22+ Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas

This post originally appeared at 22+ Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas via ShivarWeb

Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas

Every web design agency’s core problem is that large, profitable projects end while costs continue month after month.

Steady, monthly, and ideally passive, recurring revenue solves this core problem. Recurring revenue means that –

  • You can be patient and wait for the right clients
  • You don’t have to chase bad leads
  • You can hire & keep quality, long-term staff
  • You can multiply your business valuation when it comes to sell
  • You can smooth your cash flow & expenses rather than rely on credit
  • You have time to improve project processes & profitability

In other words, recurring revenue rocks.

Recurring revenue is why so many web design agencies try to add marketing services. It seems natural to complement project-based website design with retainer-based website marketing.

But website marketing creates a whole range of costs and risks. The number one risk is that marketing is out of your skill set…and so you actually lose clients from poor performance.

Instead, I think there’s a better way.

The key is to present your web design clients with an ongoing package of web design-related services.

The package should be invoiced monthly and should automatically recur until the package is canceled.

The package should be high-value for clients. They should be purchasing peace of mind, convenience, and high ROI.

And lastly, the package should be high profit margin with low labor, lots of automation, and obvious performance metrics for you. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.

But what kind of web design-related services can be packaged together? Here are some ideas.

Web Hosting

Web hosting is the most natural fit for any web design agency. Your client’s website needs to live somewhere. And if you have a client who doesn’t already have hosting or specific hosting needs, you can provide website hosting as part of a monthly recurring package.

There are tons of options to provide the service.

  • You can purchase and mark up a regular website hosting plan.
  • You can purchase a Reseller Hosting account and host your client’s site there.
  • You can also create a hybrid option if your client has specific needs like Cloud hosting or email infrastructure.

Either way, you can have total control over pricing since you know your client better than the hosting company.

Upsides: You can generate high profit margins with low labor. Hosting companies will provide most backend support along with front-end support tools. You can also set up the account to provide additional services with lower risk (like security & backups).

Downsides: If something breaks, you own the problem. Your reputation is also totally dependent on another company. It will also require careful setup with impeccable quality control. Your client may have specific requirements to maintain website ownership.

Software / Tools: You’ll need good Reseller Hosting from a support-oriented hosting company (I use InMotion Hosting). If you are marking up a plan for each client, use a company with account management tools. For example, InMotion Hosting uses WebPro, and WP Engine has proprietary tools built just for agencies.

Example of a Management Tool

Uptime Monitoring

Websites can go down for a whole host of reasons. And when they go down, speed is critical. Uptime monitoring gives a client peace of mind. They’ll know that if their website goes down, somebody knows about it and can work to diagnose and fix the issue.

Upsides: Uptime monitoring can be completely automated. If you are using a reputable hosting company, they’ll handle most troubleshooting and response.

Downsides: You will be on the hook for getting the setup right. And if there’s a major cause, you’ll have to spend time, energy, and expertise making things right. Also, you can’t charge a lot of money for monitoring as a stand-alone service.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack for all my WordPress website uptime notifications. For non-WordPress websites, there’s Pingdom and StatusCake.

Security Monitoring

Cybersecurity is on every website owners’ mind – no matter how small they are. Even run of the mill spam can dramatically affect an infected website. Security monitoring provides clients with peace of mind and prevention of much bigger, more expensive issues.

Upsides: You can automate most monitoring and charge quite a bit, even as a stand-alone service.

Downsides: You will take on the risk of missing issues and fixing anything that comes up. If there’s a major issue, you’ll have to spend time, money, and expertise to make things right. You’ll also need a lawyer to make sure your firm does not have any legal exposure to potential lawsuits.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack for WordPress website security monitoring and Sucuri for my non-WordPress security monitoring.

Software Updates

Everyone (so…everyone) who has a smartphone knows about software updates. They are annoying, frustrating, time-consuming…but also critical. Unless you are building in pure HTML / CSS, websites are just big bundles of software. Software updates are critical, but can also cause problems. Clients will pay for someone to safely and consistently apply software updates.

Upsides: You can automate most software updates and charge a consistently high fee. Your client is unlikely to ever cancel the service. Your client will also benefit by saving money on future fixes.

Downsides: If a software update goes awry, you’ll be on the hook to fix the issue. You’ll also need to stay up to date on exactly what different software updates do to prevent conflicts.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack to manage my multiple WordPress website updates. I know that a lot of people also like ManageWP (now GoDaddy Pro). For non-WordPress websites, you’ll have to seek out a platform-specific solution.

Website Backups

A website backup is Website Ownership 101. Website backups have to be created and stored securely. Like software updates, clients know that backups need to happen, and know that they are time-consuming. They are buying peace of mind and convenience.

Upsides: You can automate the backup process and charge for both the service & storage. Your client is unlikely to cancel the service.

Downsides: You are responsible for creating a foolproof & consistent process. You’ll also have to adjust fees depending on how often a clients’ site gets backed up.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack’s VaultPress module to keep an automated backup for my WordPress website. Many hosting companies will also bundle a backup manager with your subscription. InMotion Hosting has its Backup Manager available on Reseller plans.

Software Warranty

Software breaks, especially software that has prerequisites or integrations. A software warranty is a guarantee that you’ll fix any software issue that comes up for free in exchange for a regular fee. Clients are purchasing peace of mind and convenience.

Upsides: Like appliance warranties, you can provide high value for high fees and little labor. Since you designed & built the website, you should have an intimate knowledge of software risks.

Downsides: You are getting paid to take on risk. If something happens, you are on the hook for fixing the problem. You’ll need to carefully understand your clients’ needs and software risks. You’ll need to budget for hiring any needed expertise if something happens.

Software / Tools: No tools needed. However, you’ll need to maintain a familiarity with all your client’s software needs. Keep tabs on every software update so that you can fix any potential issues.

Analytics Reporting

Every client wants to know how many visitors their website has. But few want to learn how to dig around in Google Analytics. Most would be happy with a PDF of some key takeaways. You can provide this ongoing service by setting up Google Analytics with metrics that matter to them and sending monthly PDF reports.

Google Analytics Report

Upsides: Analytics Reporting is a low labor and high value service. You can automate the reports and let Google do the heavy lifting. Additionally, it can allow you to dip your toe into retainer marketing services.

Downsides: You’ll need to learn a bit about Google Analytics and set up the account correctly.

Software / Tools: I use Google Analytics to set up regular monthly reports. There is a lot of scope for customization though. Spend time getting the right Dashboards, segments, and KPIs (key performance indicators) set up, then automate.

Marketing Reporting

Most clients also love to know how their Google rankings are doing, who is linking to them, and how their local listings are doing. There are many marketing intelligence tools that will provide white-label marketing reports in PDF format for you to pass along to your clients.

SEMrush-Reports

Upsides: You can subscribe to a marketing intelligence tool and have your clients basically pay for your subscription. Find one that has PDF reports (like SEMrush) and set it to automate your reporting. It’s low labor and high value.

Downsides: Few downsides, except that you may have to field questions about what the metrics mean and propose solutions.

Software / Tools: I use SEMrush to set up regular marketing reports. These reports can complement Google Analytics. They are also *very* high value for many clients. SEMrush has a clean setup with white label reports available, so you can provide proprietary data at very high markups with your brand everywhere.

SEO Audits

There are three areas of SEO –

  • Off-page – promoting your website to other websites.
  • On-page – creating content that is relevant to search queries.
  • Technical, aka “in-page” – make sure your site is crawlable & indexable.

Unless you are running a large site, most technical SEO and on-page can now be done with automated tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.

Even if you don’t provide SEO services, providing automated audits can be worthwhile for clients.

Upsides: You can automate this service and bundle it with other reports for higher fees. You can also use it to show the quality of your web design work or recommend new content or new initiatives. It can also allow to test marketing retainers.

Downsides: You’ll need to understand the terminology and reporting to field any questions from your clients. You’ll also need to be able to fix or at least diagnose any major issues that come up.

Software / Tools: I use SEMrush to provide SEO Audit reports in addition to Google Search Console. These reports will pull usability and small technical tasks. These reports allow you to maintain a conversation about ongoing improvements. You can bill to fix any issues or refer the client to an SEO firm.

Expertise Retainer

Expertise retainers are when clients pay every month for the right to speak to you about their project. At a project-based agency, new projects demand all your attention, because that’s what pays the bills. But many completed projects will inevitably need some support.

Expertise or Support retainers allow your previous clients to stay at the front of the line when contacting you about a problem. Expertise retainers are common at the higher levels of professional services (e.g., corporate law). By definition, they require no deliverables. They only require that you remain available.

Upsides: You’ll have potentially 100% profit margin fees. Taking care of past clients will no longer come at the expense of current clients, since everyone will be a current client. You’ll be able to maintain longer relationships and make recommendations without your own financial considerations.

Downsides: You’ll need to be in business for a long time with lots of happy clients to pull off an expertise or support retainer. Many clients are not used to paying monthly fees for no deliverables. You’ll have to position this service well for clients to see the value. You’ll also have to carefully define scope so that an expertise retainer doesn’t scope creep into a website maintenance retainer.

Software / Tools: I use FreshBooks to set up recurring billing for any retainers if you don’t already have an invoicing software setup.

Graphic Design

If you provided custom design for a clients’ website, then they will likely need a similar design for all their social media channels and website updates.

A graphic design retainer allows the client to request a certain number of graphic designs per month that fit with their brand / website.

Upsides: You’ll solve an immediate & tangible need with a low churn rate and potentially high fees compared to the amount of labor. There are lots of tools that can speed up the process.

Downsides: This service is hard to automate, but it can be low labor and high value with the right software tools / designers. There’s a risk of scope creep and revisions increasing labor costs.

Software / Tools: I use a mix of Fiverr, Canva, and Stencil to quickly work up basic graphic design. There are also services like DesignPickle that provide unlimited graphic design.

Content Editing

Even if your client’s website has a content management system, I’ve found that most clients simply don’t want to edit their own website. It’s too unfamiliar. They’d rather email a “website person.” You can charge monthly fees to be their Webmaster.

I’ve had clients pay me more to edit their website over the course of 2 years than they paid for the entire design.

