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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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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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eCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce

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Spring Cleaning Your WooCommerce Store For A Busy 2019

Spring Cleaning Your WooCommerce Store For A Busy 2019

Spring Cleaning Your WooCommerce Store For A Busy 2019

WooCommerce doesn’t require a lot of day-to-day maintenance to keep it in peak condition. But, as winter comes to a close and the dust of the busy holiday season settles, spring is the ideal moment to take stock and make sure everything is working as it should be. A little spring maintenance will help your store remain fast and secure throughout 2019.

Update WordPress, Plugins, and Themes

WooCommerce stores should be updated regularly throughout the year, but the busy holiday season leaves little time for ongoing maintenance. If your store hasn’t been updated in a few months, now is the perfect time to spend a couple of minutes hitting the update button. Make sure that you’re running the most recent release of WordPress, WooCommerce, other plugins, and the store’s theme.

Updates help to keep your store safe from hackers and criminals by patching security vulnerabilities. If you don’t update regularly, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise later in the year.

Check Your Backup Procedure

We recommend that all WooCommerce stores are regularly backed up to at least two locations, one of which is a remote location. There are many services and plugins to help you backup your site. We covered some of the best in this post from last year.

Whichever method you choose, it should be checked regularly to make sure it’s still working. It is not uncommon for retailers to lose data because the backup they thought was keeping their store safe had stopped working. When you’re dealing with the aftermath of an attack or accidental data loss, there’s little more frustrating than finding that your backup scripts haven’t worked for the last six months.

Manually run a backup to make sure the process completes successfully, and then carry out a test restore on a staging or development site. You should be able to quickly recreate your store, and if you can’t, it’s time to rethink its backup strategy.

Audit Plugins

We’ve already covered updates, but it is also worth looking at plugins that haven’t been updated for a while. You can see when a plugin was last updated in the Plugins section of the Admin menu. If a plugin hasn’t received an update in a few months, you should investigate to ensure that it is still maintained.

Unmaintained plugins are not necessarily a security issue, but if a vulnerability is discovered in an unmaintained plugin, it won’t be fixed. If you have any plugins that are unmaintained installed on your store, try to find an alternative that is actively developed.

While you’re looking at plugins, this is also a good time to deactivate and uninstall any plugins that you aren’t using. It’s better to remove unused plugins because every plugin adds code to your store, and code that has been removed can’t cause security or performance problems.

Run Performance Tests

WooCommerce stores evolve as new features are added, plugins are installed and uninstalled, and alterations are made to themes. These changes can impact performance, so it’s wise to run performance tests every once in a while to identify any issues. We recently published a detailed guide to performance and load testing your WooCommerce store.

Check Content for Freshness

The beginning of the year is an opportune moment to review the content you have published over the past few months. Blog posts and web copy can become outdated. Editing dated information ensures that content remains a valuable resource over the next year. Pay particular attention to the site’s About page; it should be updated to reflect changes in the businesses branding strategy and to recent events.

With a couple of hours of spring cleaning maintenance, you can put your WooCommerce in a strong position of reliability, security, and performance for the next year.

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Five Tactics To Increase Conversions On Your WooCommerce Store

Five Tactics To Increase Conversions On Your WooCommerce Store

Five Tactics To Increase Conversions On Your WooCommerce StoreHave you ever visited an eCommerce store to buy a product only to change your mind at the last minute? The answer is almost certainly yes. Most visitors to eCommerce stores don’t buy anything. The eCommerce industry’s average conversion rate is three percent at best. For every hundred people who visit an eCommerce store, ninety-seven buy nothing.

Conversion rate optimization focuses on improving that metric. Retailers work to discover why visitors don’t buy and then make changes that remove obstacles or give visitors an incentive to make a purchase.

The most effective conversion rate optimization tactics differ from store to store because each has a distinctive brand and caters to its market with a unique mix of products. CRO techniques that work on one store may not work on others, but there are proven conversion rate optimizations that are effective on the vast majority of stores.

Simplify The Checkout

Checkouts are a necessary evil. You can’t have an eCommerce store without a checkout, but it’s also the point at which many customers abandon their purchase. Checkouts ask a lot of the customer, and any doubt or hesitation they have about buying a product is amplified when they’re faced with an unwieldy multi-page form to complete.

