The Ultimate Guide To Selecting an eCommerce Platform

By Will Wigram

 

Thinking of building a new eCommerce store or replatforming an existing one?

 

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to choosing an eCommerce platform to help your store get off to the best possible start from the get go.

 

1)        Getting Started / Business Objectives

 

So, what are the key considerations or questions you should ask yourself? Well…

 

What are the reasons behind the re-platforming? What are the key business objectives form this project?

 

Perhaps its your global growth ambitions that is spear-heading this, or potentially to reduce costs and management overheads.

 

Whatever the reasons are its key to make sure that these have been discussed, considered and that everyone is in agreement.

 

What are the key success metrics of the website?

 

Increasing overall sales is probably up there but what other metrics can you attribute to the success of the website?

 

Knowing these is extremely helpful for both you and us when we take on a project as we can link back all of activity and proposed work to these to make sure we are achieving these initial goals.

 

 

If applicable, how is the current website failing?

 

What are the current pain points? – This could be user experience / navigation issues, it could be inflexibility with scaling or a dated look and feel.

 

Whatever they are, it is imperative they do not crop up again and therefore need to be made clear from the get go.

 

But also think about the successes that we can develop even further going forward.

 

What are the main features and functionalities that you want?

 

Of course you will refine this as you go through this process (and we’ll discuss this more in a minute) but its useful to lay everything out on the table to start with. From here you can try to organise them into must haves and nice to haves.

 

Knowing what the priorities are is really useful as it can help point us to the most appropriate platform, and in cases where there are budget limitations, it can help us put together a phased project plan.

 

There are a huge amount of factors that can and will consider in this process, but beginning with the four points above will get you off to a good start.

 

I think one of the most important takeaway’s here is to make sure you involve all departments in these initial discussions. As you go through the process it won’t always be necessary to have all departments involved, but including everyone at this early stage is only going to result in a much more rounded view of the needs and objectives.

 

2)        Product Make Up

 

At the core of any eCommerce website are the catalogues of products. Again on the surface this may seem quite straight forward – items for sale, different colours, different sizes, prices, descriptions and images. But actually, the make-up of these catalogues can be quite intricate and there may be certain limitations on some platforms that could prevent you from running your business effectively.

 

Some of the SaaS platforms (like Shopify & Bigcommerce) are more suited to less complex catalogues than the likes of Magento. For example the number of variants a product can have cannot exceed 100 on Shopify. There are ways around this but it involves customisation and/or the use of a third party app.

 

In isolation this is not that much of a problem but if this type of customisation is needed throughout your product offering, it can become a bit of a pain to manage.

 

So, to alleviate the risk of this happening here are some of the the product questions you should be asking yourself:

 

  • How many products do you want to sell online? Quantity in isolation is rarely an issue but it’s good to know this nonetheless as it will have implications in various ways such as design and site speed optimisation.
  • How many categories and sub categories will you have? This could be quite small to begin with and then grow, so future ambitions is good to also bare in mind at this stage.
  • How Complex is your product taxonomy? Think about the number variants each product will have – colours, sizes, types etc. Will these be presented as single products or as SKUs within the products
  • Is there a requirement to be able to group / bundle products? This has implications for stock management so it’s good to know
  • Will products be sold on a subscription basis? If so, what are the rules here? What does this model look like?
  • Is pre order a requirement? If so should this be triggered automatically when a product is out of stock or manually? Can pre order be managed through other channels such as by phone?
  • Do you have a BTC and BTB product offering? How do these differ and should they be set up completely separately?
  • How will your product make up change and grow over the next few years? Linking back to what I mentioned earlier, what are the ambitions for all of the above?

 

Ultimately it is preferable to choose a platform that can accommodate as many of your requirements as standard features of the platform. Of course, one of the great perks of many of the eCommerce platforms out there, is the vast range of third party apps/plugins that are available that you can bolt onto the website to enhance functionality (we get to this later).

 

However from experience, it’s not advisable to have heaps of plugins as this can have a negative effect on overall site performance and speed.

 

If the majority of the functionality of your website comes from third party plug-ins, it’s probably a pretty clear sign that you are not on the most appropriate platform.

 

This is why it’s important to have all of this detail clearly available when selecting a platform, to alleviate the risk of choosing a one that restricts you and does not allow you to create and evolve in a hassle free manner.

 

3)        Content Requirements

 

Content is at the core of every website and different platforms offer different solutions to the variety of different elements that you may or may not require, some making it easier that others.

 

Types of Content:

Ediorial – Blog, News, Press – archives

Campaign – Projects, Case Studies , Look Books

Brand – About, Philosohy, Process / Craft, History,

Social – integrating 3rd party content

 

Again, try to think about how this will evolve as well as what you’re launching with. How often are you going to be adding new content to the site?

 

If this is regularly (as, of course, it should be to help your SEO rankings) it is so important that it is an easy to do, otherwise it will cause such a headache to whoever has this job, wasting their time going through a tedious process or even worse deterring them from adding any new content.