Upsides: You’ll solve an immediate and tangible need for potentially high fees, depending on the client.

Downsides: It has the risk of lots of tedious, high labor tasks in addition to scope creep.

Software / Tools: Most content has to be edited manually. But tools like WordPress’s new Gutenberg blocks and apps like Grammarly make it fast.

Content Refresh

This service pairs well with an SEO Audit service. Think of a content refresh like pressure washing a website. Website content gets stale over time. Businesses need seasonal content. You can go ahead and schedule out the updates on a monthly retainer.

Upsides: You’ll have an easy, straightforward sell with tasks that can be planned well ahead of time.

Downsides: You’ll have to define scope and budget for writers. There’s little to automate, though you can plan for labor costs ahead of time.

Software / Tools: Most content refresh will need manual updates based on existing knowledge. But I have hired freelancers on Fiverr to help with large edits along with WordPress plugins like Better Search & Replace.

Content Creation

Clients always need new content. Traditionally, agencies will sell content creation as a stand-alone project or sell it as part of a marketing campaign. But you can also sell it as a part of a monthly retainer.

Upsides: You’ll have a tangible service with a low churn rate. You can also budget for a long-term freelancer or employee. You can test out marketing retainers without a large commitment.

Downsides: It’ll require labor costs and will be hard to automate.

Software / Tools: I write a lot of content myself. But I’ve also used Fiverr, WordAgents, and ProBlogger. I’ve also worked with copywriting pros like Katelyn Dramis, Evan Porter, Nebo Agency, Knucklepuck Media, and Copywriting Course to scale up campaigns.

Social Media & Email Scheduling

Social media / email marketing presence is essential for every business, even if the business doesn’t really need a social media strategy or social engagement. You can sell your clients on convenience and take on their tedious social media tasks.

Upsides: You can charge a high fee for low labor, tangible tasks. You can also use software to automate most of the process and outsource a lot of creation.

Downsides: You’ll have to be careful and considerate of your clients’ reputation and maintain communication around posting details and project scope. You don’t want to accidentally take over social media response and customer support.

Software / Tools: I use TailWind for Pinterest & Instagram and Buffer for Facebook / Twitter. I use MailChimp my email marketing. My clients mostly use either Aweber or ConstantContact.

Software Revenue Share

Many website & software platforms offer a revenue share for agencies who use their platform. You’ll get recurring fees from the platform as long as your client’s site lives on that platform.

Upsides: You’ll get truly passive, guaranteed revenue in addition to other platform perks. The platform will also handle a lot of the support & security. Your clients will also benefit from a solid platform and can reduce their “vendor risk” away from your agency.

Downsides: Your client will be less attached to your agency (though that can also be a sales point for you). You’ll also have to sell your client on the platform for their website.

Software / Tools: I use Affluent to keep track of all partnership / affiliate revenue, though some software requires manual checking. Shopify offers a 20% revenue share for ecommerce websites (more for Enterprise sites). Aweber also offers revenue share for email. WP Engine offers revenue share for WordPress hosting.

Software Licensing

If your client’s site is using software that you’ve developed, you charge licensing fees.

Upsides: You’ll have recurring revenue with 100% profit margin for as long as your client uses your website.

Downsides: Software licensing can introduce some obstacles to closing on web design contracts. Many clients expect a single upfront fee, so you’ll have to position the software licensing carefully.

Software / Tools: No need for tools, just an understanding of copyright and software licensing – especially if using WordPress.

Marketing Revenue Share

If you don’t provide marketing services, you can still refer clients to partner firms in exchange for a referral fee or revenue share.

Upsides: You can generate marketing retainer revenue without starting up a marketing division. Your clients can also benefit from working with a reputable marketing firm with a close relationship with their design firm.

Downsides: You’ll have to balance the referral process with your client. You’ll also have to find the right marketing firm, since you’ll both depend on each other to provide good work and good referrals.

Software / Tools: Tools will depend on your partner company. The best solution is via similar CRM software like HubSpot or SalesForce.

Website Upgrade Installment

You’ll sign a client to basically pre-pay for a future website redesign.

Upsides: You can secure a client for future projects while smoothing your cash flow.

Downsides: This arrangement will only be interesting for a certain type of client.

Software / Tools: No tools are needed, though you will need to scope the project well.

Website Optimization

You’ll make regular data-driven optimizations to your client’s website.

Upsides: You can provide a tangible, recurring service for a high-fee.

Downsides: You’ll have to tackle many misconceptions and really sell the service without harming the reputation of your web design work (i.e., “why isn’t my website optimized from the start?”). You’ll also have to scope the work well.

Software / Tools: I use Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Mobile Friendly Test, and SEMrush’s Site Health tool to find website elements that should be improved.

A/B Testing & Reporting

You can provide regular A/B Tests and updates for clients based on a regular, consistent schedule.

Upsides: You can provide a tangible, very high value service for a high fee. You can also automate portions of the process.

Downsides: You may need to coordinate and/or compete with your client’s marketing firm. Not every client is a good fit for A/B Testing, since you really need a significant amount of traffic for relevant results.

Software / Tools: I don’t do a lot of A/B testing, but tools like OptinMonster are great for testing email opt-ins while Google Optimize and Optimizely will help you test entire pages.

Surveys & User Testing

You can run user feedback surveys and regular user testing for clients.

Upsides: You’ll have a tangible, recurring service for a medium to high fee. You can also automate portions of the process.

Downsides: Unless you have the right client, it can be hard to prove the service’s ongoing value. You may have to compete / coordinate with your client’s marketing firm.

Software / Tools: I use Google Surveys and Forms, but there are plenty of other tools available, depending on exactly what you are testing or surveying for.

Next Steps

One-off projects will always bring in most of the revenue for a web design agency. But that doesn’t mean that recurring revenue isn’t important.

Investors diversify between exciting stocks and dependable bonds. Car dealerships push car sales, but rely on service centers. It’s the balance & diversification that’s important.

Start by making a master list of recurring services that you can offer. Put them in different packages. Make sure they are upfront and known for your leads. They can help position you as the agency that will take care of your clients before and after the website launch.

You’ll build a stable, consistent business that will benefit you and your clients.

If you found this post useful at all, be sure to link to it from your blog or share it across your social accounts. Peace!

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How To Wow Your Customers With Your eCommerce Website Design

The post How To Wow Your Customers With Your eCommerce Website Design appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Kinsta Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at Kinsta Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

Kinsta Hosting Review

Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing, independent hosting company founded in 2013. Kinsta is focused exclusively on managed WordPress hosting with reliable customer support and Google Cloud-driven performance.

See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing

What is Kinsta Hosting?

Kinsta is a non-traditional hosting company only offers one service – managed hosting for WordPress on cloud servers. They don’t offer email, reseller, or any other type of hosting. They do integrate some 3rd-party tools like DNS (from Amazon) and SSL (from LetsEncrypt) and CDN (configured on their Google Cloud network). Here’s their pricing chart.

Kinsta was founded in 2013 to meet the increased demand for managed WordPress hosting services (which I’ll touch on in the next section). They are a remote-first company with an emphasis on global service with support provided in 7 languages.

Their service is provided via Google’s Cloud Platform, and they have an exclusive focus on WordPress.

I’ve had a long-standing client who uses WP Engine (Kinsta’s direct competitor), and have had experience using the various managed WordPress hosting products across the hosting industry.

Background on Kinsta Hosting

To understand Kinsta’s product, you need to understand four concepts.

First, WordPress is the most popular content management system software on the Internet. People use it to run websites. It can run on any hosting setup with PHP, MySQL, and Linux. In other words, it can run on almost any web host.

Second, Web Hosting is space on a computer server that can run web applications and serve data to browsers (aka, it’s where a website lives). Web hosting can come in various setups, depending on the configuration. Shared hosting is the most common where a single server that can run PHP, MySQL, and Linux is “shared” among various hosting accounts. I explain more here.

Third, WordPress Hosting is space on a web hosting account that is specifically configured in some way to help WordPress software run better. I explain more here. The definition of “run better” can vary wildly depending on the hosting company since technically WordPress can run on almost any web hosting account. I wrote about the differences between Web and WordPress hosting here.

Fourth, Cloud Hosting is a large network of data centers configured so that customers can lease computing power & storage for web applications on demand, anywhere in the network instead of using space on a single web server. The largest cloud networks are run by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Digital Ocean, IBM, and Oracle. I explain more here.

With those four background concepts in place, I can explain Kinsta’s unique position in the hosting world.

Kinsta runs managed WordPress hosting on the Google Cloud Platform. They actively lease computing power & storage on Google’s Cloud, configure it to run WordPress quickly & efficiently, and manage & support each installation.

In other words, they offer a niche but also potentially powerful platform. Because of how they mix & match all these services, they don’t compete head to head with many providers. But they compete indirectly with *a lot*.

How Kinsta Hosting Works

In some ways, Kinsta works just like any other hosting company. You sign up and pay every month. In exchange, your WordPress website runs quickly and efficiently.

But behind the scenes, their setup is a bit more complicated.

First, you’ll technically lease your hosting from Google, so unless Google goes down…your site isn’t going to go down. There’s no “crashing” like there could be on a typical web server.

Second, Kinsta has its cloud access explicitly configured for WordPress with things like server-side caching, security rules, staging environments, and more so that your site is faster than it could be on a vanilla Linux web server.

Third, Kinsta blends several 3rd party services for DNS (connects your domain to the host), SSL (secures your connection), and CDN (content distribution network) to make everything your website needs to work together.

Since they only have one product with no upsells, the signup is straightforward.

1 Kinsta Signup

The entire setup operates from a single account dashboard where you control your WordPress installs.

2 Kinsta Account Dashboard

I’ve been considering Kinsta for a client’s site, and decided to give them a try with a small site that I’m looking to consolidate.

Here’s my Kinsta Hosting review structured with pros, cons, ideal use cases, and alternatives based on my experience as a customer.

Pros of Using Kinsta Hosting

There are a lot of Kinsta Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach.

Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Kinsta Hosting.

Cloud Hosting Benefits

Since Kinsta uses the Google Cloud Platform, you get many of the benefits of cloud hosting without many of the downsides.

Speed

A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.

