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Return Policy Template Examples for Small eCommerce Businesses

TheraSpecs is an online eyewear vendor that makes tinted sunglasses designed to relieve the effects of migraines. Recently, facing a sharp spike in return rates, the company decided to extend their 45-day free trial. “Even at 45 days, we found that customers who were on the fence were more likely to return their glasses because of the deadline,” Marketing Manager Greg Bullock explains. TheraSpecs extended their free trial to 60 days. Those 15 extra days made a huge difference. Return rates stabilized, negative customer comments decreased, and most importantly, onsite conversion rates increased by 15 percent. Bullock has this advice for eCommerce business owners: “Craft your return policy for your actual customer. Don’t base it solely on industry best practices, your competition, or what’s in your best interest.” Good return policies strike a balance between bolstering consumer trust in your products and minimizing profit loss. Your return policy isn’t just a box to tick off—it actually says something about your brand. If your policy is too strict, it engenders doubt in your products and you. Too complex, and it puts up roadblocks to purchase. Too technical sounding and you seem duplicitous.  Get regular tips on growing your new or existing store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. Even Retail Giants Struggle to Find the Right Return Policy In February 2018, L.L.Bean expired its famous lifetime guarantee, moving to a one-year return policy. In May 2018, Amazon announced it was changing its retail policy. The retail giant said it would ban customers who were abusing its liberal return policy and close their accounts. The two famously customer-centric companies are trying to crack down on merchandise return fraud, which costs U.S. retailers an estimated $17.6 billion per year. But will Amazon and L.L. Bean eliminate the cost of fraud, only to lose customers to retailers with more generous return policies? Only time will tell. Keep Your Return Policy Simple If you’re building or revamping your return policy, keep the terms and conditions simple. Even if you have to include some jargon and legalese to protect your interests, keep things as short as possible. Complex details, limitations, and extra fees confuse and anger customers, driving them away from product and checkout pages. Best Buy’s return policy is a good example of terms and conditions getting out of hand. For example, the return and exchange periods vary by department. Some items have a return window of 14 days from the original date of purchase, while others have 15 days. Return day requirements also change with Best Buy membership levels (e.g., Best Buy Elite vs. Plus members). Return costs also change by device—small electronics like cell phones cost $35, while DSLR cameras are 15% of the purchase price. Making customers do math is a huge purchase barrier. Restocking fees even differ depending on the brand of the cell phone! Shipping costs are also convoluted, with Best Buy’s return policy making a distinction between free shipping for “Best Buy error” and customer-paid shipping for all other reasons. The policy even changes during the holiday shopping season. What’s a customer to do? If Best Buy’s return policy resembles differential algebra, IKEA’s return policy is like third-grade math. You get 365 days to return an item for a full refund unless the item is “found to be dirty, stained, damaged or abused.” The returning customer only needs to present a photo ID and pay for shipping, pick up, or return it to an IKEA store. The company does change its policy to 90 days for pillows, quilts, and mattresses. But aside from that, IKEA’s return policy is easy to understand and follow. Besides simplicity, IKEA’s return policy also benefits from copy that instills buyer confidence: “It’s OK to change your mind,” it begins. “If you’re not totally satisfied with your IKEA purchase you can return it…”. Note how the tone is empathetic, reassuring the customer it’s okay to be dissatisfied. It’s also customer-centric, addressing the customer directly. Contrast that with Best Buy’s beginning sentence—“We at Best Buy work hard every day…”—which puts the company first. Be as Transparent as Possible The quickest way to lose your customers’ trust is to have a return policy that surprises them with information they should have known before the purchase. Transparency is a non-negotiable quality in a return policy, and if absent, can negatively affect the most conscientious and ethical store owner’s bottom line. You don’t need to intentionally hide extra fees inside small print disclaimers and asterisks to lack transparency. Use Plain Language Your Audience Understands Your return policy isn’t a place to drop your brand voice and adopt legalese—the words you use represent your brand just as much as the words on your homepage. Forever 21, a fashion brand that caters to teenagers and young adult audiences, doesn’t speak the same language as their customers when it comes to their return policy. Forever 21’s introductory sentence says it all … while saying nothing at all: This Returns and Exchanges Policy applies to all purchases made through the website Forever21.com, the Forever 21 mobile applications, and any other website or application that directs you to this Returns and Exchanges Policy (collectively, the “Site”). The copy is too dense and cold, creating distrust and alienation in the customer. The real problem is that the return policy page changes the brand/customer relationship. The inviting words of Forever 21’s home page (e.g. “The brands we love”) isn’t carried over to their refund page—a place where “arbitration” and “governing law” create a formalized, legal relationship. This discontinuity in tone puts the customer on guard, engendering the feeling that there’s something fishy going on here. In contrast, MapleHolistics.com is a brand that understands that a return policy needs to sound personalized, reassuring and on-brand. Here’s a sample from the skin and hair product vendor’s return policy. Note the inviting tone. If you select a product for your own use and are, for any reason at all, not happy with the results—we will either replace it with a more suitable product, or give you a full refund (maximum of 2 refunds per household). It’s your choice—a choice well made knowing that we are dedicated to providing outstanding customer service and quality care. MapleHolistics.com uses a return policy that’s simple and transparent. It contains contact information within the policy copy, which lets customers quickly ask questions. The policy also uses graphics to reassure customers, adding “Guaranteed Money Back” badges surrounding the “Holistic Promise”. For Some Stores, No Refunds Is the Best Policy The best policy for your store may be offering no refunds at all. Alex Tran is a fashion blogger and reviewer who also sells fashion from her personal collection on her website schimiggy.com. Tran says she doesn’t offer product returns at all. “I sell both new and used goods and let my buyers know that that is the nature of my store and its policies,” she says. Tran, instead, leans on product images and descriptions to inform her customers about the condition of her items and build purchase trust. Tran’s return policy is only five sentences long and is located right in the middle of her shopping page: RETURN POLICY: All items are described as is in the listings. Due to all items coming from my personal closet, all sales are non-refundable. Please read the full description prior to purchasing. Thanks for your understanding. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. The no-refunds policy works well for influencers like Trans who use their own closets to stock their product pages. Since she’s a product reviewer, Trans succeeds only as much as she maintains trust and authenticity with her audience. It’s a level of trust that naturally transfers to her product descriptions too, removing customer doubts about the quality and authenticity of the clothes. Overall, Trans’ return policy is simple, transparent, and trustworthy, and so far, it’s been successful. “I’ve had my store for a year now, and haven’t yet gotten a return from a disgruntled buyer,” she says. “As long as you are transparent about your business practices, most buyers will understand.” Return Policies Reveal Who You Are To a customer, return policies that are unreasonable suggest you’re also unsure of your own products. A trustworthy consumer would rightfully feel distrusted if your policy was a major hurdle—“Why are they making this so hard to return? Do they think I’m a crook?” Reasonable return policies build trust in your brand while helping convert shoppers into life-long customers. The vast majority of shoppers will spend more and buy more often from brands that have a generous, simple, and transparent return policy. So, make sure you incorporate these qualities when creating or updating your own. Make Your Store Faster With Managed WooCommerce Hosting from Liquid Web, you can easily start a new online shop, a dropshipping store or a marketplace. And with built-in plugins for building beautiful landing pages, cart abandonment technology, automatic image compression, and performance testing, your store will bring in more sales than ever. The post Return Policy Template Examples for Small eCommerce Businesses appeared first on Liquid Web.

Streamlining your WooCommerce Checkout Process to Increase Sales

The name of the game with eCommerce is making sales. Anything that gets in the way of a customer purchasing is costing you money. Even collecting their email before they’ve made their purchase can cut your sales. Today we’re going to start by looking at ways you can streamline your checkout process so that you can increase your conversions rates. We’ll also talk about which method might be right for your store. One note before we get started today. You need to be A/B testing any changes to your eCommerce store. A/B testing is the process of showing some of your customers a new, possibly improved, version of a page on your site. Then you measure to see if the changes you’ve made improve your conversion rates. Increase Sales by Streamlining Checkout In 2015 Barilliance found that the global average cart abandonment rate was over 70%. Take a look at your sales, and realize that there was another 70% of people that had a product in their cart, only to leave. Maybe they even purchased from a competitor? With the right changes in your checkout process, you could cut your cart abandonment rate by up to 50%. That’s a significant impact on your bottom line. What could you do with the revenue that a 50% higher conversion rate would bring?  Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting includes cart abandonment technology right out of the box. Is a Single Page Checkout Right For You? One of the ways that you can streamline your checkout process is to use a single page checkout process, but sending someone directly to an on-page single window checkout experience isn’t right for every store. If you want visitors to purchase multiple products, then this a direct to checkout single page experience is not for you. Many people want to jump directly into a single page checkout experience because of these advantages: A faster and simplified checkout process Quick navigation Fewer page loads getting in the way of purchase Despite these advantages, you will note that Amazon still uses a multi-page checkout process for some of their products. Other types of products are purchased with “one-click.” Amazon doesn’t even let you see the checkout when buying a book for Kindle. When you click purchase, you’re taken directly to the completed order page with their single click checkout process. Using WooCommerce One Page Checkout, you can get some of these same effects. WooCommerce One Page checkout allows you to put a shortcode on a page and in a single page, letting your customer select their products and fill in the checkout form. When they submit their order, it’s done. Leveraging WooCommerce One Page Checkout eliminates the step of adding something to your cart because it is added to the cart and able to be purchased at the same time. With a straightforward shortcode, and your product id’s, you can list your products and get a single page checkout experience. In addition to supporting all of the standard WooCommerce product types, WooCommerce One Page Checkout supports Easy Pricing Tables, Subscriptions, WooCommerce Checkout Addons, and many other extensions. Another way to get a faster checkout process is by using WooCommerce Checkout on Popup. This plugin allows you to show your user a single page popup, with complete checkout information, when they add a product to the cart. While you’re not truly cutting steps in the process, many users will feel like the checkout process has fewer steps in it this way. Installing WooCommerce Checkout on Popup You can install WooCommerce Checkout on Popup by going to Plugins -> Add New and searching WooCommerce Checkout on Popup. Click Install and then Activate so that the plugin is ready to use on your store. Once WooCommerce Checkout on Popup has been added to your site, you can find the settings under WooCommerce -> Settings. It will be in one of the tabs across the top of the page. By default, the plugin presents the checkout popup as soon as the user clicks the purchase button on a product. To get the most streamlined experience, you’ll need to purchase WooCommerce Checkout on Popup Pro. The Pro version will allow you to send a user directly to the site checkout page inside the popup, instead of the popup taking them to the cart which then requires another reload to get to the checkout page. WooCommerce Checkout on Popup also provides your customers with the ability to access the checkout and cart in a popup from any place on your site via a global cart icon. While one-page checkout can be great, it isn’t always the right option. Most times you should look at optimizing your checkout process in other ways first. If One-Page Checkout Isn’t For You For some WooCommerce stores, a single page checkout isn’t right. Maybe you have a bunch of different accessories, and people will continue to shop after they’ve added an item to their cart. In that case, let’s look at what you can do to streamline your checkout process. Use the Standard WooCommerce Cart Page The first place to start is to determine if you need the standard WooCommerce cart page. Your cart page is usually found at https://yourdomain.com/cart and is a step between adding something to a customer’s cart and the payment process. The Sweet Setup, one of my clients, sells online courses, so we don’t need to worry about a bunch of items being added to the cart. Users generally purchase a single course at a time. When you view their Ulysses course and purchase it, you are taken directly to the WooCommerce checkout. We bypass the cart phase because we don’t need it. To stop users from purchasing multiple copies of a course by accident we use Min/Max Quantities. We used Min/Max Quantities for this because usually, quantities for your products are viewable and adjustable on the Cart page in WooCommerce. Since we’re bypassing it and sending users to the WooCommerce Checkout directly, we saved support issues and time on potential refunds by making sure that you could only ever purchase a single copy of a course. On The Sweet Setup, we add a direct link to the checkout that includes the product you’re purchasing. This works for my client because they write custom landing pages for each product and then include the correct link to send someone to the checkout page. To build a direct-to-checkout link for your site, you’ll need the product id. You can find this directly under the title of your product in the admin panel. Armed with the product ID, you’ll need a specially crafted URL with the add-to-cart parameter at the end. For The Sweet Setup, this looks like https://thesweetsetup.com/checkout/?add-to-cart=12709. For your site, change the domain and the product id to match your site and the product you want to send directly to the checkout page. If you’re using the standard WooCommerce purchase buttons, then you can use WooCommerce Direct Checkout to send all of the purchase links directly to checkout. Streamline Required Fields at Checkout A second thing you can do to streamline your checkout is to only ask for the fields you require at checkout. You’ll notice that The Sweet Setup only asks for your name and email and to create an account password. Standard WooCommerce has a bunch of extra fields for your address and asks you to think about the difference in your billing and shipping address. We don’t need an address to ship you a digital product, so we don’t ask for it. We don’t even try to upsell any customers either but use Smart Offers to offer other products after customers have made their initial purchase. Other clients I have need to know the Zip/Postal Code of their users so that they can charge taxes appropriately. In this case, only ask for the Zip/Postal Code and leave the other address information out of the equation entirely. If you don’t need it, then don’t ask for it. Use WooCommerce Buy Now One of the final things we do on The Sweet Setup to expedite the checkout process is use WooCommerce Buy Now. For signed-in users with at least one previous order, WooCommerce Buy Now will complete the current order using the customer’s most recent billing and shipping information. That means we can provide a single click purchase experience for our repeat customers. Final Considerations on Streamlining Your Checkout Process There are a few rules to remember to streamline your checkout process and increase your conversions: Only ask for the information you need Every step in your checkout process increases the chance of cart abandonment A/B test your changes Regardless of the customizations you choose to make to your WooCommerce store, keeping these few rules in mind will help you get more customers. Build a High-Performing WooCommerce Store Create a lightning-fast store that converts traffic with Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting solution. It comes standard with Jilt to help you recover abandoned carts, performance tests whenever you need them, and the platform reduces query loads by 95%, leading to a faster store and more conversions. The post Streamlining your WooCommerce Checkout Process to Increase Sales appeared first on Liquid Web.

Ten Ways Databases Run Your Life

You might not realize it, but databases are everywhere. Whether or not you know very much about them, their effect on our daily lives is extensive. From weather applications to the movies you watch online, databases are responsible for many of the services we utilize daily. We have collected a few of the more well-known examples of how databases enhance your day-to-day life below. The most popular database server in our industry, MySQL, is prevalent in virtually every example listed below.  Like this content? Subscribe now and have more just like it sent straight to your inbox. 1. Online Television Streaming Any online streaming service, such as Hulu or Netflix, uses databases to generate a list of TV shows and movies to watch. The database tracks an individual’s show preferences, and provide a list of recommended viewing. The power required to analyze such an enormous amount of data is done through highly-specialized database management technology, such as Cassandra. In fact, Hulu has recently been relying heavily on Apache Cassandra. 2. Social Gaming Gaming done across social networks is extremely data intensive. Gathering individual player information from around the globe and serving it to players on demand requires a high availability database software. One example is the popular Game of Thrones Ascent, a free role-playing game launched by Disruptor Beam and based on the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones. Their Percona Server-based database solution helps eliminates data bottlenecks during high-usage periods. 3. Personal Cloud Storage If you save photos or documents to your smartphone or tablet, it’s likely your data is stored in “the cloud,” a large, central storage environment with a small portion dedicated just to you. Syncing this data across your devices requires powerful databases able to call up your data at a moment’s notice, wherever you are. 4. Sports Fan participation in national sports doesn’t just utilize the power of the database, it depends upon it. From fantasy football leagues to March Madness brackets, they all depend on huge databases full of player statistics. This includes game performances, injury reports, and more, all calculating the odds of a win on a weekly basis. 5. Finances From the stock market to your local bank, databases are abundant across the financial world. Tracking the vast amount of information behind the world’s daily transactions requires extremely powerful databases. This includes financial models that analyze that data to predict future activity. 6. Government Organizations Government organizations around the world are constantly collecting data for research, defense, legislation, and humanitarianism purposes, to name a few. This data is collected, stored and analyzed using powerful and far-reaching database services. 7. Social Media Every social media platform stores reams of user information in databases used to recommend friends, businesses, products, and topics to the end user. This cross-referencing of data is immensely complex and uses highly reliable and capable database software. For example, MySQL is used in Facebook data centers. 8. eCommerce Any online organization that sells its products or services uses databases. This includes activities such as organizing their products, pricing information, and user purchase history. The eCommerce store owner can then recommend other potential products to customers using platforms such as WooCommerce. This data is stored in highly secure databases, protected by the standards set through PCI Compliance. 9. Healthcare Doctor’s offices and healthcare organizations, among others, store extensive amounts of patient data for easy accessibility. The databases behind this collection of information are large and complex and secure protected data. This is in compliance with HIPAA standards. Healthcare.gov relies on a NoSQL database to manage their health insurance information. Cassandra is one such example of a NoSQL database software. 10. Weather Predicting the weather across the globe is incredibly complex. The predictions depend on a myriad of factors, all gathered, stored and analyzed within databases. This allows the data to be ready to deliver today’s weather to your local TV station or smartphone app. The Weather Company, for example, takes in over 20 terabytes of data per day. The company has used a number of databases to support this data, including MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Cassandra, and more. We have Databases too! Our Cloud VPS (Virtual Private Servers) and Traditional Dedicated Server solutions are two perfect examples of products that also run on databases. They are designed specifically for entrepreneurial businesses, developers, freelancers, and digital agencies. The post Ten Ways Databases Run Your Life appeared first on Liquid Web.

