02 Feb

A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting an Online Store

Start an Online Store

If there ever was a great time to launch an online business, it is now. According to etailinsights, there are now 7.9 million online retailers in the world, and 2.1 million of them are in the United States.

After 2020, online shopping is growing faster than ever before.

Why Is Online Shopping So Popular?

Traditionally people have turned to online shopping because:

  • They hate waiting in line at the store.
  • They get fast access to a larger variety of products and services, many of which were beyond reach prior to online shopping.
  • They get better deals online.

Today, in a world disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping is for a lot of us a necessity more so than a convenience.

In this article we’ve aimed to give business owners a step-by-step guide on how to launch an online store.

You have a great idea for a service or product. You feel it in your bones that this is going to be successful and you know that there’s a real need in the market for what you want to sell. But how do you actually start selling your products or services online?

What are all the things that you need to be aware of when selling online and where do you start?

When you are right at the beginning, things can get overwhelming fast.

But don’t worry! We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you get started with your online store.

1. Identify Your Target Market and Buyer Persona

Before you can even set up your online store you need to know who your customers are so that you can market to that niche. You may think that your product or service can appeal to everyone, however that is a difficult way to market your service.

Buyer Persona

Tips To Identify Your Target Market

  • Identify why a customer would buy your service or product. Start by making a list of all the pain points that your service/product can solve.
  • Find out who your competitors are and what markets do they target.
  • Create a buyer persona – this is your ideal customer. Get as specific as possible including location, age, education, financial status, industry, job, skills, interests, frustrations.

Knowing your buyer persona is the BEST way to identify your target market. It will help you optimize your website copy and marketing materials to ensure that your message reaches the right audience.

Keep in mind that you are not limited to a single buyer persona. You can have as many personas as you would like, but at a minimum, you should have at least one.

TIP – If you’re not quite sure where to start when creating your buyer personas, try this fun buyer persona generator, from HubSpot.

2. Buy a Domain Name for Your Online Store

To create your online store, you need both a domain name and an eCommerce platform.

A domain name is what users type in their browser to access your website. In other words, it’s the address of your website.

It is possible to create your online store without owning a domain name. Some web hosts or eCommerce companies will allow you to create your online shop on one of their subdomains.

But keep in mind that your domain represents your identity online and it’s a crucial part of your brand. Even if you start your online shop by using another provider’s subdomain, you will eventually want to have your own domain.

Having your own domain name will give you more control over your website and allow it to build domain authority in Google.

TIP – As a general rule try to choose a domain name that is short and easy to remember.

3. Choose the Best eCommerce Platform for Your Online Store

Now that you have identified your target market and bought your domain name, it’s time to choose the best eCommerce platform for your online store.

You don’t have to be an expert developer or designer to build an online store that looks great and works well. But there are so many different platforms out there that it can be hard to know where to start. In this article, we will look at two types of approaches for building your online store:

  1. Using a Website Builder
  2. Using a Hosted eCommerce Solution

Building an eCommerce Store Using a Website Builder

Website builders such as Wix or Shopify are turn-key eCommerce solutions, providing users with everything they need to set up an eCommerce store. They are popular solutions when building your first online shop, especially with users that don’t have a lot of technical skills.

However, while website builders are easy to get started with, there are also some disadvantages that might not make them the best choice for your business in the long run.

Things to be aware of when evaluating website builders as an option for your online shop:

  • Costs – although website builders are low budget when starting, they can get expensive fast as your online store grows.
  • Features – website builders are typically more limited in features compared to nopCommerce, and other eCommerce solutions.
  • Transaction Fees – you might incur transaction fees on payments received through website builders. Shopify charges up to 2% in transaction fees when using external payment gateways such as PayPal. Wix also charges a processing fee for every payment you receive through them.
  • Limited Control – website builders such as Wix host your website content exclusively. In other words, you are locked in, you cannot easily export your website code if you want to leave.

Building an eCommerce Store Using a Hosted eCommerce Solution

WooCommerce, NopCommerce, and Magento are some of the most popular eCommerce solutions used by many eCommerce stores today. Both nopCommerce and Magento were released in 2008. WooCommerce was released in 2011.

Let’s look at each of these eCommerce platforms and their specific advantages.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin that transforms WordPress-based websites into powerful, fully functional online stores.

As the most popular eCommerce platform in use today, WooCommerce powers over 30% of all online stores across the web. BuiltWith reports that in April 2021 a total of 4,414,537 live websites use WooCommerce for their online store.

eCommerce Websites
Source: BuiltWith, April 2021

WordPress is a great platform for building websites, but it’s not an eCommerce solution. WooCommerce was developed specifically as an extension of WordPress so that anyone can install and run a full-fledged online store with no coding knowledge required.