A fast and straightforward checkout reduces friction and lowers the barrier to making a purchase. WooCommerce’s native checkout is well-optimized, but it is possible to reduce its complexity still further with a couple of plugins.

WooCommerce One-Page Checkout displays product selection and checkout features on a single page, allowing customers to check out without navigating a series of pages. The plugin can be used to embed a one-page checkout on any page in your WooCommerce store, giving users the option to check out quickly and easily.

The Checkout Field Editor gives retailers more control over what appears on their store’s checkout forms. It adds a menu to WooCommerce which can be used to rename, remove, or edit checkout fields for a minimalist checkout experience.

Use Social Media Logins

First-time customers have an onerous task ahead of them. In addition to completing the usual checkout, they have to register, completing a set of forms with authentication, delivery, and payment details, a task that is even less appealing on mobile.

Social logins allow users to bypass that process by authenticating via a platform that already knows who they are and where they live. Retailers benefit from accurate data taken from the authentication platform — a majority of web users put inaccurate details into web forms, causing authentication and fulfillment problems. Social media logins also provide richer information than most customers are willing to enter into a form on a WooCommerce store.

The WooCommerce Social Logins extension adds login options for a large number of authentication providers, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, PayPal, and more.

Provide Social Proof

Human beings are social animals. We look to other people to confirm that we’re making the right decision in the absence of other evidence. Customers are less likely to look positively on an empty brick-and-mortar store than a busy store with a line of people waiting to get in.

It’s harder for an eCommerce store to demonstrate the social proof that can persuade customers that their purchase is a wise decision. Online retailers rely mainly on reviews to generate social proof.

WooCommerce includes review functionality which can be activated in the “General” section of the “Products” menu. The YITH WooCommerce Advanced Reviews extension enhances WooCommerce’s built-in reviews system, displaying star-rating histograms and giving reviewers the ability to upload attachments such as images.

Further social proof can be provided by showing how many users bought a product in the past and how many are looking at it right now. The Social Proof Notifications extension integrates WooCommerce with Proof Factor, a cloud social proof platform that also includes exit intent triggers

Let Customers Talk To A Real Person

Doubt is the biggest killer of eCommerce conversions. Customers wonder if a product is right for them, if it does what they want it to, if they will be able to return it if it isn’t suitable. Reviews and well-written on-page content go some way to satisfy customer doubts, but it’s impossible to predict every issue and customers won’t hunt through large FAQ pages to find answers.

The most effective way to allay doubts is to give customers someone to talk to. There is no substitute for asking a direct question and getting an answer from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Phone sales support is an option, but it may be too expensive for retailers that don’t sell high-value items. Aspect Software, a multinational call center technology provider, estimates that the average customer phone interaction costs $35 – $50.

Instant chat is more economical than phone support and faster than email support. Sales support staff can respond to multiple queries in parallel and chats can be routed to anyone in the company, including to remote workers. There are several solutions for adding instant chat into a WooCommerce store. The LiveChat for WooCommerce extension integrates stores with the LiveChat service, which is designed for customer support and online sales.

Reach Out To Customers Who Abandon Carts

As we discussed at the top of this article, most visitors to an eCommerce store don’t make a purchase, and that includes visitors who have added products to their cart. The industry-average cart-abandonment rate is about 70%. Customers often use carts for online window shopping, reminders, or wish lists — they may never have intended to make a purchase. But that’s not the case with all abandoned carts, some of which can be “recovered.”

We wrote about how to reduce abandoned carts on WooCommerce stores in a previous article. Check it out for several solutions, including remarketing and abandoned cart emails.

Conclusion

Conversion rate optimization is an intricate and continuous effort to optimize a WooCommerce store with three main goals:

  • Remove obstacles that might prevent a customer from making a purchase.
  • Transform aspects of the store to exert a positive influence on customer’s purchase intent.
  • Reduce doubt by providing the reassurance and information that customers need to be confident in their decision to buy.

In this article, we’ve tackled some low-hanging fruit to help WooCommerce retailers meet their conversion rate optimization goals. In a future article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the details of conversion rate optimization, including A/B testing for WooCommerce and more subtle optimizations.