In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

So here’s the thing – Kinsta uses the same servers that you use to access Google.com and YouTube.com. With Kinsta, as long as they are configured well, they are going to be fast.

Additionally, with server-side caching, your WordPress website will be ready to go. Now, there are still plenty of issues that can slow your site down, but they likely won’t be Kinsta’s fault.

Here’s my first test with my Kinsta website –

9 Kinsta Speed Test

Again, if your site is loading slowly – it’s not Kinsta’s fault. It’s something with your site.

Geography

With the Google Cloud Platform, Kinsta can also offer data centers around the world. They have more than 23 at the time of writing ranging from Iowa to Southeast Asia and everywhere in between.

Their CDN runs on a global CDN network (KeyCDN) as well, so website assets can be staged close to any website visitor in the world.

It’s rare and expensive to build & maintain data centers around the world, so using Google’s infrastructure provides an advantage that a traditional hosting company can’t match.

Uptime

Remember the last time Google went down? Yes, it happens. But it’s rare. And when it happens, it’s a newsworthy event. With Kinsta, that means that, outside of a bad configuration on their part, your site is not going to go down unless Google goes down.

Consistent performance and reliability are the main advantages of Kinsta since they can take Google Cloud and make it accessible and WordPress-friendly to regular customers.*

*Yes, you can go to Google and sign up for cloud hosting yourself. In fact, I have a non-WordPress site running there now. But to setup & run a database-driven CMS with integrated file storage takes some…patience and wherewithal. It’s not a simple one-click WordPress install. Also, Google does not provide support or configuration help. So, still a considerable advantage for Kinsta.

Configuration, Focus, & Usability

Kinsta built their Dashboard from scratch. Their signup is simple and straightforward. There are some hiccups that I’ll get to in the downsides, but overall, their configuration and usability is amazing.

Their focus on WordPress and simple plan structure also makes onboarding (i.e., going from a new signup to active customer) straightforward. The design is uncluttered, minimalist, and well-designed.

6 Kinsta Easy Install

Their setup had jargon and technical information present, but it isn’t overwhelming and daunting like other managed WordPress hosting companies.

User-friendly Add-on Tools

While Kinsta does not have all the tools that traditional hosts make available, they do bundle several tools that are critical to running a fast, effective website. And again, unlike other managed WordPress hosting providers, they bundle them seamlessly in their dashboard.

DNS

DNS is the roadmap of instructions that connects your registered domain to your hosting, where your website lives.

Kinsta includes Premium DNS with all their plan levels, which makes setting up your website much simpler. Plenty of managed hosting companies (and even some website builders) leave the DNS up to their customers to figure out – leaving plenty of customers fiddling with TXT records, CNAMEs and MX records in vain.

4 Kinsta Built-in DNS

Amazon provides Kinsta’s DNS. It’s reliable and integrated directly in their Dashboard.

CDN

A content distribution network (CDN) allows you to take the load off your main server by distributing media files and scripts around the world so that your website can load faster and with fewer resources on your server.

Again, not every hosting company includes this option, but Kinsta integrates it directly within their Dashboard.

SSL

An SSL allows your website to provide an encrypted connection between itself and your visitor’s browser. It’s an essential part of every website. Again, it’s something that Kinsta provides directly in their dashboard via LetsEncrypt. It’s not the best or name-brand SSL, but it does the job.

Migration

Kinsta provides website migration services to its platform. It can be confusing enough, moving an existing WordPress website from one shared hosting account to another. But moving it to a managed cloud platform can create all kinds of hiccups.

3 Kinsta Migration

It’s a free service that would typically cost hundreds of dollars with a WordPress consultant.

Developer & Agency Tools

Kinsta provides a range of developer and agency tools that all sound either too dull or technical until you need them & use them.

They have well-implemented basics like built-in staging and user management so that developers can build client sites and hand them over with no hiccups or maverick approval processes.

5 Kinsta User Management

Additionally, they have SSH access, WP-CLI, and allow different versions of PHP.

But the most interesting piece for me is the fact that they don’t lock customers into a single WordPress configuration AND they’ll support non-traditional setups like reverse-proxy configurations.

8 Kinsta Staging Environment

As an SEO consultant, having the flexibility of configurations is critical for working with large clients who want WordPress for their blog…but, not their main site. It makes a big content marketing sell much simpler since developer time can be outsourced to Kinsta.

Customer Support

Most customer support stories are either *really* bad or *really* good. It’s the one-star vs. five-star problem. Like I’ve said in most of my hosting reviews, I try to look and see if the company treats customer support as a cost center, a profit center, or an investment center.

Based on how they’ve integrated their knowledge base throughout their Dashboard (rather than stashing it somewhere), and the fact that they’ve grown their team mainly with support team around the world – it seems like they’ve deemed customer support as an investment center.

And that’s a good thing if you are a customer. You know they aren’t looking to make a buck off you, or push you off. Instead, they are trying to develop goodwill and increase word of mouth. Kinsta’s main “thing” is customer support, since it makes their whole product run.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Kinsta Hosting

Like any web host, Kinsta has disadvantages. There are plenty of Kinsta complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using Kinsta Hosting.

Pricing

Kinsta is expensive.

1-Kinsta-Pricing-Chart

No matter how you measure it – by WordPress installs, visits allowed, storage allocated, indirect competitor pricing, indirect competitor pricing – Kinsta is going to be competitive…but still the expensive option.

WP Engine is its most direct competitor. Kinsta does have more intermediate plans…but WP Engine has a pricing setup that can be a bit cheaper than Kinsta.

Competitors like InMotion Hosting and SiteGround offer comparable products for much cheaper (though they aren’t on Google’s Cloud). LiquidWeb does the same for managed WooCommerce websites.

And other indirect competitors like WPMU Dev do bundled cloud hosting with their plugin subscription that is competitive for agencies / developers.

There are two things pushing back on this disadvantage.

First, Kinsta is super-transparent about their pricing. There are no add-ons or excluded features like on WP Engine. There are no slight apples to oranges comparisons like you’d find with InMotion or SiteGround or LiquidWeb.

Two, expensive is a relative concept to value. Depending on the value that your website is generating, a few hundred dollars may or may not matter. If a few hours of downtime or a support misstep can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, then “expensive” is the wrong metric to look at.

On the flip side, hosting is a business cost. Any dollar that you save goes right to your bottom line. If you are on the fence about some of Kinsta’s features or have other website needs (see Feature bundles below), then Kinsta’s price is going to be a disadvantage.

Feature Caps

Kinsta has some pretty low caps, especially compared to non-cloud competitors. Since they are working with leased infrastructure, they have to pass along any and all of their hosting costs.

If you’ve run a rapidly growing website, you’ll know just how quickly visits, storage, and bandwidth needs can escalate. If you are on Kinsta, you’ll never have to worry about needs taking your website offline. But you may have to worry about those needs hitting your bottom-line.

I have one client who built a silly side-project on his website (hosted on WP Engine with similar caps to Kinsta). The silly side-project took off – in a big way.

In some ways, the project brought in indirect revenue with backlinks, brand awareness, etc. But in concrete terms, it single-handedly tripled his monthly hosting costs because it blew past every visitor cap…and then the bots & spammers showed up. He’s on an enterprise plan with the same amount of “real” traffic that should put him on a basic plan.

Now, that’s a good problem to have. But it’s created decisions that honestly would not need to be made if he were using a Kinsta competitor with a managed VPS or managed WordPress hosting product like InMotion or SiteGround.

In fact, some of Kinsta’s features are capped at lower levels than you’d expect with their marketing. For example, think about WooCommerce and membership sites. They recommend PHP Workers that can handle excess queries. Here’s an explainer on how they work. But basically they help with the shopping cart / user roles while the server cache loads the rest of the page.

For their Starter and Pro plans, Kinsta only provides 2 PHP Workers…which is not recommended for ecommerce websites. In comparison, InMotion’s cheapest managed WordPress plan comes with a limit of 4 PHP Workers.

And again – many of these limitations come not from Kinsta (they are transparent about all this) but from their product structure…which is the next disadvantage.

Size & Company Structure

In a lot of ways, Kinsta is my kind of company. They are founder owned & operated. They are boot-strapped with zero investor funding. They are product-focused with a smart, thoughtful marketing strategy.

They are small enough to have direct contact with customers and processes. They are remote-first, global, and diverse. I’m glad to spend money with them.

But the hosting industry is structured the way it’s structured for a reason. And Kinsta is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry.

Web hosting business is built based on the depreciation of fixed assets and high customer retention. It’s similar in many ways to the physical real estate industry. Almost every hosting company is away from pure-play hosting to becoming a hosting “platform” with lots of amenities.

Since Kinsta leases its infrastructure from Google, they use an entirely different business model. They have to have low overhead costs (ie, remote-first is a must), low acquisition costs (ie, their inbound marketing strategy), low labor costs and high pricing. Additionally, they are completely dependent on Google staying competitive & in the Cloud hosting business.

In other words, Kinsta is kind of like the WeWork of the hosting world (in a good way). Kinsta has avoided most of WeWork’s mistakes. But the core business model of sub-leasing servers while adding value via convenience, accessibility, and support is tricky.

WP Engine made it by using investor money to acquire market share and big amenities while building a hybrid data center. But others have failed or have been bought out – like FlyWheel and Nexcess.

Right now, Kinsta is committed to organic, long-term growth. But if you are looking for a 5+ year host, I’d pause and look around the industry before committing.

Feature Bundles & Add-Ons

Most direct and indirect competitors are moving to a “hosting platform” model with bundled plugins, themes, and other amenities. Almost all of Kinsta’s direct and indirect competitors bundle some sort of WordPress amenity with their managed WordPress hosting product.

  • WP Engine bundles StudioPress themes & products.
  • LiquidWeb bundles iThemes plugins & themes.
  • InMotion bundles JetPack and the BoldGrid website builder.
  • WPMU Dev bundles its premium plugins.
  • SiteGround bundles custom amenities like developer toolkits and email.
  • Pressable bundles JetPack and WP101 Training.

The flipside of this disadvantage is that Kinsta is truly focused on WordPress and hosting – they aren’t trying to compete with amenities and bonuses. They are just doing what they promise to do.

That’s great – and certainly a strength. But it’s also a downside for some customers.