Woocommerce Hosting – A Complete Solution To Create Your Online Store From A to Z!

WooCommerce and WordPress make it easy to launch your online store. The friendly design interface gives you full control over the functionality of your online store.

WooCommerce includes out-of-the-box functionality for a complete eCommerce experience. Easily create products, configure payment gateways, customize taxes, shipping, and inventory – the list goes on!

Plus there are hundreds of third-party extensions available if you want more features or something specific that isn’t included by default.

WooCommerce Advantage

  • Affordable pricing with no long-term fees.
  • 140 payment gateways available (including PayPal, Amazon Pay, Stripe).
  • Coupon codes or percentage discount options.
  • Bulk product upload, shipping management features.
  • A large number of themes and plugins available.
  • Fully Integrated with Gooten, Printify, Printful, CustomCat, Facebook Shopping & more.

What is nopCommerce?

nopCommerce is a free open-source eCommerce solution running on the popular .NET Core framework.

nopCommerce it’s a robust, stable, and user-friendly solution for your online store. It has many out-of-the-box features to help you get started with your online store, including SEO features, email marketing, product review, and affiliate marketing.

nopCommerce Advantage

  • Rich, modular architecture with out-of-the-box eCommerce functionality.
  • Open source, so highly customizable.
  • Short learning curve and great documentation.
  • Easy to use and develop being based on .NET technology.
  • Growing community with over 250 000 members (about half the population of Wyoming).
  • Responsive customer support and development teams.

nopCommerce makes it easy to build your online store. All you need to do is find a reliable nopCommerce hosting solution to get started.

What is Magento?

Magento is one of the most widely used eCommerce platforms being currently used by 0.7% of all websites worldwide. Unlike nopCommerce which is entirely open-source, Magento comes in two editions:

  • An open-source Community Edition.
  • A paid Magento Commerce Edition (former Magento Enterprise).

Robust and highly scalable Magento is a great solution for large online stores with a high volume of sales.

Magento Advantage

  • Very robust, can support online stores with massive traffic.
  • Supports transactions in multiple countries, multiple currencies and offers access to a network of global shipping carriers.
  • Mobile optimized shopping with an optimal experience across a variety of devices
  • High number of extensions available.
  • Large community of Magento developers.

Magento is one of the most popular eCommerce solutions today. Magento Community Edition offers all the needed functionality to get started with your online store. You can opt for quality Magento hosting, geared towards enterprise companies.

However, if you are looking for rich, out-of-the-box functionality most of it is only available through the paid Magento Commerce Edition.

4. Setup and Launch Your Online Store

Once you have decided on the best eCommerce platform, it’s time to build and launch your online store.

how to launch an online store

Regardless if you work with a web developer or build the online store yourself, you need to ensure that the website looks professional. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Perform an audit of all the products/services that have been created. Ensure they all have the proper name, description, price, and any relevant information.
  • Make sure you have all the products in inventory.
  • Set up your sales tax. Keep in mind, in the US, sales tax is decided at the state level. Each state can have different rules and a different sales tax.
  • Choose your payment gateways.
  • Add information about your business and contact details (About Us & Contact Us pages).
  • Create your Terms and Conditions Agreement.
  • Define your Shipping and Returns Policy.
  • Optimize your website and product description for SEO (define your primary keywords, add meta description, use internal linking, define your site structure).
  • Ensure your website is optimized for mobile.
  • Check the website speed and performance. Users are less likely to purchase from a slow website.
  • Test your checkout before going into production.
  • Build your company’s Social Media channels and integrate them with your website.

TIP – Announce your new online store and build hype before the actual launch. A great way to do this is through Social Media networking. Another way is by building an email list. You can build your email list by using a free lead generation form, like this one from Typeform.

Once your store is live you can start driving traffic to your website. You can drive traffic by creating high-quality, educational content, using email marketing, social media, and affiliates or influencers.

You now have all the steps needed to launch your online store. Happy selling!

09 Feb

Responsive Website Design and Online Marketing Benefits

In this technology world, you need to update your marketing strategy with the advancement of new platforms. In 2009, Morgan Stanley, one of Fortune 500 company, made a prediction of rise in popularity of ‘Mobile Web’ compared to ‘Desktop PCs’ by 2014. Being in a competitive market, you should keep your website responsive and mobile friendly.