 

WordPress, is a great option for content rich sites as there is no real limitation from a creative or management point of view. We have historically connected this with WooCommerce to offer a powerful eCommerce solution for our clients – and this is definitely a combination we still recommend.

 

Bigcommerce has recently developed a WordPress integration that creates a really powerful solution giving you all the benefits of WordPress, but weaving this into a very capable and solid ecommerce platform.

 

Shopify is also improving as a content management system and whilst it used to be tricky to manage editorial style content, this is no longer the case.

 

4)        Technical Requirements/Integrations

 

You will find that a lot of the more common integrations are easily achieved with ready made plug ins available. These include:

  • Connecting to email marketing platform to capture newsletter sign ups
  • Connecting to Payment gateways – to allow a seamless check out experience
  • Feeding your instagram account onto the site to offer fresh and dynamic content

 

But it’s not always this straight forward. The recommend approach therefore is thinking about which integrations are going to add value for your customers and your business, rather than going off what you have on the existing site or copying current trends.

 

Once we have this list we can start to evaluate how these can be executed on different platforms, and what level of integration is needed.

 

As mentioned, on the one hand you don’t want to be in a position where you are having to completely customise and bolt on hundreds of apps to achieve your desired offering

On the flip-side you also don’t want to buy into an expensive enterprise level solution when you actually only need 2% of what they offer and are therefore hugely over engineering the situation.

 

We’d be here all day if I was to attempt to list all of the different types of integrations that could be incorporated into your site, but these are some of the potentially more complex but really useful ones that definitely need consideration, and will really help with the seamless running on your business:

 

  • Stock Management
  • Accounting
  • ERP Systems – he
  • Taxes and Duties
  • Multi Currency Check Out – internationalisation
  • Multi Language
  • Fulfillment / Shipping

 

Internationalisation especially, is often one of the biggest factors that will shape platform choice. Giving your customers a local shopping experience, and allowing your business operations to work efficiently on a global scale is essential.

 

Up until now we would only have suggested the more enterprise level platforms – like Magento or Shopware, for this type of requirement.

 

This said a lot of the SaaS platforms are now getting up to speed with this.

 

For example, implementing Shopify to target several countries around the world was always the biggest deal breaker as the only option available previously, was to clone the store in order to enable check out in another currency. However now, multi currency checkout is available through their premium offering -Shopify Plus. In 2019 the road map for Bigcommerce also has Internationalisation at the top of its agenda.

 

As the capabilities of every platform is constantly evolving, it is really important to think about what your technical requirements are and what integrations are needed so that we can help pair you with the a platform that’s the best fit, now and in the future.

 

5)        Costs and Timings

 

And last but by no means least – money! Ultimately one of the determining factors in this process is going to be the available budget and deadlines.

 

The time (and therefore cost) it takes to build an eCommerce website will vary hugely based on the size, complexity and platform you are using.

 

Whether you choose to disclose your budget with your agency at this stage is up to you – from our point of view this is helpful as we can tailor an appropriate solution.

 

Either way, though, it is just crucial to have these figures worked out in good time.

 

So, there are two key factors that must be considered and budgeted for:

 

  • The initial cost of the build of the website
  • Ongoing costs to keep the site running.

 

This initial cost can include:

 

  • Discovery costs – could be UX, brand work, concepting, SEO
  • Design and build costs
  • Data import
  • Content creation – copy writing and photo shoots
  • Third-party integration costs,
  • SEO Set Up

 

Once the implementation is completed, you have to account for the ongoing cost. Items included in this are:

 

  • Maintenance and support retainers,
  • Ongoing host fees,
  • Platform licence costs
  • Payment gateway related fees,
  • Third-party apps / plugin subscriptions
  • Ongoing SEO and marketing

 

Depending on the type of platform you choose, some of these costs might not apply which might be a deciding factor for picking one platform over another.

 

So, there we have it. Once you have a good idea about all of the above points, let’s organise a time to sit down and discuss which eCommerce platform will help propel your business forward.

 

 

A List Of WordPress And WooCommerce Plugins For a Variety of Uses

WordPress came to life on May 2003 and few technological inventions in the internet age have become as ubiquitous as WordPress when it comes to website Content Management Systems (CMS).

 

This is what the WordPress home page looked like back then:

Old WordPress home page screen shot

 

And this is what it looks like now:

 

current wordpress home page screen shot

 

The rise of WordPress and WooCommerce as a CMS has mainly been due to 2 main factors: ease of use and scalability.

 

As a CMS, WordPress is an extremely versatile and easy to use CMS with a learning curve that is much less steep than say Joomla and esp. Magento.

 

Scalability has been made relatively easy due to the myriad number of plugins that have been built for it by WordPress and third parties around the world.

 

If you have a WordPress site there’s a good chance you have at least a few plugins installed already. However, the list of available plugins and their potential uses are almost too vast to count thus making WordPress even more functional and scalable.

