3 Reasons to Build Your Online Store in WordPress

Build Your Online Store in WordPressMaking a living online has become the new American dream. Instead of opening a coffee shop or a hardware store, we hang our digital shingle online and sell our wares to the world. Even before you start building your online store, you’ve got some important decisions to make. Which online store platform should you use? If usage is any indication, you might want to look at WordPress. The latest release has had over 9 Million downloads in just over a month and this platform just keeps eating up the website market share. When I’m asked which online store platform a client should use, here are the top 3 reasons I usually recommend WordPress.

Control

With WordPress, you have control over every aspect of your online store. There are no rules to follow but the ones you set and the expectations your customers hold you to. You get to set up the processes that work best for your products and customers.
What exactly does that mean? It means that if you want a completely frictionless buying process where a customer clicks a button to pay and the payment goes through, you can make that happen. A frictionless buying process is best if you have a single product, or products that are purchased one at a time. If you sell multiple products and want to use cross-sells and up-sells to increase sales, WordPress allows you to set up a process where the customer is exposed to other purchases or special deals before checkout. The possibilities are endless.

Flexibility

Because WordPress isn’t just an online store platform, it gives you the flexibility to run your entire business from one website. Do you use content marketing to attract or educate customers? You can easily incorporate a blog onto the same site as your store, highlighting products and leading to more sales. Do you provide services as well as products? WordPress allows you unlimited ways to structure your site so that your services and product can be side-by-side and even complement each other.
Profit
In the end, a success business makes money. The WordPress platform is free, and while there are other costs involved, (hosting, premium themes, store add-ons) you can start your online store for less than $100 for the first year. And nobody at WordPress is taking a percentage of your sales – it’s all yours minus your payment processing service fees.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is how your products get found in search engines. And while the world of SEO is constantly changing, I have yet to find any other platform that beats the SEO you can achieve yourself using WordPress. Every client I have moved to WordPress from a paid website platform as achieved an instant increase in organic search traffic – one had up to a 50% increase in the first month on WordPress! With WordPress, you don’t have to hire an SEO expert to get good results.

If WordPress is So Great, Why Would you Choose a Different Online Store Platform?

Because I’m such a proponent and I make my living from WordPress, people don’t expect me to be open about the potential drawbacks they might encounter while using it. I honestly want what’s best for my clients, so I’m going to be very transparent about the when you shouldn’t use WordPress as your store platform.

  1. If you aren’t willing to spend two hours a month maintaining and updating your website. WordPress and the various plugins that you use to build your website will need to be updated at least once a month. A website that isn’t updated frequently is a huge security risk.
  2. If you value ease of use over creating an optimized buying experience that can increase your sales. We all wish we had a product that just flew off our website without even trying. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those, you might not need WordPress.
  3. If you are intimidated by technology and aren’t good with computers. Let’s face it, everyone has things they are really good at and things they aren’t so good at. For those people to whom computers are a mystery that will never be solved, I recommend sticking with a paid online store platform. I really suck at math and I hire out my accounting for this exact reason. Know your limitations and make the decision that will work best for you.

Now for the good part. How would you like to have my help while you set up your online store? You can spend the day with me and a small group of up to 6 other business owners and we’ll set up your store together. Check out my Build a WordPress Ecommerce Store class in Raleigh, NC to see if there is a session that fits your schedule. At the time of this post, the next one is on June 13th.

What is a WordPress Plugin

What is a WordPress plugin, you ask? If you want to make your WordPress website really sing, you need to use WordPress Plugins. Plugins are how you bring the functionality to your website. Let me explain it like this…

Take the cheeseburger.
WordPress is like a Cheeseburger
An American tradition, the cheeseburger is pretty darn good on it’s own. It tastes good, it fills you up.

However… don’t you want fries with that?

WordPress Plugins are the Fries to Your Cheeseburger

If WordPress is the cheeseburger, plugins are like the fries. The fries make the whole thing a meal.

 

So if you want your website to be more than just a few pages and a blog, you need to install plugins. Plugins add functionality like online stores, social sharing, contact forms, membership site and so many more things that I can’t list them here. In fact, there are literally thousands upon thousands of plugins in the WordPress.org plugin repository.

That’s why I created WP Plugin Coach. The number one frustration for all of my students and clients is finding and setting up the right plugins for their website. I’m building a library of training that you can use to save hours of time finding and implementing the functionality you want for your website.

Now that you know what a plugin is (and you’re craving fast food), tell me what kind of plugin you’re looking for below in the comments. Oh – and what’s your favorite burger joint?

 

Cheeseburger photo credit: TheCulinaryGeek via photopin cc

Meal photo credit: ninacoco via photopin cc

How to Choose an Online Store Platform

Selling your products online is serious business. I know a lot of business owners who are scared to death of the process. In fact, they can become so paralyzed by making the very first decision that they never actually get their store up and running at all!

