are, take a look at Amazon and search for you product. 

In the example above, we highlighted several keywords which seem to appear frequently across the page in the product titles. These include words like “active” for noise cancelling, “bluetooth”, and “over ear”. 

We could take this deeper and explore product descriptions to see relevant, frequent words. We recommend looking at several different products like this and then putting the semantic keywords you find into your keyword map. 

They should then be sprinkled throughout copy on different pages – especially in product descriptions. They tell Google that your page is relevant and informative. 

Don’t overdo it. Moderation and relevance is key here, so follow the same rules as you would for other keywords with the exception that you can use multiple semantic keywords on one page

 

How Much Content?

Talking about the number of words, how many should you have on each page?

Google ranks longer content higher, so your product descriptions should be hitting 1000 words (at least). 

This isn’t a length thing. It’s not the more words you have the higher your pages are going to rank. If that were the case then everyone would be writing 10,000 word articles. 

It’s that a well-written article or product page provides more than just a quick answer or description. In terms of ecommerce, a well written product description goes into depth about the product and what it can do. 

When google then analyzes the page and its text, it will be able to see your keyword (assigning relevancy) and any semantic keywords (assigning extended relevancy) present. 

 

Ecommerce On-Page SEO

An ecommerce product page optimized for search will look (roughly) like this:

the ultimate page setup for ecommerce SEO

So what is everything there and how can you ensure you’re providing enough information? Let’s walk through each of these different areas and look at them in detail. 

 

The Ecommerce Title Tag and Meta Description

Meta content is vital, not only for your ecommerce store’s SEO, but for click through rates from the search results page as well. 

When deciding on a title tag, be sure to include the main keyword for the page and place it towards the front of the title tag. Try to make the copy here convincing as it will directly affect click through rates. Including terms like “The best” or “Cheap” or something similar can really help to improve click through rates.

The meta description isn’t as important in terms of direct SEO. However, it’s still going to influence click through rates. Again, using terms like “Cheap” and “Best” here will probably increase click through rate. Just make sure that it’s easy to read and understand. 

 

The URL

There are two key things you URL needs to consider:

  1. Site structure
  2. Your keyword

Implement both in this section and you’ll be fine. 

The example above uses both the “noise-cancelling” keyword from our category page and the keyword from our product page.

 

The H1 Tag

This is one of the most important pieces of information you’ll have on the page and best practice is to keep it simple and short. In some cases, it’s even worth just using your main keyword directly.

Of course, this depends on the page. 

Products should include the product name. Take a look at what Amazon does with their main titles on the page. 

An example of Amazons H1 tag

This H1 tag is long and wordy. Part of the reason for this is how Amazon’s search algorithm works and the competition between similar products. 

Website h1 tag from Bose

However, if we take a look at a product like Bose, who are trying to rank on Google, we see a different picture. Their H1 tag is short and simple. It is the product name itself. This is because their product has search volume in its own right. 

Tip: deciding on how you are going to treat your H1 tags depends on the products you’re selling. Does the product itself have search volume? If not, it may be worth taking more of an Amazon seller approach. 

For category pages, it’s recommended that you stick to the short tail keyword you’ve opted to use. For the example above “Noise Cancelling Headphones” would be perfect. 

 

Product Description

This is the meat of your page and where most of its SEO value will come from. 

As we discussed earlier, at a minimum, you’re going to want to include 1000 words here. The more the better (within reason). 

Don’t forget that you should also include your keywords here: both short tail and semantic. We recommend aiming for 3 uses of your main keyword, with an additional sprinkling of your others. 

Take a look at some of your competitors to see how they have done this. This can give you a lot of insight into what works and what doesn’t in your industry. 

This content should also have emotional relevance and pull for your audience. This is outside the purview of ecommerce SEO, so we won’t cover it here, but a clear understanding of your target audience (personas) is vital to creating this content. Your keyword research should help to inform this. 

We also recommend placing keywords in H2 title tags if possible. H2 tags are given higher priority than body text, so well positioned keywords here attached increased relevance to a page. 

 

The Alt Image

Google understands that images help make content easier to digest. When was the last time you clicked on a web page and there were no images? Even Wikipedia has images scattered throughout. 

As a result, including images won’t only make a difference in terms of conversion, it also helps with SEO (yes, really). 