 

In this post, Diffusion Digital will talk you through some of our favourite plugins for a shipping and SEO. Bookmark this page as we’ll be updating it with more plugins next month!

WooCommerce plugins for Shipping

 

Flexible Shipping for WooCommerce

 

Flexible Shipping for Woocommmerce

 

Download: 20,000+

 

First up, we have the Flexibility Shipping for WooCommerce which claims to be the most advanced shipping plugin for WooCommerce and whilst we’re not sure we believe in that claim, it does offer quite a wide range of features and customization options to choose from.

 

There isn’t much that the plugin can’t do and is an ideal solution for WooCommerce sites in the medium to high competition sectors where offering a wide range of delivery options is a must.

 

In addition to allowing the calculation of shipping costs based on cart total, you could also do so based on weight. Plus, it also offers COD (Cash On Delivery) shipping options which is something most other shipping plugins do not.

 

Additionally, you have options to integrate insurance options which again, could be a way to add a USP to your WooCommerce site.

 

The plugin comes in 2 flavours: the free version which gives you the tools that should be sufficient for most small retailer and a paid option for more advanced Ecommerce businesses.

 

For a full list of features and the differences between the free and paid version, check out their official site.

 

WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker for Shipping

 

WooCommerce Delivery Options

Next up, we have the WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker which is a good option to consider if your WooCommerce store offers shipping based on time slots.

 

Successful Ecommerce stores know that one of the ways you can increase sales is by reducing the amount of ‘friction’ between the user and the buying process and it is usually a good idea to offer as many shipping options as is possible.

 

This plugin is more like an ‘add-on’ to your existing setup, adding the functionality of allowing users to select when to receive their purchase, giving control to the user on both, the day as well as the time.

 

Of course, not all courier companies offer this feature so it’s a good idea to check that yours does.

WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping

 

Woocommerce-delivery-options-table

 

No. of downloads: 20,000+

 

Being able to calculate shipping charges based on weight isn’t exactly a unique feature by any means but the WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping does have a super-useful way of offering this option.

 

There’s a section for adding multiple shipping rules and you can set further conditions based on when certain rules should or shouldn’t apply.

You can also configure your shipping rates based on total order weight, price or a combination of the 2 and although most companies will probably end up using either one it’s a good feature to have.

 

WordPress Plugins for SEO

 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to a website what the engine is to your car. Without it, no matter how amazing your product is, no one is going to see it.

 

The popularity of SEO has meant that this is area of plugin development is one of the most popular for WordPress which means there’s literally thousands of WordPress SEO plugins to choose from.

 

A thing to bear in mind is that no matter how good the plugin, they only offer you the tools to have the basic on-page SEO in place. If you’re hoping to attract a wide audience for your WordPress website, you will also need to undertake an off-page SEO campaign that encompasses important traffic-driving techniques such as link building and content marketing.

 

Yoast SEO

 

Yoast - SEO for everyone

 

No. of downloads: 5+ million

 

First up, we have the Yoast SEO plugin which is by far, the most popular SEO

plugin for WordPress around.

 

Yoast SEO comes in 2 flavours: the free option which offers you the basic functionality around keyword optimisation, page previews and duplicate content checks whilst the premium (paid) option offers you all of that and much more.

 

Here’s a snapshot of the comparison but for more on this head over to https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/.

 

Yoast price guidelines

 

At the time of this writing, the paid plugin costs £79 plus VAT.

 

If you’re asking “is the premium (paid) Yoast plugin worth it?” then our answer is going to be annoying yet inevitable: it depends.

 

For small WordPress sites in non-competitive sectors and where you don’t need to drive a ton of traffic to the site, the free option might be just fine. Or, if you have a professional SEO company who is looking after your site, both on-page and off-page as well.

 

However, if you want to do it all yourself and don’t plan on a link building and content generation campaign or traffic isn’t all that important, you may find the paid plugin adds a little bit of value.

 

All In One SEO Pack

 

All in One SEO

 

No. of downloads: 3+ million

 

The All In One SEO Pack is another WordPress plugin for SEO and just about as useful as Yoast.

 

All In One has a useful XML sitemap submission feature for those who don’t know how to work with Google Search Console or Bing (or simply aren’t inclined to).

 

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is becoming increasingly common-place on the mobile web and All In One has integration and monitoring capabilities for those 2.

 

Which is better, Yoast SEO or All In One?

 

The differences between the 2 are subtle and in many cases, comes down to your personal preference.

 

For example, whereas the various functions of Yoast are laid out on different tabs, All In One has then all listed on a single page (think of a multi-step checkout process compared to one where you enter all your info on the same page).

 

Another example is Social Media – Yoast does tend to offer a few more options for Social Media monitoring and integration than All In One.

 

WordPress Plugins for Marketing

 

Welcome back to part 2 of our list of essential plugins for your WordPress or WooCommerce website.

 

This month, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the best plugins around to help you super-charge your marketing efforts.

 

The popularity of WordPress has meant that there are thousands of developers around the world building plugins for it for pretty much anything you can think of.

