5 essentials of setting up an ecommerce site

You don’t need to have a large budget to successfully set up a business online. We’ve been working with clients for years and here’s our top 5 essential factors in setting up and building an ecommerce site. While there are many other considerations, these are ones we suggest you start with.
5 essentials of setting up an ecommerce site

1) Choose the right platform for your website

It sounds really obvious, but many people don’t appreciate the difference choosing the right platform makes to the success of your business. Get this wrong, and you’re probably going to have to rebuild your website very soon – a costly mistake.

You can try one of the big providers like Shopify or you can get a website built and add platforms like WooCommerce to act as your ecommerce interface. Remember you’ll need to comply with the standards set out by the Payment Card Industry Security Standard Council (PCI SSC) for processing, storing or transmitting credit card data. Platforms such as Shopify will handle this for you while you will have to demonstrate compliance for other platforms.

WordPress is a very popular choice and the range of templates and plug-ins means that you should be able to create a simple website with ecommerce functionality quite quickly. Depending on your preferences, you can create your own website or use an ecommerce partner like ourselves to help you build your site to a very high standard.

What you need to look for in your website platform:

CMS (content management system) so that you can easily update and change the copy, products and prices

SEO functions – how easily can you make your site optimised for search engines

Payment – check which payment options you can add to your site

Mobile friendly – increasingly important, most people are using mobiles to browse sites and make purchases.

2) Optimise for search engines

Search engines such as Google don’t automatically know that you’ve launched a website. You have to tell them – and then you have to make it easy for the search engine to find content on your pages which it can match to search queries that people are putting into their browser.

Some websites are easier to optimise than others and of course, SEO is a skilled and complicated process. However, you should be able to do the essential SEO yourself so that your content and products are easily found online. When you’re choosing your platform, and building your site, factor in how easy (and effective) the SEO will be and spend time getting keywords in place.

Make sure you have created a free Google my Business account and completed as much of the information on there as possible. 

Submitting a sitemap to the search engines is a key step to take and many website platforms such as Wix make this very easy to do.

Think about the search terms your customers might use and then include these in your site copy and in page urls. Blogs are often a great way to boost SEO because you can really focus on the topics and search terms of real interest to your target audience.

Ensure that you’ve added in page titles, meta descriptions for every page and added alt text to images on your site.

Links are often talked about as the best way to improve your SEO but you really want quality links from reputable websites. You can though, build internal links between your web pages which both helps people navigate easily through your site and also helps your SEO.

3) Payment choices 

There’s no way round this – you need to have payment options on your website. People are very cautious about putting card details into websites so offer them choices that are easy to use and which they are already familiar with. We recommend offering at least 3 ways to pay, one of which is a big name like PayPal. If you already have a payment system in a physical location, you should be able to integrate that with your online systems. If that’s not an issue, you can choose between ecommerce payment systems such as WorldPay.

There are fees to consider, but if you are getting regular sales online and your processes are streamlined, you’re saving on other overheads anyway.

4) Paid search versus SEO

Paying to appear on Page 1 of Google can be the best option for a new site which isn’t ranking yet, or for markets which have a lot of competition for organic high ranking sites. Ideally, paying for Google ranking is only something you do while you build up brand awareness and improve your site SEO, so that you start ranking for the keywords your audience is most interested in.

Google now offers a quick entry point called Smart Ads which are the equivalent of Facebook Boost. You can make some simple choices about your market and location etc, and hey presto, you’re off. While they are easier to set up, Smart Ads don’t give you all the options that the full process gives you – now called ‘Expert Adverts’.

To make the most of Google ads, you need to do two things. The first is, put yourself in the mind of your customer and anticipate their search intentions. That influences the type of adverts to run and the words you are going to use.  The second is to be prepared to test all the variables including the words in your adverts, landing pages versus your web pages, the offer and the call to action for example free trial versus paid version.

Google adverts can suck up a lot of budget very quickly so keep a close eye on your adverts; monitor the conversions and put in negative keywords to stop your adverts being found by people searching for things you don’t actually provide. We recommend putting your own business name in as a negative keyword once your site starts to rank organically.

5) SSL certificate

You may get a SSL certificate along with your hosting or as part of an ecommerce package, but if not, you need to arrange one. The SSL certificate is needed to secure communications between a visitor’s web browser and the web server hosting your website. There are many providers of SSL certificates.

It is not particularly difficult to put the SSL certificate in place but it makes a big difference to how customers view your site as one they trust or not.

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail and find out more about how we can support and help increase your online sales, then please do get in touch at info@verticalplus.co.uk