If you are still not considering mobile web traffic in your analytic data, you are losing significant revenue (for sure). Although mobile web technology hasn’t overtaken the desktop, according to comScore data, there is significantly mobile traffic increase in 2014 compared to 2013. You should keep your eyes from where new customers are approaching your website – it may be from tablet or smartphones or Desktop etc. So be prepared! Now let’s learn more about responsive web design and how it will benefit your online marketing strategy.

What is Responsive web design?

Matt Cutts (Head of web spam team at Google) provides a great, non-technical explanation: “Responsive web design just means that the page works totally fine whether you access the website URL with a desktop browser or whether you access that URL with mobile browser,”.  Matt Cutts also said – “Things will rescale, the page size will be taken into account.”

There is no separate version of mobile sites, tablet or Desktop versions in Responsive web design. Website should open flexibly with any respective device. Responsive web design allows any visitor to access website with best readability on all their favorite digital devices. Also it gives amazing control and creativity to apply for your website.

With Responsive web design your whole website remain same except CSS code it will change as per device browser.

User-friendly content management system (CMS ex: wordpress) is quite helpful for responsive web design. There are many ready-to-go designed templates available, which saves your time / money compared to [unlike] custom design.

Smartphones, tablets & many more devices have changed the approach toward design and user experience. Users now interacting with websites on smartphones and tablets are not the same as doing that on a desktop computer monitors. Id Website opens as desktop view having to zoom in and out to find the content you’re looking for it give bad user experience. While, content is king and discoverability of content are foremost success metrics.

User experience is one of the main reason to go with responsive web design. Now let’s talk about SEO benefits of Responsive Web Design!

1) Google Recommendation

Google recommended responsive web design as website will be common on mobile / traffic / PC. This is best way to focus on web as well as mobile users. Also, Google favors mobile friendly website for mobile search. It helps in achieving keyword ranking in mobile search.

2) Usability:

Google want to deliver best and relevant results for their visitors for any of the search term. Google will make note of immediate return to their SERPs, considering no useful or relevant information on the website. In this case, bounce rate of the website increases and your ranking will drop.

Visitors will read and share all the content they want and on whatever format they are accessing with a responsive web design

3) Duplicate Content:

There is no chance to get hit by Panda algorithm for the duplicate content in desktop, tablet or mobile version of website. There is only one URL for any webpage in all digital devices.

4) URL Structure:

Responsive websites have common files/folder for all the digital devices (mobile, tablet or PC). This makes easy for Google to index the webpages as there will be only common set of pages/files. As per the user experience is concern, this design works best with all devices and Google trust value increases.

5) Mobile Search Ranking:

There is a special preference for all devices compatible websites in the new mobile ranking strategy of Google.

With the increase in smartphones usage, there is a prediction of increase in mobile search. It may overtake desktop search queries in 2015 as according to BIA/Kelsey analysis. Responsive web design will help in achieving this.

6) Link Earning:

With responsive web design, back links are common for mobile version and desktop version of website. So the link juice from one URL to another will flow same in all formats of Digital Devices.

7) Local Search Benefits:

Smartphones have facility of Maps and phone call number. Visitors searches on web browsers for the local shops as per their need. This helps increase in shopping or inquiry about your product and thereby mobile traffic and ranking.

8) Bounce Rate and Trust Factor:

A responsive web designed site solves the problem of high bounce rate by showing same content on the desktop / mobile / tablet site. Google will interpret high bounce rate as like visitors are not interested in the content of the website. This leads to reduction in Google Trust as well as ranking drop.

9) Reduced Page Load Speed:

Page load speed is one of the keyword ranking signal in Google Search Engine as it impacts user experience. Visitor searches something on Google Search engine and if the clicked link takes time to open – it is not best for business.

Responsive web design have CSS media queries that work on respective different devices. It helps in reduction of loading time as per device.

10) Awesome User Experience = Natural Social Signals:

Responsive web design allows visitors to read and share the website content in any digital devices. Anyone can see the same shared content on social media on any of the digital devices with almost same loading speed. This helps in earning great number of social signals for your website.

Conclusion:

Going for Responsive web design for your website is a big challenge. But it will definitely put you one step ahead of your competitors. Increase in mobile traffic is a bonus. This is the age of smartphones! Keeping your website updated with latest technology will help you in your online business.

Notwithstanding how attractive and responsive your project is, you’ll definitely need quality web hosting to locate it online. This is where Softsys Hosting solutions come into play. Choose from the extensive selection of sharedVPS and dedicated hosting services and take your website to the next level of performance.

