How To Build A Website With WordPress: The Beginner’s Guide

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How To Start An Amazon Store

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11+ Ways To Check Your NAP Consistency for Local SEO

This post originally appeared at 11+ Ways To Check Your NAP Consistency for Local SEO via ShivarWeb

Local SEO NAP Consistency

NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone Number.”

NAP is the core element of local business citations (aka listings) across the Internet.

Local search engines use citations to form a confidence score that any given business actually exists in the physical world.

Search engines combine the confidence score with a relevance score for a local search query to rank businesses in the search results.

NAP Consistency matters for local SEO because it hurts your confidence score. If a search engine is not confident that you exist in the physical world, you are less likely to appear in search results.

That’s why NAP consistency matters. And NAP consistency is especially important for Local SEO and local marketing because it’s one of the few direct ranking factors that you have total control over.

But how do you find all your NAP variations and fix them?

Well, it’s a bit like looking up how to spell a word in the dictionary. You need to have a general idea of what you are looking for plus a few tools.

Here are a few tools & techniques that I use to track down every local listing with a NAP citation to fix the incorrect version and remove duplicate listings.

These are in order of expense & accuracy. If you have some budget, skip down to SEMrush Local Listing Tool to save some time.

Google Your Phone Numbers

Make a list of all your phone numbers. All your employee’s numbers. Your personal phone number. All of them.

Google them.

Credit – EZ Dent Repair

Scrape / copy all the listings that show up. You can go ahead and fix them, but keep in mind that you might find duplicates later.

Google Your Addresses

Use the same process as the phone numbers. Google your current and former addresses.

However, with addresses, try to use a general form of your address if possible. For example, if your business is on 200 Elm St SE Newnan, GA 30263 then try just searching for “200 Elm St Newnan, GA” – dropping the “SE” and the ZIP Code.

Google Your Business Names

Use the same process as phone numbers and addresses. With your business name, always search for the shortest / broadest version.

Copy down, scrape, or fix all the inaccurate listings.

Remember that your goal is for every citation to match exactly. If most citations refer to “Shivar BBQ” then every citation should say “Shivar BBQ”.

You don’t want “Shivar Barbecue” or “Shivar BBQ Restaurant”. Make sure that every citation is exactly right.

If you have duplicates, you need to remove the duplicates.

Check Google Keyword SERPs

Now, if you’ve found many inaccurate listings, there’s a quick way to check for importance. Go ahead and Google a few key search queries – the keywords that your customers are certainly using.

Pull all the listing websites that show up until Page 5 of the search results. Every city will be a little different.

Do a manual search on each listing website for variations of your NAP so that you can fix inconsistencies and remove duplicates.

These first four methods are free but tedious. If you have some budget, using a premium tool will speed up the process.*

*Note – There’s a whole world of local SEO tools out there – including “done for you” tools like Yext. I do not recommend those unless you are dealing with hundreds & thousands of locations. Turning your citations over to a 3rd party can have nasty consequences.

Manual NAP repair is *always* worth the effort if you can. If you have budget, spend it on a tool that will help you find the listings while manually fixing the listings.

Check SEMrush Local Listing Tool

SEMrush is an entire suite of SEO and Paid Marketing intelligence tools.

I like to use SEMrush because a single premium subscription provides access to a local listing management tool in addition to one of the best backlink tools, keyword research tools, and advertising research tools.

8 SEMRush Local SEO Management

You can run a single search for free here. It won’t be able to find all your NAP inconsistencies, but it will find most of them. And it will find the most important ones quickly – along with a quick link to fix them.

Check Moz Local Search

Moz offers a stand alone Local Search tool that will find most inconsistent and duplicate locations.

It’s a great middle option for businesses with dozens of locations.

Check WhiteSpark Citation Builder

WhiteSpark is one of the most well-known local SEO agencies. They have an entire suite of tools that you can use for quick checks.