Kinsta Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases

Just like cars, houses, appliances, etc – there is no such thing as a “best” host. There are just better & worse hosts for different customers with different needs. Here are some ideal use cases for Kinsta, along with some direct alternatives.

Growing Ecommerce or Membership Site

A growing ecommerce or membership website built with WordPress can create resource strains and technical demands. Kinsta’s architecture and support experience are really made for both types of sites (especially at higher pricing tiers).

Kinsta is a solid, straightforward, but still affordable option for ecommerce / membership websites that can pay a premium to have things “just work” with no troubleshooting. View Kinsta’s plans here.

Developer or Agency w/ Premium Clients

Kinsta is a great option for developers or agencies that build high-quality websites for premium clients with ongoing maintenance budgets.

Kinsta has the social proof, technical specs, pricing, and management tools that will assure brand name clients while still sticking with their budget expectations. View Kinsta’s plans here.

Premium Support & All-in-One Needs

Kinsta is ideal for DIY customers who run a high-margin website that needs premium support and/or all-in-one hosting needs. Kinsta’s monthly costs are high, but nothing considering the costs of hiring a WordPress developer to solve intermediate issues for a day (i.e., installing a new SSL certificate or repointing a subdomain). View Kinsta’s plans here.

Out of all the hosting companies that I’ve used myself or via a client, here’s how Kinsta compares directly with a few select ones.

Kinsta Hosting vs. WP Engine

WP Engine was the first company to offer a managed WordPress hosting product, and they’ve been the market leader ever since. They focus on the same customers as Kinsta. I’ve reviewed WP Engine here.

They have some advantages over Kinsta, including more features & amenities. But they are also more technically oriented with a more confusing backend. Kinsta is cleaner and simpler.

If you are a solo DIYer, developer, or small agency, you’ll likely gravitate towards Kinsta. If you are a corporate-type, you’ll likely gravitate towards WP Engine.

Kinsta Hosting vs. LiquidWeb

LiquidWeb moved into the managed WordPress space with their Nexcess acquisition. LiquidWeb is one of the largest independent hosting companies and has a specific focus on agencies and developers. They run their own data centers and have been around for a long time. They really excel with ecommerce websites.

Since they operate their own data centers, they have major price & feature advantages over Kinsta. But Kinsta’s setup runs on the Google Cloud and has better focus & usability since they *only* do WordPress.

If you are looking at cost but still want a lot of the developer features of Kinsta, you’ll likely go for LiquidWeb. If you like Kinsta’s focus & cloud setup, you’ll likely go for them instead.

Kinsta Hosting vs. SiteGround

SiteGround has been a rapidly growing host in the WordPress space. They have a big appeal among developers. They also have a global reach with data centers in the US, Europe, and Asia.

Since they operate their own data centers, they have a big cost advantage over Kinsta with managed WordPress hosting. They also bundle a lot of the same features as Kinsta including CDN, SSL, DNS, migration service, and user management. But again, Kinsta will likely still have some advantage with speed & performance since they run on Google’s Cloud.

If you are looking to save money but still have a developer-oriented company, SiteGround will likely be a better choice. If you prize speed & performance and have budget for Kinsta, you’ll likely go for Kinsta’s plans.

Kinsta Hosting vs. InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting is one of the most consistently growing hosting companies on the Internet. They are independent and have grown organically over the course of 20+ years. They offer a wide range of hosting products, including managed WordPress hosting, with a focus on small businesses.

Since they run their own data centers, they have a big advantage over Kinsta with pricing. They are able to offer much higher caps on features compared to Kinsta. For example, remember the PHP Workers mentioned earlier? Kinsta provides 2 PHP Workers compared to InMotion’s 4 Workers on their cheapest $8.99/mo plan. They also bundle a lot of business-friendly amenities with their plans (like JetPack for security).

If you are looking at the overall value of features & support for the price, InMotion Hosting would be a better fit. If you like Kinsta’s exclusive focus on cloud & WordPress, then they would be a better fit.

Kinsta Hosting Review Next Steps

Kinsta Hosting is an amazing option to have in the world of WordPress hosting. They have a fast, simple, solid product in a competitive field. If you have budget for a managed host and like the appeal of using the cloud, then Kinsta is likely an excellent fit for you.

See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing

If you are looking for other options, check out the ones listed above, or explore my WordPress Hosting page.

Kinsta Hosting

Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing managed WordPress hosting service built on the Google Cloud.

Application Category: Managed WordPress Hosing

Editor's Rating:
4

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Web Design vs. Web Development Explained

This post originally appeared at Web Design vs. Web Development Explained via ShivarWeb

Web Design vs Web Development

Whether you are developing an RFP for a large ecommerce website or are a small business looking for people or tools to build a website, you’ll likely run into the terms “web design” and “web development”.

Even though they are sometimes used interchangeably, they do refer to distinct aspects of a well-built website. Here’s the short version.

Web Design refers to how a website appears in a browser. Web Development refers to what appears on a website in a browser.

In other words, web design refers to a website’s layout, structure, color schemes, media placements, typography, etc while web development refers to the content, source code, and user interface that shows the user what they want. Additionally, development refers to all the logistics of storing & rendering the website as a whole.

Web design is usually short-hand for the “front-end” of a website while web development is short-hand for the “back-end” of a website.

But honestly, even this definition is so over-simplified that it’s a bit misleading.

Background

A long, long time ago, websites were simply a collection of HTML & CSS files. Everything that showed up in someone’s browser was inside the file that loaded. Back then, a web designer did everything…because creating those files was all that you could really do.

But a little bit later (but still a long time ago), different people started managing HTML / CSS differently. Websites had become so large, that it wasn’t possible to update individual files in bulk.

Instead, all the different parts of a website were split up and put into a database. Content, templates, layouts, media files, fonts, etc – everything became a line in a database. Websites had “content management systems” to assemble different bits of information from the database into an automagically built HTML file everytime a browser requested it.

And this is when web development really became separate from web design.

Web design became more focused on the look of a website and how all these automagically generated files would fit together across an entire website. They became the architects of the website building world.

Web development became more focused on the functionality of a website and how those automagically generated files would actually get…generated. They became the engineers of the website building world.

And to stick with the building analogy, the contractors became, well, software. Website software got much, much better to where it could do the actual building based on web developers’ and web designers’ instructions.

Software as Designer & Developer

Software has also become much better at both web design and web development, further blurring the lines about who is doing what.

In the WordPress world, web designers have been handing off a lot of design work to pre-made themes and templates, thus freeing up designers to focus on branding & graphic design. Web developers have been handing off code development to pre-made plugins, thus freeing up developers to look at bigger picture speed, security, and user experience issues.

In the broader Web, hosted platforms and builders provide centralized (i.e., “global”) web development so that customers can focus exclusively on design, marketing & operations. This extends not only to website builders, but also ecommerce sites – even enterprise grade ecommerce websites.

In fact, more and more hosted platforms and builders are centralizing design with customizable templates and media libraries.

Designer vs. Developer as a Customer

Websites are a bundle of tradeoffs. There will always be a tradeoff between convenience and control. There will always be a tradeoff between quality and affordability. There will also be a tradeoff between uniqueness and support.

Deciding whether you need a professional developer or designer is no longer purely about your needs, but about your wants and current resources.

If you want maximum control, quality and uniqueness then you’ll need a professional designer and developer.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want maximum convenience, affordability, and support – you can grab a solid, all-in-one website builder.

There is no right answer and no “best” choice – it all starts understanding your own goals and what all is on offer so that you can find the best fit.

There is no magic to web design or web development. They are both solving the same issues that websites have had since the beginning of the Web. But they have both changed…and overlap more than ever.

Be sure to browse the related posts below…or get the Best of ShivarWeb email series below where I share everything that I’ve written about building & marketing websites for myself and clients.

  • Website Builders Explained
  • Website Costs Explained
  • Website Hosting Explained
  • Domains vs. Web Hosting Explained
  • Essential Guide to Hiring a Web Designer
  • Essential Guide to Ecommerce Platforms

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WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store

WooCommerce Pros Cons Alternatives for Online Store

WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.

Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set

Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide

WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.

Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).

1 WooCommerce Install

In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.

Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.

So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What is WooCommerce?

To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.

Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.

And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.

It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.

WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).

And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –

  • domain (your address on the Internet)
  • hosting (where your website files live)
  • software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)

In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.

Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.

Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.

But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.

That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.

But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.

Pros of WooCommerce

Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.

Long-term Cost & Value

WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.

Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.

WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.

That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.

For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.

But it gets even better for WooCommerce.

Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.

If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.

To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.

For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.

All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.

But it gets even better for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.

Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.

WooCommerce Extensions

And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.

For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.

If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.

And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.

If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.

Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.

Integration with WordPress

WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.

And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.

This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.

For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.

There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.

The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.

Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.

Themes for WooCommerce

f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).

Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.

Support from Automattic

Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.

WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.

They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.

Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.

But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.

There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).

But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.

Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.

WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.

Versatility & Compatibility

A few fun facts about WooCommerce –

  • You can use it to sell memberships
  • You can use it to sell recurring licenses
  • You can use it to sell digital goods
  • You can use it to sell apppointments
  • You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
  • You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine

The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.

WooCommerce Extensions

The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc

It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.

In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.

3rd Party Integrations

WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.

If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.

If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.

But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.

Woocommerce Wizard

When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.

You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).

Control & Customizations

Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.

You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.

WooCommerce Permalinks

You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.

There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.

Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.

Cons of WooCommerce

Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.

Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.

There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.

But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.

For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).

WooCommerce Menu Settings

For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.

But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.

Technical Maintenance

Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?

Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.

In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.

Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.

But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.

Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.

This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.

Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.

But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*

Shopify Backend

*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.

Speed & Security

With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.

Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.

WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.

Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.

But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.

For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.

In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.

Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.

It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.

Growth & Scaling

Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.

And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.

This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.

And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.

Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.

But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.

Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.

That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.

Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.

Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.

All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.

If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.

But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.

Potential Long-term Costs

WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.

However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.

One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.

She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.

Shopify Pricing

Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).

Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.

Future of Ecommerce

Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.

Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.

In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.

In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.

Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.

And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.

All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.

However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.

It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.

All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.

WooCommerce Alternatives

There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.

WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins

There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –

  • Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
  • WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
  • WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
  • NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.

WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify

I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.

WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce

I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.

WooCommerce vs. Wix

Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.

WooCommerce vs. Magento

Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.

WooCommerce vs. OpenCart

OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.

WooCommerce vs. Ecwid

Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.

WooCommerce vs. Prestashop

PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.

WooCommerce Review Conclusion

WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –

  • Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
  • Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
  • Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.

If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.

If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.

Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.

The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Yahoo! Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Yahoo! Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Yahoo! Small Business Website Builder is known as an all-inclusive website builder that’s tailored to helping small business owners get up and running online quickly and easily. They’re also known for offering responsive websites, which means the site fits on any device (i.e. a tablet, phone, computer).

See Yahoo’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Yahoo! a try for a full Yahoo! review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Yahoo! Website Builder review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Yahoo! Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Yahoo! lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Yahoo! is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Yahoo!, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Yahoo! competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, and WordPress.com  (and Shopify for online stores).

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed, ease of use, and responsive design (again, web jargon for making your website mobile device-friendly). Yahoo! offers several website templates you can customize, and it also allows you to build your own pages from scratch using their premade sections that you can drop onto the page.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Yahoo! Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Yahoo! website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

One of the biggest pros of using Yahoo! Sitebuilder is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s basically just two steps — pick your theme, enter your information to create your account, and you’re in! Yahoo! automatically sets you up with their free plan, so you don’t even have to pull out a credit card.

Yahoo Sign Up Process

This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without the hassle of creating a detailed account, selecting a niche, etc.

Template Design / Functionality

Yahoo! also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). There are a wide variety of options to choose from, and all of the templates are really well designed.

Yahoo Website Options

Yahoo! Site Builder isn’t technically drag-and-drop (you choose from premade sections and “drop” those onto your page), but it is fairy intuitive to use. You can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), and you can add premade sections and blocks, but you don’t get the ability to add elements willy nilly.

I did like how the software automatically matches a new “section” to your overall theme for you, so you don’t have to worry about changing the fonts and colors to match what you already have.

Yahoo Apply Website Style

The whole setup is like painting by numbers.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options. It makes Yahoo! Site Builder a great option for small business owners / DIY-ers who want a website that looks professionally designed without having to hire someone to build something custom or spend much time tweaking the design themselves.

Free Starter Plan

Another benefit Yahoo! Site Builder is their free starter plan. In comparison to their direct competitors, Yahoo!’s free plan is fairly extensive.

While some website builders cap your pages or even your access to support with a free plan, Yahoo! offers unlimited pages, support, and even built-in SEO functionality on a page-by-page basis.

Yahoo SEO Elements

There are some cons with the free plan, such as limited storage, having to use a subdomain (ex: yourname.yahoosites.com), and extremely limited integrations — but if you’re looking for a simple site for a short-term project, this could be a solid option.

Some Product Integration

Another benefit of Yahoo! Site Builder is their product integrations. Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, Yahoo! also offers email functionality in their paid plans.

Yahoo Plan Options

You can also get ecommerce functionality, but Yahoo! separates ecommerce websites into an entirely different category (“stores” instead of “websites”) with their own unique pricing plans — which we’ll touch more on in a bit!

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Yahoo! as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Yahoo! is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and small businesses, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with storage caps, which means you’re limited to the photos, documents, files, etc. you store on your website.

It’s confusing to having ecommerce websites in an entirely different category. These websites come with different pricing plans, functionality, and specifications.

On the one hand, this is fine if you know that you want to build a shop from the get-go. But if you wanted to start with a website then add on ecommerce functionality, this structure makes it more complicated.

Yahoo Ecommerce

Limited Feature Set – Design

With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS)

And you can really see this trade-off with the Yahoo! website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward and fast, and puts your focus on getting your content into a premade template. You can add pages and sections based on your specific needs, but for the most part, it’s got everything you need.

However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with the builder. You can’t add anything within the premade sections, you can’t create your own sections, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited.

Yahoo Design Functions Limited

If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Yahoo! website builder website (in fact, it reminds me a bit of Google Sites).

Limited Feature Set – Technical

The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet. Now, as I mentioned above, Yahoo! does give some integrations, like DNS / hosting services and email on their paid plans. They also allow you to insert code into the header of your website for things like analytics tracking (even on their free plan).

Yahoo Site Header Code

However, there are a ton of technical features that Yahoo doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

For example, let’s look at Yahoo’s SEO features. I can edit the page title, description, and keywords for the site, as well as edit the visibility. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in to what I have. There’s no options for sitemaps, Schema, Open Graph settings – much less highly advanced options.

Yahoo SEO Limits

Even the additional add-0n products are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics or putting code into the header of your website.

Ultimately, Yahoo! leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.

Ownership & Company Structure

My team, my clients and I have seen and worked with a lot of different software companies. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that companies have to follow not only the demands of their current customers, but also the demands of their business model. A company might be “good” or “bad” right now, but to know how they’ll be in a few years, it pays to spend a couple minutes thinking about their business model and how they’ll evolve to meet customer and market demands.

For example, anyone who understands that Facebook’s customers are their advertisers, not their users, can understand how & why they do the things they do. There is no inherently “bad” or “good” business model. Every model has tradeoffs. It just pays to know where you, the customer, fit in the picture, especially when you are building something as critical to your business as your website.

Yahoo! Small Business is a division of Oath, now called VerizonMedia. During the break-up and sale of Yahoo! in 2017, Yahoo! Small Business was bundled with other Yahoo! properties like Tumblr, Yahoo! Mail and bought out by Verizon, the American telecommunications giant.

In other words, Yahoo! Website Builder is a product of a division of a subsidiary of one of the largest corporations in the world.

That makes the 5 year outlook of Yahoo! Website Builder…complicated.

The potential upside is that if Verizon gives Yahoo! Small Business budget, resources, autonomy and a super-smart leader…Yahoo! Small Business could have the best products and best pricing on the Internet.

The huge downside is that if Yahoo! Small Business gets lost in the shuffle of corporate bureaucracy, then they could end up like Tumblr (another VerizonMedia property) where they’ve bled engineers, killed brand equity, and sent users fleeing for other solutions.

But in all likelihood, Yahoo! Small Business will probably end up like Blogger. A fine product, but one that is treading water within a much larger organization, especially compared with direct competitors who are either publicly-traded & focused on the SMB market (like Wix or Gator) or private & founder-driven like WordPress.com or Website Creator.

Yahoo! Review Conclusion

Yahoo certainly makes getting a website up and running easy, and given how intuitive it is to use, it makes the platform an okay choice for small business owners who need something that’s simple.

Check out Yahoo’s plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Yahoo’s pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Yahoo fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Yahoo! Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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11+ GoDaddy Website Builder Examples for Inspiration

11+ GoDaddy Website Builder Examples for Inspiration

So you’re considering using GoDaddy as your website builder, and you’re looking for GoDaddy website builder examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

See GoDaddy’s Current Website Builder Pricing here…

GoDaddy is the big brand in the website services industry. From their Super Bowl ads to TV ads to online advertising, they are by far the most well-known choice for domains, hosting, website builders, and productivity products for small businesses.

And when it comes to their website builder (known as “GoCentral”), GoDaddy is known for its raw simplicity. The setup is extremely straightforward (fill-in-the-blank style), which makes it extremely appealing to DIY-ers with limited website building experience.

And while simple is great, there are some major tradeoffs, particularly in terms of functionality.

As we dive into examples of what GoDaddy websites look like in the wild, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website platform: it’s not just about how the websites look. How they operate matters too. That’s the main consideration for all my website builder reviews & my guide to choosing the best website builder.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. We collected the following GoDaddy GoCentral (their website builder brand name) examples not just to show you how they look, but how GoDaddy websites can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

General Website Examples

Let’s start with a general round up of solid GoDaddy website builder examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again,GoDaddy works well for DIY-ers who want an easy-to-use website that they can throw up on their own without having to worry about the inner-workings. However, be aware that with this comes trade-offs (i.e. you give up control, functionality, customization, etc.)

Citizen Restaurant

If you’re looking for a straightforward website where you can post content (like menus), this GoDaddy website builder example is a great place to start for inspiration. The homepage is straightforward, with a simple call to action to sign up for the email list. The navigation is also clear, with the Dine and Drink tabs bringing visitors to pages where they can download a PDF version of the dining and drinks menus.

Augusta Blues Company

Augusta Blues Company

What stood out to us about this GoDaddy website was how it makes the most of its simplicity. By using a custom graphic on the homepage for the header image, Augusta Blues Company has added some custom flair to this straightforward template. We also found the navigation to be straightforward and easy to use, which is a key hallmark of a good website!

And for those who need to provide directions on their website, this GoDaddy website builder example showcases how you can integrate a map on the homepage. We particularly liked how August Blues Company paired the map with other contact information.

Augusta Blues Company Contact

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates!

Wedding Website Example

Wedding websites are a great way to give guests information about the big day, show off your personality, and post updates / pictures / anything else you may want to share with those who are involved with your wedding. Given this website has a shorter lifespan than say, a business website, you’ll want something that’s easy to customize, edit, and manage. Here’s a great example of what you can do with a GoDaddy GoCentral wedding website:

Dave and Nuria

Dave & Nuria

If you’re looking for a simple, polished, easy-to-use wedding website, this example from Dave and Nuria is a great place to start for inspiration. It has all of the necessary information, from the itinerary for the weekend to how to plan your trip, and the RSVP is a simple contact form. It’s a great example of a plug and play website template that saves you time and money, which is especially useful for a site that doesn’t have a long lifespan!

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates!

Photography Website Example

Photography websites are all about the portfolio of work. When looking for a GoDaddy website builder example to serve as inspiration for your photography, pay special attention to the layout options for your work. You want to be sure you’re showing off your photos in a creative way without sacrificing the user experience (AKA fast photo load speed, easy to navigate, high quality images, etc). Here are a few examples of GoDaddy photography websites we liked:

Anthony Friend 

Anthony Friend

What makes this GoDaddy website a great example for photographers is the layout of the portfolio page. The grid style makes it easy to get an overview of the photographer’s work without overloading the functionality or making it too difficult for visitors to get an idea of their style.