When inserting an image, try to think of a relevant alt tag. This should describe the image for those with sight impairments. If it’s a side shot of a pair of headphones, something like “side short of Audio Creator To the Beat headphones” would work. 

 

An Ecommerce Internal Linking Strategy

Depending on the ecommerce platform you’ve opted to use, you should already have a lot of internal links on your site. Links from category pages, links from product pages to frequently viewed products, and more. 

This makes ecommerce SEO much easier than in a lot of other industries. 

However, putting in some strategic internal links is aldo going to help and it does align with SEO best practices. So how do you do it?

Start by taking a look at which pages are high priority. Which pages get the most traffic and see the highest conversion rates / are vital to the customer journey? 

Are you going to have a blog?

We recommend that you start a blog.

When you publish new articles, link them to the high priority product pages. The higher the article with rank, the more authority will flow into the product page (just like with our homepage down technique). 

Remember, when creating anchor text (the actual link text), use a keyword rich search term. 

Creating anchor text for blog articles to link to product pages internal linking

In the above example, we’re linking to the noise cancelling headphones category page, so are using the anchor text “The best noise cancelling headphones”. This is both relevant and has high volume according to our keyword research. 

 

Rich Snippets and Product Reviews

What’s one thing ecommerce SEO has that content SEO only sometimes has? 

That’s right, reviews. 

Product Reviews and rich snippets are an important part of SEO

Take a look at the results of “bose noise cancelling headphones 700”. Every single one on the first page includes review stars. Every. Single. One.

So how do you get this on your product pages?

By using Schema Markup. 

Schema markup is a code for telling Google and other search engines more about a page and what information is on it. It’s vital for having “rich snippets” in search results, and for including product review stars in the search results. 

To add reviews, you can add code as defined by the schema.org review page. Google provide more in-depth information on how to include and mark up this information using JSON, with examples. 

Google Structured Markup Helper tool the the categories you can choose

It’s also possible to use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. This provides a simple wizard where you are siven several options on what to do and what you want to appear. It will then create the code for you, which you can just copy and paste onto your page. 

Remember, to input reviews for the structured data markup here, you’ll want to select the products category. This will allow you to add the review and more information. 

Google Search Console Enhancements for checking Rich snippets

To check if these are working, head to the Google Search Console and check under Enhancements. The different schema that Google is able to track will be listed here under the different categories. 

Since we selected the products category above, we can see products listed in this section. If you have not activated schema properly (or it hasn’t been indexed) then nothing will show up here.

 

Technical SEO

You should now have an ecommerce SEO optimized website. 

You’ve conducted keyword research, you’ve created a concrete site structure, and you’ve optimized on-page copy and meta.

The Next thing you’re going to want to do is launch a technical SEO audit. This is going to help  you diagnose any problems with your SEO from a technical perspective.

Technical audits can easily find themselves stuck in the weeds. In this section we’ll take a look at how you can conduct a simple audit for yourself, and how to fix some of the most important issues which spring up. 

What Does a Technical Ecommerce SEO Audit Include?

A technical SEO audit takes a look at what may be broken on your site. It scans the site code to look for issues that can easily be fixed and often provides a clear way to fix them.

Some of the errors an SEO audit should pick up on are:

  • Broken links
  • Faulty redirects
  • Page title and meta issues
  • Duplicate content
  • Incorrect XML sitemaps
  • Bad robots and directives
  • Site structure and architecture problems
  • JavaScript hiccups
  • Schema “rich snippet” issues

There are additional areas that a technical audit will touch on, but the above are the main areas this guide is going to cover. 

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to use Raven Tools. We’re choosing this as it provides information on all the areas we’ve mentioned above, and is arguably the easiest to use. To keep taking advantage of it you’ll need to pay a subscription. However, you can get started with a 14 day free trial.

Screaming Frog is a great tool for conducting a technical audit

Screaming Frog is also a good tool for conducting technical audits. It provides information on a lot of different areas and allows site owners to look a lot deeper into the issues their site is having. This means that it is a lot more complicated to use than Raven Tools, so we’re not going to talk about it here. We do recommend taking a look at it if you want to delve deeper. 

Finding Technical SEO Issues

Start by signing up to Raven tools and logging in. Once logged in, you should be presented with a request to set up a campaign. These campaigns are based around website URLS. So go ahead and enter your website URL for the campaign or project you want to manage, then click continue. 