Their premium tools and premium services will help you get the listings edited & changed quickly in addition to finding new local links. Unlike Yext, they’ll change the listings manually, so you are always in control.

Check SEOfoxy’s Local Listing Tool

SEOfoxy has a local listing tool that is a bit error-prone, but has a ton of premium-grade search features for free.

I’ll use it for a quick double-check.

Check Data Aggregators

There are four large business data aggregators in the United States –

  • Neustar
  • Factual
  • Data Axle
  • Foursquare (took Acxiom’s place)

These businesses are kind of like Equifax, Transunion, and Experian in the consumer world. They are almost like the database of record for all businesses in the United States. Their database gets sent out to many large services (like Apple Maps, banks, etc). If your information is wrong with them, you’ll just be playing whack-a-mole with your local listings.

It can be extremely difficult to get your data fixed with them. But the important part is finding your data in their database and setting up some sort of account to provide some input on your data.

Check ZoomInfo Database

ZoomInfo is the hot new business data startup trying to compete with the big four data aggregators. They have a different database with their own primary sources. Make sure you are in their database.

Bonus – Use Your Library

If you are having trouble with lots of these databases or work in a hyper-competitive market (e.g., Los Angeles locksmiths), then it might be worthwhile to check ReferenceUSA and Dun & Bradstreet. You can access both those resources for free via your local library.

Next Steps for NAP Consistency

NAP consistency is a pain. But it’s worthwhile. The days of the Yellow Pages – or even word of mouth – is long, long gone. We even get directions to local places that we know via local search.

There’s a lot about local search that is out of your hands. But NAP consistency is one factor that is entirely in your control. Make it part of your recurring business marketing. Focus on making small improvements over time.

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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 Build A Wix Website In 6 Easy Steps

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The Step-By-Step Guide To Building A Website With Weebly

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How To Build A Squarespace Website For Your Business The Easy Way

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How To Choose The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Beginners

This post originally appeared at How To Choose The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Beginners via ShivarWeb

How To Choose The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Beginners

The Internet has changed dramatically in the past 10 years for anyone who wants to sell a product online. In many ways, it’s easier than ever for beginners to sell online. However, the sheer world of options makes choosing an ecommerce website builder difficult in different ways.

Even though selling online should be approachable, it can be daunting. Here’s how to choose the best ecommerce website builder for beginners so that you can get started for less money and fewer barriers, but also build with confidence.

Summary – Best Ecommerce Website Builder for Beginners

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most beginners.

  • Simple Ecommerce
  • Value Pricing
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Small Site Appeal

Weebly

Weebly
View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Broad Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Affordable Option
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Budget Appeal

NameCheap

NameCheap
View Plans

Focused on a long-term project?

Shopify is the most robust ecommerce platform on the Internet. It has a learning curve, but has the most comprehensive setup for a full-featured online store (see review). View plans.

Who Needs a Website Builder?

If you have the technical know-how, the website building process might not seem so daunting. For those of us who aren’t web developers, fortunately, there’s a workable solution: a website builder. With the right website building program, you don’t have to understand complex web development principles or know coding languages.  

Most e-commerce site builders are as simple as drag-and-drop. A good website builder should be easy to use, even for a complete newbie who only knows how to check email and post pictures on Facebook. 

The very best site builders don’t require you to start from scratch. By providing you with a set of features and templates that you can customize to meet your needs, these website builders reduce the amount of work you have to do to get your website running. 

These templates and features typically already incorporate best practices for web design, giving you a head start in building a professional-grade website for your e-commerce business.

The tradeoff you should be thinking of is whether using a website builder will be better than hiring a professional web designer or developer. For most small businesses and beginners, the decision is a no-brainer. A web developer will not do much that a site builder cannot do. 

Sure, a pro developer will do the job, but you might end up spending a lot for a small return on investment. Meanwhile, a website builder gets the job done just as well for only a fraction of the price.

They are also not incompatible. Many developers have expertise to build on top of an existing platform. That’s one consideration to think about – whether you want to be able to grow your features as your revenue and experiences increases.