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

Back in April, we gave you Ten Questions You Need to Answer to Survive a Data Disaster. Recall that, “Good business relies on good planning. Anticipating scenarios, detailing responses and understanding consequences is an essential part of your business survival kit.” This notion remains true, and I’d like to take a more in-depth exploration of Data Backup and Disaster Recovery. Data disasters can be the result of human or hardware error. In any case, safeguarding against data loss is imperative in today’s Information Technology climate. Let’s look at the risks you need to start assessing. Assessment of Risks – Plan Ahead The first thing you will want to do is assess the risks related to securing the data for your business and clients. Depending on the services you provide, annual risk assessments may be required. There can also be compliance requirements, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This is as important as the environment you host. It involves securing your data both now and in the future. Let’s look deeper at data classification, data ownership, and data storage and security.  Learn more about keeping your business secure. Subscribe to Liquid Web’s newsletter to get insider tips sent straight to your inbox weekly. How is Data Classified You will need to know and understand how your site or application gathers data. It is also vital to know the classification of it as well. This will determine the storage and security of data as you assess risk. Some common data classifications are Public, Private, and Restricted data. Information that is available to and from the public may not need retention. If it does, the risk of compromise to that information would be low since it is public. In contrast, if private or restricted information were compromised, it would be catastrophic. Who Owns the Data Once you have determined the classification of the data, you will want to establish ownership. Does this data belong to your business, your client, or an outside individual or entity? This is critical to determining what processes are necessary for accessing, storing, and securing the data. It is also good to have security access measures, such as 2 Factor Authentication, in place. After accomplishing this vital step, you can move on to access measures, storage, and security. How is Data Stored and Secured Data storage and security is a factor in the assessment process to watch on a continual basis. This will include storage capacity as well as where in the set up specific data will be. For instance, do you want the operating system and site content on the same drive array or not? This can also dictate the type of drives (SATA or SSD) as well as the array implementation of them. Disk encryption is another thing to consider in the security piece of the assessment. As mentioned above, determine the access method for those that need it. If you are looking to dive a bit deeper on risk assessment, Digital Guardian has an excellent guide for putting together a business risk assessment. Data Backup and Disaster Recovery The final part of a Risk Assessment, which the rest of this article will deal with, has to do with Data Backup and Disaster Recovery. Critical to any Risk Assessment plan is having a data backup or recovery plan. Businesses large or small see the impact with data loss due to a catastrophic event. Having a plan in place to get back up and running should something happen is vital to survival. During this part of the Risk Assessment, a Business Impact Analysis can prove valuable. The BIA will outline the consequences of a disruption of business function and processes resulting from data loss. This analysis will also put into place a proper backup and disaster recovery plan. Mission-Critical Systems and Infrastructure – Know What You Need This is where a proper Assessment comes in handy. You will be putting all of the gained knowledge of your systems to use. Because you know the classification of data, ownership, storage, and security, implementing a backup solution should not be difficult. The other part to the equation would be the actual infrastructure itself. You will need to consider the configuration of your servers and how this setup will factor into your backup solution. There are those that may have a single server setup. Your options are whether to back up the data on the server or to a remote location. For others, a multi-server setup will need evaluation for the best way to put backups in place. You will need to decide between backing each server up to its own server, drive, or to a single server or cluster. On-server backup storage simply means the backup and live data exist on the same server. This can either be on the same drive or another physical drive in the server. A configuration with on-server backups would have direct access to data, usually contained in the file system. This gives you some recourse should there be a need to restore a file or entire sets of data. But this would not provide the ability to recover data in the event of a full server failure. By contrast, remote server backups provide a more sound disaster recovery option. The idea is that you are not only able to restore files and data sets, but the entirety of the data contained on the server if necessary. Depending on the implementation, direct access to the backups may or may not be an option. Still, this can be one of the best tools to consider when backing up your data. Why Planning for Data Backup and Recovery is Important In creating the recovery plan, it is essential to consider the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and the Recovery Point Objective (RPO). As we discussed in our initial article on data disasters, the RTO is the measure of how long your business can be offline before the damages are catastrophic. What that timeframe looks like business to business may vary. Businesses that count on obtaining data and storing it to databases would suffer if that flow of data stopped for even one hour. Busy WooCommerce stores can lose money if potential customers are not able to reach their store to buy products. A capable backup and recovery plan should account for the time it would take to get systems restored. The RPO is the measure of how much data you can lose during a catastrophic event before your ability to do business or remain in business is in question. There is nothing worse than restoring your systems and finding there were not enough restore points to ensure the most recent changes were intact. Or, as in the case example of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, data loss can occur due to having a backup solution that was not tested after a system update. Your backup and recovery plan needs to include proper testing to ensure functioning backups are happening for your business. Have a Team – Be Ready to Go Whether your infrastructure is in-house or with a managed provider, it is essential to have a team willing to act at a moment’s notice. If you’re in-house, ensuring your Backup and Recovery plan solves for your team’s availability in crisis will prove valuable. If you are hosting your systems via a managed provider, it is good to know what their Data Backup and Recovery plans are. This is usually outlined in a Service and Organization Controls Report (SOC). This can be the difference between data loss, downtime for longer than desired, or quick recovery and loss avoidance. Liquid Web’s SOC 3 report and all other certifications are available on our site. How Liquid Web Handles Backup and Disaster Recovery On-Server Backups With Liquid Web, on-server backups can be with or without the use of a control panel. This holds true for our Cloud VPS, Cloud Dedicated, and Traditional Dedicated servers. Our Fully Managed servers use cPanel or Plesk for Linux, and Plesk only for Windows environments. Using a control panel and setting up on-server backups provides flexibility in the days and times they run, giving you many restore points. You will want to ensure that you have enough server storage to house both your data and backups. Remote Backups Our remote backups have a different implementation for Cloud servers than for Traditional Dedicated servers. Liquid Web’s Cloud backups are apart of our Cloud Platform. Each backup is for the full server and runs daily. These backups store on nodes within our data centers managed by us. There are two options for Cloud Backups: Pay Per Gig and Quota Pricing. I discuss those options in a previous post, “What is Cloud VPS?“. For Traditional Dedicated servers, our Guardian Backups is the solution for remote backups. You can choose to run daily or continuous backups of your server, only backing up changes to your files. The latter gives you a secluded, incremental backup solution for dedicated servers. In this case, Guardian takes incremental backups of your entire server to ensure that you can restore or reimage your server in case of a disaster. The initial image taken is of the whole server with more images only updating changes that made to files. All backups store in our data centers. Check With Your Host for Backup Services to Match Business Needs If your setup is being done in-house, it can be a daunting task, but having the right staff can ease the pressure. Likewise, having a managed hosting provider can make data backup and recovery easy for you. Most providers have professionals that are able to walk you through the options they provide. Liquid Web has Sales, Support, and a dedicated System Monitoring and Recovery team available 24/7/365 to assist you with your data backup and disaster recovery needs. Need Backup or Security Solutions? Liquid Web has Cloud and Remote backup solutions, Hardware Firewalls, DDoS Protection and more to keep your business running, secure and profitable under any circumstance. The post Data Backup and Disaster Recovery appeared first on Liquid Web.

Is Managed WordPress Hosting Right For Me?

It can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to choosing a web host for your websites needs, and even more so for a site using the ever popular WordPress CMS. When terms such as ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’ are being used, different bullet points will fall under each category. And when comparing host to host, it can even be daunting on deciphering what exactly falls under the ‘managed’ umbrella, as well as the ‘unmanaged’ umbrella. This article aims to help clarify ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’ WordPress offerings at Liquid Web as well as identifying which you would most benefit from using. Managed WordPress Each host or company may define their own managed service level differently. Observing our own support comparison grid will give you an idea of the type of support and ‘managed’ features that you would get with Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress solution. With a managed host, the traditional responsibilities of server administration are now handled by us at Liquid Web, allowing you and your team to get back to focusing on the business/developmental aspect of your site. Some of these tasks can include installing a web server, maintaining and patching OS upgrades, or configuring the networking. Instead of full-blown server administration with unmanaged hosting, you get to just focus on the website. However, this does mean that you need to be aware of the environment variables set forth by Liquid Web and will need to adjust site settings/ behavior to be compatible with the environment variables. Should there be additional questions regarding the support aspect, take a look at our Managed WordPress Scope of Support article.  Become a WordPress guru. Subscribe to Liquid Web’s weekly newsletter to get WordPress tips sent straight to your inbox. Who Would Be a Good Candidate For Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress? Someone who doesn’t have the required skill set to run a self-managed server right off the bat would be an ideal candidate for Managed WordPress. Typical examples may include: Web designers Marketing agencies Small businesses The occasional mom and pop shop Additionally, we offer premium plugins that are exclusive to our Managed WordPress offering. Some of these include iThemes Sync, iThemes Security, and TinyPNG. which include features like tracking and viewing google analytics data, or checking the SEO status of a post. TinyPNG is added to help with automatic image compression, resulting in faster site speeds. WordPress also makes it easy enough to design and customize a site. Add iThemes Sync, and you now have one main dashboard to control and update multiple sites through one universal login. No need to worry about all the nerdy and techy stuff when you have the Most Helpful Humans in Hosting on standby ready to help. Unmanaged WordPress Here at Liquid Web, we want to provide the best-managed experience possible, and we’ve incorporated what some would consider managed features into our self-managed services as well. At the very minimum here’s what our introductory Cloud VPS offerings come with: Data Center(s) Networking Hardware 100% Uptime Application Infrastructure ( Control panel or software used to interact with the product ) 24/7/365 Support Generally speaking, however, this particular self-managed service is ideal for folks who are all about their own customizations and have their own specific requirements for applications. Some don’t mind building the site and server from scratch. Sometimes there is a need for total control and working around host implementations is not doable, or restrictions are placed on the site. Cloud Sites Cloud Sites is essentially a pre-configured LAMP stack (offered as a platform as a service or PAAS) that can host PHP based sites, including WordPress. This product encompasses both aspects of the managed and unmanaged services. It’s managed in the sense that we manage the networking, storage devices, databases, Apache and PHP servers, and the other included technologies. Where the unmanaged aspect would come into play is after the one-click install for WordPress is selected. But in regards to the application itself, it is not managed. For example, a managed feature in Managed WordPress would be the automatic updating of plugins. In Cloud Sites, that feature is not available. The application itself is managed by the user, but the user is not managing the server, infrastructure, or the hardware. More information can be found here in our Cloud Sites Scope of Support article. Both of these platforms have their own separate limitations and have their own unique differences that your site administrator may like, whereas another may not. It really is a matter of determining the sites needs along with different host’s offering features. The Difference in Managed Services This is the beauty in ‘Managed’ Services. It no longer requires you to know all the technical and nerdy stuff that we thrive on. That’s not to say that some forehand knowledge isn’t required, but when it comes to the overall picture and what goes into running a server with tasks such as installing a web server, configuring vhosts, opening up ports that allow incoming and outgoing transmissions, installing and maintaining a database, and potential blacklisting are some of the areas that the administrator would solely be responsible for. However, in some cases, an unmanaged host is the way to go because of potential host restrictions or environmental limitations. Make sure to look at the levels of support with each hosting provider you are checking out. The grid below shows and highlights the levels of support per the classification of the services offered through Liquid Web. This is our definition of ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’ services. Final Words As stated earlier, each host will vary and differ from one another when it comes to their defined managed meaning. However, our Managed WordPress offering is pre-configured out of the box with premium plugins that are not available through every host. These plugins would have extra costs to have installed to a site. These are now tacked on with every single managed WordPress offering. We provide the plugins as part of the default install to maximize the experience when hosting WordPress sites with Liquid Web. Additionally, not only do we provide premium plugins, but we have also incorporated backups, a user-friendly management portal, automatic plugin updates, staging sites, and NO overage charges! Ready to Learn More? Download our Managed WordPress Buyer’s Guide to decide if Managed WordPress from Liquid Web is right for your needs. The post Is Managed WordPress Hosting Right For Me? appeared first on Liquid Web.

How to Grow Your Business With WHMCS

Web hosting can be a challenging part of any web development business. You want to give your clients good service, but you also want to run an efficient and profitable business. WHMCS is an easy-to-use interface to help you manage—and grow—your business. What Is WHMCS? WHMCS is an all-in-one client management platform to help you automate your web hosting business. It allows you to sell products and services, automatically set up hosting accounts, handle recurring billing, and deal with support issues. You can create custom hosting packages and sell them directly to your clients. Plus, it is designed for automation, so account provisioning, billing, and email are all set up automatically. Liquid Web resellers get a free WHMCS license, and our specialists can help you make the most of it. How Can WHMCS Help? It can be a key system in your hosting business. It’s designed to help you be more efficient and offer seamless services to your clients. We’ve got five specific ways it can help: 1. Sell Web Hosting The most basic function that WHMCS helps with is selling web hosting directly from your website. When a customer buys a hosting package from you, WHMCS automatically processes the payment, provisions a Cpanel account, and sends the customer an email with all the details. No work from you. There are a ton of options and extras available: You can completely customize the product offerings, creating your own packages, names, prices, and more. You can set up different payment plans, including recurring billing and automatic renewal. If you don’t want to automate the process, you don’t have to. You can have it automatically set up when payment is received, or after you’ve had a client meeting—whatever works for your process. You can edit all the email templates for a customized experience.  Get weekly tips and tricks for building your business sent straight to your inbox. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. 2. Sell Domain Names You can also sell domain names through WHMCS. You’re not limited to just hosting. If you have an existing relationship with a domain registrar, you should be able to set it up through WHMCS. Or you can create a relationship with a new registrar using the list of ones that work with WHMCS. Enom is one of the recommended options, and by going through WHMCS you jump up to another pricing tier that’s better than what typical resellers can get. 3. Set Up Recurring Billing More than just domains and hosting, you can use WHMCS to sell just about anything. With the recurring billing option, you can set yourself up for ongoing recurring income. So you could sell website management plans that automatically renew every month or year. Set up packages specific to what your clients need. Maybe that’s an all-in-one offering, or maybe it’s an a la carte approach where clients can choose web development, design, hosting, domains, ongoing maintenance, support, etc. 4. Support Tickets for Clients WHMCS also has a platform to handle support tickets for clients. Rather than dealing with a barrage of emails or paying for a third-party system, you can integrate your support efforts with your sales offerings in one handy spot. Like any standard ticketing system, you can see a queue of support tickets, add notes, send replies, create custom fields, attach files, keep a client log, etc. You can also add staff to review tickets where they have limited access to the support section, so you’re not the only one handling support questions. 5. Support Knowledge Base Because common support questions come up all the time, you can also create a support knowledge base. This is a way to offer self-help for clients and minimize the time you spend dealing with support questions. You do have to create the support articles, but there’s an entire infrastructure to handle it. You can set up categories and sub-categories, set the display order, see which articles are viewed most, and more. You can also offer downloads that are available behind a login, so you can offer both a public knowledge base and exclusive articles for clients only. Growing Your Business WHMCS is pretty powerful. It can be very simple, but it also has a lot of detail and complication through plugins and add-ons that really make it versatile. All of that means you have the tools at your disposal to grow your business. You can offer the packages you want and sell them directly to your clients. You can set up the process and system you want, tailored to your brand and voice. Give your clients the experience you want them to have. And it’s all offered in an easy-to-use, one-stop, seamless system. WHMCS is the billing and automation platform to make your job easier and help your business do better. For more help with WHMCS, watch our Grow Your Web Business With WHMCS webinar. Ready to Try WHMCS? Start automating selling hosting, recurring billing and more with WHMCS. Or become a Liquid Web Resellers gain access to WHMCS at no additional cost. The post How to Grow Your Business With WHMCS appeared first on Liquid Web.