Prepare for a technical audit by entering your sites URL

Once you’ve gone through the setup wizard and selected the choices, head to the left sidebar and then open the SEO research drop down and then SEO Auditor Classic. After your site has been crawled, you’ll then be provided with a summary of the different areas you need to respond to. 

Technical SEO audit issues as found through Raven Tools

Now you’re possibly going to see a lot of different things here. We simply don’t have space to go through each of the different technical audits you’ll see. Instead of covering everything, we’re going to look at the most important issues the tool can highlight and show you how to fix them. 

Let’s get started. 

Solving the Top Ecommerce SEO Issues

Duplicate Content

Despite being a major concern in terms of SEO, this is a very common problem. The very nature of ecommerce sites (especially large ones) does not help.

However, it’s an easy fix with the right time commitment and a few changes to your technical SEO.

How to Fix It

Fixing duplicate content issues is simply done by following three techniques:

  • Make sure content across your site is unique
  • Employ Canonical URLs when needed
  • Avoid heavy boilerplate content

Yes, creating unique content can be a huge time drain – especially if you’re aiming for 1000+ words for each product. However, it will make a huge difference in terms of how well your site will rank. 

The second thing you should make sure you’re doing is using canonical tags.

Do you have a few pages that have to be very similar? In these cases it’s best to implement a canonical tag on that page. 

The canonical tag will state which page is the primary page – which one you want to rank in Google. 

Let’s say we have two products that are very, very similar. We want them both to rank in Google, but they can’t because they are just that similar. One is selling A LOT more than the other, and we’ve decided it’s time to start climbing the SEO ladder. 

We would take both product pages and implement a canonical tag that directs to the higher-performance page. This will tell Google that this is the page you want to be indexed.

Canonical tags can be implemented with a SEO plugin or through code. However, we recommend getting in touch with a technical SEO professional about this as there is a smorgasbord of rules to consider (too many to list here). 

 

A Slow Site

Slow sites are a common problem and there’s no one way to fix it. It really depends on the reason behind why the site is slow.

This can be:

  • Hosting problems
  • Global customers accessing a single data center location
  • Uncompressed images and files
  • Poorly coded content
How to Fix It

The first thing you should do is check your hosting platform. They are not always the problem, but it’s an easy first port of call.

Get in touch with your support team and see if they can see anything wrong. If they can’t find anything, then that means it’s probably something wrong with your code or content. 

Hosting isn’t always the problem with site speed, but it’s an easy first port of call. 

To narrow down what code or pages are causing problems, head into analytics and take a peek at Behavior > Site Speed.

This will give you a good idea of the different page timings and which pages are showing the problem. Remember, metrics like TTFB are not the ones you should be looking at. From here, you may be able to see consistencies across you site and resolve the problem yourself. 

It’s very possible that certain pages just have elements which are taking a long time to load (e.g. images). If this is the case, try lowering their file size with compression and see if site speed improves. 

Perhaps the speed issue isn’t your hosting or your code, but a location issue. If a large amount of your site traffic is coming from a different country than your hosting provider, it may be time to either switch hosting provider or (the better option) invest in a CDN.

A CDN will give you a good kick in terms of speed around the world, and it makes your site more secure!

Unsure how to choose a data center location? Check our guide.

 

Your Site Is Not Secure

This is a big one and something that a lot of ecommerce merchants have been slow to buy into. However, it’s a really easy problem to fix and can be resolved in a few minutes.

How to Fix It

Buy and install an SSL certificate on your site.

Yes, it’s that simple.

A SSL certificate will keep your site secure.

In July 2018, Google made SSL certificates pretty much compulsory for all websites. On average, unencrypted sites now face a 5% decrease in organic visibility.

Not only does it affect how Google ranks you, it also has a huge impact on click through rates. Just 2% of customers will proceed past the dreaded “not secure” warning page of a site without an SSL.

Not sure where to get an SSL certificate? Let us help you and head to our SSL page.

 

 

Time To Put Your Ecommerce SEO to the Test

Now you’ve read about how to get started with ecommerce SEO, it’s time for you to put it all into practice.

Spin up your admin panel and get to work creating your keyword map, site structure, and finessing your technical SEO.  