 

From a marketing perspective, WordPress is designed for small to medium sized growing businesses which means no matter what your skill set when it comes to marketing, there’s sure to be a plugin that is right for you.

 

CAOS

https://wordpress.org/plugins/host-analyticsjs-local/

No. of downloads: 10,000+

 

First up on our list is the CAOS plugin built to make the task of Google Analytics integration easier.

 

If you’ve got a website, you’ve most likely have an analytics programme installed too which gives you data about how many people visit your website, where they come from, actions they take and so on.

 

Google Analytics (GA) is one such platform and perhaps the most popular one for most small to medium sized websites.

If you’re considering adding GA to your site, you should know that GA only works once you’ve added the GA code to all pages of the site and often you will need to get your web developer to do it.

 

This is where CAOS comes in. it is a plugin for Google Analytics which allows to you connect to it without the need for any outside help.

 

The plugin is natively compatible with WordPress which means that installing it on your site is going to be seamless and hassle-free.

 

What’s more, once you have this in place, it can also show you the basic info from GA right into your WordPress dashboard saving you a lot of time and clicks having to bounce around from once platform to another.

 

MailChimp for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7-mailchimp-extension/

No. of downloads: 100,000+

 

Mailchimp is for email newsletters what Google Analytics is for website analytics so it’s no wonder that we have a bespoke plugin for MailChimp available.

 

MailChimp is one of the most popular newsletter software around and until the arrival of this plugin, it wouldn’t be too uncommon to find your email subscriber data separate from the signups from your website which means each time you had someone signing up to your newsletter via your website, you will have to manually add them to your MailChimp database.

 

With the MailChimp for WordPress plugin however, all of that is history.

 

Once installed and connected, not only can you automatically sync your newsletter and website subscribers but you can also carry out some advanced functions such as offering the ability of people who make an enquiry via your site to sign up to your newsletter directly via opt-in checkboxes.

 

This is not only a great time saver but will also go a long way in enhancing the size and quality of your subscriber list.

 

OptinMonster

https://ps.w.org/optinmonster/assets/banner-772×250.png?rev=1145863

 

https://wordpress.org/plugins/optinmonster/

No. of downloads: 800,000+

 

Speaking of increasing your email subscriber list, another tool that is designed precisely for that is the OptinMonster plugin for WordPress.

 

Your website’s conversion rate is one of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and offering multiple ways for a conversion (aka call-to-action) to occur is a must.

 

For example, even though your most important call-to-action is going to a sale if you’re selling something or an enquiry if you’re a service business, secondary call-to-action such as a newsletter signup or to download a white-paper or brochure can also be very valuable in the long run.

 

OptinMonster offers the ability to create several different types of forms such as popups and light boxes and even ‘exit-intent’ light boxes which can help you increase the number of page/views, increase conversions and ultimately make your website work better.

 

Drip Marketing Automation plugin for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-marketing/

 

No. of downloads: 9,000+

https://ps.w.org/email-marketing/assets/banner-772×250.png?rev=1817747

 

If your website’s subscriber count is in the triple digits, you need to have a marketing automation CRM in place if you don’t have one already and Drip is one such option.

 

In addition to collating all your signups and subscriber info from a variety of signup sources, a software like Drip can also automate certain marketing tasks that you carry out on a routine basis.

 

For example, Drip will allow you to send out an automated email notification to a a visitor who signs up via your blog each time you publish a new blog post which is not only a great time saver but also helps you improve your return visit levels.

 

Or, you can create lead nurturing emails which are designed to gradually move your user from the ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ stage of the buying funnel. In the long run, this can mean more sales for relatively less effort.

Getting your website ready for a Google Ads campaign

“You can't improve what you can't measure”

Those words were uttered by the famous Peter Drucker during the direct marketing days and well before digital marketing became omnipresent. However, his quote is perhaps now even more relevant (anyone try to measure the success of a leaflet drop campaign?).

Google Ads can be an invaluable Pay Per Click (PPC) tool to help your business generate more leads and sales and one of the reason for its ubiquitous presence is just how well it can work when you know what you’re doing.

However, the very reason that has made it so popular is also the same reason it has made it an incredibly competitive digital marketing channel and a very easy way to lose money if you can’t accurately track how well your PPC campaign is paying off.

 

Enter conversion tracking.

 

google ads overarching goals sub goals KPIs performance targets diagramConversion tracking is the section of Google Ads which allows you to create goals and events which basically tracks every possible conversion action on your website.

Ultimately you want to track not just the obvious conversion action such as a sale but also secondary call-to-actions such as enquiries, downloading a promo code, newsletter signups and others applicable to your business as many times, secondary/sub goals could, in fact, turn into your primary one(s).

  The benefits of having conversion tracking in place should be self-explanatory but here are a few to motivate you:

 

Get qualitative data

 

Conversion tracking allows you to deep-dive into your campaign data and get various insights which you could use for other marketing efforts. For example, once you know which keywords are driving leads and sales and which ones simply result in tire-kickers, you can use this valuable piece of information when formulating your SEO strategy.