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Organize Your WooCommerce Store With Categories, Tags, And Attributes

Organize Your WooCommerce Store With Categories, Tags, And Attributes

Browsing antique stores is one of our favorite pastimes, especially stores that make no effort to organize their wares, chaotic jumbles of products grouped according to whim or chance. We enjoy the prospect of serendipitous discovery. However, when we’re shopping online, a lack of organization is not enjoyable. A positive eCommerce experience depends on the thoughtful organization of products into groups that create meaningful connections between them.

WooCommerce is, at heart, an application for creating order and connectedness in large catalogs of products. WooCommerce store owners have three different organization tools at their disposal: categories, tags, and product attributes, each of which adds information to a product listing. WooCommerce’s interface uses that information to group products in the interface and to help shoppers navigate the catalog.

Categories

Categories are WooCommerce’s primary organizational tool, and the one that has the biggest impact on the user interface. Most WooCommerce themes use categories to form the main navigation menu.

Every product on a WooCommerce store must be in a category. If you don’t assign a category to a product, it will be put in the “uncategorized” category. Each product can only be in one category, and categories are hierarchical — you can create categories that contain other categories.

For example, an online pet store might put a scratching post in the “Cat Toys” category, which is itself part of the “Cats” category. WooCommerce will use that categorization to group and filter products in the interface.

Categories are created in the Products > Categories interface, and products can be added to categories via product pages.

Tags

Tags differ from categories in a couple of important ways: each product can have many tags, and tags are not hierarchical. Tags are used to group products across categories.

A store selling pop memorabilia might put a signed poster of David Bowie in the “Posters” category, but tag it with “David Bowie”, “Glam Rock”, and “English”. Shoppers can then filter for products that are related along different dimensions.

The free-form nature of tags is useful, but without careful management a store’s tags can become chaotic. It takes discipline and forethought to build a coherent system of tags that group products in meaningful ways. We have seen WooCommerce stores with dozens of tags, many near duplicates, a large number of which were only applied to one product.

It is worth taking the time to sketch out a “canonical” set of tags. The set should evolve over time, but new tags should be introduced systematically.

Product Attributes

Product attributes contain additional information about products. Each product attribute has a predefined set of terms, which can be thought of as labels that indicate a quality of the product. A coat might have a size attribute, which has small, medium, and large terms. Product attributes are useful for variable products with multiple SKUs.

Attributes and their terms can be added to WooCommerce via the Products -> Attributes menu. Once product attributes have been added, they become available to you when adding and editing a store’s products.

The combination of categories, tags, and product attributes allows WooCommerce retailers to organize, filter, and group products so that shoppers can easily find what they are looking for.

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Six WooCommerce Plugins For Your New eCommerce Store

Six WooCommerce Plugins For Your New eCommerce Store

Six WooCommerce Plugins For Your New eCommerce StoreWhen WooCommerce is first installed, it includes everything you need to start selling. But you can also take advantage of hundreds of extensions to add new features and customize your store — modularity is a strength of both WordPress and WooCommerce. Once you have finished setting up your new WooCommerce store, it’s worth taking a few moments to browse the extension directory to familiarize yourself with what is available.

To help you get started, I’m going to talk about six extensions. I’ve chosen these extensions because they add features that are useful to any WooCommerce retailer. In addition to WooCommerce extensions, retailers can also use WordPress plugins that aren’t built for WooCommerce, but I will stick to eCommerce-related plugins and extensions designed to work with WooCommerce.

Before I start, a word about names: WordPress refers to software packages that add extra features as plugins. In the WooCommerce world, they’re called extensions. So, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, and add-ons to WooCommerce itself are extensions.

WooCommerce Checkout Manager adds a host of features for configuring how the checkout looks and behaves. You can use it to add new fields, reorder fields, make some fields optional, and add conditional fields.

It’s a mixed bag of different checkout tweaks that you’ll almost certainly find a use for at some point in the life of your store.

Advanced Dynamic Pricing is used to create discounts and other pricing rules based on custom conditions. For example, Black Friday is coming up, and you might use this plugin to add discounts that only apply on that day.

WooCommerce is well-optimized for search, but Yoast’s plugin adds features that make it easier to implement SEO and social media best practices, such as Facebook and Pinterest-specific information, breadcrumb navigation, and an improved sitemap.