We want to know what you think is the most important for ecommerce SEO.

What strategy did you find most useful and what does your keyword map look like?

Let us know!

The post Ecommerce SEO: A Complete Guide for 2019 appeared first on blog.nexcess.net.

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3 Reasons Why Your B2B Business Needs an eCommerce Store

3 Reasons Why Your B2B Business Needs an eCommerce Store

Consumer-focused retailers were quick to embrace ecommerce when it became a practical sales platform more than two decades ago. Today, the majority of B2C retailers have an ecommerce store. B2B suppliers, however, were slow to adopt ecommerce. B2B sales relationships are quite different to those in the B2C world, often involving contractual negotiations, personal relationships between procurement and sales professionals, and a host of other concerns that don’t apply when selling to consumers.

Even today, it is estimated that 80 percent of manufacturers and distributors process orders manually rather than via an ecommerce store. However, the winds of change are blowing through the B2B commerce space as millennials begin to dominate procurement roles. Half of B2B researchers and buyers are digital natives who expect B2B sales to offer the same convenience as the consumer stores they are familiar with.

Businesses that fail to embrace B2B ecommerce will soon be at a substantial competitive disadvantage compared to their more forward-looking competitors.

Business Buyers Rely on Google

Once upon a time, a procurement professional would pick up the phone and talk to a supplier’s sales advisor when their company wanted to buy a product. 

That’s no longer the case. Most B2B product searches start with Google. On average, B2B buyers carry out 12 searches before they interact directly with a potential supplier. If a B2B seller doesn’t have an online presence with a detailed description of their products, they won’t even be on the buyer’s shortlist.

Online Catalogs are Non-Negotiable

A survey conducted earlier this year found that 83 percent of B2B buyers will spend more to make a purchase “from suppliers that offer a robust ecommerce experience.” 

Why would they willing to spend more? Because ecommerce reduces the complexity of B2B procurement and the amount of manual labor involved. The cost efficiencies of ecommerce-based procurement are of real value to businesses looking to reduce procurement spending. Buyers are often prepared to pay a little more to suppliers because ecommerce reduces their overall procurement spend.

Ecommerce Offers Easier Integration

We have already noted that business buyers prefer solutions that allow them to find cost efficiencies within the procurement process. That’s why so many businesses have invested in eProcurement and spend management platforms. EProcurement allows businesses to see what they’re spending and where, to implement rigorous procurement policies, and to eliminate manual labor. 

However, eProcurement platforms are only as good as the data they have access to.

Many B2B buyers now require suppliers to integrate with their eProcurement platform to automate the transfer of data. They want catalogs, purchase orders, and invoices to move between the buyer and the seller automatically. An ecommerce store makes integration relatively straightforward; there are many solutions that can integrate eProcurement platforms with major ecommerce applications like Magento and WooCommerce.

Businesses without an ecommerce store can’t offer the level of integration buyers expect, and they’re unlikely to win sales from businesses that prefer suppliers who can offer close integration.

A B2B supplier without an ecommerce store is invisible to a large part of the market and unacceptable to many buyers, which puts it at a competitive disadvantage.

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Magento vs WooCommerce: How Opposites Attract

Magento vs WooCommerce: How Opposites Attract

Magento vs WooCommerceChoosing the right ecommerce CMS is important. Not only does it influence what you’re able to do, it also allows you to set expectations in terms of development costs and timeframes. 

Two applications you’ll be introduced to early on are Magento and WooCommerce. Both are used by an impressive number of stores. WooCommerce has over 3 million stores using it as a platform, while Magento has over 200,000. Both also offer great feature sets that can be expanded easily with extensions, and both have incredibly supportive communities.

So why would you choose one over the other? 

This article takes a look at exactly that, by pitting Magento and WooCommerce against each other. If you’re a merchant that still needs to make this choice, then keep reading to find out more. 

Summary

Magento pros and cons

Magento Pros and Cons

Magento is a powerful ecommerce platform capable of empowering merchants to create storefronts unlike any other. Originally released March 2008, it has since grown and inspired the release of a new version, Magento 2, in 2015. This version has gone on to become the perfect ecommerce platform for storefronts with a global reach.