As importantly, you can begin fine-tuning your campaign, lowering your bids or pausing nonperforming keywords altogether focusing as much as possible on the keywords likely to positively impact your bottom line.

Another example is getting to understand your audience and buying habits better. For example, by looking at your conversions on a device-level, you can get insights such as what device your customers use to buy from and then lowering your bids on devices that are least profitable.

 

google ads best and worst table

 

Sell more! Ultimately, the purpose of a Google Ads campaign for most small businesses is going to be sales (not brand awareness).

If you find that your Google Ads is working relatively well (think good Quality Scores, high click-through rates, low Cost Per Clicks) but it isn’t resulting in the expected ROI, there’s a good chance that your website or landing pages are the bottleneck.

By making improvements to the pages to which you’re directing your traffic, not only can you ultimately sell more but it would also have a positive long-term impact on all other digital marketing channels where you’re using the same landing pages.

 

Improve your marketing ROI

 

Whilst Google Ads is an incredibly effective source of lead-generation, your return from your ad spend will vary greatly depending on myriad factors such as how competitive your industry is, the quality and buyer-intent of your chosen keywords, how well your campaign is set up and much more.

By looking at your lead and sales acquisition costs on a channel basis, you can decide where your marketing budget is best spent and tweak your allocation accordingly.

Not only will it enable you to find out exactly how much you’re spending to acquire each customer through your Google Ads campaign but also help you make strategic decisions when deploying multiple marketing channels such as which one is more cost-effective and therefore to focus on more.

Hopefully, now that you’re convinced about the importance of conversion tracking here’s how to get started…..

 

Setting up Conversion Tracking

 

Ultimately, the Conversions view on your Google Ads should look like this, with multiple goals and events having been configured.

 

google ads conversion actions table

 

You’ll find an informative guide on how to set it up on Google Ads’s official resource but here’s an overview:

  1. Head over to the Conversions section of your Google Ads

 

google ads settings options

 

  1. You’ll be presented with a range of options for setting up conversions. Unless you’re selling a mobile app, you will want to select the other ones.

If you already have goals set up in Google Analytics then click on the Import option and you will be able to import your GA goals into Google Ads without having to set them up again

For new installs, select the Website option and you will be able to all configure conversion actions that apply.

 

google ads track conversions icons

 

The Phone Calls tracking is an incredibly important and useful feature which allows you to track conversions that originated via the phone. Whilst this may be less important for eCommerce websites, it is a good idea to have all of these in place.

Head over to this guide on the official Google Ads website for more on how to set up conversion tracking via phone calls

Here’s a simple guide on what to enter as values when defining each conversion:

 

google ads enter values conversions

 

If you’re using an eCommerce website powered by Shopify, WordPress WooCommerce or another popular shopping cart plugin, it is fairly easy to setup conversion tracking for your primary call-to-actions via Google Analytics.

 

Head over to the eCommerce section on the admin section of your GA profile and enable eCommerce tracking.

 

google ads enable ecommerce status setup

 

In most cases, you won’t need to do much else and once you import these goals into your Google Ads campaign, you can even see exactly which products you sold, their total value, how much spent to generate that sale and a host of other KPIs.

 

google ads campaign

 

TIP: Whilst you’re in GA, it’s a good idea to switch on eCommerce search tracking so you can also see what products your users are searching for.

For advanced marketers and eCommerce businesses, there are some other KPIs you may wish to track to get a more insightful view into your campaign performance and ROI:

 

  1. Conversion by traffic source: Where are your converting customers coming from? Once you combine this with the cost per acquisition of each sale, you can use this data to determine where you should be investing in driving traffic
  2. Conversion of new vs. returning visitors: Segment conversions of new visitors vs. returning visitors. Conversions for returning visitors are traditionally higher.
  3. Secondary conversion to first: By looking at conversions by each call-to-actions, you can determine how valuable secondary conversion actions are (e.g. what % of newsletter signups convert into a sale ultimately)
  4. Profit: What remains after you subtract the cost of running the store and all marketing expenses (don’t forget to take into account what you pay your eCommerce marketing agency)?

 

And, that sums up how to set up conversion tracking.

As always, if you need help at any stage or want to know how to setup Google Adss or conversion tracking for your own site, feel free to get in touch with Diffusion Digital and we’ll be happy to help.

 

 

9 FAQs on WordPress.

There are thousands of searches on WordPress every day. In fact there are over 2.8 million on Google for the keyword ‘Wordpress’ every month.

What are the 5 best plugins for 2018?

Can my cat have a blog on WordPress?

What is a WordPress permalink?

It is easy to become weighed down by indigestible attempts to explain these common queries, particularly the ones about cats. In this weeks blog we are hoping to redress the balance and answer a selection of the most common questions about WordPress from all corners of the digital expanse.

Let me make it clear, we are not trumpet blowers here, this will be an honest view of some of the positives as well as – and arguably more importantly – the negatives associated with using WordPress as your springboard to a successful future online.