I don’t fault them one bit. The platform that you choose can make your process go smoothly, or create a nightmare of administrative work for you. Before you commit to a solution, think carefully about the options and what features are important to you.

I generally break options down into two categories: third-party stores and WordPress stores.

Third-party Stores

Third-party stores are stores that exist on all-in-one platforms, such as Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, and eBay.

The Positives

Third-party eCommerce stores are often easy to set up and maintain. These companies have built a specific selling platform that works along specific guidelines. They tend to have easy-to-use interfaces to help you post products and track your sales. Another big benefit is customer support that will solve problems for you. You can also benefit from the advertising the platform does. For example, people know to go to Etsy for handmade craft items. So you benefit from the exposure and traffic that Etsy pulls in for you.

The Challenges

There are two major drawbacks to third-party stores. First, they are less flexible. You don’t have as much control over how your products are displayed. Their interface is their interface and you need to operate within the functionality. The second major drawback is that you will pay higher fees. It’s usually some combination of a fixed rate to have the store and/or a percentage of the sale price for each item. This can take a chunk out of your profit if you don’t build it into your pricing.

Another major problem crops up when you want to integrate your store with your business website, such as a blog, membership site, service offerings, etc. Since you are using two different platforms, it doesn’t always feel cohesive to your visitors. It’s also a lot more to manage on the back end. Some of the more popular third-party stores do have plugins that allow you to display your store items on your WordPress website. That can be good, but I often hear complaints that the display is clunky and not flexible enough to look great.

WordPress Online Stores

To incorporate an online store into WordPress, you would use a plugin. Plugins are small programs that you install in your site to get more features.

The Positives

Installing a WordPress eCommerce plugin to run your store is the ultimate in flexibility and control. You are able to manage every aspect of what you are doing, within the limitations of the plugin.

Some of the more useful features can include the ability to use multiple payment gateways, multiple shipping methods, and customize the purchase and checkout process. You can use a theme to give your pages any look you want, and use CSS to customize the look of your products and other store pages.

Another big advantage is cost. There are some excellent eCommerce plugins that are completely free or have a low yearly fee that includes customer support in case you run into trouble. You get to keep more of your profit in your pocket.

There are many WordPress eCommerce plugins and you should have no problem finding on that does exactly what you need it to do. I personally have found WooCommerce to be the most flexible and easy to use store plugin for WordPress.

The Challenges

The same thing that is a huge positive with WordPress eCommerce plugins can also be a negative depending on what you want for your business. WordPress plugins are not hugely difficult to use, but there is a larger learning curve than many of the third-party stores. You will need to spend some time configuring and understanding how your store works in order to use all of the features. This can be a challenge for someone who is not at all technical, and you should think carefully about how much setup and maintenance you can handle.

Making the Decision

To break it all down to the bare bones, it looks like this.

If you want a store that is simple to use and manage, and you don’t mind giving up control and having less flexibility, a third-party online store might be your best option. Yes, I’m saying this and I make my living on WordPress. That’s because I believe that you should always use the right tool for the right situation. So while I personally feel that a WordPress store is a better option, I have to admit that sometimes using a third-party online store is just the right thing to do.

If you are particular about how your store looks, what payment and shipping services you use, and how the store looks, WordPress is probably the way to go. It gives you the ultimate control over your business. If you’re worried about the learning curve, keep reading.

I’ll Help You Set Up Your Online Store

It’s normal to be a little bit nervous about setting up your online store by yourself. That’s why I’ve developed some options to help you with your online store setup.

If you feel fairly comfortable with WordPress and you just want someone to help you if you with specific decisions, I offer Private Online Coaching sessions where you can share your screen, ask questions and get our help on specific issues as you encounter them.

If you are local to Raleigh, NC you get an even better deal! How about spending a day with me, hands-on, setting up your store together? My Building A WordPress eCommerce Store class is exactly that. This is a full-day class located near Raleigh, NC where we walk you step-by-step through setting up WooCommerce on your live WordPress website. What could be better than having the WP Plugin Coach right there with you every step of the way?

If you have questions about the online or in-person training options, please reach out and drop me a note. I hope to talk with you soon!

WordPress Plugin Review: WordFence Security

I’ve been wanting to do a WordFence review for awhile now, because I simply can’t believe the hacking attempts that have been happening behind the scenes of my WordPress website that I never knew about. Since WordFence – I know.

WordFence is a popular WordPress plugin that handles a many different security issues that you may currently be addressing with multiple plugins. This is a very robust plugin with quite a few advanced features. It’s so robust, that when I talk about it during classes or at speaking engagements, my audience can’t believe that Wordfence is free.