Pros

  • A powerful ecommerce platform capable of creating unique user experiences
  • Offers more customization options that WooCommerce
  • An incredible community that, despite being smaller than WooCommerce’s, manages to easily hold its own
  • True hosting optimization through an optimized Magento hosting provider

Cons

  • Requires a developer to create a fully functioning storefront
  • Costs more than a WooCommerce implementation

WooCommerce pros and Cons

WooCommerce Pros and Cons

As a plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce comes armed with features that make it great for managing both content and ecommerce. Originally launched in 2011, it has grown to become the most used and versatile ecommerce platform around, with over 3 million active installs worldwide. 

Pros

  • Easy to use and get started with
  • A huge range of templates and themes for merchants without any coding knowledge
  • Allows for better integration of the ecommerce and content sections of a site

Cons

  • Doesn’t afford the same level of customization as Magento
  • Doesn’t allow for the creation of unique buyer experiences to the same degree as Magento
  • Lacks some of the truly powerful integrations available

Performance

Questions about speed and power are usually some of the first questions merchants ask. Most of the time, merchants need to prioritize one. That especially holds true when comparing Magento and WooCommerce.

While Magento may offer more in terms of power, it also requires more resources to deliver the same experience as WooCommerce. WooCommerce, on the other hand, is a very lightweight and fast platform, but it lacks a lot of the functionality you’ll find with Magento. 

WooCommerce Is Lightweight

Magento vs WooCommerce in terms of performanceWe’ll say it again: WooCommerce is lightweight. This means the same hardware and resources can serve more customers with a WooCommerce store than with a Magento one. Take a look at our SIP and SIPWOO plans to see what this means in terms of real numbers. 

MagentoWooCommerce
Daily Visitors5,00010,000

*Based on a SIP 400 server build.

Despite meaning more customers, the lightweight WooCommerce platform has comparatively limited functionality. When creating a Magento store, merchants are empowered to create integrated, omnichannel journeys, where their online storefront is just a part of the buyer’s experience. With WooCommerce, this just isn’t the case. 

WooCommerce lacks an out of the box ability to track activity through other channels and deliver a personalized experience. This feature can be added by installing several plugins. However, any store overloaded with plugins is then going to suffer in terms of performance.

Magento Requires the Right Host

For Magento, it’s important to host with a provider that offers optimized infrastructure. While several providers state that they offer optimized hosting, the reality is that only a handful truly optimize their infrastructure for Magento. Hostdedi is known to offer a truly optimized hosting foundation. Here are four reasons why

In addition to finding the right hosting provider, the quality of the code used to create a Magento store can also have a significant impact. Poorly edited code and unoptimized extensions can easily cause any server-side optimizations to lose their significance. If you’ve tried everything else and your store is still crawling, it may be a good idea to start a code audit. 

Poorly edited Magento code and unoptimized extensions can easily cause any server-side optimizations to lose their significance.

Two Different Performance Bands

Like much of this comparison, Magento and WooCommerce fall into two different performance bands. WooCommerce is a lightweight contender, with comparatively less power behind it, but it is quick and nimble. Magento has much more power behind it, but it needs a lot of support from behind the scenes.

We’re calling this a draw, with the better application’s performance-based specific use cases and what they need: power or speed. 

Functionality

Magento has long been known as the ecommerce king of functionality. Not only does it allow for the creation of unique and personalized user journeys, but its integration capabilities are second to none. 

With that said, a savvy developer can still get a lot out of WooCommerce.  Both applications come with REST API, allowing developers better management of products and orders. This also provides flexibility for developers to build an API that meets the needs of diverse merchants. 

The WooCommerce REST API documentation (including hooks, endpoints, filters, and more) can be found here. Similar documentation for Magento can be found here

WooCommerce Requires WordPress

Functionality is an easy win for Magento While the use of REST API with WooCommerce does give it an edge in terms of functionality, the ecommerce platform still isn’t on par with Magento. WooCommerce requires WordPress. With that comes design and functionality limitations you won’t find with Magento. 

For most merchants running WooCommerce, this shouldn’t be a problem. While the limitations exist, this hasn’t stopped a lot of merchants from creating unique storefronts that appeal to large customer bases. 

Coffeebros.com, for example, has created a storefront that includes discounts, calls to action, and a clean, easy to understand buying experience. Weber.co.za, the grill provider, has also created an easy-to-use store that integrates both their ecommerce and content recipe sections seamlessly.