So, let’s kick off with an easy one….

1) What are Diffusion Digital’s top 5 plugins for 2018?

Tricky to narrow down but here are some that we use across most of our website builds.

WPERP logo

Any business owner, on or offline, needs to have exceptional organisational skills if they want to scale up their business, and they are going to need even greater skills to stay there.

WP ERP is a powerful plugin that aids hman resource management, customer relations management and accounting. These three pillars are key to supporting a scaling business and dramatically brighten up what is normally an incredibly mundane and time-consuming job.

Price: Free

best web soft logo

For those of you looking to cross borders and go global, having a Multilanguage option on your site is crucial to attracting and retaining new customers. Now, no translation software is perfect and even the best leave a little to be desired, but the Multilanguage plugin is up there with the best. The plugin works across pages, posts, widgets, menus, custom post types and taxonomies, allowing the user to easily switch to one of the 80+ languages the plugin offers.

Price: $32/mo or $320/lifetime

Yoast SEO Icon

It’s all very well have a beautiful site with unrivalled content, but if you don’t reach your target audience what’s the point? From shyest blogger to the multi national businesses, there will agree there’s very little point in having a website that doesn’t try to reach out to people.

Yoast SEO walks you through all of the steps you need to boost your search engine ranking. From keyword suggestions to content insights to internal linking suggestions to many many more; this powerful tool will dramatically increase your reach and in turn, will bring more quality leads to the site which ultimately will increase conversion.

Price: £69

Woo Commerce logo

As an eCommerce specialist it would be remiss of me not to one of the most powerful plugin that will transform your WordPress site into a fully functioning transactional platform.

The WooCommerce WordPress plugin is responsible for driving around 30% of online stores. Like in most things, when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys and whilst the free version of the plugin gives you basic functionality, the premium version comes with the really useful stuff including one-page checkout, cart abandonment emails amongst hundreds of others.

Price: $79/month, 5 sites – $129/month, 25 – $179/month

Advanced Custom Fields Pro Logo

Anything with ‘advanced’ and ‘pro’ in the title is either overcompensating or genuinely worth its weight in gold. In this case, the latter springs true.

Advanced Custom Fields Pro enables developers to build extra fields into the backend of your WordPress site that enhances repeatable blocks, page building layouts, intuitive galleries, custom settings and reusable fields. This will allow you to optimise the way your content can be consumed, as opposed to being constrained by an off the shelf template.

Price: $25AUD Personal, $100AUD Developer

With 55,000 other plugins out there, this list could ramble on longer than one of the Mad Hatter’s riddles, but it does bring me neatly onto my next point.

Wordpress.com vs Wordpress.org logo

2) What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

There are substantial differences between the two and it is important that you kick off your online presence on the right foot. Fundamentally the main and most obvious difference is that WordPress.org is free. Whilst this might be useful for the hobby blogger, it leaves a lot to be desired if you are looking at taking a more professional approach.

On the one hand wordpress.org provides a free, open source, downloadable version of the software, which you must install yourself, choose a suitable hosting provider and between the two of you, you are responsible for your WordPress installation and management, including backups; upgrades and site security. If you are the person blogging about your cat (or one of the people – I hear this is quite a popular topic?) this might not be an issue as it is unlikely that anything too drastic will happen if for some reason the site goes down (I suspect I am in danger of treading on a few cat lovers’ toes here…. No offence intended!).

On the other hand, WordPress.com offers you a range of off-the-shelf, ready to use Software as a Service (SaaS), basic and premium plans. These versions are fully hosted, all backups are taken care of and security updates and upgrades are handled for you. Whilst it is free initially, premium services are obviously paid for and prices range from £36/year for a partially customised blogging platform, to £240/year for the business plan, which allows you to fully customise your site and install third-party plugins.

There are over 55,000 plugins available on WordPress and it can quickly feel like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole — I perhaps could have phrased that better, apologies Alice — into Wonderland when you start searching for the best plugins with which to optimise your site. But although it can be quite complicated, if you are really after a site that will reflect your brand or business online, these plugins are essential.

Sticking with the subject of plugins, here are some that would broaden the Cheshire cat’s already pretty broad grin…. (Tenuous link – I think Alice in Wonderland is this weeks theme – I couldn’t tell you why. How many references can you find?)

Computer with code, wordpress security

3) How do I secure my WordPress site from rogue plugins?

Fundamentally WordPress is a very secure platform. However, owing to the open source nature of the site, you take the risk of opening up your site to hackers who like to exploit poor coding or out of date software. However, the vorpal sword is always nearby to fight them off and there are many means by which you can mitigate risk. Here is a list of common issues with plugins.

  • Website Security Breaches.

Beware the hackers my son! The jaws that bite the claws that snatch… (hmmmmm, not sure if Carroll will be too happy with this one – or any of them for that matter.)