There are way to many features to cover in detail so I’m going to highlight some of the most important features that you should know about:

  • Real-time Security Network – WordFence identifies and blocks hackers who try to break into your WordPress site. Once they are identified, every other website running WordFence also blocks that attacker immediately.
  • Scan Core, Theme and Plugin Files – Your website is constantly scanned. If an infection happens, you will immediately receive notice of the problem via email.
  • Block IP’s, networks, and fake Googlebots – WordFence allows you to block individual IP addresses as well as ranges of IP address. So if you are being repeatedly spammed or attacked by the same person, WordFence can identify them and permanently block them.
  • Email notifications – If there is anything in your website that you need to know about, WordFence will tell you. It even sends you an email when a plugin needs updated.

I highly recommend this plugin for every WordPress website. There is a free version that is very robust, and a paid version with even more advanced features.

WordPress Plugin AssistThere is one potential issue with WordFence that you need to be aware of. It scans your site 24/7. That’s great protection against hackers and other security issues, however, in certain situations it can cause problems. If you are paying for low-end hosting (very cheap) the extra bandwidth WordFence uses when it scans can slow down your website significantly. That isn’t good for SEO. Use a site speed tool like Pingdom Tools before and after installing WordFence to  gauge the impact to your site speed.

 

Plugin Stats

Name: WordFence

Developer: Feedjit

Purpose: Protect your WordPress against hackers.

Versions: Free or Paid

WordPress.org Page: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/

Developer Page: http://www.wordfence.com/

 

How to Resolve a Plugin Conflict

How to resolve a plugin conflictYou’ve often heard how important it is to keep your WordPress plugins updated in order to keep your site secure. And usually, updates go just fine. However, if it didn’t go just fine, would you know what to do?

Because WordPress is an open source platform, there are many different developers coding plugins. And not all of them follow the same process or best practices. This can result in the occasional plugin conflict.

What does a plugin conflict look like?

Plugin conflicts can show up in varying ways. Sometimes, everything looks fine and it’s days before you realize some part of your website isn’t working properly. My all time favorite is the “white screen of death” when your entire website goes white and you completely panic thinking that you’ve lost your entire website for good. That is NOT a good feeling!

To end the conflict and restore your website to its normal behavior, all you have to do is deactivate the plugin. If you can get into your site and get to the Plugin page, you can deactivate the plugin normally. However, if you can’t get to the plugin page, you can deactivate plugins through your host.

Get your site back up and running properly

You are basically going to log in and rename the folder for the offending plugin. This will turn the plugin off, thereby resolving the conflict. Renaming the folder completely separates that plugin from your dashboard. It will no long appear on your installed plugin list. To get it back, return the folder to its original name. The plugin will reappear in the installed plugin list, and it will remain deactivated.

Note: You can perform the following steps using FTP if you have it set up rather than logging into your hosting account.

  1. Log into to your host account and go to your cPanel (or the control area if you don’t have cPanel).
  2. Find the file explorer and launch it.
  3. Navigate to the WP-Config folder for your website.
  4. If you want to deactivate all plugins, rename the plugin folder.
  5. If you only want to deactivate one plugin, go into the plugin folder and rename the folder for just that one plugin you want to deactivate.

As soon as you change the folder name,your website should return to normal behavior.

WordPress Plugin AssistBecause you need to revert back to the original folder name in order to get the plugin back, I usually just add one character to the end of the folder name. When you are ready to revert back to the original folder name, just delete that extra character and you’re ready to go.

Entrepreneurship and Landing Training Job: An eLearn Chat Interview

Long before WordPress was born, I became a learning professional. I started out teaching faculty and staff at my college how to use their computers, and quickly realized I had found a niche! Over the years, I’ve done just about everything there is to do in the learning field. From face-to-face training to elearning design, implementing Learning Management Systems to managing departments. When I decided that I wanted to become an entrepreneur, it took me a while to figure out exactly what kind of business I was going to own. I ended up taking my passion for WordPress and my long experience as a learning professional and combining into Boost Interactive Media and WP Plugin Coach.

Because of all of that, I started a LinkedIn group called Learning & Development Careers to help connect and share career advice with people in the learning and development field. I was recently on eLearn Chat to talk about careers and how to find a job in the learning and development field.

I also couldn’t resist talking a little bit about entrepreneurship, and how you can take all of the things you enjoy most about your job and turn it into a life-altering, freedom-granting business of your own!

Click to Tweet this Episode!

 

Links Mentioned in the Show

To make a free Presume: Slide Rocket

Great Presume Example: http://portal.sliderocket.com/BWPEA/AmberAziza

Learning & Development Careers Group

Boost Interactive Media

Red Feather Networking

Digital Marketing for Business

Illuminate Conference for Mompreneurs

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