This is one of the biggest pros for WooCommerce: it lets merchants integrate the content and ecommerce sections of their site seamlessly. This process can be a lot more difficult with Magento.  

Magento Powers Global Commerce

Magento powers some of the biggest ecommerce stores in the world. There’s a reason for this: the functionality it offers global retailers. 

Magento allows for Global storefronts with regional differences.

HP transformed their selling experience in the Asian Pacific through Magento. They launched five different stores on a single platform, with regional differences and global similarities. This allowed them to meet local requirements for payments, fulfillment, language, and order technicalities, while also optimizing site management with global consistencies. 

Rubik’s also managed to create a strong global online presence quickly, using Magento to expand worldwide. Magento’s functionality made it easy for them to spin up new regional storefronts and landing pages. Something which would have been a lot more complicated with other platforms. 

Not only does Magento allow for easier access to international markets, but it also enables more in-depth customization of the buyer’s experience. Just take a look at the difference between a typical Magento site and a typical WooCommerce site. 

Still the King of Functionality: Magento

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this category goes to Magento. Its ability to customize the buyer’s experience and create unique, international storefronts is something you just can’t do in the same way with WooCommerce. Moreover, with Adobe’s integrations weaving themselves into the Magento ecosystem, its functionality is only going to improve. 

Security

Security for an ecommerce store is vital. Not only does it help prevent loss of customer PII, but it also ensures that merchants remain in compliance with the Payment Card Industry standards (PCI Compliance) needed to sell effectively online. 

While both applications offer environments backed up by security teams and vigilant communities, WooCommerce suffers from one major disadvantage: WordPress. As a plugin, it is vulnerable to the same exploits as its parent application. In 2018, 57% of web application vulnerabilities identified were from WordPress.

This doesn’t mean Magento has no problems of its own. In research conducted by Astra Security, 62% of Magento stores have at least one security issue. That’s still lower than the 73% of WooCommerce stores reported by EnableSecurity, but only by 10%. These are not complex vulnerabilities, but are easily detected using free automated tools. 

Security is going to be a problem for Magento 1 store owners and is easy with Woocommerce.So why such large numbers? For many sites, it is because they are out of date. Clunky update processes or simply forgetting are two of the biggest reasons for security vulnerabilities across modern websites. 

For this reason, one of the best security features offered is the ability to easily update. Magento security patches aren’t easy to apply when compared with the WooCommerce update process. With WordPress, you can set updates to occur automatically. 

73% of WooCommerce stores have at least one security issue.

Despite this, Magento does have a lot of positive security features going for it, including:

  • Enhanced password management 
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attack prevention
  • Flexible file ownership and permissions
  • Non-default Magento Admin URL
  • Two-Step Verification

The Magento 1 End of Life Impact on Security

Magento can be split into two versions: Magento 1 and Magento 2. Each is largely unique, in that moving from Magento 1 to Magento 2 requires replatforming. Currently, a large percentage of Magento stores are still on Magento 1

In June 2020, official security support for the Magento 1 platform will cease. This means security will become a pressing concern for merchants still on the platform. If you’re a Magento 1 merchant looking for alternatives, we recommend reviewing your options and downloading the After M1 guide

Security Compromises

Security is never simple. The nature of vulnerabilities means that every application’s community needs to remain vigilant. WooCommerce offers some great security features for automating the update process and keeping everything up to date. However, it also has a lot more vulnerabilities to begin with thanks to running on WordPress. 

Magento has better security tools and features, despite patches being hard to implement and take full advantage of. 

Despite its flaws, Magento wins this category due to providing a better security experience overall, but WooCommerce is a close second. 

Design and Templates

Before a site can go live, a merchant needs to decide on design. Without design there is no site (at least, not an attractive one).

With WooCommerce, this is an easy process. There is a large selection of templates and pre-designed themes available. Taking these and tweaking them to individual requirements is a quick process, making the time from ideation to creation much faster than with Magento.

Magento does have a limited number of templates. However, these are relatively simple when compared with what Magento can do. They also are not particularly attractive. To take advantage of the platform, most merchants will need to hire a developer to design and code their site. 