Why Dokan is Our Favorite Multi-Vendor eCommerce Plugin

If you’re looking to open a multi-vendor marketplace, it means you want to make money. Well, to be profitable, you need a multi-vendor plugin with enough features to help everyone involved—you and the vendors who sell on your site. They need to see how well or badly their products are selling. You need management tools to key track of sales, orders, and refunds. Marketplace success is a team effort, and plugins that build their multi-vendor features around the mutual commercial interests of both owners and sellers will be the most profitable. In short, you need a multi-vendor plugin that’s built for store owners and vendors—for us, that’s Dokan. Here’s why it’s our favorite. WooCommerce Integration Dokan seamlessly integrates with WooCommerce, one of the world’s largest eCommerce open source platforms. Dokan works with WooCommerce; it doesn’t replace it. That means you get the robust features Dokan brings to your multi-vendor marketplaces plus integration for hundreds of supported WooCommerce extensions. You’ll open up a universe of customization for your store and customers. For example, you could add WooCommerce Multilingual to take sales international or offer WooCommerce Gift Wrap at checkout.  Get regular tips on growing your new marketplace. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. Dokan Features for Vendors To keep your marketplace profitable, your vendors need access to the same tools and data you have as an admin. Without good sales data, they can’t make smart decisions about their store. They need the ability to do things like: Determine which product has the most sales Customize the look of their individual storefront Check the status of an order However, you can’t just hand over the keys to your site. Dokan excels in creating a clean, intuitive user interface that gives vendors access to their stores without compromising the safety of your site. Here are some powerful tools Dokan offers your vendors. Dashboard Every store needs a “big picture” look at performance. The Dokan dashboard gives each seller an at-a-glance breakdown of how their store is performing. They can view: Total number of page views their store received Number of orders they’ve made What products they have in stock Total sales to date Vendors can also manage their reviews, mark spam review, and reply to customer questions. Overall, the Dokan dashboard is a clean, functional tool vendors can use to increase their sales and your profit. Adding Products The most basic task for a vendor is adding products to their store. The key is to make it as painless for your vendors as possible. Dokan’s product adding interface mirrors the actual product page, so it’s easy to recognize. Vendors can upload images and add product names and descriptions all on the same page. Vendors can also set their product prices and set a category pre-defined by you. Managing Orders The success of your fulfillment process will have a big impact on your profit. Late shipments decimate your repeat business. Shipping the wrong products will send your customer reviews from 4 stars to 1 star. Vendors need to know the status of their orders so they can respond to them. Dokan gives vendors access to all of their orders. They can see their order number, total amount, customer name, and delivery date. Dokan is one of the few existing multi-vendor plugins that offers frontend shipping tracking. Sales Reports Dokan’s reporting dashboard contains powerful analytics tools to help vendors increase sales. For example, vendors can use their “Reports” view to see which of their products are top sellers. After determining the most popular products, they can order similar ones that appeal to their customers. Vendors can also filter by top-earning products to see which are the most profitable. Users can create custom date ranges for total sales, top sellers, and top earners to discover when sales are the highest for individual products. Other multi-vendor plugins like WC Marketplace, Yith, or WC Vendors provide basic reporting on overall earnings for your marketplace. But only Dokan offers each vendor a customizable view into their individual store’s success. Your vendors have a better understanding of their customers and the products they want to buy. By putting relevant sales and performance data into their hands, you’re letting them make better decisions about how to improve their stores. That means more time and higher profits for you. Store Customization Access to products and orders isn’t all that keeps vendors happy and profitable. They also need the power to customize their storefronts and express their individual brands. Dokan makes it easy for vendors to: Create and update their contact information Name their store Add social profile links Choose their method of payment (defined by store owner) Overall, Dokan’s vendor stores are clean, easy to navigate, and responsive to mobile, tablets, and desktop. Dokan Features for Marketplace Owners Dokan is designed with marketplace owners in mind. Good analytics combined with automation make it a breeze to manage vendors and keep an eye on sales. Here are the best features of Dokan’s admin tools. Customized Commissions You get a commission for every sale made on your site. The percentage you collect from your vendors will significantly affect your product prices and profits. The higher your commission, the fewer vendors you’ll attract. The lower your commission, the lower your profit. It’s a delicate balance to strike. Dokan gives you the ability to set commissions for individual vendors so you can customize your fees based on the value of a particular seller. For example, you can set a higher commission for vendors selling high-margin products (e.g., home furniture) versus those selling small-ticket items (e.g., T-shirts). Payment Gateways Successful multi-vendor marketplaces offer customers multiple payment options. If you expect to sell internationally, you’ll need secure payment gateways to support foreign currency exchanges and locally popular payment methods. Dokan offers PayPal, Stripe Connect, and Moip Connect. But its integration with WooCommerce also adds its popular payment options such as: Amazon Pay Square Authorize.net Payment gateways are also how you make payouts to your vendors. After a customer makes a purchase, Dokan collects the payment, and the vendor makes a withdrawal request from you. You can use the same payment gateways to collect from customers and make payouts to vendors. Having a good selection of payout platforms makes it easier to meet the transaction needs of individual vendors. And it makes your marketplace a highly functioning online venue that’s more attractive to sellers. Refunds Dokan processes refunds through PayPal, a popular payment method that makes transactions easy to process. Here are the steps for processing a refund on Dokan. Customer requests a refund from the vendor. Vendor makes a refund request from the seller dashboard to the admin. Admin cancels the order. Refund is processed through PayPal to the customer. Refund amount is deducted from the seller’s account. Only admins can process refunds, which have to be done manually. So, the bulk of the responsibility is on you. But Dokan’s admin dashboard organizes and displays all of the pending refunds for you, and you can process them individually or in bulk. Vendor Review Letting customers rate individual vendors and products increases trust and your site’s legitimacy. But smart marketplace owners give customers the option to review vendor and products separately. With this critical independence, you have better quality control over your vendor’s customer service. A vendor may have great products but horrible service. With a review system that aggregates the two, you’re stuck guessing. With Dokan’s Vendor Review Feature, customers leave individual vendor reviews, which appear on their storefront. Reviews improve the customer’s experience by speeding up their purchase decision. They can decide whether this is a vendor to trust or avoid. Vendor Review also motivates each vendor to improve their ratings with better products and service. This self-policing of seller quality saves you tons of oversight and management time. Pricing Plans Dokan has five different pricing plans, from free to enterprise level. Store owners need different features at different stages of their store’s growth. First-time owners need a low barrier to entry—free and low upfront pricing helps. Beware. Some plugins offer low prices just to get you signed up, then sap your budget with charges for add-on features. Dokan’s pricing model starts you off with long-term planning in mind. It’s designed to change with you as your marketplace grows. Even first-time store owners on a limited budget can access Dokan’s Free Plan and still get: Unlimited vendors The frontend vendor dashboard Vendor payment withdrawal system The next step up is the Starter Plan at $149/year, designed for site owners who are just getting started with eCommerce. With the plan, you add some valuable features like: Custom commission types Reporting Dokan customer support You can lower your multi-vendor plugin price even more if you opt for a Managed WooCommerce Hosting Marketplace Starter Plan, which comes standard with Dokan and includes everything you need to get started and grow your marketplace. Dokan’s Biggest Strength: It Stands on the Shoulders of Giants Dokan has the most features of any multi-vendor eCommerce plugin available. However, its biggest feature may be that it integrates with one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in the world (WooCommerce) and the world’s number one content management system (WordPress). Multi-vendor marketplaces are a numbers game. Quality products, reputable vendors, and effective marketing matter, but so does sales volume. Having a plugin that plays well with popular eCommerce platforms makes it easier to get started and stay profitable. Get Your Marketplace Idea Up and Running in Two Weeks With the Marketplace Starter Plan from Liquid Web, you get all the features of Dokan built on a platform designed to maximize your marketplace site speed, leading to more sales for your vendors and more commissions for you. The post Why Dokan is Our Favorite Multi-Vendor eCommerce Plugin appeared first on Liquid Web.

Getting Started with A/B Testing Your WooCommerce Store

Today we’re going to look at what A/B testing is. I’ll help you identify your metric to watch for your store. And I’ll introduce you to a number of tools that you can use for A/B testing on your WooCommerce site. The truth is that if you’re not testing the changes to your store, then you don’t know which of them is affecting your bottom line. What is A/B Testing A/B testing, also known as split testing, is the process you use when you test out two or more different versions of your content. That may be changing the button color on your products, testing out where you introduce other products a customer may be interested in, or how you ask for an email to grow your newsletter list. There are a few things to remember as you start with A/B testing on your WooCommerce store. First off, you need to make sure that you’re only testing a single thing at a time for most sites. Sure you could change the font size of the product headings, and change the language on the buttons, and change their size and color. You could get lots of variations of your pages out of all that work. The problem is, how do you know which variation positively affected your bottom line? Was it the color change? Maybe the language change? Did the font size make a difference at all? If you have too many variations, you don’t know. That means when you’re starting, only test a single thing, like changing the language you use on your buttons. Leave the color and size changes for the next test once you see if a language change makes any difference. Second, you need to make sure that your variations are loaded at random. It’s no good to show all users with a specific IP range the same content. You might discover that users within a particular area purchase with Option A, but the reality is that with Option B more users overall purchase. All of the tools I’m going to bring up later will take care of this for you, including presenting random results to your users. Third, you need to keep the current page as an option in your test suite. If you only show users changes, then you won’t know if the original page worked better or not. The A in A/B testing is the current look of your site, without changes. If you’re not keeping the original page in, then you’re not performing A/B tests because you have no A variation.  Looking for better site speed? Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting includes Astra Pro, which is the fastest theme built for eCommerce. Finally, you need to make sure you have enough traffic to test properly. If you have ten purchases a day on your site, it’s going to take you weeks to amass enough data to get useful results. Unless you’re selling 5 or 6 figure items and you’re getting ten sales a day, you’re probably much better off figuring out how to get more traffic to your site because WooCommerce is pretty good at conversion out of the box. If you have a big site that gets lots of traffic and conversions already, then you should start to get some idea of what’s working reasonably quickly. In that case, don’t let a variation stick around too long. If something isn’t working, make sure you turn it off instead of continuing to harm your sales. Let’s say that you have three variations for your checkout process. Your normal conversion rate on checkout is 48%. Your three variations are converting like this: Converts at 48% (what you currently have) Converts at 46% Converts at 35% In this case, option three is a prime candidate to end before the test is supposed to be done. It’s so far below the other few that it’s clearly not the winner and keeping it around for an extended period is only going to harm your sales. Don’t be afraid to cut a variation if it’s underperforming by a large margin. You wouldn’t cut option two though. It’s close enough that it could turn around. Maybe you’ve only hit the purchasers during work hours, and they convert better one way while after work people will convert much better with your second option. You won’t know for sure until you capture enough data. Identifying Your Metrics While most WooCommerce sites are going to look at an increase in overall conversions as the metric they’re trying to improve with A/B testing, that is not the right metric for every site. Other metrics that may be better suited to your audience are: Average Selling Price Repeat Customers Email list subscribers Social sharing of your products The metric that matters the most to your store will change over time as well. Maybe you start improving overall conversions, but once you aren’t making much headway on that, you move to try to increase your average order price. Then when you have that locked down, you look at the top of your funnel and work on traffic and email subscribers. It’s also highly likely that over the life of your site, you’ll cycle back to things you had already optimized. After increasing the leads coming into the top of your sales funnel, you head back to look at the conversion rate, then move to the average selling price. With A/B testing your WooCommerce site, you’re never really done. Something can always be improved. 4 Ways to Setup A/B Testing Fast Now that you understand what A/B testing is and why you should be using A/B testing on your WooCommerce store, let’s look at some of the tools that are out there to make this process easy for you. Nelio A/B Testing Nelio A/B Testing provides you with a full management system to build and track your A/B testing. Nelio provides reports including heat maps and is fully compatible with WooCommerce. Nelio doesn’t do the processing of the split tests on your site, which can cause speed issues. It has its service that takes care of this for you. The WordPress plugin comes with a free trial so that you can test Nelio out. Marketing Optimizer for WordPress One of the ways that Marketing Optimizer for WordPress shines is its wealth of templates. This plugin provides you with many landing page templates to use on your site so you can test your different calls to action on your email list, for example. Another feature that makes Marketing Optimizer for WordPress standout is its Gravity Forms integration to make your form testing easy. You can use this integration to post all your form data to the plugin. Convert Experiments by Yoast When you go to check this plugin out, you might wonder why it was listed here. Convert Experiments currently has a big banner at the top telling you that the plugin hasn’t been updated in a while. The developer is on the record to say that the plugin works and is still supported. To use Convert Experiments, you’ll need to get an account with Convert. Once you have an account, you can run as many tests as you want and have as many collaborators as you need on your projects. There is no extra per-user fee. Once you’ve got the plugin installed and connected to your site, all of the administration of your A/B tests happens on the Convert site. They provide a simple editor so that you can customize the whole test process without needing to know any code. Simple Page Tester Simple Page Tester is another WordPress-based end-to-end solution. Directly inside WordPress, you can navigate to the page you want to test, set up your test and even declare the winner of the test when you’re ready. If you go for the Pro version, it will even tell you when to declare the winner. Being told when to end a test can be awesome because most of us don’t have a statistics background to know when we’ve collected enough data to stop a test. With Simple Page Tester, you can ride along and let it take care of your site. Continue Learning New Ways to Testing Your Site We did not do an exhaustive look at the tools you can use for A/B testing on your site. There are entire services dedicated to A/B testing like Optimizely which is similar to the Convert service we covered. The tools I’ve recommended today are great ways to get started with A/B testing. As your A/B testing experience increases, your needs may become more complex. Some of the tools here may not fit those needs. At that point, you should have enough experience to look at the more complex tools and decide which one suits your needs best. The most important takeaway is that you need to be testing your site. If you’re not testing your site, then you’re leaving money on the table. Something as simple as testing the size of buttons on your checkout can increase the revenue that your store brings in. Want to JumpStart Your New WooCommerce Store? Create a lightning-fast store that converts traffic with Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting Beginner Plan. It also comes standard with Jilt and helps you recover abandoned carts. The post Getting Started with A/B Testing Your WooCommerce Store appeared first on Liquid Web.