Getting started with many website builders is very fast and easy, and you can get your website up and running in almost no time. 

Primary Considerations: How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Website Builder

You will need to ask yourself some questions to decide which website builder for beginners is best for your needs. 

What’s Your Budget?

A budget should be the very first thing on your list of considerations. Knowing what you can afford helps you narrow down your list of options. 

The trick is to think about all the costs that you’ll incur while building your website. There are things you need to think about outside of making the website itself, such as registering the site’s domain name and arranging for hosting. Most website builders bundle domain name, hosting & software into a single bundle. But it’s still useful to compare apples to oranges.

You’ll also need to invest money in content for your website, including images and sales copy. If you’re planning to do content marketing, you’ll have to invest in developing high-quality content. All of these costs add up, and you should consider them before you pick a website builder.

Most website builders have a free tier or at least a free trial. The paid levels typically range from $5 to about $50 a month for a plan that offers the most useful features for an e-commerce site.

If you have a tight budget, you can save a lot of money by looking for subscription plans that include most of the things you’ll need for your website, such as domain registration, business email address, hosting, and SEO tools. Again, most website builders bundle all these things. But not all do. It’s important to define what you need before exploring what they offer.

Do You Need Hosting As Part Of The Plan?

Speaking of hosting, it is yet another essential consideration you should make when picking a website builder. Some of these services include hosting as part of the package, while others only include a website builder and leave you to handle the hosting arrangement yourself.

Hosting is more vital than you might think, as the right host can make your business and the wrong one can break it. 

Here are some reasons why choosing the right host is paramount:

  • Customers will leave your site if it is slow. Fortunately or unfortunately, our rapidly contracting attention spans and addiction to instant gratification means a significant percentage of your visitors will likely leave your website if it doesn’t load in a few seconds. It’s not just about your customers, though. Google also uses the loading speed of your site as a factor in ranking it, meaning your ranking on search results will be adversely affected. A good host takes care of this by having the capacity to handle traffic spikes that might affect performance.
  • Your site needs proper security. Security is essential for every business, but it is especially for e-commerce. With the prospect of making payments on your website and putting their data at risk, customers will want to know that your website is secure. Many browsers will identify your site as ‘not secure’ if it doesn’t have HTTPS encryption and an SSL certificate. A good web host will include security and encryption as part of its package. You will likely lose customers if you don’t have this level of protection. 
  • A good host minimizes downtime for your site. You will lose sales if your site goes offline for even a few seconds. If your site has a reputation for frequently being down, you could lose both current and prospective customers. While scheduled maintenance is routine for every web host, the best hosts will minimize unplanned downtime, ensuring your site is up more than 99.99% of the time. Furthermore, the host will warn you about maintenance, so you can let your customers know beforehand. 

In summary, make sure to find a host that keeps up with your expected traffic, ensures security for your site, complies with PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards, and can handle your files. They should also offer backups of your website, and do all this for a reasonable price. 

Some hosting services also offer website builders, and some builders also provide hosting. You will need to decide if the convenience of an all-in-one package is worth any extra costs. 

Secondary Considerations: What Are Your Priorities and Needs?

Before you pick a website builder, you should have a good idea of what you want your website to look like and what you need it to do. You will then have a more definite sense of your priorities, and your search for the best e-commerce website builder for beginners will be more straightforward. 

Here are some significant considerations you should make when trying to figure out your needs and priorities:

  • Your level of experience when it comes to design. Most website builders have beginners in mind, and they don’t require you to have any experience with design or coding. However, some will be easier to work with than others, and some may require you to code if you want to customize your site’s look. If you’re starting from absolute scratch, look for a website builder with ready templates and drag-and-drop features.
  • The amount of flexibility you want. If you need to have options to customize your design, then you should pick a website builder with a large variety of templates. You will also want flexible editing features that allow you to customize the design according to your needs.
  • Will the website include a store? If your website will sell things directly online, which is highly likely if you’re building an e-commerce website, then the website builder should allow you to add checkout functionality and a shopping cart. The design should also encourage users to make purchases with features like browsing history, product recommendations, and SEO functions. 
  • The type of media you will include. You need to ensure that your website builder can handle different media types, including videos, images, animations, and other elements such as maps.    