Richard Eads

Richard Eads Photography

Richard’s site provides another photography inspiration example, specifically in how the work is displayed. Notice how this GoDaddy website uses a carousel to feature photos, with a bar underneath that changes as the photos move. It’s a unique way to showcase Richard’s work in a way that’s interactive without being overwhelming.

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates!

Ecommerce Website Example

Ecommerce websites are all about their products. A good ecommerce website should have high-quality product images, be easy to navigate, and keep the focus on what you have to offer your shoppers! You’ll also want to include strong product descriptions and an easy check out process. Here are a few of our favorite GoDaddy ecommerce website examples:

Popcorn Willy

Popcorn Willy

What stood out to us about this GoDaddy ecommerce website was the product page organization. The categories help visitors sort through what they’re looking for easily, and the ratings provide another layer of “trust factor” that’s key for ecommerce websites. If you’re looking for a simple way to list products, this website could be a great place to start for inspiration.

Better Living Market

Better Living Market

If you’re looking for a bit more “design flair”, check out Better Market Living. This ecommerce website uses a high-quality header image to spruce up the homepage, but still keeps navigation ultra-simple with the shop now button.

Something to note about GoDaddy website builder websites in general: while GoDaddy is known for its simplicity, that does mean limited design customization and functionality. For example, most websites have a similar, block layout. For e-commerce websites specific, the product pages don’t vary much beyond this layout.

Better Living Market Products

Again, you should choose your website builder not just on design, but on the functionality and levels of customization you need. If you’re looking for a more customized ecommerce shop, there could be better options for you.

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates!

Artist Website Example

Need to showcase your art? An artist website is a great way to create a digital portfolio of your work. These websites should be easy to navigate, keep the focus on your artwork, and allow prospective clients / commissioners to contact you easily. Here’s an example of a great artist GoDaddy website:

Jules Art & Design

Jules Art and Design

Sometimes, less is more… and that’s exactly what makes Jule’s website so effective. The clean layout draws your eye right to her artwork, and the simple navigation at the top of the page makes it easy to find exactly what you need on her website. This is another example of a GoDaddy portfolio website that is a good fit for a DIY-er who just needs a place to showcase their work in an easily digestible format.

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates!

Music Website Example

Similar to artist websites, music websites are all about the music. Which means if you’re creating a music website, you’ll need a player so visitors can listen to your work on your site. You’ll also want to give people the opportunity to connect with you by listing social media channels, tour dates, and places they can buy your albums! Here’s an example of a music website created with GoDaddy:

Telekinetic Yeti

Telekinetic Yeti

This GoDaddy music website keeps the focus solely on the music. In fact, the music page is a simple, embedded music player where visitors can listen to the band’s most recent album. While it could be more sophisticated, it doesn’t necessarily need to be. Again, it all comes down to your needs. If you wanted some advanced functionality on your music website (like full discography, Spotify integrations, Ticketmaster and Eventbrite integrations, etc.), GoDaddy may not be the best option for you.

Here’s how I’d recommend building a long-term music website with WordPress. Wix also provides a good drag & drop option.

Business Website Example

A strong business website showcases your services, gives customers the opportunity to contact you, and builds social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. Here are a few examples of strong GoDaddy Website Builder business website examples:

Women Working in Technology

Women Working in Technology

Women Working in Technology has a fairly robust navigation, which goes to show just how much content you can have on your GoDaddy business website. However, the navigation keeps it organized with sub-menus, which means despite the large amount of content on the site, it’s easy to find your way around.

We also liked how Women Working in Technology used a video on their homepage to tell visitors what they’re all about.

WWIT-About

It provides a great way to make the site more interactive without having to build something completely custom!

Crescent Flight Ops

Crescent Flight Ops

Again, GoDaddy tends to skew towards block-style website templates, and while this business site by Crescent Flight Ops is a bit blocky, their color palette and use of different media types help with the flow. We included this website to show how if you wanted the simplicity, you could still make your theme look different by customizing the colors and actual content on the page.

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates!

Personal Website Examples

Personal websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume / portfolio website you use to get booked or a blog you use to create content, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. Personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize. Here’s an example of a GoDaddy personal website to use for inspiration:

Marc Whisnant

Marc Whisnant

It’s easy to get caught up in showcasing your personality and creativity on your personal website. And while adding in some flair is fine, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Marc’s website includes the right balance of both. We loved how his work stands out in contrast to the black background, but isn’t overwhelming in its grid format.

We also liked how Marc included a downloadable version of his resume on the homepage. This is a great way to share your qualifications with those who may be looking to hire you.

marc resume

Explore Similar GoDaddy Templates! Or explore how I like to build personal websites.

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing your website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

If you feel like GoDaddy fits the design and functionality needs you have for your website, you can explore more GoDaddy templates here.

Not sure if GoDaddy is a right fit? Explore other website builder options here or see how GoDaddy stacks up against popular brands like Wix & Weebly.

The post 11+ GoDaddy Website Builder Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!)

How To Promote Your Website

So you want to promote your website online…for free, preferably.

By now, you probably know from experience that the “build it and they will come” philosophy is flawed. You can have great content — in fact, you need at least “good” content — but unless you know how to promote it, your site is a ghost town. But you also don’t have the budget to go straight to advertising online.

You don’t need a grab bag of tips and tricks. You don’t need best practices to “go viral”. Instead – what you need is an actual process to follow that you can consistently do – to create a “flywheel effect“.

Here is an exact, step-by-step strategy that I recommend to anyone who wants to promote their website online. The specific details vary, but it’s a pretty tried and true path for anyone who wants to promote their website.

Start with Definitions & Goals

Before you do anything, you’ve got to start with the foundation: what are you trying to achieve?

Aside – “making money” or “getting customers” does not count. The key is to get specific. Quantify your marketing in other words.

This is the part so many people either get stuck on or skip entirely. Usually, website owners just want to dive in and start doing, doing, doing.

While getting your site out there and testing is great, you need a balance. It’s just as important to test with the right methods as it is to collect a ton of data and learn from it

There are three things you need to figure out before you dive in:

  • what you’re promoting
  • who you’re promoting it to
  • how much you can actually spend on promotion

Let’s break them down.

What You’re Promoting (Your Product)

What is it that you’re actually offering/promoting on your website? A product? A service? Valuable content?

Whatever it is, you need to be able to define it and sell the value. What makes you different from the million and one others out there?

Remember, this doesn’t need to be your life’s mission. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You need to define your product in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and to the point  — and make sure you emphasize why you’re different.

Who You’re Promoting It To (Persona)

A persona is marketing jargon for a profile of your target audience and having one is crucial to your marketing.

Before your start promoting your website, you’ve got to know who you’re actually promoting it to. What do they want? What problems do they have? How do you solve those problems?

Create 2-4 personas for your brand that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some sales and feedback to polish what you’re offering (your product/website/brand).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students).Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept[skip to the ~11 minute mark].

How Much You Can Spend on Promotion (Time & Financial Budget)

Thinking there’s no overhead online is lethal. You’ve got to put real numbers behind what you’re doing. Marketing costs money or time… so put real goals in place.

Outline your budget, even if it feels arbitrary. Define your product/services costs, profit margins, and what kind of marketing spend gives you a positive return. Here’s a more extensive post on quant-based marketing.”

Lay the Foundation

Once you have your goals and definitions laid out, it’s time to lay the foundation. While “build it and they will come” is a flawed philosophy, once you start getting them to come, you need to be sure what you’ve created is decent and captures data.

This is divided into three steps:

Website / Destination Set Up

To promote anything online long-term*, you need a decent website. Whether you’re an ecommerce business who needs an online store, a local business with a brick and mortar store, or an educational website that needs a place to publish content, a decent-looking website will put you ahead and allow you to do more with your brand and marketing.

*Aside – when I say long-term – I mean that you don’t want your project compromised by the whims of a platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook Pages and Google My Business). For short-term projects, plenty of people do well with marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy while content publishers do great with a good email marketing platform.

If you don’t have a website yet, I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here. There is some learning curve, but it will provide maximum versatility.

For ecommerce shops, I recommend either using a high-quality hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce or set up an ecommerce website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

If you have a website and know it’s a mess, use this guide to help you clean it up.

Create Focused Pages

Depending on what you’re goals are, creating focused pages can be an essential part of conversion.

Focus pages are landing pages that target a very specific need, but they don’t have to be complex. They are simply pages that visitors can land on and take a specific action (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.)

Why use landing pages? Because nobody cares about or even sees your homepage. Your homepage is for people who already know who you are and are just navigating around to find what they already know exists.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are for new (or returning) visitors to land and convert (AKA take whatever action you want them to take). These pages should target what your audience is searching for on a granular level.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’d want to create product pages targeting specific product information (i.e. Blue Swimwear) or a specific audience (i.e. Swimwear for Women Distance swimmers).

For service-based businesses, you’d want to create service pages targeting what your customers are searching for (i.e. Atlanta Dentist or Root Canal Services)

For sites that are focused on content creation, think about pages that can organize your posts into broader topics and orient readers who land deeper into your site and encourage them to take additional actions (like reading more or subscribing). Use this guide to using category and tag pages in WordPress to accomplish this.

If you have way too many idea – then think about how to organize your site by topic / keyword.

Set Up Analytics

Before you start promoting your website, you need a way to capture data through an analytics platform. There are tons of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

If you’re unclear on what Google Analytics actually does, start here.

Depending on what you’re promoting (see above), you’ll want to set up specific goals. For example, if you’re an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure you have Ecommerce checkout set up. If you’re a local business, you’ll want to track thinks like clicks to call and contact form completions. Use this guide to set up call tracking in Google Analytics.

You should also link Google Analytics to Google AdWords and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics. And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website.

Work on Getting Traffic

Now that you have the foundation down, it’s time to get people to your website. This where a lot of people get way too detailed… way too fast. Why?

Because not all marketing channels operate at the same speed. They’re also not all used the same way — they have different strengths and weaknesses. They complement and supplement each other instead of compete, and it’s all about how you use them together.