Product Bundles does what the name suggests. It allows WooCommerce store owners to create product bundles with custom pricing. Product bundling is an effective cross-selling and upselling strategy that encourages customers to spend more.

Wishlists are one of my favorite eCommerce features, and I miss them when I’m shopping on an eCommerce store that doesn’t have wishlist functionality. This plugin allows your customers to create wishlists, add products, and review the content of their list on a dedicated page.

Customers appreciate it when retailers reach out after a sale with useful information, discounts, or a simple “thank you.” On a small store, you can do this manually, but as your store grows, it will become a huge time sink. With the Follow-Ups extension, you can create emails and tweets, grouped into campaigns, and send them automatically according to custom triggers. For example, you might send a “Thank you” email immediately after a sale, and an email to request a review a few days after a product has been delivered.

I have barely scratched the surface of the huge ecosystem of WordPress plugins and WooCommerce extensions. As a WooCommerce hosting client, you can extend, enhance, and customize your store in many ways, both large and small. I’d encourage you to spend some time browsing the repositories for inspiration.

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Top Plugins To Improve Customer Retention On WooCommerce

Top Plugins To Improve Customer Retention On WooCommerce

Top Plugins To Improve Customer Retention On WooCommerceCustomer retention is key to building a successful and sustainable eCommerce business. Loyal customer spend more and visit more often. They are more likely to promote your store to their network. Customer retention is also less expensive than customer acquisition. Investing in customer retention and loyalty is just as important as filling the purchase funnel with new customers.

WooCommerce includes many of the features an online retailer needs to build a thriving business, but there are many WooCommerce extensions and WordPress plugins that can help you go the extra mile where customer retention is concerned.

WooCommerce UPS Shipping Plugin with Print Label

A generous return policy can make a big difference where customer loyalty is concerned. Online retail is inherently risky for customers: they can’t see the product until it’s delivered. The easier it is for them to make a return, the happier they are to take the risk. From the retailer’s perspective, a return is a lost sale and an added cost, but a store that offers an onerous returns experience is likely to lose the customer for good, along with any future revenue they may have contributed.

WooCommerce is well-equipped for handling returns, but an extension like WooCommerce UPS Shipping Plugin with Print Label, which can be used to print returns labels to include in the delivery, makes for a more pleasant returns experience.

WooCommerce Points and Rewards

Loyalty programs are a tried-and-tested customer retention strategy. By awarding points for purchases and offering discounts for points, a retailer gives customers an incentive to keep shopping. Loyalty programs influence shoppers to spend more in return for points and to return to the store to benefit from the discount they earned.

The WooCommerce Points and Rewards extension adds a configurable points system to your store. Points can be rewarded for purchases and for actions such as writing a review. The store owner decides how purchases convert into points and the maximum discounts that can be applied.

Olark Instant Chat

Rewards encourage customer loyalty, but communication is even more important. The best product page copy can leave customers uncertain about whether a product is right for them. Many sales are lost when a customer’s doubt overcomes their desire to buy. Instant chat is the most effective and efficient way to connect with customers who have questions.

With Olark, it’s straightforward to integrate instant chat into your WooCommerce pages via its official WordPress integration.

WPHelpDesk

Instant chat assuages customer doubts, but what about post-sale support? For that, a ticketing system is often the best option. Ticketing systems are built to manage and organize customer support requests. WPHelpDesk, which offers an excellent WooCommerce integration, provides a full-featured help desk with support forms that can be integrated into WooCommerce customer panels and order pages. Support requests are associated with the customer and their purchases in the ticket interface.

With these plugins and extensions, your store can offer a simple returns process, reward customers for their loyalty, and ensure that they get all the support they need before and after their purchase.

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How To Add Social Media Logins To A WooCommerce Store

How To Add Social Media Logins To A WooCommerce Store

How To Add Social Media Logins To A WooCommerce Store

Making it easier to log in and check out is the most effective way to reduce cart abandonment. Social media logins allow shoppers to quickly log in using their social media accounts, reducing the amount of work shoppers have to do to buy your products.

Most eCommerce customers don’t use a password manager; they should, but they don’t. It is common for shoppers to forget passwords. WooCommerce provides password reset functionality for just this eventuality, but it’s a hassle and it introduces friction into the buying process.