Headless Possibilities

Design becomes a lot more complicated when headless implementations are considered. For Magento merchants, the application’s API makes implementation a relatively simple process. There are several headless Magento sites already using headless architecture to deliver unique user experiences. 

Two examples of headless Magento implementations are the Magento 2 PWA Venia theme and the Magento 2 PWA Tigren theme

Headless architecture allows for stores to utilize an optimized ecommerce API and flexible front-end design.

For examples of live Magento sites currently using PWA, you can take a look at Alaskan Harvest or Soomzone.com. Both of these sites effectively leverage the Magento API to create unique JavaScript front-end experiences.

With WooCommerce already being a plugin, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use it in a headless implementation. Instead, it may make more sense for merchants looking towards headless WordPress to opt for something like BigCommerce instead.  

WooCommerce vs Magento: Template vs Design

WooCommerce, with its huge library of themes, is much better in terms of templates. Magento, with its expansive functionality, is ultimately much better in terms of design (with the caveat that you need a developer). 

If you’re a small business with a limited budget, we recommend using WooCommerce and taking advantage of its themes and templates. If you’re a medium-sized store though, Magento’s design capabilities offer a lot of advantages in terms of UX and improving your bottom line.

Extensions and Plugins

While an application needs to have great out of the box functionality, it’s also important to be able to expand and customize it with plugins or extensions. Today, almost all CMS offer plugins or extensions in one form or another; WooCommerce and Magento are no exception. 

In terms of numbers, WooCommerce wins due to having access to the WordPress plugin library. However, these plugins are not all optimized for WooCommerce. 

Magento, on the other hand, has over 4,700 plugins optimized specifically for its ecommerce platform. Not only that, but Magento’s extensions provide a lot of in-depth customization that you can’t find with WooCommerce.

Magento extensions allow for merchants to:

  • Upgrade internal search functionality
  • Build custom checkout experiences
  • Improve sorting and categorization functionality
  • Create up-sell and cross-sell campaigns
  • Customize shipping and fulfillment options

Dedicated WooCommerce extensions are relatively light. They provide some useful social and payment integrations, some basic enhancements, and a few useful shipping and fulfillment extensions. Overall though, the options are not as powerful or diverse as Magento, despite growing quickly. 

When it comes to extensions, Magento is still the better application in terms of functionality, with a huge range of diverse extensions available to suit all merchant needs. However, like most things Magento, they also come with a much larger price tag than their WooCommerce counterparts. 

Product Management

Managing an ecommerce store means managing products. That includes how, when, and where they are delivered to customers. Many ecommerce stores today deliver personalized buyer journeys, setting the bar high.

It’s Magento’s advanced functionality that shines here. In addition to offering merchants the ability to provide regional deviations in product delivery, it also allows for the creation of unique journeys within a specific area. This includes up-sells and cross-sells. While this functionality can be added to with the use of extensions, the default feature is powerful in its own right. 

 
WooCommerce doesn’t offer the same flexibility. What it does provide are:

  • Categories
  • Attributes
  • Types

Extensions can be added to provide more functionality, but in terms of user journeys, the same level of personalization can’t be reached with a WooCommerce store. For smaller stores with a limited number of SKUs, this is fine. For larger stores with a lot of SKUs, this can lead to a drastically reduced conversion rate. 

Magento Is Great for Medium-Sized Stores Looking for Great Functionality

Magento does what it does best when a merchant wants a custom implementation. It allows for unequaled exploration of the buyer’s journey and creates personalized sales funnels tailored right down to the individual. 

Unfortunately, this level of customization and functionality has meant that it requires a development team to support its full range of capabilities. Implementing its best features needs to be planned down to specifics. So while it will likely increase your bottom line and lead to a surge in sales, it also takes investment to get you there.

As a result, we recommend Magento for medium and large-sized businesses looking to continue growth. If you’re interested in getting started, take a look at our Magento cloud hosting solutions and talk to a member of the Hostdedi team today. 

WooCommerce Is Great for Smaller Stores Looking For Ease of Use 

WooCommerce really shines in how easy it is to get started and manage. Not only does it provide a great ecommerce storefront, it also provides and equally create content management tool. 

However, it doesn’t provide the same level of store customization as Magento. For that reason, we recommend WooCommerce to smaller stores. If you think that means you, see our WooCommerce cloud hosting solutions.

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