The Top Six Reasons to Separate Business Email From Your Server

Email is an essential piece of any business. Invoices, client feedback, leads, and internal communications are just some of the purposes for business email. With email playing such a significant role, why does it tend to be hosted on a platform that isn’t designed for email? It’s like using an ice cream scoop instead of a ladle for soup; it might work, but there is a more effective tool. Similarly, using your hosting control panel for email is not the best tool for the job. While it might get the job done, it lacks key features that are required for running a business. Features such as: Shared calendars Chat via webmail Advanced SPAM filtering 100% uptime An email client with these features will go a long way in creating efficient workflows and keeping your data secure. Our support team has gathered the top reasons why email should be separate from your web/application server. Remember, these are folks that work with control panel email every day, which makes them experts at hosting and email services.  Get weekly tips and tricks for building your business sent straight to your inbox. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Top Reasons Why Email Should be Separate from Your Website and Application Server 1. Your Hosting Control Panel Email Uses Server Resources Hosting email on your server will use server resources (drive space, CPU I/O, RAM, etc.). If you have email going through your server by each of your users, this will reduce the performance of your server, especially if you send a lot of emails. If you have 25 employees and you want them to have 5GB of disk space for email, you will be utilizing 125GB on your server for email alone. With that number in mind, it will be cheaper to have a business email solution than upgrade your hard drive to accommodate for this. Also, if your server is experiencing high loads, email is the lowest priority to receive resources. To give a big picture explanation, it is easier to think of server configuration as a whole. The server environment is built to run applications, databases, and requests at an optimal level. They are not designed out of the box with email in mind. Email is deprioritized against these other requests, and if resource competition becomes heavy, email will suffer. 2. Using Email Forwarding As a Workaround is a Short-Term Solution Software used by control panels for email lacks functionality essential to running a business. If a customer is used to Gmail or Yahoo, they will be very very disappointed in the lack of features, performance, and overall appearance of control panel email. Customers will sometimes forward their email to their Gmail to get around this. If you are forwarding the email to your Gmail and you are allowing Gmail to filter your mail, this could cause issues down the road with a blacklisted IP from SPAM. 3. Server Downtime Will Cause Email Downtime Problems with your web server will cause issues with email. Downtime is one of the issues that could affect email, along with any updates, patches, hardware upgrades, and reboots. Email is a central way to communicate with customers for every business, and email that is down, even for 1-2 hours, could cause devastating effects to your business. This could come in the form of missed invoices, missed customer leads, unread client feedback, and critical company communication that cannot be sent. 4. Issues With Blacklisted IPs or Blocked Emails If SPAM is an issue for you, and you receive too much at once, it will start to block your mail server. Bounced emails from Gmail will go back to your web server, and your web server will try to send it back to the original sender. This action is then saved, queued and re-tried, causing load on the server. Eventually, this will cause your IP to be blacklisted, which is not a good scenario for anyone. Avoid this with a business email solution. Another useful feature of more advanced email products have processes to handle SPAM including “Blocked email.” This is a feature that identifies messages from disreputable sources including spam cannon services. They can assist with blocking IP blocks as well as attachment types known for exploiting end users (your employees). 5. Your Hosting Control Panel Email Lacks Security from Malicious Installations and SPAM Security – If your web server is compromised, your email could be as well. Liquid Web’s Premium Business Email comes standard with 4 Layers of SPAM filtering, which is far more than any control panel email offers. Filtering email is an essential feature for blocking malicious installations. For instance, if an email is determined to have a malicious link or file and is routed to the SPAM folders, a user would have to intentionally move it to the inbox for any links or files to be clicked or downloaded, providing another layer of protection. 6. Your Hosting Control Panel Email Lacks Essential Business Features Premium Business Email from Liquid Web offers calendars, contacts, and chat. These are features that clients will be expecting since they are familiar with Gmail or Yahoo, and are all essential to running a business successfully. These feature-rich additions become important from a productivity standpoint, giving employees access to their mail and one another from separate devices. Having the ability to communicate through a mobile webmail client with a colleague makes communication much more accessible. The increasing need for rapid communication has shaped the evolution of these features. Premium Business Email from Liquid Web is the Solution With these six reasons in mind, Liquid Web offers Premium Business Email. Premium Business Email is a complete solution that thriving businesses need. It offers the ability to reduce space across a server for email services, often reducing overall costs associated with high priced drives as well as alleviating the additional burden email places on server resources (RAM, I/O, etc.) It is also important to note this stymies cross-contamination with the server and email services. For instance, something that causes a server failure will not also adversely affect a primary communication tool for the business, especially something as important as business email. This applies to both security threats to a server as well as simple hardware failure. Adding in the features associated with our email product (which are comparable to more expensive commercial solutions) and Premium Business Email becomes a cost-effective, low maintenance option that eliminates server competition, reduces the likelihood of compromise, and adds in additional communication tools as discussed above. Ready to Try Premium Business Email? If you are fed up with SPAM, scaling employee count, sick of hidden costs, and looking for a solution that is backed by 100% uptime, you found it. Try Premium Business Email today. The post The Top Six Reasons to Separate Business Email From Your Server appeared first on Liquid Web.

Adding Google AdSense To Your WordPress Blog

One of the simplest ways to monetize your WordPress blog or website is by displaying ads from an established ad network. Ad Networks connect business owners and advertisers to publishers, blogs, and websites that want to show ads. The network manages the selling of ads so you don’t have to. Google AdSense is an advertising network owned and run by Google that gives website owners and bloggers the ability to make money by displaying ads on their websites specific to their content and audience. Add Google AdSense to your WordPress website or blog so you can begin making money. It only takes a few simple steps. How To Add Google AdSense To Your WordPress Blog AdSense is for website owners, bloggers, and publishers. AdSense pays website owners who display relevant ads that are part of Google’s ad network fees based on impressions (views) or clicks. There two ways to implement Google AdSense on a WordPress site: Add the general AdSense code to your WordPress site and manually manage the insertion and placement of ads on your site by pasting ad unit code in widgets or in your content. Add the new AdSense Auto Ads code to your WordPress site and let Google’s machine learning make placement and monetization decisions on your behalf to maximize revenue throughout your entire website or blog.  Become a better WordPress blogger. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get more content tips sent right to your inbox. 1. Add Basic AdSense To Your WordPress Site Signup for a Google AdSense Account Copy the code on your AdSense homepage and paste it into the HTML of your pages, between the <head> and </head> tags. There are a few options to do this in WordPress: Some WordPress themes have a settings page or scripts meta box where you can add the code snippet to the sitewide header. If your theme doesn’t provide an easy option to do this, you can use a WordPress plugin that gives you the ability to add/insert the code to the sitewide header. Create a new ad unit in the AdSense dashboard, choosing the size, style, type, and more—text and display ads are the easiest to begin with. Save the new ad unit and copy the code. Open Your WordPress website, navigate to the Widgets dashboard, drag a Custom HTML widget into the location you want it displayed, paste in the AdSense ad code, and save the widget. Repeat steps 3-5 for each ad you want to be displayed on your website. BONUS: Check out the AdSanity WordPress plugin to manage the placement of AdSense ads on your WordPress blog. 2. Add AdSense Auto Ads To Your WordPress Site Signup for a Google AdSense Account Select the ad formats you want to show on your pages by switching them on with a simple toggle Copy the code on your AdSense homepage and paste it into the HTML of your pages, between the <head> and </head> tags. There are a few options to do this in WordPress: Some WordPress themes have a settings page or scripts meta box where you can add the code snippet to the sitewide header. If your theme doesn’t provide an easy option to do this, you can use a WordPress plugin that gives you the ability to add/insert the code to the sitewide header. Within 10-20 minutes, ads will begin to show up on your website in the places Google deems most profitable. BONUS: If you want to have Auto Ads insert different ad formats on different pages you can use the new Advanced URL settings feature. For example, you can choose to place in-feed ads on exampleurl.com/adventures but not on exampleurl.com/recipes). Getting Started With Google AdSense And WordPress As you can see, connecting Google AdSense with your WordPress blog isn’t very difficult, especially if you go with the new AdSense Auto Ads option and let Google do all of the work to make you the most money possible. To get started, simply follow the steps outlined above so you can begin displaying ads on your website and earning income from impressions or clicks. Keep Your Site Lightning Fast with Managed WordPress Hosting Ads can take a toll on load times if you aren’t careful. Try Managed WordPress Hosting from Liquid Web. We automatically handled core WordPress and plugin updates along with image compression to keep your site running smoothly. The post Adding Google AdSense To Your WordPress Blog appeared first on Liquid Web.

Managing Client Conflicts

While proactive client management can mitigate most project obstacles and hurdles, and clear communication can practically eliminate client confusion and uncertainty, it’s nearly impossible to avoid all client conflict. It’s inevitable that sticky situations, disagreements, and the resulting tough conversations are going to happen at some point, so it’s best that you’re prepared to handle them with grace, objectivity, and professionalism. Client conflict occurs when the agency and client have a disagreement due to different ways of doing things, miscommunication, varying priorities, misaligned expectations, confusion, and unexpected changes. A new client onboarding process can sidestep quite a bit of client conflict by communicating intentions, setting clear expectations, establishing boundaries, and explaining processes, especially when following onboarding best practices. But onboarding only sets the stage for a successful project and can’t possibly remove every potential hurdle. The good news is that client conflict isn’t always a bad thing. Managing conflict the right way can turn a negative situation into a positive one, affirming your position as leader of the project, reinforcing your expertise, and building greater trust with your clients. Plus by addressing any potential conflict immediately you can salvage the client relationships worth saving and end those that are toxic before they devolve into a situation that could harm your brand.  Get the best tips and tricks for handling clients sent straight to your inbox. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter. Your Approach To Conflict Management Often, the difference between a happy client and a disgruntled client is how you handle the conflict that arises during your work together. If a problem does arise with your client, you have the option to manage it in one of four ways: Ignore And Avoid: Ignore the issue, wait it out, and hope that it will go away or resolve itself on its own. Watch out though, this approach often causes the problem to get worse, not better. Accommodate The Client: Resolve the conflict by giving in to the client demands or meeting their needs even if it means you suffer a bit in the process. Be careful, however, because if not managed well, this accommodation can lead to resentment of the client, erode the quality of service delivered, and damage to the client relationship. Go For The Win: Pursue your own goal and work to get your way. With this approach, be ready to burn the bridge and end the client relationship. Work Together: Collaborate with your client to find a solution that works for both of you. Consider seeking a compromise where you meet in the middle. This approach is the most positive solution that works to make all parties involved happy and pursues a positive outcome that strengthens your client relationship. How To Handle Client Conflict To effectively manage client conflict, you need to handle it quickly. I know that having tough conversations with unhappy clients is never enjoyable, but the faster you can tackle the issue, the better. The longer it takes to address the problem, the bigger the hurdle will be to find a positive solution and make the client happy. Plus, by responding and acting quickly, you’re demonstrating to your client that you care about the client and take the situation seriously. It is also important to move all communication about the conflict away from email. Not only does too much meaning get lost in translation when communicating by email, but the sterile form of communication leaves too much open to personal interpretation. Instead, get on a video chat or a phone call with your client so your client can see, hear, and interact with you face to face. If you’re unsure of how to handle a conflict with your client or have the tough conversation needed when a client is unhappy, use the following step-by-step guide to a successful conflict resolution. Step-By-Step Guide To Conflict Resolution Listen: Give your client time to speak their mind, share their story, and explain their frustrations uninterrupted and listen to what they have to say. Often clients that leave one agency for another do so because they didn’t feel heard. Acknowledge: When the client is done explaining the situation to you, take time to acknowledge their feelings. Repeat back the key concerns they have to show that you listened and understand. If you need to, ask non-judgmental questions to gather more information. Show Empathy: It is important to your clients that you care about their concerns and the problem at hand. They want to know that it concerns you as well. Take a moment to consider the client’s perspective, why they are upset, and how the situation affects them. Let them know that you are sorry, you care, and you’re doing everything you can to reach a positive solution. State The Facts: So far the conversation around the conflict has been focused on the client, their concerns, their needs, and making them feel heard, acknowledged, and understood—and you have done so without defending you or your team or arguing with the client in any way. Now you need to objectively and clearly state the facts about the situation. Communicate the who, what, where, when, why, and how and leave emotion out of it. Explain The Solution: With a clear understanding of the problem and the objective facts, it’s time to explain the solution to your client. In some cases, you will have a solution ready to present with them on the spot, in others you’re explaining the process of what will happen next and how you recommend a solution be reached. Remain Firm: It is critical that you remain firm, fair and friendly at all times and once a solution is reached, you stick to it. Don’t waiver or let the client push you around if they later decide the solution isn’t good enough. If the client is still unhappy, be prepared to take the next steps as outlined in your contract. When You Made A Mistake No one is perfect and you can’t guarantee that your work will be one hundred percent error free, especially when writing hundreds of thousands of lines of code. If you do happen to make a mistake on a client project or do something wrong during a client engagement, follow these three steps: Own The Mistake: Admit the mistake as soon as it is discovered and own it completely. Apologize right away. Don’t make excuses or assign blame because the client doesn’t care. Communicate The Fix: Share the solution or the fix with the client. Often, as long as you have a viable solution to present, the client won’t be as upset about the initial mistake. If you’re not sure of the solution or what will make the client happy, ask them. Explain The Plan: Demonstrate your professionalism and reestablish your expertise by explaining the plan of action, step-by-step to the client, so they know exactly what to expect and what comes next. When You Have A Problem With The Client So far we’ve only addressed conflicts where the client is unhappy or where you have made a mistake, but occasionally, the conflict will stem from you. There are going to be times when the agency has a problem with the client and the concerns are from the service provider, not the client. In this case, you need to decide how important problem or concern is and whether or not it is worth presenting the problem to the client and creating conflict in the relationship. If the problem is serious enough to mention: Explain the situation and problem to the client clearly, objectively, and without emotion. Follow steps 1-6 above to reach a successful conflict resolution Positive Conflict Resolution Builds Trust As you can see, experiencing problems, hitting obstacles, and dealing with conflicts is a normal part of owning an agency and working in client services. While you hope to minimize and avoid conflicts with proactive client management, clear communication, and effective onboarding systems, at some point conflicts will arise. The key is being prepared to manage conflicts effectively so you can reach a positive solution quickly. This way you can transform a potentially negative situation into a positive experience that shows empathy, builds trust, reinforces your professionalism, and improves your client relationship. If you’re nervous about having tough conversations with clients, copy the step-by-step guide to conflict resolution from this article and save it for future reference. Need More Help with Managing Tough Situations? Check out our webinar on How to Deal with Problem Clients and get helpful tips on how to create a system that preserves your workflow, keeps clients in check, and keeps projects within scope and on time. The post Managing Client Conflicts appeared first on Liquid Web.