Anything that makes it harder to shop hurts sales. Anything a WooCommerce store owner can do to make shopping easier increases sales. Social media logins remove the friction associated with authenticating on a WooCommerce store.

How do social media logins work?

Social media logins are a form of single sign-on (SSO). The user signs in on one domain, and that domain is used to authenticate them on other domains that implement single sign-on. You’re most likely to have come across social logins via sites that invite you to “Sign in with Facebook” or “Sign in with Google”, both of which run single sign-on services.

Single sign-on works by transferring an authentication token from the domain of the single sign-on provider. When the shopper arrives at a WooCommerce store, they choose which service they would like to use to sign in. They are redirected to the SSO provider’s domain, which sends the token that authenticates them on the WooCommerce store.

The shopper only has to remember one set of login details. Because they are almost certainly logged in on Facebook or Google already, the sign-in process is nearly instantaneous.

Adding social media logins to WooCommerce

There are several single sign-on plugins for WooCommerce, but Nextend Social Login is among the most popular. Once installed, the plugin integrates with a store’s existing log in interface. It supports many of the most common social platforms that provide an SSO service, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and VKontakte. A particularly useful feature is the ability to link existing WooCommerce accounts to social media accounts, so that all shoppers benefit from social media logins.

While social media logins are great for B2B retailers, enterprise and B2B customers may prefer to use SAML single sign-on, which can integrate with a business’s preferred identity provider. WooCommerce can quite easily be hooked up to a SAML SSO platform with the miniOrange SAML 2.0 Single Sign On (SSO) plugin, which provides SSO integration with major identity providers, including Google Apps, ADFS, Salesforce, Azure, IBM, Oracle, and many more.

Social media logins are easy to implement, so why not give shoppers the option to log in with their preferred social platform. Social media logins give shoppers a frustration-free experience and your store benefits from fewer cart abandonments.

 

 

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What’s New In WooCommerce 3.5?

What’s New In WooCommerce 3.5?

What's New In WooCommerce 3.5Towards the end of last month, WooCommerce 3.5 was released with new features for users and developers. As a minor release, WooCommerce 3.5 is compatible with sites running WooCommerce 3.0 or greater. There should be no plugin or theme incompatibility problems, but it’s always better to test before upgrading your live site. Hostdedi Cloud users can take advantage of our dev site creation tool to instantly and securely deploy a testing site.

REST API v3

The WooCommerce REST API provides a powerful programmatic interface for controlling a WooCommerce site and accessing its data. The third iteration of the API is the major new feature of WooCommerce 3.5. It includes a host of new endpoints and expands the features of some existing endpoints. Among the new endpoints are those for creating, listing, and updating product reviews; refunding line items; and new report endpoints for getting order, product, customer, and review counts.

Minor Tweaks For Retailers

As usual, the WooCommerce team has provided a handful of improvements to the store owner experience. One of the most interesting is the addition of a low-stock threshold for individual products. It’s now possible to trigger a low-stock notification when stock levels go below a configurable threshold. Low-stock notifications were already possible with extensions, but it’s useful to have such an important feature built into WooCommerce itself.

WooCommerce’s transactional emails have been modernized. These emails are sent when users complete an action on a store, such as placing an order, or for other notifications. The copy was getting a little stale and has been brought up-to-date. Other improvements include the ability to export products by category using the CSV exporter.

Good News For Developers and WooCommerce Professionals

In a welcome move, WooCommerce has integrated the Action Scheduler library into WooCommerce core. As the name suggests, the library is used to schedule actions, such as subscription renewals, by many popular WooCommerce extensions. By including the library in WooCommerce, all developers can access a “robust, scalable background processing solution.”

But perhaps the most interesting addition is support for a pair of feature plugins: wc-admin and Custom Product Tables. Feature plugins are used to develop new features which may later be integrated into WooCommerce. The wc-admin feature plugin is being used to develop a modern JavaScript-driven WooCommerce admin interface, an experience that meshes better with the new Gutenberg editor.

The Custom Product Tables feature plugin is focused on improving database performance by using database tables that are specifically designed for eCommerce stores. The results are promising, with a 30% speed boost on page loads in testing. Once again, the feature plugin is being developed and should not be run on a production store.