Hackers will use plugins as a means of gaining entryto your website with potentially catastrophic consequences in terms of your business or data security. The reality is not as dark as I make out here and there are several security plugins that you can install to put yourself in the strongest position in staving off attacks.

Furthermore, simply by backing up your website regularly you can ensure that should an attack take place you can quickly restore your website to working condition.

Keeping your plugins updated, or by removing them if they are not being used, will slam the door on hackers looking to exploit weaknesses in your site.

  • Site performance and page speed.

In terms of retaining and converting visitors to your site, page-loading times are critical. The more plugins you have installed could mean reduced website performance as each plugin requires more code to be read and understood by the browser. Installing a caching plugin like WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache can help prevent this problem by reducing the processing load on your server which can dramatically enhance performance by increasing your site speed.

A potential further issue is that some plugins are not compatible with one another which can cause problems with page loading times and as a worse case scenario entire website failure.

  • Reliability

The reliability of plugins can also be called into question. Reliability can be effected by poor code quality, discontinued products, slow or rare updates, poor support infrastructure and at the most basic level; the complexity of the plugin.

Ensuring all of your plugins are up to date or those that you are no longer using, removed altogether, can reduce reliability issues.

The following is a selection of recommendations that will help prevent you becoming as foul-mouthed as Alice’s nemesis; the Queen of Hearts:

  • ‘Too many plugins’ is not an issue; poorly coded ones are, so due-diligence is essential.
  • Research the developer – does the WordPress community respect them?
  • Look for plugins with 4/5 star reviews
  • What is the new plugin going to add to your website? Will it help or hinder UX?
  • Are there detailed tutorials/guidelines on how to use the plugin?
  • How often is the plugin updated? How many times has it been downloaded? A trustworthy plugin will be regularly updated.
stacks of money

4) Can a WordPress blog make money? 

The simple answer to this question is yes.

However, if you’re thinking of get rich quick then you should probably start looking elsewhere.

WordPress’s roots are deeply set in the blogging world, whilst it has developed into a different beast altogether, fundamentally it’s area where people can share ideas to an audience who cares.

As with many other digital platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — one of the biggest opportunities to make money is through marketing. But this is not as easy as it seems and requires a huge amount of skill. Essentially, generating an income through blogging largely revolves around building a large following who companies can target.

How can I generate a large following I hear you ask. Well, again, the answer is simple but the reality is a little trickier. Ultimately you have to be able to write regular, quality and sharable content that retains a strong readership over a long period of time. Once you have this readership in place you can look to ways of monetising it.

The following is a list of a few ways to monetise a blog:

Affiliate marketing

  • Linking to other websites using tracking links (PPC/CPM)

Google Adsense

  • Allow Google to present ads on your site. (PPC/CPM)

WordPress Ad plugin

  • Allow people to directly place ads across your site.

Sponsored content/reviews

  • Be paid to write articles on behalf of a company or business

Restricted ‘Members Only’ content

  • Restrict access to special features – video, podcasts etc

Create a directory/job board

  • Find a niche and map it, making it a useful resource for companies/businesses.

Of course there are other ways like selling products through eCommerce, or becoming a WordPress developer – as WordPress developers ourselves we’d rather you chose something else though!

Sony Music home page screen grab

5) What big brands use WordPress as a platform?

 

Disney 

Tech Crunch 

Bloomberg

MTV News 

BBC America 

Alice-in-Wonderland 

Sony Music

Sweeden’s official website

Mercedez 

6) Can WordPress host my Domain?

When you sign up to WordPress you will be issued with a free address – for example; diffusiondigital.wordpress.com – however you can change this by signing up to a WordPress plan which will allow you to create a new address or import an existing one.

Essentially what you will be buying is a Domain Mapping Upgrade and whilst this sounds complicated, it isn’t. In layman’s terms, this upgrade means directing anyaddress.com to your anyaddress.wordpress.com site. Basically – your visitors will see your site hosted on wordpress.com although anyaddress.com continues to be the visible address.

Ultimately WordPress is like the Hatter’s tea party. It hosts all sorts of different businesses and brands and brings them together around a common platform. (Still tenuous?!)

7) How does a WordPress website work?

Many people look at a WordPress with fear as if it some kind of savage beast whiffling through the tulgey wood. They hear expressions like open-source or code or pluggin and terror strikes them down. But fear not. Boiled down to the bear essentials it is quite simple.

If you don’t like slightly technical stuff fear not because nor do I. I am going to attempt to translate this to the point that my grandmother will understand and she is still struggling with the electric telephone.

So, without further ado….

WordPress is what is known as an open source platform which means everyone has access to its code (essentially what any computer programme is written in) and can manipulate it in order to make new plugins or features.

Since its conception as a blogging platform in 2007, thanks to the army of developers who have been able to access and adapt the code, it has evolved into the world-leading platform that it is today.