For example, the US Navy’s main war-going unit is the Aircraft Carrier Group. But it’s not just made up of an aircraft carrier. Instead, it’s a grouping of different types of ships that all do different things at different speeds so that the whole group together is nearly invincible.

A lot of business owners want to start with SEO or with a fully fleshed out social strategy. To keep to the analogy, that’s like sending your battleship and aircraft carrier to scout out for the rest of the group.

Bad idea. Battleships (aka SEO) and Aircraft Carriers (Social) take forever to get going and to turn. Save those until you know where you’re going. You do not want to invest hours and hours and tons of resources and thought into SEO and Social if you have no idea if they will pay off.

Start with channels that can speed up, slow down and change direction at will. That means 3 things: direct outreach, community involvement, and paid traffic, specifically AdWords Search Network.

Testing with Direct Outreach

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of promoting something because you think it’s amazing. But here’s the thing — what if no one wants it?

Too often, we make assumptions for our audience. So before you go into a full-blow promotion plan and start running ads, emailing everyone on your list, and working on your SEO tactics, it’s good to get some validation.

Start by soliciting feedback from a small, targeted group. These should be people who are active in your niche, would ideally collaborate with someone like you, would give you some feedback and maybe even promote your website for you.

What we’re really doing here is finding complementary marketing “parents” — think of other bloggers and businesses your target audience also visits. There are infinite ways to do this process. The key piece is to find someone who shares your interests or has a need that you can fill. Here are some examples.

Friends & Family

Ok – friends and family will often be interested by default. They won’t be able to provide useful feedback. But here’s the thing – you are probably friends because you share interests. Additionally, you might share interests with your family.

Those family and friends are a great place to start with your outreach. It doesn’t mean spamming your Facebook page. It does mean not being afraid to show off your work personally to interested friends and family.

Individual Brands / Influencers

I hate the term “influencers” – and I don’t think that you can or should compete with big brands for social media celebrities. Instead, you should use your own advantage as a DIY website owner (rather than social media manager) to find people that you respect and listen to. Figure out what they need / want. Do they need co-promotion? Topic ideas? Reach out and pitch.

Individual Bloggers / Site Owners

A blogger of any size & influence will be deluged with pitches from big companies. Again – use your advantage as an actual site owner to go around the social media managers to reach small and up and coming bloggers. Use your agility to solve problems that agencies cannot quickly solve.

Journalists

Journalists have an infinite black hole of content that they need to fill. They are always looking for a story (not a product). If you can create a story based on your insider expertise, then you should pitch them. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Start with small sites and use successes to pitch bigger publications.

The good example is a local package delivery service pitching a story about “porch pirates” to news outlets in Philadelphia.

Complementary Business Owners

Your product probably pairs with other companies’ products. Swimwear pairs with beach resorts. Festivals pair with beverage companies. Wood refinishing pairs with historic preservationists. The list is infinite.

Find businesses where you can co-promote.

Vendors

Your vendors want you to succeed…because your success means more sales for them. Pitch your vendors on co-promotions.

Then, get to emailing and messaging. Send them to your landing pages or content piece to buy, subscribe, or review. Ask for feedback and referrals and keep notes!

Keep in mind that you are emailing people. It’s easy to get into a spammy quantity mindset. But remember that that a single, quality connection is worth way more than you can measure right now. Your goal is to get feedback and access. You cannot and should not make this a primary sales channel. Your goal is feedback to promote more effectively and more broadly.

Check out this case study or this post for even more detail.

Find Like-Minded Communities

To expand your direct promotion efforts means finding groups of individuals. And that means finding communities.

Communities can not only provide a lot more feedback – but you can also find opportunities to get sales.

The issue with a community is that you need to be a part of it. Nobody likes someone who shows up to promote rather than participate.

Even though you might need sales right now – you absolutely must set aside that need and look to the long-term.

Figure out what the community likes & needs. Provide that. Focus on being overly helpful rather than promotional. Here are some examples.

Industry Specific Forums

Whether it’s ProductHunt / HackerNews in tech or Wanelo for trendy shopping – there is an industry specific forum for everything. Find it and get involved.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are super-accessible and cover topics on everything under the Sun. They are a great way to build an organic presence on Facebook now that business newsfeed organic reach does not exist. Use creative Facebook Open Graph searches to find the non-obvious ones.

Website Forums

Yes – website forums still exist. And yes, they can be extraordinarily powerful. Do your research and get in touch with moderators.

Blog Comments

Yes – people still read these. Set up alerts via Google or via RSS feeds and stay involved in relevant discussions on high-traffic blog posts.

Reddit & Crowdsourced Forums

Reddit is the world’s largest general forum – but everything from Kickstarter to Pinterest could technically be considered a forum. Again, find where your target audience hangs out. Focus less on teh actual platform and more on the people using it.

Amazon Comments

Ever noticed the “questions about this product” or the discussion sections on Amazon product? Yep – those have insane engagement…and provide an opportunity to piggyback on Amazon’s traffic. Look for complementary products / services to yours that your target audience is purchasing. Use your expertise to answer questions.

LinkedIn & Business Groups

This angle is similar to crowdsourced forums – but for B2B and vendor relationships. Discussions happen all over the place on the Internet. Everything from Slack to LinkedIn Pulse to IRC are open. They are all tools for people to connect. Think about who your people are and find where & how they talk.

Guest Posting

Do you know of high-traffic blogs that your target audience reads (not simply blogs in your industry)? Find out guest post requirements and go there.

Once you’ve found a channel that you feel comfortable with and “get” – focus on expanding your presence and being as helpful as possible. People will notice and talk.

Using Paid Traffic to Get Data

Jumping right into ads isn’t always the best approach for promoting your website. It can get expensive, especially for the return on investment. However, our goal here is a bit different.

Using some (even on a small budget) search advertising can be a great way to get data faster. Instead of relying solely on direct outreach and a content strategy that takes a few months to grow, we can get lots of data in a short amount of time by doing some advertising.

For a full breakdown of different paid advertising channels, see this guide about how to advertise your website online.

You should be doing a few different things with this data:

  • Looking at what keywords are driving conversions. AdWords gives you this information.
  • Looking at which landing pages (or content pieces) perform best based on your goals. How can you optimize those pages and use those findings to improve the ones that aren’t performing?
  • Determining which ad copy performs best
  • For ecommerce, identifying which types of offers do people find most enticing (i.e. free shipping, 20% off welcome discount, etc.)
  • Setting up retargeting campaigns – not generic “buy, buy, buy” campaigns but interesting retargeting ads that you can afford to do when your traffic is small. If you want to divert some paid budget to Facebook, follow this guide.
  • Once you have retargeting campaigns going, you should be looking at where your audience goes online. We covered this topic on this podcast episode.
  • Improving your ad campaigns in general

Understanding Organic Search

The world of organic traffic sources is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.

For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for commercial keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.

When you’re setting up your website promotion strategy, you’ll just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.

SEO boils down to 3 components.

The first component is technical SEO.

Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. Here’s “Technical SEO for Nontechnical Marketers”

The good news is that you are using WordPress or an HTML-based website builder (aka not Flash or Wix), you have the big barriers taken care of. THe same applies to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce or a self-hosted store with WordPress + Woocommerce.

If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the one SEO thing worth paying for. Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”

If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.

If you are using Shopify or Bigcommerce, then your technical issues are 90% solved if you have it set up by the book (Shopify’s guide and Bigcommerce’s guide). You should just be sure to use their SEO-related toolset to implement your on-page content, which happens to be the second component of SEO.

The second component of SEO is on-page content and optimization

It is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website.

I wrote about the concept of keyword mapping and some basic on-page SEO concepts (like keyword research, title tags and meta descriptions, and using Google Search Console) previously.

Depending on what your goals are, there are a ton of different pieces of content that can bring in visitors. The goal is to bring in new people AND support sales. Don’t create keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision. Make the authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market.

The great part about creating the absolute best content that you can find about everything your target market cares about related to your product is that it will naturally drive the third component of SEO – off-page factors.

“Off-page factors,” is the third component of SEO

This is SEO-speak for getting links, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.

Sketchy links, the type that you buy for $5, can harm your website. However, quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in search results.

There are a lot of ways to get links. But the best ways that I’ve found for website promotion are:

  • Creating content that no one else has done well, and then promoting it. I wrote this guide to creating prequalified content. I’m a fan of this guide for the promotion angle as well
  • Hustle PR promotion – Find the blogs they read. Find the news websites they follow. Find the social media feeds they are involved with. Research and stalk every single one until you can craft a manual email pitch (see direct outreach above)
  • Get even more ideas in my guide to Ahrefs

Using Social Media

If SEO is your giant battleship, I think of social as your aircraft carrier. It’s easy to burn a lot of energy flying planes for no reason, but nothing gives you a tactical edge and far reach like your aircraft.

Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.

The key is to realize that you don’t have to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.

So with that said, go ahead and claim your branding across all the various social networks, but focus on one or two that will generate an outsize of impact on your goals.

This is particularly effective for getting feedback on what you’re promoting. Similarly to direct outreach, you can use social media to solicit public feedback through forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just remember — it’s not about blasting your message out there for everyone and their mother. It’s about targeting the right audience. Find where they are and go there.

For the other profiles, learn how to automate them so you can have a presence without actually interacting. Set up alerts so you can “listen” even when you aren’t actively participating.

Lastly, remember you can make the process faster by paying to jump ahead. Just as you used AdWords or alternative channels to collect data on what works and what doesn’t for your website promotion goals, you can use social ads to test networks.

Next Steps

That’s the website promotion strategy I would map out for any website. It’s a long post, but it’s a plan you can implement quickly by breaking each section into small, doable steps.

Immediate next steps: start by defining your goals, personas, and revenue/budget. Then, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process outlined above in a methodical manner. Go one section at a time and break each down into smaller steps you can follow without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve also written versions of this post for both local businesses and ecommerce websites.

The post How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!) appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Newest Methods to Identify CNP Fraud

protected EMV credit card

The shift to EMV technology isn’t just affecting payments in-stores&#8212due towards the elevated impossibility of fraud in-stores, so many people are expecting that you will see a rise in card-not-present (CNP) fraud. We’ve already spoken about how exactly business proprietors can avoid fraudulent purchases for the current moment. But don’t get too attached. New, supposedly safer methods are coming.