Everything You Need to Know About Starting a T-Shirt Business From Home

It’s no secret that we’re a nation (and, really, a world) that’s obsessed with T-shirts. We have been since before the tie-dye shirts of the ‘60s. People love to express themselves with designs, colors, and slogans that speak to them. It’s no surprise then that designers have been creating their own T-shirts to sell for decades. But really, the only difference between designers like you today and those early designers is that starting a T-shirt business from home has never been easier. This blog post is going to discuss all the ins and outs of starting a T-shirt business from home, from finding your niche to marketing your product. Choosing Your Niche There’s an old adage in business, “If you’re selling to everyone, you’re not selling to anyone.” That’s especially true as you start out with your T-shirt business. It’s better to completely own a niche than to try to appeal to everyone. Starting with a smaller niche can give you room to grow, as well. Take the shirt company Homage, for example. Homage is a brand that has vintage-inspired shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, and more that appeal to sports fans across the United States. These days, they even have contracts with everyone from MLB teams to wrestling superstars. When they started, though, Homage started small. Most of their apparel was geared toward fans of the founders’ alma mater: The Ohio State University. Their OSU-themed gear was so popular that they expanded into Ohio pride in general. They made clothing that was a nod to —but didn’t violate the trademark of—professional and collegiate sports teams across the state. An example is their simple “Cincinnati Invented Hustle” shirt. Baseball fans will get the nod to infamous Cincinnati Reds hitter Pete Rose, but the message doesn’t even come close to violating any trademarks held by Rose or Major League Baseball. Homage eventually expanded, teaming up with colleges across the country to do branded apparel that appealed to those who lived outside of Ohio. Now, you can shop their collections for a dozen cities in North America. What’s an area that you love enough to think of dozens of ideas for shirts? It might be pop culture, the environment, gardening, travel, or it could even be an attitude or a feeling.  Get regular tips on growing your new store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. Validate Your Niche Now you have some ideas. But are they popular enough to find customers? There is such a thing as a niche that’s too small. How do we validate a niche? Let’s use bike polo as an example. If you’re not familiar, bike polo is a lot like regular polo, but players ride bikes instead of horses. Sounds pretty niche. Sounds maybe a little too niche, but let’s find out. First, we’ll do a search on Facebook to see what kinds of groups and pages exist for the term “bike polo.” These results are encouraging. A bike polo group in San Francisco has over 700 members and looks pretty active, averaging two posts per day. There also appear to be Facebook pages for bike polo teams across the country. San Francisco might not be the best litmus test for what’s popular in the rest of the country. But seeing that Milwaukee has a bike polo team with close to 2,000 followers tells us that there might be something to this niche. Next, we want to see if this is something that people are actually searching for. Google Trends is perfect for this. It’s a tool Google offers to show you the popularity of search keywords over time. This chart is concerning for one big reason: Popularity of the search term “bike polo” has been on the decline for some time now. Popularity peaked in 2009 and has declined steadily since. That should make us worry that the numbers we saw in those Facebook groups and pages might not be the best indicator of the sport’s current popularity. With that in mind, we want to go back and check on the social activity for those bike polo groups we found earlier. Even if people aren’t searching for bike polo as much on Google, if the communities are very active, this might still be a niche we want to get into. Finally, we want to take a look at the competition. A Google search of “bike polo T-shirts” tells us that only a few T-shirt designs exist. We know that this is a recognized niche, but we don’t know how well these tees are selling. From our research, we’ve learned a few things: There seem to be active social groups for bike polo on Facebook. There is some search traffic for bike polo, though it has been declining for a few years. There aren’t a lot of other designers in the bike polo niche, which either presents an opportunity to stand out or is an indication that bike polo designs aren’t popular. From these things, it’s up to you to decide if it’s a niche worth pursuing. It’s not the home run it would have been had Google Trends indicated it was growing in popularity, but there does seem to be a solid amount of traffic for bike polo-related searches. One last quick note. Whatever you choose, make sure that you can come up with ideas that don’t violate trademarks. Trademarks can include titles, graphics, and certain slogans. You can do a trademark search at the USPTO website. How to Make and Sell Your Product This is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when you’re starting a T-shirt business from home. Making and Shipping T-Shirts From Home This might be considered the “old school” way of starting a T-shirt business from home. In this method, you physically make and ship the T-shirts you sell. You buy the plain, unbranded products from a supplier, you apply the designs on them however you’d like (paint, screen printing, bleach designs, heat transfers), take photos of them, put them online, and ship them out as people buy them. The two main upsides to physically making your T-shirts are total control of the end product and higher profit margins. You don’t have to sit back and hope that someone else is shipping quality products to your customers. You know full well that your buyers are getting a great shirt packaged exactly how you want it. And you don’t have to share your profits with anyone like you will with marketplaces and dropshippers. All you need to make and sell T-shirts from home with this method is a website that supports eCommerce (like WordPress and WooCommerce) or a marketplace like Etsy that allows vendors to sell products they hand-make. T-Shirt Marketplaces T-shirt marketplaces like Teespring, RedBubble, and Threadless are popular with T-shirt designers because of how easy they make starting a T-shirt business from home. With these marketplace sites, all you need to do is choose your base products (e.g., cotton T-shirts) and upload your design. You don’t have to maintain your own site, and you don’t necessarily have to worry about marketing like you would if you ran your own site. Marketing on your own is still important and is always recommended, but your designs are added to each site’s extremely popular marketplace. Let’s go back to that bike polo example. If you search Teespring.com for “bike polo,” you’ll find several shirt designs. Once you click on a design, you can choose the style (i.e., product type, color, and size). Teespring is unique because shirts only print when a minimum number of them is ordered. That encourages buyers to share products with their like-minded friends and on their social channels. This mandatory minimum could mean selling 10 shirts instead of one when people who are passionate about a design share with their friends, but it could also mean selling zero shirts instead of five if you only get five orders instead of that minimum of 10. Other popular marketplaces like RedBubble and Threadless don’t require a minimum order, but all of them take a pretty large chunk of your sales, comparatively. Each of these marketplaces takes a percentage of sales. That’s how they make money. The portion that these marketplaces take varies. Teespring publicly estimates that creators see about 55% net profit on their shirts. Teespring takes 18% to cover printing and fulfillment, 5% to cover their marketing, 10% for customer service and refunds (even if your product is never refunded), and 7% for product costs. An additional 5% margin is what Teespring takes for their profit. That means you’d take home $11 on a $20 product. Compare that to the net profit on a T-shirt that can cost as little as $2 wholesale that you also sell for $20. You can see why not everyone chooses to sell their products on a marketplace website despite the ease of entry. Dropshipping T-Shirts The third method is the one we recommend the most: dropshipping T-shirts. Dropshipping is a middle ground between doing everything yourself and using a marketplace. The T-shirt creation process is similar to the T-shirt specific marketplaces like Teespring. You upload a design, choose the products you want the design to appear on, and set the price. The dropshipper creates the products and ships them when customers place orders. The difference is, T-shirt dropshippers like Printify integrate into your own website. If you don’t already have a website, we recommend WordPress with WooCommerce, which is a robust and easy-to-customize combination. The benefit of dropshipping T-shirts is that you get to build your own brand like you would if you did everything yourself, but you don’t have to do the most time-consuming part of running a T-shirt business—making and shipping the shirts. Dropshipping T-shirts works well for those looking to start a T-shirt business from scratch and those who already have some sort of online brand established. Going to the bike polo example again, if you’re already running a website about bike polo, you can start selling bike polo-themed shirts before you know it. But what about the cost? It varies based on the product you’re applying your design to, but most offer their cheapest shirt between $7-9. Everything after that is profit for you.  Read more about dropshipping T-shirts. How to Get the Most Out of Your Website If you decide that the best thing for your T-shirt business is to go with one of the options that require you have your own website, you want to make sure that website works for you. There are a lot of out-of-the-box options out there that are extremely inexpensive up front, but might not offer the customization you’re looking for without having you pay extra—likely more than you would have paid if you’d started with something like WordPress with WooCommerce to begin with. Speed is also a huge factor for any eCommerce store. If you’re on a bare-bones, $3-per-month hosting plan that isn’t designed specifically for eCommerce stores, your site speed is likely suffering. During busy times for your business, like around the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship (it takes place in late September, FYI), the influx of visitors can slow your site, or worse, crash it. That could mean lost revenue and people possibly buying their bike polo T-shirts elsewhere from now on. Managed hosting solutions like those offered by WooCommerce can make your site work seamlessly, all the time. Even if your designs go viral, managed hosting solutions can handle the volume and make sure you don’t lose any sales due to slow site speed. Even if you don’t have a lot of design or website experience, you can absolutely create a successful online T-shirt business from home. All you really need is some creativity, a niche you can thrive in, and the willingness to try different marketing tactics and designs until you find something that strikes a chord with people. Get A Hosting Solution Designed For Online Shops With Managed WooCommerce Hosting from Liquid Web, you get a high-performance platform dedicated to eCommerce stores of every size. Liquid Web has plans for all types of stores to help you get started, including those just getting started or looking to dropship. The post Everything You Need to Know About Starting a T-Shirt Business From Home appeared first on Liquid Web.

How to Increase Your Average Order Price with Smart Offers for WooCommerce

By streamlining your WooCommerce checkout process you can increase your revenue because more people will make a purchase. But, increasing the volume of sales you get through your store is only one way to increase your revenue. A second way to increase your overall revenue is to increase your average order price. Today we’re going to look at some of the features WooCommerce offers out of the box to help store owners increase the average order price by showing users other products they may be interested in. We’ll explore why they may not be the best options for some stores. Then we’ll dig into how Smart Offers resolves many of the issues you can encounter with the stock WooCommerce related products options. Finally, I’ll walk you through how to set up Smart Offers on your WooCommerce site. Increasing Average Selling Price with WooCommerce Out of the box, WooCommerce gives you two options to control the products your customers may be interested in while they’re shopping. They’re labeled “Upsells” and “Cross-sells” and can be found on an individual product editing screen. Products you add to Upsells are displayed on the main product page. These are a hand-curated list of products that you think your customers may be interested in alongside the item they’re currently viewing. You could also modify your WooCommerce theme so that these products are shown as items that “Others have also bought” to bring a more personal feel to the page. You’ll also notice that we have related products showing in our default WooCommerce setup. Out of the box WooCommerce looks through your products and tries to figure out which products are related to each other. Then WooCommerce shows other related products to customers as they’re browsing your site. Cross-sells show on the cart page of your WooCommerce store by default. Cross-sell items are hand-curated products that you are hoping users purchase alongside what is currently in their cart. Looking at our screenshot above, if a user already had “My Awesome eBook” in their cart it would not show in the Cross-sell area. While all of these options are a decent starting place for many stores, they can distract users from a purchase. Particularly, Cross-sells can get in the way of an optimized checkout process. I recommend that you only put the things you absolutely have to have in your checkout process. Cross-sells adds something that’s visually distracting to a customer’s checkout experience. Instead of purchasing the items they already have, customers now have to decide if the other items being shown to them should be added. Maybe they’ll decide that the other items could be a better purchase, and they’ll head back into your site to evaluate the other products they’ve been shown. If a customer is heading back into your store to evaluate their purchase decision again, you’ve increased the likelihood of losing the sale. This scenario is where Smart Offers can step in by allowing you much more control over how your customers are shown other purchase options. Let’s take a deeper look at what Smart Offers is and how you can set it up on your site.  Want help building your WooCommerce store? Subscribe to our newsletter to get similar content delivered straight to your inbox. How Smart Offers Can Increase Your Sales Whereas WooCommerce cross-sells show users extra products on the cart page which could possibly distract them, Smart Offers can be configured to only show users products after they’ve made a purchase. Smart Offers has two ways you can set it up. First, you can use Smart Offers to show upgrade purchases, or add-on purchases, just after a user has clicked to add a product to their cart. Second, you can use Smart Offers to offer users other products after they have made their initial purchase. You can even use it with both of these features turned on, though it’s always wise to be careful about how often you try to prompt users with additional purchases so you don’t annoy them. Once you’ve purchased and installed Smart Offers, you’ll find the settings for it at WooCommerce -> Smart Offers. Then choose “Add New Offer” to add a new offer to your site. From there title your offer and choose which product you want to offer. You can also choose how you want to price the offer. Offers can be fixed price, discounted price, or discounted based on a percentage depending on what suits your store. Next, you get to decide where to offer your extra product. Remember not to overwhelm your customers. Hitting them with the same offer multiple times during their time on your store is likely to decrease the chances that they make a purchase because they’ll get annoyed. My preference is always to show the offer after our customer has made a purchase. That way you don’t interrupt their initial purchase and lose the sale. You can then choose to show the offer as a popup or directly in the page content. I’d suggest testing which option works best for your customers. You can also decide the display rules for the offer. Smart Offers has lots of ways you can customize when to display an offer to a user. It covers everything from what products are in your customer’s cart, to what the dollar value of their transaction is. You can even set the quantity level of a product to trigger an offer. If there are multiple rules you want to apply to an offer, Smart Offers supports numerous rule configurations. You could set an offer so that it only shows if you have over $100 in your cart and have 5 T-Shirts in the cart. Then offer this customer a special custom shirt that only qualifying customers see. The final two options to set for an offer revolve around what to do if a user accepts or rejects the offer they’ve been shown. If you’ve used Smart Offers to offer an upgrade purchase to your customers, you can remove the original purchase so they don’t double purchase. I’ve used this with a client who was selling a course bundle and wanted to make sure that users didn’t purchase a single copy of a course at the same time as they purchased the bundle. When someone accepts an offer you can also add a coupon to the cart, or show them another offer after their initial purchase. You can also send them to a custom URL if that suits your store. When someone rejects an offer, you have fewer options. You can choose to show them another offer, send them to the cart page, or send them to a custom URL. The final step in setting up an offer is choosing the content that you want to show to your customers. Smart Offers provides you with the ability to write your own content in the WordPress editor alongside the ability to add custom CSS to get the exact look you want. As I’ve used this for clients, we’ve always found that we can get the look we want without a huge hassle. Some of my clients are comfortable with CSS and don’t ask me to make adjustments, they manage their Smart Offers and the styling on their own with ease. The final feature that Smart Offers provides is some reporting for your site. On the WordPress Dashboard there is an overview of how Smart Offers is doing, and when you look at your offers you can see some stats on how each individual offer is contributing to your overall stats. For all the greatness that is Smart Offers, there is still one shortcoming. When I was working with one of my clients, The Sweet Setup, we wanted to offer customers our other courses, but only if they hadn’t purchased them already. We didn’t want to make multiple offers either because we figured that a bunch of offers after a purchase was annoying. Unfortunately, Smart Offers doesn’t allow you to us an “OR” statement as you offer products. You can get around this by nesting offers in layers and adjusting the display rules so that only on offer could possibly match, but it’s less than optimal. As you add more products to your offers, this nested setup becomes even harder to manage. In Summary Today we’ve looked at a few ways that you can increase the average purchase price of your customers. While WooCommerce offers some options, Smart Offers provides you with a robust toolset to present users with your products without overwhelming them. I hope it goes without saying that even with extra offerings being shown to your customers, you need to make sure that you’ve streamlined your checkout process. Remember to only ask for the things you need from your customers and not every detail they could possibly have. Increase Your Store’s Orders With a Lightning Fast Platform Create a lightning-fast store that converts traffic with Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting Beginner Plan. It also comes standard with Jilt and helps you recover abandoned carts. The post How to Increase Your Average Order Price with Smart Offers for WooCommerce appeared first on Liquid Web.