14 Oct

Web Hosting Factors That Affect SEO Rankings

SEO is a continuous process to be incorporated in your promotional activities to succeed online. Creating and making website online is like ‘Wow, I got a website and now I will start getting orders’. Sure, you are on right path for online success but there is an unanswered critical question – is it just a website or a SEO friendly website? There is a major difference between ‘a website’ and ‘SEO Friendly website’. Your website must be highly optimized with various On-Page factors and several web hosting factors. Search Engine displays list of websites with “nice look and feel” design and relevant information that the end user is asking for. Apart from improper on-page factors, web hosting issues can affect the search engine rankings too. As we all know, your website will have higher chances to receive traffic / clicks if it has higher keyword ranking in search engines.

So, let’s have a look on various factors of web hosting affecting SEO of your website.

1)      Wrong TLD

Normally, internet users search on search engines for their requirements or just enter brand name with .com web address (if they are aware of it). Other local country TLD are same as .com in their territory. As far as .com address is concerned, most of the easily remembered names (or two words until and unless it’s unique) are taken, which leads to the fact that website owners have to search something else for their domain name or consider another website extension.

For a remedy, another web extension .co was considered for TLD but it does not work well. Many website owners suffered badly after making it their primary web extension. When any user opens a domain name with .com extension and not .co extension (primary web domain), they were taken to some other parked domains or any other website. This can just harm the reputation of the firm and potentially lose a customer.

Using local TLD domains for businesses from all around the world will again harm your online marketing strategy as search engines will consider your target market is just local country.

2)      Shared hosting

Malware Infection is dangerous for any website as it can harm your website as per its characteristic. Many businesses are hugely dependent on internet and in that case if website is not live, it can affect the revenue number plus reputation. In shared hosting, your website is shared with other websites in a web server and any of the website might get infected with any small or large malware, which can affect others too.

Web Hosting companies’ keeps their servers, totally safe and secured from various malwares but even giving their best, it is not possible to avoid such incidents. Even if one of the client website might get infected by unwanted malwares, it may spread rapidly among others since they are sharing same resources in a web server. In this case, website might stop showing online or may be with warning to visitor computer like “This computer is infected with malware” in search engines results. This way, your website reputation may blow off along with the negative search engine ranking. In any way, Google or other search engines may penalize your website by removing from their database and remove the keyword ranking to protect their visitors.

3)      Database connection failures

Are you familiar with messages like “Internal server error” or “Database connection failed”? Of course, this happens on internet often when there is some database connection failure due to huge request of the same webpage from database at peak time or simply there is no database connection established.

This situation is truly irritating for any visitor and it might happen that they will either not visit your website again and / or they will not recommend to others – they may give negative reviews to their friends/relative/business partners. In summary, you are losing visitors to the website and meanwhile when this website is unavailable, it is noticed by search engines and your keyword ranking is also affected for showing error messages instead of website.

4)      Downtime

Your website should be accessible to any user around the world on 24/7 basis – 365 days a year. If your website is not up or in case there is any maintenance scheduled on the server, you should notify your website visitors by placing a webpage clarifying the same with specified time duration. Same thing applies for search engines, there is possibility of web crawlers visiting your website anytime for any latest update (if any) on the website.

During this time if visitor/ search engines detects non-availability of your website, it will imply on web performance, reputation and keyword ranking. If visitor sees no website, they will go away and search something else and from point of view of search engines, they will see no-website-seen which may penalize the website by negative keyword rank or de-indexing the website (if takes few days). Interestingly, when your website is up again after downtime, you think keyword ranking will be back again automatically? The answer is No! – Your website was punished and ranked below the competitors on the basis of several factors like relevancy, trust, etc.

Mostly web hosting companies guarantees for best uptime out of 100% and they give their best to keep this number by keeping their software’s up-to-date and highly secured from various threats along with enterprise class server/hosting environment setup.

5)      Slow site speed

Slow site speed is one of the factor used by Search Engines to determine keyword ranking.

The loading time of website depends on the webpage size, usage of large sized images, unwanted JavaScripts, third party tools, social media widgets, geographic location, server side resources etc. If your server is stormed with too many webpage request, web server will show error and ask to try again. While in shared hosting, there are limited CPU resources, this can stop process of certain requests and it leads visitors to leave the website and search something else. You can consider using CDN service for fetching static content like Javascript, images, css, etc as it will help immensely in speeding up your website.

6)      Server Location

Server location is important to avoid web latency factor. Website loading time is crucial factor in determining ranking and if a visitor from US opens a website hosted in US location, it will open quickly than from a website hosted in Singapore or Australia!

Also Search Engines use to give preference to the visitors search phrases from the same country where server is located.