Another thing that should factor into your choice is whether the website builder makes mobile-friendly websites. Websites without mobile-responsive templates should be a deal-breaker in today’s mobile-centric marketplace. 

General Tips: Other Things to Consider When Finding the Best E-Commerce Site Builder for Beginners

Here are some other things to consider when choosing a site builder. 

How Many Themes Are Offered By The Website Builder?

As you build your site with a website builder, you will most likely start with the website builder’s ready-made themes. You will select one of them and then customize it to get your site up quickly.

The last thing you want is a website builder that limits your customization options to a few themes and does not allow you to customize the look or add images or graphics. 

To avoid this issue, you can go for a website builder that not only allows you to customize themes, but also offers a large number and variety of themes. 

Is The Website Builder User Friendly?

Website builders will be much easier than building the site yourself from scratch. 

However, some of them will be easier to use than others. Website builders that offer drag-and-drop options, for example, make the web building process much more accessible than those that require element placement by other means. 

You also want an editing page with an intuitive and self-explanatory layout so that you’re not spending more time learning to use the builder than actually building a website. 

Some builders offer free trials so that you can use them to see how intuitive they are. If there is no trial, you’ll just have to do your research about a website builder’s reputation for user-friendliness from online reviews. 

However, this step is necessary because it will protect you from getting a builder with a steep learning curve that isn’t beginner-friendly. 

Does The Website Builder Have Marketing & SEO Features?

Having a good-looking website doesn’t mean much unless people can find it online. For that, you need to implement some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) best practices. 

These include giving your website a meta-description, including the right metadata for search engines to discover your site and index it. You’ll also need to adjust image sizes and include tags and optimize load times. 

A good website builder should make the task of optimizing your e-commerce site as simple as possible.

The best website builders will give you an easy way to update your site’s metadata and provide search engines with a site map. There is a lot more to effective SEO than this, and a website builder cannot do everything for you. However, a good one will give you a massive head start by handling these basic SEO tasks automatically. 

Does The Website Builder Provide Valuable Support To Users?

Even if you find a user-friendly website builder, you will still need to take some time to learn how to use it. The learning curve can be higher if you go for a website builder with lots of features. 

Ensure that the company you choose has lots of educational resources to make the learning curve easier to negotiate. These features include a knowledge base, informative tutorials, and a large and supportive community of active users who can help when you’re feeling stuck.

Does The Website Builder Have Good Customer Service And A Good Reputation?

Responsive and helpful customer service reps can make using the website builder so much easier than if you’re just left to figure everything out on your own. 

24/7 customer service will give you peace of mind from knowing that you can get instant help whenever you need it. This service is especially vital if you have a builder that also includes hosting services. 

Again, there are no shortcuts here. The best way to discover the reputation of a website builder is from online reviews from other business owners. By seeing what others think of the service, you can get a sense of whether it’s the right choice.

Next Steps

If you are selling online, you will need an e-commerce website. The benefits of having a site instead of only selling on third-party sites far outweigh the costs. 

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most beginners.

  • Simple Ecommerce
  • Value Pricing
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Small Site Appeal

Weebly

Weebly
View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Broad Appeal

Wix

Wix
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  • Affordable Option
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Budget Appeal

NameCheap

NameCheap
View Plans

Focused on a long-term project?

Shopify is the most robust ecommerce platform on the Internet. It has a learning curve, but has the most comprehensive setup for a full-featured online store (see review). View plans.

However, choosing the right website builder to build your site can make it much more straightforward and save you both time and money. By following the tips above, you should be able to figure out how to choose the best e-commerce website builder for beginners.

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