We’re conscious of how difficult it’s to maintain ever-altering technology, so we’ve got your back. Here’s the safety technology you&#8217ll be listening to within the next couple of years.

3D Secure

This type of security is working for multiple banks, however the obvious leaders are MasterCard’s SecureCode and Visa’s Verified by Visa. The name is really a mention of the their three domain model: the acquirer domain (the merchant), the issuer domain (the financial institution) and also the interoperability domain (we’ve got the technology employed for the acquirer and issuer domains to speak to one another).

3D secure adds an additional security step during checkout, thanks to a card provider. The service utilizes a plug-directly into identify cards from participating banks and, if this finds one, it opens a pop-up window asking the client to go in a pre-set password to ensure their identity. This may a couple of things: first the possibility fraudster must know another, hard to collect, bit of information to charge the credit card. Also, when opening the pop-up window, the financial institution could see when the user is applying a proxy. On top of that, the issuer generally covers the price of any fraudulent purchases making it although the 3D secure system.

Sounds a good buy, right?

Well, 3D secure has existed for some time, and many individuals the U . s . States haven’t heard about it. There’s grounds for your. The safety programs happen to be slow to become adopted by online stores because of their badly considered technology and poor customer education.

Probably the most apparent issue is that 3D secure technology confuses customers. A great deal. Pop-up home windows, in the past, haven’t been employed for good purposes. Naturally, users will be suspicious once they locate one that’s requesting some kind of banking password along with other private information. Worst, from the merchant perspective, some customers may be so confused they abandon their purchase altogether.

We’ve got the technology has additionally become critique for asking people to create passwords at inconvenient occasions (a person who just really wants to buy their stuff isn’t prepared to produce a secure password), which makes it too simple to change forgotten passwords, violating user’s privacy by permitting organizations to determine the transactions, departing apparent vulnerabilities within their software, and pawning off liability charges onto customers.

Clearly, 3D secure systems have a methods to go. Nevertheless, 3D secure has already been beginning to become adopted by many people ecommerce websites, and, typically, we’ve got the technology does its job. Meanwhile, the manufacturers understand the requirement for fraud-proof technology, and therefore are focusing on making these programs more user-friendly and secure.

CAP/DPA

Hey&#8212remember the way i just stated issuers will work on making 3D technology safer? MasterCard’s Nick Authentication Program (CAP) and Visa’s Dynamic Passcode Authentication (DPA) programs are members of their solution.

CAP/DPA is essentially EMV for online transactions. The concept is the fact that banks will issue just a little hands-held EMV terminal known as a CAP readers (though a good phone application may be within the works too). To authenticate their identity, the client uses their nick card and PIN, and so the readers will produce a one-use password. Although this had been developed mainly for banking, issuers have recognized the potential of integrating it with 3D secure software&#8212the one-use password may be used along with 3D secure&#8217s pop-up service.

Issuers have previously began moving out CAP readers within the United kingdom for internet banking, and unsurprisingly, we’ve got the technology wasn’t quite as much as snuff. The United kingdom CAP visitors poor-quality and also have technological issues that fraudsters may potentially exploit in several ways.

Another apparent problem: in the usa, we don’t have nick-and-PIN cards yet. No PINs means not a way to ensure the consumer, which&#8217s not so secure whatsoever. However, because CAP/DPA is basically a method to bring EMV technology, a technology which has already proven very secure, to CNP transactions, theoretically it’s a very viable choice to lessen fraud online. However, we’ve got the technology isn’t there with regards to the CAP readers or American’s charge cards.

We’re going to need to wait a couple of years with this one, guys.

Tokenization Standard

However, tokenization is a kind of security you could implement at this time (and also the payment card industry encourages you to do this). Although this isn&#8217t going that will help you root out fraudulent transactions, it can help safeguard against data breaches. Should you don&#8217t utilize it already, this really is one you’ll certainly be thinking about, since MasterCard, Visa and American Express have announced their intention to create tokenization a worldwide standard online as well as in-store. Let’s be truthful: soon, you most likely won’t have the ability to neglected.

You’ve most likely heard about file encryption, and you’ve most likely heard about tokenization, however i wouldn’t be amazed should you didn’t be aware of difference. Here you go: file encryption works just like a secret code. You utilize a vital to secure and decrypt the information. Anyone who will get your hands on the encrypted data with no answer to interpret it’ll just visit a mess of figures. It really works very well&#8230 unless of course the interceptor finds the important thing, by which situation file encryption is totally useless. And you’ll be able to discover the key. However, tokenizing several is irreversible because there’s no link between the initial number and also the token. There’s no master key that may turn back tokenizing process.

Theoretically, when a customer enters their charge card number and verifies their identity (possibly though a procedure employing 3D secure), their charge card number is going to be substituted for a token number sent in the payment processor. The entire factor works exactly the same way casino chips do&#8211when you, the merchant, are speaking to money providers lower the road, everyone can treat time like it’s the customer’s real charge card number. Since everyone knows the token is connected with this particular customer which particular transaction, you&#8217re all on exactly the same page. But just like a poker nick, outdoors of this particular transaction, the token won’t work any longer. There’s you don’t need to store customer’s real charge card number whatsoever, and since each transaction features its own token, the information is basically useless to the fraudsters who steal it.

Clearly, tokenization isn’t a perfect solution. You may still find occasions once the customer’s real card data must be joined and transmitted (which means you can’t give up all of your other way of file encryption), the customer’s identity still must be verified to begin with, and tokenization won’t safeguard against account takeover.

What Exactly&#8217s the purpose?

That’s why we’re speaking about multiple forms of security: not one of them are 100% effective on their own. Theoretically, these types of security works together. 3D secure protects against application fraud, CAP/DPA protects against phishing and account takeover, and tokenization protects against information thievery.

There should never be one fool-proof method to finish fraud. We can’t cover the cost of a totally hack-proof system. But maybe, by using a couple of different, very secure methods, we are able to get close. Although individuals methods haven&#8217t quite showed up yet, they&#8217re searching promising.

The publish Newest Methods to Identify CNP Fraud made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Why Your Site Platform Matters (and the way to choose…)

Website Platform

Imagine building your house. Regardless of whether you or perhaps a contractor builds it &#8211 you’ll mainly worry about the look, layout, and if the cupboards have sufficient space, right?

But &#8211 you&#8217d also care on the certain level concerning the materials, engineering, and craftsmanship behind the curtain &#8211 even though you don&#8217t know precisely the way they work.

You&#8217d want the best materials to do the job, so you&#8217d possess a house that lasts that does what you would like it to achieve that isn&#8217t a discomfort to make use of doesn&#8217t cause you to dependent on that builder and doesn&#8217t break your budget.

It&#8217s exactly the same way with websites &#8211 here&#8217s why (and the way to choose).

The Fundamentals

An internet site includes&#8230

  • Files that may be read from your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Ie)
  • A spot for individuals files to reside where your browser have access to them

Optionally, an internet site may have a &#8220backend&#8221 system that assist you in making and manage individuals files.

Which &#8220backend&#8221 product is what we should usually call a &#8220website platform,&#8221 because hands-coding an internet site is generally too tiresome, way too hard to handle, and extremely quite unwieldy.

Kinds of Website Platforms

1. Site Builders

Site builders assist you in making your website, but don’t assist you to keep it in check.

They’re usually incorporated free with hosting plans, or are bundled on your computerOrMacintosh (for example FrontPage, DreamWeaver, or Illustrator).

Site builders perform the heavy-lifting to produce the files for the website &#8211 but they are typically difficult to maintain, update, and don’t permit you to manage content (like images, blog, etc) easily. I&#8217ve done reviews of Squarespace, Weebly and Wix who’re the 3 largest players within the space.

2. Cms

Cms make use of a computer database to keep your site information, then utilizes a computer language (for example PHP should you&#8217re curious) to produce, manage, increase the web site.

WordPress is easily the most popular (and it is free), but you will find countless them available on the market &#8211 including proprietary systems. Here&#8217s a exactly what the WordPress backend appears like:

WordPress Backend

3. Niche Platforms

Niche platforms they fit out by companies for particular purpose websites &#8211 for example eCommerce websites.

They often function just like a Cms, except that they’re owned and located with a single company &#8211 to allow them to personalize exactly for his or her customers.

There’s also free shopping carts that permit eCommerce &#8211 but limited website management.

Here&#8217s why the only goal&#8230

Cost

The woking platform you and your designer chooses may have costs. Here&#8217s things to bear in mind&#8230

1. There is nothing truly online for free. If something is free of charge &#8211 it will often be manipulative about upsells (I&#8217m searching to you, &#8220free site builders&#8221), or will need extra support and training (WordPress), or is going to be absolutely horrible (the remainder).

2. You will see upfront and lengthy-term costs. You will be able to lay them out and predict what they’re &#8211 including switching costs if you want to change later on.

Foundation

Although the primary reason for the web site would be the look, layout, and feel &#8211 the woking platform should have a very good foundation for the web site to grow, or simply wallow in it.

Here&#8217s a couple of questions you should ask your designer or ponder should you&#8217re selecting yourself&#8230

  • Could it be well-supported and frequently updated?
  • Could it be determined by a business remaining running a business?
  • Could it be determined by volunteers &#8211 and therefore are there many of them?
  • Is there good security?
  • Is there good Search engine optimization?
  • Am I Going To be determined by my designer?
  • Have i got the 100% legal rights to my technique for using it?
  • Could it be reliable?

Functionality

Will the web site platform do what you would like it to complete?

Could it be simple to use?

Does having the ability to easily update it matter for you?

(If that’s the case &#8211 you most likely wish to avoid proprietary cms, and builders).

Do you want eCommerce bundled, or 24&#2157 support?

How ShivarWeb Rolls

I personally use WordPress for everything. I&#8217ll also consider Shopify for many eCommerce stores.

Much like houses &#8211 there’s no right answer. As well as your contractor (ie, web design service) most likely has excellent reasons why they’re doing the things they’re doing.

But the thing is to understand and become a good consumer. Make sure to know why and what about your website platform &#8211 and when it’ll obtain the features that you would like.

The publish Why Your Site Platform Matters (and the way to choose&#8230) made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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