7)      IP Address

If your website is hosted with shared hosting server, all the website hosted will be using same IP address. Search Engines use to lookout for the IP address while determining Keyword ranking. If the same IP address is used for any suspicious work or over-promotional work or spamming, there is a possibility that your website may be treated for same and get penalized.

8)      Compatibility for programming language used

Working in Restriction is not going to be fruitful. Whichever web hosting service you prefer, depending on the operating system, the right programming language need to be selected. This will help in incorporating best features in your website. Going for web hosting service which does not support your programming language will cost you to hire a resource or make you learn itself. Time and money will be wasted so make sure the programming language is compatible.

9)       No proper setup of 301 redirection (when moving site from old location to new location)

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, passing certain link juice to the new redirected page. 301 response code instructs the browsers and search engine bots that this webpage has been moved permanently to another location.

Implementing 301 redirection will pass all the ranking power from old location to new locations to avoid any negative keyword ranking. Old webpage is ranked for certain keywords in search engines and if in case you are willing to redesign website with same domain name, it will lots of time to work from scratch and gain the positions on search engines. Using 301 redirect techniques will save your time and money.

Improper setup of 301 redirection can make your website promotional work start from zero and any link juice earn with old webpage will be gone.

 

I hope the above information helps you in improving your website rankings and overcoming the short falls. If you are looking for SEO friendly host with reliable and fast hosting services, you can consider  Softsys Hosting. Our cloud VPS hosting plans provide 100% uptime with unique auto failover features and Softsys Dedicated Servers will provide you with exceptional performance + security with dedicated resources.

14 Sep

HTTPS / SSL Encryption – Do it for web security or Google Ranking Boost?

Google is working to make the internet safe and to take an initiative, they have adopted HTTPS encryption for their own main domain and sub-domains. It means, a secured connection is setup every time when accessing Google Search, Gmail and Google drive sub-domains.

After months of experiment in Search Ranking algorithms for the inclusion of https links, Google decided to consider https, a very lightweight signal for the minor ranking boost. Also Google mentioned that element would only have impact on “fewer than 1% of global search queries”. Although this signal is not given much weight compared to High Quality Content but as per the following phrase, they may give importance in future.

But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

On March 2014 in SMX West event, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, once expressed to include HTTPS as one of the ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. And Google had made it reality in less than five months of announcement.

HTTPS/SSL?

Full form for HTTPS is Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure and SSL Stands for Secure Sockets Locket. HTTPs is the secure version of the http, while SSL is the protocol to provide secure connection between user and website. HTTPS is mostly used on E-commerce websites to make all safe transactions for online banking sites or checkout areas and also with registrations pages to secure the data.

When a visitor access HTTPS website, it undergoes encryption session with a Digital SSL Certificate, which helps stoppage of anyone other to interfere or access the data transfer. Well known browsers shows padlock icon and https:// in the address bar to show the visitors that website is secured by HTTPs.  There will be additional green address bar highlighting for the website owners with extended validation SSL certificates.

Benefits of https

  • Stoppage of man-in-the-middle attacks,
  • HTTPS could give ranking boost in search results
  • Total Privacy of User data like browsing history and credit card numbers.

Drawback

  • Page Load speed: There will be increase in page load time by adopting secured encryption for your site, as HTTPS requires one more communication between servers.
  • Redirection: Make sure to do proper http to https redirection and other canonicalization issues to avoid any keyword penalty.

Just a Tip:

1)      Google has incorporated the addition of HTTPs sites and reporting on them.

2)      There is no influence on rankings, depending on the type of certificate you use. For now. (Extended Validation, Organisation Validation or Domain Validation)

3)      You will notice the increase in “Direct Traffic” if your website is in “http” version. This is due to the traffic passes from a HTTPS site to a HTTP site, there is no idea from where it is coming from.

To get started with HTTPs, here are some of the basic tips as included in their blog:

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need:
    • Single (www.website.com)
    • Multi-domain (www.website.com, www.subdomain.website.com, www.website.net)
    • Wildcard (www.website.com, www.subdomain1.website.com, www.subdomain2.website.com, etc.)
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out our Site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
  • Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag

Conclusion:

Going for HTTPS depends on the business, whether it is just informational or E-commerce. There has been increase in number of attacks from various malwares, Internet Fraud and session hijacking. This leads putting your business and reputation at risk. Nowadays, after suffering from various cybercrime, peoples are getting aware and doing online activities at secured and trusted websites.

At this point of time, instead of looking at the small weightage of ranking boost, website owners should be more careful to the security and trust. No Miracle going to happen for keyword ranking by https and Google is pushing for safety and more improved online security.