It should be stressed that feature plugins are not ready for use on a production store. They are in the early stages of active development. But if you are interested in what developers are considering for the future of WooCommerce, it’s worth taking a look.

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Performance And Load Testing Your WooCommerce Store

Performance And Load Testing Your WooCommerce Store

Testing WooCommerce for Performance and SpeedSlow-loading pages and unresponsive interface elements are kryptonite for online stores. Shoppers expect a pleasant experience, and there is nothing pleasant about looking at a loading indicator for ten seconds or trudging through a multi-step checkout process that takes what seems like forever to load each page.

A fast WooCommerce store depends on dozens of hardware and software components firing in the same direction. Performance-optimized WooCommerce hosting provides the store’s main engine, but configuration mistakes and software bugs can throw sand into every page load and user interaction.

This article looks at why load testing can help to keep your WooCommerce store optimized, by finding areas for improvement and change.

What Is WooCommerce Performance and Load Testing?

Performance testing measures how a WooCommerce store performs on an ordinary day. How quickly do the home and product pages load? How long does it take for the shopping cart to be displayed after the user clicks the checkout button? Performance testing provides a baseline answer to these questions.

Load testing looks at performance under pressure. It answers questions such as these: How many concurrent users can a WooCommerce store support before performance becomes unacceptably slow? How does the store perform when traffic peaks during a sale? Load testing provides information about how your store performs under real-world conditions.

Why Performance and Load Test WooCommerce?

Performance and load testing put a WooCommerce store through its paces, revealing opportunities for streamlining and performance improvements.

By testing your WooCommerce site, you’re able to see how your hosting environment, application, and any plugins you have installed will work under pressure. You’ll then be able to see what areas need improvement – if any.

How to Performance Test a WooCommerce Store

A page speed waterfall with Google Chrome

An example page speed waterfall in Chrome.

The simplest way to load test a WooCommerce site is to time how long important pages take to load. The Google Chrome browser — and other browsers — include several tools to time page-loads and identify the causes of latency.

To do this in Chrome, head to the “More Tools” entry of the Chrome menu and choose “Developer Tools”. There are a couple of interesting tabs in this interface: Performance and Audits.

The Performance tab provides load-time measurements and a waterfall diagram that displays the page’s components and how long they take to load. This can give you a clear indication of what page elements can be optimized to increase your WooCommerce store’s performance.

In the Audit tab, you will find Lighthouse, a comprehensive performance testing tool that provides a wealth of information, including performance optimization suggestions. Once you’ve navigated to this tab, simply click “Perform an audit” to start the test. You will be given results in relation to four categories.

  • Performance
  • Accessibility
  • Best Practices
  • Progressive Web app

Under each category, you will be provided with a list of audits you have failed and audits you have passed. This gives you a great springboard for implementing more advanced page optimizations.

Alternate Tools for Testing WooCommerce

If you would prefer not to use a tool from Google that requires the Chrome browser, take a look at Pingdom tools, WebPageTest, or GTMetrix.
With these tools, you can change the location you want page requests to come from. This allows you to test the speed of your site worldwide. You can also add advanced testing conditions, such as the number of tests to run, the browser the page is rendered in, and more.

Load testing WooCommerce with Lighthouse

Load Testing A WooCommerce Store

Loading pages individually is useful, but it doesn’t capture the full shopping experience. To do so, a test must simulate several page loads, putting items into the shopping cart, checking out, and more. Lots of tests should run concurrently to determine how the store performs under real-world traffic conditions.

Load testing is more complex than performance testing and will typically require help from a developer who can automate the process. There are several web services that make load testing easier by allowing site owners to run simulated shopping trips from the service’s cloud infrastructure.

Load Impact is one of the most popular load testing services. It allows WooCommerce retailers to record a typical shopping trip using a Chrome extension and then run the same trip multiple times simultaneously.

Cloud load testing can be expensive, but it’s possible to build DIY load testing infrastructure using cloud or dedicated servers and open source software — that’s how we load test our performance-optimized WooCommerce hosting plans.


Blog Post SummaryRecently started your first WooCommerce store or looking to expand functionality? Explore these eight WooCommerce plugins we think you should know about.

Alternatively, but not take a look at the WooCommerce hosting plans we have available on cloud? They come with auto installs and a series of optimizations designed to help you get the most out of your WooCommerce store.


 

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