6 Examples For Saying “Thank You to Your Customers”

“Thank you for shopping with us.” It isn’t just a slogan for plastic shopping bags, it’s a real feeling you have toward your customers. As business owners, we thank our customers in a lot of ways, but few are as personal as an actual thank-you note. And people appreciate them even more than we think. Thank-you notes can be the difference between one-time and life-long customers. According to Forbes, 68% of people have left a business relationship because they felt that the company was “indifferent” toward them. That’s a lot of lost business, but it’s preventable. Here are a few of our tips, best practices, and even mediums for those “thank you for your business” letters. How to Say Thank You “Thanks.” “Thank you SOOOO much.” “We appreciate the support.” There are a lot of ways to say thank you, and some are better than others. In order to sound as thankful as you are, your thank you should be sincere, warm, and personalized. Sound Sincere & Convey Warmth Even though you may be genuinely thankful, a bad thank-you message can come across as insincere. Short and curt? Insincere. Long and flowery? Insincere. Sounding as sincere as you feel is more of an art than a science. But there are a few best practices to keep in mind: Length: Typically, a few sentences or a paragraph is long enough. Much more than that will likely go unread, and less than that could seem impersonal. Language: Keep your language conversational rather than overly formal. Avoid using cliches (e.g., we think you’re the cat’s meow!), flowery language (we’re sooooo thankful for your purchase, it means the world to us!), or over-using words like “sincerely.” Personality: This goes with keeping your language conversational. Insert your personality into your thank you notes. It makes the message seem more personal and gives your brand a little more identity. Don’t be afraid to throw in some humor (as appropriate).  Want help building your eCommerce store? Subscribe to our newsletter to get similar content delivered straight to your inbox. The above example isn’t a business thank you, but it’s a fantastic example of personality and personalization in a thank-you letter. It’s exactly what you’d imagine children’s author Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and more) would write in a thank- you note. While you don’t need to go full Roald Dahl with your thank you, add some creativity to your message when you can. Dahl’s note also does a great job conveying sincerity and warmth. It feels honest and treats the recipient (most likely a child) with respect. He doesn’t try too hard to be clever, though he is. Keep all those things in mind when choosing the language for your thank-you notes. Personalize Your Message The above example from Roald Dahl is an extremely personalized message. It thanks the person by name, mentions specifically why he’s thankful, and what he plans on doing next. It’s a standard “thank you for the gift” note. Business thank-you notes don’t need to be quite that personalized. At the absolute least, your thank you should include your name and your customer’s name. Sending a thank you message without even including a name likely won’t give the customer the same warm, fuzzy feeling a personalized note might. Here are some things you might want to consider personalizing in your emails: Name: Hi Emily, Product or service purchased: Thanks so much for picking up a pair of our boxing gloves! The region the customer is based in: I saw you’re based in Seattle! I’ve never been, but I’ve been meaning to book a trip there at some point. Any resources that might help the customer with their new product: I’m not sure if you’re set on your hand wrap style, but here’s one of my favorite videos. It shows five easy ways to wrap your hands, and it completely changed my workouts. Recognition for repeat customers: We noticed that this is your third order with us. It makes us so glad to see repeat customers. We know there are a lot of places to buy boxing gear, so it means a lot to see you come back for more! The best way to get in touch regarding customer service: If you have any questions, our employee Karen is our resident boxing glove expert. You can find her email address below. Thank You Examples and Templates Email Email thank yous can be just as effective, warm, and personal as anything handwritten. Email makes it a little easier to personalize your message vs. a handwritten letter. You can use merge tags to automatically insert a customer’s name, the product ordered, that person’s company name, and more. Here’s an example from Matthews Effects, a boutique guitar pedal builder based out of Washington. This is likely a fully automated email that’s triggered when someone purchases a pedal through his online store for the second time. However, it doesn’t feel automated. The only thing personalized about this message is the name, but it radiates warmth and sincerity without extra personalization.  With Jilt from Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting solution, welcome emails, thank you emails, cart abandonment emails and more can be easily personalized and automated. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Plus, it’s unexpected. This message was sent in addition to the standard “thank you for your order” email confirmation that goes out with every order. This is a completely separate campaign that surprises and delights recipients. Here are six thank-you email templates with varying levels of personalization. For consistency, these are going to be written from a fake business that we’ll call The Crooked Bookstore. In these examples, the business is a mystery bookstore that offers a book club subscription service. For a first time buyer: Hi Nancy, From all of us at The Crooked Bookstore, welcome to our family! Thank you so much for your purchase of And Then There Were None. It’s a classic, and we’re sure you’ll love it! We’re a small, carefully curated bookshop, and we stand by all of our titles. That means if you don’t like the book, you can trade it for any other book in our store. Just send your reply to this email and we’ll get everything sorted out. Thank you again for choosing The Crooked Bookstore, we hope to hear from you again soon! Your friend, Zachary For a repeat customer: Hi Nancy, I was so excited to see your name come across our order pile again! Seeing a returning customer is always a good feeling. We know you have a lot of options when it comes to buying books, so it means a lot to us that you’d choose to purchase Absent in the Spring from us. As always, we have a love-it-or-exchange-it policy, so if your new book doesn’t live up to the excitement of And Then They Were None, we’ll work with you to find something more your style. Thanks again, Zachary For a one-year anniversary of being a customer (e.g., for a subscription service): Hi Nancy, Happy anniversary! We can’t believe it’s already been a year since you subscribed to our book club. Your continued support means so much to us. We hope to have many years reading and discussing our favorite mystery novels with you ahead of us! Zachary For someone who left positive feedback: Hi Nancy, I just saw the positive note you left about our store, and I wanted to send a personal thank you. It’s so rewarding to know that someone had a good experience with our business and felt compelled to share that experience with others. In this day and age, positive reviews are especially important to a business like ours. Again, thank you so much. Please let us know if there’s ever anything you need. Zachary For someone who left negative or neutral feedback: Hi Nancy, I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I couldn’t help but notice your negative review about your most recent purchase. It’s my hope that every transaction between The Crooked Bookstore and our customers is a positive one, and I’m so sorry to hear that this didn’t reach our standards. I’d love to discuss with you exactly what happened and how we can make this right. Can you send me an email or call me at 555-123-4567? Thanks in advance for your time, it’s greatly appreciated. Zachary For someone who ordered a product on back-order: Hi Nancy, Thank you so much for your patience with your purchase of A Pocket Full of Rye. It’s not usual for us to have products on backorder like this, but it does happen, and I want to thank you for understanding. We hope to have your new book in your hands in the next 5 days! Until then, please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s anything else I can do for you. Zachary Physical Cards Thank you emails are always appreciated, but there’s something extra special about getting a physical thank-you card. Thank-you cards don’t have to be fancy. They can be as simple as a blank postcard with your logo or a basic “thank you” design on one side and a handwritten note on the other. While you can send these thank-you cards separately from any product you’re shipping, you can also drop a thank-you card into your package. A simple note that says, “Thanks so much, we hope you enjoy your new headband!” is a reminder that your package was packed by people who care about their customers. Companies like Vistaprint and FedEx Office make it easy and affordable to buy branded thank- you cards in any quantity. For the sake of personalization, we do recommend that you hand write the message itself. If you’re feeling stuck on what to write, any of the examples in the email section would work great with physical cards, too. Phone Calls A phone call is one of the rarer ways to say thank you to a customer, and it’s understandable why that is. A phone call can feel invasive, and it’s impossible to automate. And unless you have a call center, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reach out to every customer. There are still times when it could make sense to reach directly out to a customer via phone to thank them. For example, if someone is a repeat customer who refers a lot of new business your way, a phone call would be an excellent way to say thank you. Be Timely With Your Thank Yous Let’s say you’re invited to a wedding and you get the happy couple a gift from their registry. You don’t really give it a second thought, and then months later, you get a thank-you card from them. “Oh yeah,” you think. “I forgot all about getting them that knife set. Took them long enough to say thank you.” The note is still appreciated but catches you off guard. You’re reminded that they didn’t take the time to send a thank-you note out sooner. It’s certainly better than no thank you at all, but there’s something off about it. The same sentiment applies to your customers when you wait too long to send a thank you. A quick thank you shows that you’re at the top of their mind and that you’re valued. It also puts you at the top of their mind. Thank You Notes Make Customers Happier Than You Think According to a recent study, senders of thank-you notes consistently underestimate how happy recipients are to receive those notes. Senders of thank-you notes in at the University of Texas at Austin thought that these letters would seem insincere or would make recipients feel awkward. In actuality, the letters made those who got them felt “ecstatic.” The study also showed that the letters took less than five minutes to write, on average. It also showed that recipients cared less about the exact language of the letter. What really mattered was the warmth. Need A Hosting Solution That Will Scale With Your Business? Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting is a high-performance platform dedicated to eCommerce stores of every size. No matter your store, we have a plan that fits your goals and your budget. And with Jilt automation emails built-in, you can get started on thanking your customers right away. The post 6 Examples For Saying “Thank You to Your Customers” appeared first on Liquid Web.

How Wyzecam’s Product Defect Disaster Made Customers Love Them Even More

The plane bringing Elana Fishman back from her February 2018 vacation had just touched down. She pulled out her phone to check email, not expecting to see anything exceptional. As she scrolled, her company, Wyzecam, an eCommerce consumer tech startup best-known for their high-tech, competitively-priced home security cameras, was days away from shipping the first batch of their version 2 cameras. Customers — 80,000 of them — were excited about the upgrade. But Fishman’s email app delivered terrible news: Wyzecam’s QA team had found a critical defect — specks of dust on the lenses of the camera. Fishman, Wyzecam’s COO, founded the company with 3 other ex-Amazon employees. They espouse a very Amazon-esque goal: “To put the customer at the center of what we do.” It’s one thing to say it. But what do you do when staying true to that mission means writing off $1.6 million worth of product? In a shocking turnaround, Wyzecam’s massive product development mistake turned into one of this startup’s biggest customer experience and reputation management wins. They did it by staying true to five important customer-service rules.  Want help building your eCommerce store? Subscribe to our newsletter to get similar content delivered straight to your inbox. 1) Put Long-Term Customer Relationships Ahead of Short-Term Profits The defective cameras went to product heaven, despite the cost, and despite the fact that customers would need to wait another month for the product they’d been expecting in just a few days. “Even though it was a very difficult decision from a financial perspective,” Fishman says, “everybody was on the same page about what was the right thing to do.” Wyze accepted a big financial hit, absorbing the loss of so many products when only a few were defective. But, in the long run, their honesty and dedication to the customer paid off. 2) Make Customer Service Everyone’s Job At Wyze, the customer service team sits in the center of the office—the figurative heart of the company. Fishman says she and other execs ringing the team always listen to problems they could help resolve. Nearly half of Wyzecam’s 30 employees are customer-facing, from the official customer liaison to the app development team, to the social media managers, to the person who reads every single Amazon review. It means they can get ahead of any potential reputation management issues. And everyone else — yes, including the CEO — spends time answering customer questions every single day. “I spend at least an hour or two a day replying to tickets,” says Fishman. “It can be anything from ‘where’s my package’ to feature requests to ‘I’m not able to set up my camera.'” 3) Talk To Customers Like You Would Talk to a Friend The customer isn’t an abstraction at Wyzecam. Everyone at the company talks to a customer every day. That helped when it came time to tell thousands of customers their cameras weren’t coming. Recalls Fishman: “We approached it as: ‘If I was going tell my friend, you’re not going to get this camera when you thought you would, what would I tell them?'” “I would tell them exactly what happened.” And that’s what they did. They announced the delay in an email to customers, and in their customer forum. The simple title: Sorry we messed up! 4) Own Up to Mistakes and Explain Them Wyzecam’s business model is based around using consumer feedback as a form of product testing. “We 100% believe in: Release quickly and iterate and improve over time,” says Fishman. “Every month we release a new app, and that’s where we add features, tweak the interface, tweak the experience—all based on feedback from our users,” she says. They know that with their aggressive release schedule, they won’t catch every bug. But because they treat customers as partners, they’re able to use them to find and correct mistakes. “With new hardware products, we do alpha and beta tests (with) real customers in people’s homes,” Fishman says. “So when we do release something to the public, we’ve ideally found many of the bugs and improved the customer experience as much as possible.” When it came time to announce the shipping delay for their cameras, Wyze CEO Yun Zhang was straightforward about what led to the mistake: “I challenged my team to upgrade the product with new features without adding cost,” he wrote in the email describing the delay. “Painfully, this was harder than I expected.” 5) Don’t Skimp On Details Wyzecam’s email to affected customers post included a thorough technical description of the problem, plus pictures. And in customer emails in the weeks that followed, Wyzecam didn’t just update expected delivery times. They told customers exactly what they were doing. For example: “In the past couple of weeks, we tested 4 methods to clean up the dust particles on more than 7,000 sample units. The end result was promising. The leading method will be put to production at scale this week. Of course, we’ll keep monitoring the output to make sure the increase in production capacity doesn’t compromise quality.” (Dust particles from the manufacturing process landed on the lens of this new sensor.) For a company that relies on word-of-mouth marketing, admitting a mistake like this would seem to be self-defeating. Wasn’t an error of this magnitude sure to turn their promoters into detractors and create a reputation management nightmare? The very first comment on the post provided the answer: Nope!   Six weeks later, more than 80,000 new cameras went out to Wyzecam’s patient customers. Those customers quickly started spreading the word. By the end of July 2018, Wyzecam had shipped 600,000 of their V2 camera. Customers started capturing all sorts of interesting events — like bear home invasions. The relatively speedy fix helped keep sales on track, but the messaging, at that critical moment, was even more important. “I think a lot of companies put up a barrier: ‘We’re the company, and that’s the customer,'” says Fishman. Wyzecam follows a different path. “It’s really obvious to consumers when you get emails that are clearly marketing,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like a person wrote it — it feels like a company wrote it. We really try to take a different tone, a different approach. I think a lot of companies could learn from that.” Ready to Take Your Store to the Next Level? If your store is growing at a rapid pace like Wyzecam, you may need a high performing platform such as one of Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting Business Plans to keep up with the load demand. And with Jilt cart abandonment technology to reclaim sales through email, TinyPNG for image compression, and Page Builder by Beaver Builder built-in, you can optimize and grow your shop in no time. The post How Wyzecam’s Product Defect Disaster Made Customers Love Them Even More appeared first on Liquid Web.

Top 5 Most Common Security Issues and How to Fix Them

Most businesses are aware that a spam filter and antivirus program are not all they need to protect themselves from the constantly evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. Knowing just what a comprehensive security stance entails, however, is far less obvious. Comprehensive web security includes a full suite of tools to protect against malware infections, data breaches, and service disruptions. It protects the server, network, and email system. It includes advanced technologies like a web application firewall and involves proactive steps like vulnerability scanning. But what do you do when something goes wrong? A click on the wrong email that leads to malware or a plug-in vulnerability that leads to a hacked webpage means that preventative measures are not enough, in that particular case. In order to minimize the damage caused by a security breach, a proactive web security stance has to be adopted ahead of time, including services and tools for mitigation, and a disaster recovery plan. A major but often overlooked part of comprehensive cybersecurity protection is a remediation service. There is never time during a cybersecurity incident to search out an effective malware removal tool, for instance. Organizational preparation is another important part of a complete, proactive cybersecurity posture. That means having the right tools, but also maintaining a minimum threshold of threat awareness. To assist with that awareness, consider the list below of the top five most common web security problems faced by businesses, and how to fix them.  Get regular tips on how to keep your business secure. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get more content sent straight to your inbox. 1. Code Injection Hackers are sometimes able to exploit vulnerabilities in applications to insert malicious code. Often the vulnerability is found in a text input field for users, such as for a username, where an SQL statement is entered, which runs on the database, in what is known as an SQL Injection attack. Other kinds of code injection attacks include shell injection, operating system command attacks, script injection, and dynamic evaluation attacks. Attacks of this type can lead to stolen credentials, destroyed data, or even loss of control over the server. They are also surprisingly common, as the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Foundation ranks code injection first in its Top 10 Application Security Risks. There are two ways to prevent code injection: avoiding vulnerable code and filtering input. Applications can guard against vulnerable code by keeping data separate from commands and queries, such as by using a safe API with parameterized queries. Businesses should also use input validation, and observe the principle of least privilege, applying controls like the SQL LIMIT function to reduce the damage from a successful attack. A Web Application Firewall (WAF) which updates a threat database in real-time is the only effective way to filter application input to protect against code injection. 2. Data Breach The cost of data breaches is well documented. They are often caused by compromised credentials, but the range of other common causes include software misconfiguration, lost hardware, or malware (more on that below). The Breach Level Index indicates there were 944 known data breaches in the first half of 2018 and nearly 2,000 in 2017. Data breach prevention requires a range of good practices. Site traffic and transactions should be encrypted with SSL, permissions should be carefully set for each group of users, and servers should be scanned. Employees should be trained in how to avoid being caught by phishing attacks, and how to practice good password hygiene. The principle of least privilege is worth noting here, as well. In the event that your business discovers a potential data breach, you may face legal or compliance requirements for notifying customers or regulatory authorities. Disclosure requirements and strategies should be determined ahead of time so that the maximum amount of organizational resources can be dedicated to making sure that no more data is stolen as well as repairing the damage caused. Once the attack vector has been blocked, a comprehensive incident investigation should be conducted, and the network scanned to make sure all vulnerabilities have been identified and closed off. 3. Malware Infection Most businesses are aware on some level of the security threat posed by malware, yet many people are unaware that email spam is still the main vector of malware attack. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2017 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Business (SMB) report, 36 percent of SMBs experienced malware attacks that year. Because malware comes from a range of sources, several different tools are needed for preventing infection. A robust email scanning and filtering system is necessary, as are malware and vulnerability scans. Like breaches, which are often caused by malware infection, employee education is vital to keep businesses safe from malware. Any device or system infected with malware must be thoroughly scrubbed, which means identifying the hidden portions of code and deleting all infected files before they replicate. This is practically impossible by hand, so requires an effective automated tool. 4. Distributed Denial of Service Attack A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack generally involves a group of computers being harnessed together by a hacker to flood the target with traffic. A NETSCAPE Arbor report suggested there were 7.5 million DDoS attacks in 2017, so while many target IT service providers, they are still more prevalent than many people realize. One of the most worrying aspects of DDoS attacks for businesses is that without even being targeted, the business can be affected just by using the same server, service provider, or even network infrastructure. If your business is caught up in a DDoS attack, put your disaster recovery plan into effect, and communicate with employees and customers about the disruption. A security tool such as a WAF is used to close off the port or protocol being saturated, in a process which will likely have to be repeated as attackers adjust their tactics. Ultimately, service is best restored with a content distribution network (CDN) like CloudFlare, which can absorb an enormous impact while identifying and then filtering out malicious traffic. Make sure to also look for DDoS protection with real-time monitoring for comprehensive mitigation of attacks. 5. Malicious Insiders This last threat is uncomfortable to think about, but common enough to require serious consideration, as the 2017 U.S. State of Cybercrime Highlights report from CERT shows that one in five attacks are committed by insiders. Preventing damage from insider attacks is largely about limiting the amount of access a malicious insider has. This means setting logical access control policies to implement the principle of least privilege (but you have that covered by now, right?), and monitoring the network with audit and transaction logs. A solution like Liquid Web’s custom Malicious Activity Detector (MAD) will also guard against threats both from within and outside the organization. If a malicious insider attack is detected, the insider’s access privileges should immediately be revoked. That done, the police should be contacted to prevent that person from carrying out further actions that could damage the business, such as selling stolen data. In Summary Part of the challenge for business cybersecurity is maintaining and using the full set of tools necessary for keeping up with the changing threat landscape. As IoT botnets, cryptomining malware, and other emerging threats evolve, it is increasingly unrealistic for organizations to keep up on their own. Being prepared remains critically important to maintaining business operations and productivity, however. By select a comprehensive, proactive security and remediation service and planning ahead, you can be reasonably assured that your business will meet any security challenges it might face. Black Friday Security Specials Save Up to 33% Off Cloud VPS including our site Remediation and Protection Services and Web Application Firewall built into CloudFlare CDN. The post Top 5 Most Common Security Issues and How to Fix Them appeared first on Liquid Web.