Having access to the source code means that developers are able to make plugins (or…addins, add-ins, addons, add-ons or extensions), which are software components that add specific features to a webpage. For example if you want to have an image slider that enables the user to be able to slide through an image library across the screen, then there is a plugin for that. The same goes for drop down menus, accordion style FAQs, parallax scrolling. In fact there are over 55,000 plugins that will allow you to completely fit out your website so that it truly reflects your brand or business, as opposed to having to work to a template design.

Ultimately, WordPress is a beast worth taming and it will help organise and bring to life the brand or business that you care so deeply about.

8) Will WordPress Die and what happens if it does?

I admit this one surprised me a little bit as well but sure enough, ‘will WordPress die?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions in Google on WordPress. So it would be negligent of me no to give it a look in.

Well, put simply it would be a bit of a nightmare for the 19,500,00 or so websites that use it. But is it likely? well… no.

WordPress is a juggernaut and only some sort of herculean miracle will see it taken over and I suspect it will rule the digital CMS roost for decades to come.

permalinks settings page screen grab

9) How do WordPress permalinks work?

We’re in danger of slipping into the technical abyss with this one but I shall try and keep it simple.

Permalinks are the permanent URLs of your blog posts, service pages or product pages of your WordPress site. Essentially it is through these that the digital world can identify what is on the page in question, and allows them to share what ever it is you have been producing.

Put simply:

  • People use your permalink to point to content on your website
  • You’d use your permalink to share your content across social media
  • Google uses permalinks to help index your content
  • If you want to a webpage in an email you would drop in a permalink

So, as you can see they are quite important to the structure of your website and attention must be paid to them if you’re trying to increase your quality exposure.

The problem with WordPress is that the default permalinks are not very digestible for humans and Search Engine Spiders alike.

Fortunately you can change them (this needs to be done when you build your website as once you change these URLs, all pre-existing links will become defunct).

By going into the backend or ‘admin’ side of WordPress and going to ‘settings’ and then ‘permalinks’, you can select how to set your default permalinks using date/time, plain or the best as far as I’m concerned: ‘Post Name’.

10) Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Well if you can answer this then you know more than me about WordPress! But don’t worry if you can’t, find out more about how we design and build WordPress sites or talk to one of our team of WordPress specialists today and discover how we can help bring your brand to life online.

Valentines Day – Some Sales Boosting Tips

Last year, Valentine’s Day contributed an estimated £987m ($1.23bn) to the UK economy, with the average amount spent per shopper being £53. Although a large chunk of this went to the flower and gift industries, online retailers too saw an increase in their sales. There is always a lull in retail spending in January, after a hectic holiday season. Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for businesses to boost their online sales and drive customer engagement across their channels. Even if you’re not in the gifting sector, you can leverage this holiday and make it a great angle for your digital activities of February.

 

Integrate Products From Other Industries

If it fits in your business model, you can offer some archetypical Valentine’s Day items such as flowers, chocolates or greeting cards along with the purchase of an item from your brand. Not only will this save your customers the trouble of purchasing from more than one retailer, it will also earn you extra revenue from product categories that thrive during this period. Another great tactic could be to offer a free gift-wrapping service or a personalised note along with a purchase during this period.

 

Offer a Sales Promotion

Nothing like extending a great deal on your products to improve sales, especially at a time when gift retailers hike up their prices. There are loads of thrifty Valentine’s shoppers trying to get more bang for their buck, and so a sales promotion could be a lucrative proposition during this season. Offer discounts across your product range or throw in freebies with a minimum amount of purchase. Don’t forget to put a deadline on your offer so customers avail it instantly!

 

Get Your Single Clientele To Indulge In Some Self-love

Give some love to your single shoppers by letting them know Valentine’s Day is all about treating oneself and celebrating self-love. This could be a great angle for your marketing campaign, especially if your businesses does not offer any gift related products. You could also offer personalisation of your merchandise for a limited time close to the day.

Give some love to your single shoppers by letting them know Valentine’s Day is all about treating oneself and celebrating self-love

Host a Valentine’s Day Contest

Drive customer engagement across your social channels by hosting an online Valentine’s Day competition for your customers. Create a hashtag for this competition and encourage customers to post across their social media using this hashtag, in exchange for some goodies for themselves and their loved ones. Not only will this augment your social outreach, it may also spread brand awareness and recall amongst noncustomers.

 

Guarantee Delivery

Shoppers are always cautious of ordering gifts online, afraid it may not arrive in time for the D-day. Dispel their fears by guaranteeing shipping by or before the holiday. Another tactic could be to offer free shipping on all orders placed in the first week of February. It drives sales even if the customer is not looking for Valentine’s Day presents.

 

Contribute to a Charity

Spread some love by supporting a charity or organisation during this holiday. Show your customers that you care about giving back and attribute a portion of your sales to a good cause. You could also engage the charity in creating some limited-edition merchandise or packaging for a Valentine’s special!

 

Your Turn! Are you looking to launch an eCommerce site?

Did we miss something? Get in touch and let us know what you’ve got planned this February!

 

Are you looking to launch an eCommerce site?

Click here to read more about Diffusion Digital’s eCommerce offering.