AliExpress vs Alibaba Dropshipping: What You Need To Know

As a dropshipping store owner, you run many risks finding reputable suppliers and quality products. Bad wholesalers devastate your bottom line. Defective or poor quality products drive down your online reviews. Disreputable suppliers offering brand knockoffs put you at risk of store closure. Expensive or unreliable shipping equals frustrated customers. The process of emailing and calling potential suppliers can be exhausting. Outreach is labor-intensive. So, savvy eCommerce store owners are turning to markets like AliExpress and Alibaba to quickly find thousands of dropshipping suppliers and an enormous product selection. What Are AliExpress and Alibaba? AliExpress and Alibaba are two huge online marketplaces that are part of the Chinese holding company Alibaba Group. Both marketplaces save you time from finding reputable suppliers and products, but each has different profit models, integration, shipping, and payment methods. Depending on your business goals, one will likely fit your dropshipping needs better than the other. Here are the differences dropshippers need to consider. What is a Dropshipping Supplier? Dropshipping suppliers are wholesalers or retail stores that enter into agreements with wholesalers and retailers. The dropshipping agreement usually splits the marketing costs and order fulfillment between the supplier and buyer. Dropshipping suppliers save money by letting dropshippers handle the expense of product promotion. In turn, dropshippers save cash on inventory space, packing supplies, and shipping costs. The partnership keeps overall costs low. Learn more with the Beginner’s Guide to Dropshipping with WooCommerce. Product Pricing Although many people consider AliExpress a wholesaler, it’s actually a retail site. AliExpress dropshippers are technically paying end consumer prices, not wholesale prices. It’s truly what most people consider a “dropshipping site” because it ships individual products to consumers for you rather than selling them in bulk to retailers. Alibaba is more of a wholesaler approach, offering discounts for buying in bulk. Most of Alibaba’s manufacturers make consumer products. You can find individual products for sale (usually higher-priced items), but the majority of offerings are cheaper bulk items. The market is intended to be an online B2B platform for manufacturers or trading companies, but dropshippers use it regularly.  Become a better dropshipper. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get more content just like this sent to your inbox. Orders on Alibaba have a minimum order quantity (MOQ), which manufacturers list as the number (e.g. “100 pieces”) required to fill an order. The MOQ is almost always negotiable with international firms. If the MOQ is too high, make an offer before passing on the purchase. Prices on Alibaba commonly appear in a range (e.g. $40-45). Make sure you’ve nailed down the price with the supplier before finalizing the order. The products you sell will drive your decision about which marketplace to choose. If you need customized items and a more wholesale approach to buying and pricing, Alibaba is a better solution. If you want to buy ready-made products at any quantity, AliExpress dropshipping may be the better answer. Some eCommerce owners begin their dropshipping enterprise with AliExpress until they’ve built up enough sales volume to switch to bulk buying with Alibaba. Product Types As a wholesaler, Alibaba offers both small items in large quantities and large items in small quantities. AliExpress sells larger amounts of high-margin items like clothing, cell phones, jewelry, and personal care items. For example, if you search for “refrigerators” on both sites, you get results for the actual appliance on Alibaba, but for AliExpress, you get pages of refrigerator magnets. Overall, Alibaba caters to manufacturers, trading companies, or resellers who trade in large quantities. AliExpress connects mostly China-based businesses with international buyers. Supplier Rating Both Alibaba and AliExpress have certification programs to ensure their suppliers are reputable and reliable. Part of verifying vendors is checking to see if they actually exist. Some “manufacturers” are just retailers buying and reselling products, falsely claiming they are producing them at a factory. Alibaba has three verification types: A&V Check — “Gold Suppliers” have passed authentication and verification inspection by the company as well as a third party. Onsite Check — Alibaba staff verify the supplier’s basic company information is accurate and that the manufacturing facilities physically exist. Assessed Supplier — Third-party verification of supplier claims about products. Here’s more information on Alibaba’s verification process. AliExpress supplier verification may feel more familiar—it’s similar to vendor ratings on eBay and Amazon. The site displays “Feedback Scores” on products and overall seller ratings on communication and shipping speed. Some suppliers display AliExpress’s Buyer Protection plan on their orders. These plans guarantee refunds for late or wrong shipments. Payment Methods AliExpress and Alibaba have different products and pricing structures, which impacts your buying experience. Because AliExpress is a retailer, it offers more consumer-type payment options like credit cards. Alibaba focuses on international wholesale markets, so its payment options are optimized for larger transactions. AliExpress dropshipping offers different payment methods for purchases made in-app (Android / Apple) versus on a website. Credit card purchasers can use Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Maestro. Dropshippers wanting more traditional banking methods use wire transfers or Western Union. This is only a partial list of all AliExpress payment methods. AliExpress also has a PayPal-like credit and debit card service called AliPay. Even though you’re able to use the same buyer account on Alibaba and AliExpress, AliPay is currently only available on AliExpress. Alibaba transactions usually involve large international shipments and large sums of money. The platform supports traditional wire transfers, telegraphic transfers (T/T), letters of credit, lines of credit, and eChecks. But you can also pay with credit cards in some cases. Shipping Costs Shipping costs on Alibaba and AliExpress depend on who you are buying from—manufacturers and retailers set their own prices. Many suppliers offer “free shipping”, but they’re simply rolling the costs over into the unit price just like dropshippers. Like Alibaba, many orders come from China. So some items may take weeks. Check shipping times for a vendor by purchasing a small, inexpensive item to test. You’ll see how the vendor communicates and how long your order takes to process, ship, and arrive. Shipping with Alibaba is a much different experience. Orders are larger and arrive at ports via boats. Some shipping costs include “Free on Board”. This means the costs of delivering the products to port is included in the prices. However, you are responsible for shipping costs from the port to your storage destination. Shipments to port can take up to six weeks depending on the destination and order size. Shipping insurance with Alibaba is an option to consider. Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) stipulates that the supplier pays the freight insurance up to the destination port. You take responsibility for damages from there. What to Ask a Supplier Whether you’re using AliExpress, Alibaba, or finding suppliers yourself, good communication with vendors and manufacturers helps ensure fast delivery times and happy customers. Every situation will be different, but you must ask the right questions to protect your interests. What’s the final price? Alibaba prices come in ranges. Nail down the final price before you commit to the purchase. What is the production time for my order? Figure in the amount of time it takes for the manufacturer to actually produce your order, not just ship it to you. How long will it take to receive my order? Customers want to know when they’re getting their stuff. Get good estimates on shipping times and keep customers satisfied. What’s the minimum order quantity (MOQ)? This is often negotiable. If you can’t afford their minimum order, haggle. What are the shipping cost estimates for this product? Accurate shipping costs are critical to figuring your markup. Omit this question at your peril. Do you provide samples? An easy way to check a company’s quality control is to sample their products. Do you have any references? Ask for examples of other stores who sell their products. Adding Dropshipping Products to Your Store To sell dropship items, you need to import them to your WooCommerce website so customers can see them. You can do this manually by copy and pasting descriptions and adding product images. Items on AliExpress are easy to import either manually or automatically. If you’re only handling a few dozen items, importing manually works. But store owners who are selling hundreds or thousands of items need a more practical strategy. Several online services like Ezusy or WooDropship let you automate importing AliExpress products to your WooCommerce store. With a few clicks, you’ll be able to select hundreds of products to import. If you’d rather buy than subscribe, look into a WooCommerce dropshipping plugin that will perform the same automated product import. There are no automated services or plugins for Alibaba because most dropshippers change the market’s bulk product listings to individual items to sell in their stores. Importing the description and images for a list of “500 Christmas Bulbs” doesn’t work for a dropshipping site selling individual items. Don’t think of AliExpress or Alibaba as an either-or choice. Instead, use them as two parts of a single strategy to meet your short-term and long-term business goals. Use the low startup costs of AliExpress to get your business off the ground. As you grow, switch to storing your own inventory and take advantage of the wholesale prices Alibaba offers. Mix this strategy with good marketing, and you’ll have an edge on your dropshipping competitors. Ready to Get Started Dropshipping? Have your dropshipping store up and running in fewer than two weeks with Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting Dropshipping Starter Plan. It comes standard with Jilt so you can start recovering carts immediately, along with the ability to make beautiful custom landing pages, Astra Pro, and support for AliExpress and 20+ suppliers. The post AliExpress vs Alibaba Dropshipping: What You Need To Know appeared first on Liquid Web.

An Introduction to Analytics On your WooCommerce Store

One thing my clients often ask is whether my services include adding a site analytics package (usually Google Analytics) to their site. My usual response is that not having site analytics on their new store is like purchasing a new car and not getting the tires. Yes, I set analytics up to work with WooCommerce for you the day your site goes live. Today we’re going to walk through adding Google Analytics to a WooCommerce site, and then more importantly, what you can do with the information once your site has been running for a while. We’ll end by looking at a few options that are not Google Analytics but will give you similar features. Adding Google Analytics to a WooCommerce Site Getting Google Analytics setup on your WooCommerce site starts by having a Google Analytics account. Don’t worry, if you have a Gmail address or if you’re using G-Suite for your email, you have a Google Analytics account. While there is a free version of the WooCommerce Google Analytics Integration, it doesn’t quite do everything we want. In particular, it doesn’t support Checkout Behavior Analysis. Checkout Behavior Analysis is an essential feature because we want to be able to visualize how people flow through our site so that we can identify snags in our purchase process. To get Checkout Behavior Analytics, we’ll need to purchase WooCommerce Google Analytics Pro, and you’ll need to create a site profile in Google Analytics. Once you have both of those it’s time to navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Integrations where you’ll see Google Analytics Pro listed as an option. Make sure that Enable Google Analytics Tracking is checked. If this is unchecked, then you will have no tracking on your site. To add your site to your Google Analytics Property, you’ll need to click the button that says Authenticate with your Google Account. This will ask you to authenticate with Google Analytics so that your site starts getting analytics. You can also add your tracking code manually by checking the box under the authentication button. While most people want to ignore the data that Site Administrators and Store Managers create as they work on the site, not everyone does. If you’re going to track those two users, then you can check the Track Administrators box. If you think that any of your customers will be from the EU, then you need to make sure that you’ve checked Anonymize IP addresses to stay compliant with the law. Even if you don’t expect clients from the EU, it’s best practice to check this box now and avoid compliance issues later. Those are the main settings you should be worrying about. Yes, you can change the naming of the various events that the plugin will track with Google Analytics, but most sites should leave the names as they are.  Become a master at running a WooCommerce store. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get more WooCommerce tips sent straight to your inbox. What Can You Do With the Data? Now that you have Google Analytics setup on your WooCommerce site, we can dive into one of the most critical uses of tracking user purchases on your site: watching the funnel of their purchases. Most sites have ways that they can increase their conversions. Pages that stop users from purchasing, buttons that could use a language update, or sometimes something is just plain broken. By looking at the funnel of purchases for your site you can identify these points and make it easier for users to purchase. By default a funnel is made up of: A user adding a product to the cart Providing your billing email Selecting a payment method Placing the order (finishing the funnel) A rule of thumb for eCommerce sites is that you want to remove every barrier you have to making a purchase. That may mean instead of offering a related product on your checkout page, you leverage Smart Offers to allow a one-click additional purchase after the user has completed their main product purchase. I’ve also tracked and increased conversions on sites by removing all the checkout fields that we don’t need. That means if you’re selling a digital-only product, you don’t need their physical address. You may need their country and Zipcode/Postal Code to calculate tax, but the specific street they live on doesn’t matter. By removing all the extra fields on the checkout page, more people will continue with their purchase instead of feeling overwhelmed by the information they need to enter. By having a funnel in Google Analytics, you can view your data periodically and make sure that you don’t have obvious problems with your site conversion process. Not Every Site Needs Google Analytics While Google Analytics has lots of power, it can also get confusing if you’re not a seasoned pro at digging through the information they provide. The truth is that not every store needs all the information that Google Analytics can provide. Luckily there are a few other options to enhance your site sales that don’t overwhelm you with data. WooCommerce Customer History The first option we’ll look at is WooCommerce Customer History. Just like the title says, this plugin tracks your users on your site. Much like Google Analytics, this means you can figure out where people are dropping off in sales as well as the popular pages for your customers. WooCommerce Customer History also helps you by looking at the purchases a user has made and then calculating their lifetime value to your business. Maximizing the lifetime value that users have is a great way to increase the profitability of your store. It’s generally much easier to get a customer to make a repeat purchase than it is to find a new customer. With repeat customers, they already trust you, so you don’t have to spend as much time convincing them to purchase from you. WooCommerce Cart Reports Another plugin that goes well with WooCommerce Customer History is Cart Reports. Where WooCommerce Customer History tells you what people purchased, Cart Reports shows you what they left in their cart. Some customers will find that a particular product is left in carts way more than others. With Cart Reports, you can reach out to customers and ask them why they didn’t purchase. Maybe you didn’t have the right color or size. Armed with more information you can change your next product orders and make sure that you have the proper sizing to match your customer demand. Cart Reports also allows you to email the user in an attempt to convert their abandoned cart to a sale. If you’re able to do this, it will report the converted sale on its dashboard so you can track the effectiveness of any cart reclamation campaign. The biggest drawback to Cart Reports is that it doesn’t allow you to automate touching base with customers that have abandoned their purchases. You have to find each abandoned cart and manually contact the customer. On a small store or one with very high ticket items, manually reaching out may be possible. On a large store or one with many lower priced items, manually reaching out to users is likely too much work.  Jilt, which is included with all Managed WooCommerce Hosting plans from Liquid Web, easily recovers lost sales using cart abandonment technology. Recommendation Engine for WooCommerce The second plugin that can help you make more sales is Recommendation Engine. While this doesn’t give you insight into the way your customers are purchasing, it does gather the information for its use. Recommendation Engine looks at the products that your customers purchase together and then makes recommendations for other items in your store. If many customers purchase Product A and B together then when Recommendation Engine sees someone looking at Product A, it will show them that many people purchase Product B at the same time. You can also configure Recommendation Engine to show customers: Products related to their purchase history Products other customers have also viewed Products that are regularly purchased together It also provides a few widgets so that you don’t need to dive into the code of your site or hire a developer to add product recommendations to your site. Alternatives to Google Analytics If you want a robust analytics package but don’t want to use Google Analytics, there are still many other great options including. KISSmetrics Mixpanel Metorik Putler and others Each of these options has their benefits and their drawbacks. No single analytics package suits every site. While Google Analytics has been the default, make sure you explore your options, so you know which one is best for your needs. While I stand beside my assertion at the beginning that you should have an analytics package on your site, it can also be overwhelming. Most customers should have something like Google Analytics installed just in case they need to dig deeper into the information later. By combining WooCommerce Customer History and Recommendation Engine, you can get lots of insight into how your customers are purchasing and increase the value they are buying. These two plugins alone can quickly pay for themselves as you improve your store profitability. Need a WooCommerce Host? Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting solution has plans for every kind of business. From dropshipping to building out new marketplaces and everything in between, their platform is built for speed, which will improve your site analytics immensely. The post An Introduction to Analytics On your WooCommerce Store appeared first on Liquid Web.

Understanding Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

Content Delivery Networks (CDN) have been around for years, and as long as they’ve been around, there has been some confusion as to what they are and their purpose. In today’s post, we will show exactly how a CDN can help your business by looking into how Cloudflare implemented this technology. What Is a Content Delivery Network? A Content Delivery Network, also known as a CDN, is a network of geographically disbursed devices (nodes) which are used to deliver content across the globe more quickly. Let’s start with the basics. When a client pulls up your website, they’re making a connection to your server and downloading the content. Their web browser then displays this downloaded content. This process means our client is downloading every word, every image, every video, everything rendered in their browser. As you have likely witnessed when trying to load content-heavy web pages, this can quickly get out of hand. What’s worse, a web page whose content has stretched too far can easily cause the dreaded long load times, one of the worst mistakes a site owner can make. This situation is exasperated when a client is hundreds or thousands of miles away. There are several ways to help combat this, like minimalizing your front page or using thumbnails or lower resolution images on content-heavy pages. Another way is to employ a Content Delivery Network.  Get more tips on how to make your website faster. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get more website tips sent straight to your inbox. The CDN’s network of devices, called nodes, are used to cache your content, so it’s geographically closer to your end user. Because these nodes are located all over the globe, your client’s request has a much shorter distance to travel. This shorter distance makes for quicker load times and a better experience for your user, and hopefully more engaged prospects and customers for you! How Does the Content Delivery Network Work? Despite its appearance, the steps for this super technical function are pretty straightforward. The process relies on a master/copy relationship, referred to as Origin/node. Your server is the Origin. It holds all your content for your website. Employing the Cloudflare Content Delivery Network will never change this fact. Once you start using the CDN, its network grabs a copy of your content while it’s en route to customers. A request for your website from a client in, say, Australia is directed to the geographically closest node. If the content is not on that node, the node allows the request to process as usual. The Origin server, hosted on Liquid Web’s network, receives the request for content. The node then serves that content to the requester, but now that content is cached on the requesting node. That means any subsequent requests for that content will no longer have to traverse the ocean. It automatically learns how to best serve your clients wherever they are! Your content is now half-a-globe closer to your end user, which drastically shortens this transaction and lowers your page load time. This could translate into lower bounce rates, more engagement with content, and hopefully more sales! Also, because of this Origin/node relationship, your site’s management never changes. You manage your site’s content on your server the same way you always have, so there’s no need to learn a whole new content management interface. How Does the CDN Know How to Serve My Content? The request, caching, and delivery of your content rely on DNS. To start using the Content Delivery Network, you have to point your DNS at Cloudflare Name Servers, making them the Authoritative Name Servers for your website’s DNS. You’ll make this change at your registrar, in the registration configuration portal. Under the Authoritative Nameservers, you’ll state that Cloudflare’s Name Servers are authoritative and so they have the most accurate IP information for that domain name. If you’ve used Liquid Web to maintain your domain registry, one of our Helpful Humans can handle this part for you. Again, this doesn’t change any aspects of your website or your domain name registration. You’re still using Liquid Web as your host, and you’ll still be using your same registrar. All you’re doing is announcing to the internet that Cloudflare’s CDN is now the means to request content, not via the Origin directly. What Kind of Content Is Cached in the nodes? The Cloudflare Content Delivery Network is configured to cache requests for static content. Static Content is just a fancy way to say content that doesn’t change. All manner of file extensions are cached including images (.gif, .jpg, .ico, .bmp, and more), several types of document files (.pdf, .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx) as well as most of your site’s style controllers (.css, .class). Some of these file types can be pretty weighty, so you can start to see how caching these types of files can help with serving content more quickly and, thereby, speed your page’s load times. If you’re curious you can find a full list of cached extensions. These are only the extensions cached on the free account type. If you’d like more file types cached, they’re available, but it may require upgrading your account. One of our Sales Team Members can easily help with that. Are there Any Other Perks of the Service? Of course! Cloudflare has built an impressive application on a remarkable network and has worked hard to protect it from much of the malicious traffic across the internet. That protection is built into the network itself, and because the CDN is part of their network, you get to reap those same benefits. Even before traffic hits the nodes of the CDN, they’ve started inspecting and reporting. Cloudflare has their network configured to block traffic based on several types of identifiers. Identifiers such as: Known malicious IP addresses Types of requests that are historically known to cause server issues Malicious payloads included with the traffic Frequency the client is causing the request matches malicious patterns These are all dropped at the initiation of the request which helps keep your site safe. These safeguards are in place for every request that comes through, which helps to protect you from probing attacks and crawlers that are looking for a security flaw but allows well known and legitimate traffic and crawlers through.  Cloudflare’s CDN service also offers a free SSL encryption service that keeps your traffic secured and encrypted end-to-end. The configuration for Cloudflare’s free SSL encryption is pretty simple via their interface. Once accessed, under the “Crypto” menu, you’ll just select the “Flexible” Certificate and select to activate it. There’s a twenty-four hour waiting period before the SSL is active, but that’s a short period of waiting given the advantages and security you get from using an SSL. Ready to Start Seeing More Engagement on Your Site? Handle traffic spikes globally, reduce load-times and see more engagement with Cloudflare Content Delivery Network. Try it today or contact our Sales Team to get more information. The post Understanding Content Delivery Networks (CDN) appeared first on Liquid Web.

Common Bottlenecks That Slow Down WordPress Sites

Is your WordPress site loading slow? Many factors can slow down WordPress, but luckily you do not need to be a tech-expert to fix them. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the most common bottlenecks that slow down WordPress and present a solution to each one. You can (and should) follow along with this guide even if your site is just for your hobby or if you don’t have any monetization strategy for it. Having a fast website not only is shown to increase revenue but performance also matters to retain users and to get more people to read your content. As Jeremy Wagner says in one of his articles for Google Web Fundamentals: “Performance plays a significant role in the success of any online venture, as high performing sites engage and retain users better than poorly performing ones.” You will find various statistics about how reducing the page loading time helped businesses increase conversion rates in their shops, increase the time visitors spend on their websites, and ultimately added more revenue to their bottom line. A fast website will help your content get noticed and consumed – and that’s all that matters. How Fast Is Your Site Currently? Tools for Analysis: GTMetrix, Pingdom, Google Pagespeed (only use for server response time), “Speed Suggestions” tab in Google Analytics (Behavior -> Site Speed -> Speed Suggestions) To understanding what slows down your WordPress site, you first need to analyze how fast your site is loading. Therefore we can utilize a number of free tools and services that provide interesting insights into the loading process. By running your site through the platforms I’m about to mention, you’ll be getting an idea of which of the common bottlenecks is slowing down your site.  Become a WordPress guru. Subscribe to Liquid Web’s weekly newsletter to get WordPress tips sent straight to your inbox. GTMetrix One of the most powerful tools for analyzing your site’s loading speed is GTMetrix. It’s a platform where you can enter your site’s URL and then get a detailed report on its loading process. I highly recommend you sign up for a free account, as that’ll give you additional information you can’t see as a guest user. Click here to find out how you can get the most out of GTMetrix. This is an example for my own website, WP Mastery. As you can tell, GTMetrix is showing my site takes 4.6s to load, which is quite long (I’ve got some work to do!). Since I’m logged in as a free user, I can also see the Timings tab. In that tab, I can see that my hosting could be a factor slowing down the site. The TTFB (click here for an explanation) is quite slow, there are entire sites that load within 0.7s! You can browse around in your GTMetrix report and gather ideas what you can work on to remove bottlenecks from your site. Pingdom Pingdom is another speed analysis provider, similar to GTMetrix. You can create similar reports with Pingdom and it’s a good idea to check both tools to uncover bottlenecks. Relying on just one speed analysis report might leave things in the dark, as each platform has proprietary algorithms to check your site. As you can tell, Pingdom shows the loading time of my site to be 3.62s instead of 4.6s. That’s a difference of 22%! But way more interesting is the part where Pingdom shows the timings: Even with CloudFlare CDN enabled, the first request shows a waiting time of 1.8s! That’s, of course, a big problem in my current setup. I’m sharing this openly, even though I’m providing WordPress maintenance and speed optimization services. Why? Because I want to show you that everybody, even “an expert”, relies on services being set up properly. That’s why I’m considering moving to Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting plan. Their infrastructure is optimized to make WordPress sites load fast and they take the basic maintenance tasks like backups and updates out of your hands too. As we’re seeing in the first two reports already, your hosting provider plays a big role. Google PageSpeed Insights The last tool I want to share with you is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. I want you to be careful with not getting caught up in the scores Google is showing – PageSpeed Insights is a tool for developers only. My main reason to include it is that it shows whether your hosting performance is a bottleneck. It’s super simple to understand if your server response time is slow or not. In my own site’s results, you can see that PageSpeed Insights is suggesting to reduce the server response time – confirming what GTMetrix and Pingdom already indicated. I don’t worry about the scores though, as they do NOT reflect the user experience on my site. For example, the “Leverage browser caching” suggestion sometimes is impossible to implement. In my case, Google suggests I cache files that are loaded from Google’s own servers – so I technically cannot cache them. Getting The Right Hosting With those three reports at hand, let’s address the elephant in the room – optimizing my server response time and reducing the time to first byte (TTFB). There are a number of steps I can do to get that time down: I’ll talk to my hosting provider and ask if they can help me get the site down. Often, hosting providers can tweak their settings a little bit to make your site load faster. As I also have the CloudFlare CDN enabled, I’ll talk to the CloudFlare support team as well. Lastly, I’ll run a plugin like WP Sweep to clean up my database from old data. As I said above, having a good hosting plan is quite important and should most often be the first step in making your site load faster. WordPress websites heavily benefit from optimized hosting like the one LiquidWeb is offering. There are certain technical configurations hosting companies can do that let WordPress load faster if their hosting plan is focused on WordPress only. If you have a generic hosting company that allows you to install all sorts of content management systems, those optimizations likely will not be in place. If your site is part of your business strategy and meant to generate income, hosting is a good place to invest in. Is Your Theme Slowing Down Your Site? Another common bottleneck is the theme that you’re using. Themes control the design of your website and their code quality heavily varies. There are WordPress themes that focus on being super-fast and there are themes that have tons of features but sacrifice loading speed for those.  Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting comes with Astra Pro, a super fast and lightweight theme. If you find that your theme adds tons of menu items to your WP Admin menu which you don’t use, it’s a good indicator that your theme is more bloated than you need it to be. Even though you like the design, you might want to talk to a developer about rebuilding the site with a theme that’s tailored more towards fast loading times. Often it’s quite straightforward to keep the design while rebuilding a WordPress site with a new theme. Another good indicator of whether your theme is slowing down your site are the reports we generated earlier. In GTMetrix, open the Waterfall diagram and check for the resources that are loaded from your theme’s folder. You can hover over the individual requests and check whether they have “wp-content/themes/” in their URI. If they do, your theme is generating that request. In Pingdom, scroll down to the “File Requests” section and enter the word “themes” in the filter. This section is more comfortable to use than GTMetrix’s Waterfall diagram and gives similarly detailed information. In this case, both tools show a reasonable amount of files being loaded from my themes (parent and child theme). They don’t take up much data nor cause any reasonable delays to my site’s loading time, so I know that my theme is set up properly. The only thing that’s worrying me a bit is the waiting time (bright yellow in the Pingdom report). Seeing in proportion, it’s way too long – so that’s another reason to talk to my host about it. If you see that your theme causes too many requests, there are a couple of steps you can take to fix it (run new speed analysis after doing each step and make sure you have a backup in place): If you haven’t already, install a caching plugin. Enable file minification and combination for CSS and JS files. Be careful here and ensure to test your site’s frontend after this step! Especially combining CSS or JS files can break your layout. Use the caching plugin to load JS files asynchronously or extend your theme to load JS async/deferred. At this point, you might be asking yourself what files to load asynchronously. PageSpeed Insights is showing you exactly which files you should work on! Head over to the report and check the “Eliminate render-blocking resources” suggestion: If you haven’t done these steps already, this should already fix a common bottleneck. The three steps outlined above will not just fix the files from your theme but will also tackle plugin files. Especially when you’ve enabled file minification, start loading selected files asynchronously and started combining CSS / JS files, your site should load reasonably faster. Are Plugins Slowing Down Your Site? Once you’ve followed the steps outlined above to optimize your theme, it’s time to analyze the plugins you’re using. Go ahead to the three platforms GTMetrix, Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights and run the reports again. If the steps were executed correctly and weren’t in place before, your loading time should already have gone down quite a bit. Let’s see if we can uncover more bottlenecks in your plugins. Firstly, check in with your hosting company if any plugin is taking up more server resources than others. A good web host will be able to check if any plugin on your site is slowing down the server. Some plugins are known to be quite resource-heavy on servers, e.g. plugins for showing related posts, plugin packs like Jetpack, or security plugins that scan your site for malware in the background. The fastest way to check if a certain plugin is slowing down your site is to copy your site to a staging version (how to set up staging on LiquidWeb) and then deactivate one plugin after another. After each deactivation, run the speed analysis reports again – the numbers will show you which plugin causes slow-downs. Obviously, you can also again go through the Waterfall section of GTmetrix and the “File requests” section in Pingdom and check for plugin-related files. The Pingdom report for WP Mastery shows that not many plugin files are loaded. That’s because I already combine CSS/JS files into single files – but it seems that I missed the “Better Click to Tweet” files. They’re only a few bytes and take up a couple of milliseconds to load. At this point, including them is a question of ROI – I don’t think spending the time adding those files is worth the performance boost. It’ll likely have no measurable effect. However, if you find that certain files take a reasonable time to load, they’re definitely worth optimizing! Is The Google Bot Taking Up Server Resources? Another bottleneck that’s often neglected is how often bots like the Google Bot (or bots from other search engines) visit your site to index your contents. Bots can cause heavy server load when they visit your site too often, so if that’s the case, you might want to reduce the crawl frequency. Maintenance Tasks To Keep Your Site Fast Lastly, let me mention a few maintenance tasks you want to perform regularly to keep your site running smoothly and fast: Keep your WordPress core, themes and plugins updated Eliminate unused plugins and themes from your installation Regularly clean up your database with WP Sweep or similar plugins Off-load tasks like backups and security to third-party services that run on their own servers and not on yours Be careful when using plugin suites like Jetpack or big plugins like BBPress, YARPP, and alike. Try Managed WordPress Hosting from Liquid Web Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting takes the hassle out of hosting with automatic updates to the core WordPress and plugins, along with image compression which speeds up your site and keeps it secure. The post Common Bottlenecks That Slow Down WordPress Sites appeared first on Liquid Web.

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