There are just about 100,000,000 different articles online about how to start, run, and improve your web-based business. Some of them are great, most of them are good, and a few of them are terrible, and most of them are specifically tailored to one aspect of success online or aimed at someone who is already up and running – usually both.
This is not one of those articles.
This is aimed towards the person already sitting on a product. Maybe you design interesting screen print t-shirts, provide a professional service, teach lessons, or perhaps you want to distribute digital content (e-books, even a blog – yes, a blog is a digital product). You’ve looked at the options that usually come up when minds start to turn about selling things online: you’ve checked out Shopify but raised an eyebrow at the high commissions, you’ve checked out Etsy and realized that you want more say over your small business. Perhaps you’ve already been selling on Etsy or advertising on Craigslist and Facebook.
You’re ready to take it to the next level, and you’ve heard that WordPress, which powers about 28% of top sites online, might be the right fit for you. I literally use WordPress to sell WordPress products that are used to sell on WordPress. If you’re looking for guidance on where to go from here, this is for you.
Before You Jump In
While this is outside of the scope of this article, it is worthwhile to take a moment or two to think about the competitive landscape that your product is existing in. No matter what you’re selling: a service, a digital product, a physical product, or something outside or in-between, you might want to ask yourself these questions:
- What do I deliver that no one else can?
- Who am I competing against?
- What are the improvements to my customers’ lives that I provide?
Having answers – or hypotheses – about these questions will help guide you through the rest of this process. And, if you can’t answer the questions, it might be a good idea to revisit the drawing board until you can.
Set up your website. While WordPress.com provides a great start, if you are the person I described in the introduction, you’re probably ready to graduate to self-hosted WordPress, which you can read more about here. After you’ve chosen a host, preferably online with a simple WordPress install that will get you up and running in no time, pick a theme you like, and – don’t overthink this yet – you now have a website.
Add features as you need them. My philosophy is that you should add things as you need them. The number one reason for you to constantly put off doing the things you want to do is “making sure that everything’s ready.” I can sincerely tell you that nothing will ever be ready – so jump in. Initially, you’ll need little more than one page that describes your product and one page that sells them. Create your description page using WordPress pages and set that page as your homepage via Settings > Reading. To sell, consider the following WordPress plugins:
- WooCommerce for products,
- Easy Digital Downloads for, you guessed it, digital downloads,
- (shameless plug alert) Caldera Forms to collect leads for your service-based business
The Advanced Basics
Consider SEO (search engine optimization). In the spirit of super short, let’s not delve too deep into this topic. However, you probably want to think about people being able to find you through a Google search.
Think like your customer: what would I plop into Google if I needed my services? For Caldera, we often consider the first one “contact form wordpress.” We call that an SEO keyword – which, in itself, is an SEO keyword. Search “SEO keywords” to learn more about picking the right terms.
Eventually, you’ll want to think about incorporating those SEO keywords into your website’s messaging, multiple information pages, and possibly even a blog. But for now, let’s pull out my favorite shortcut of all time – Yoast SEO. There’s nothing I love more than plug-and-play, and Yoast SEO is it – simply put in one SEO keyword, and make the changes as directed.
Does Your Website Do What You Want It To Do?
Consider CRO (conversion rate optimization). In The Advanced Basics, you’re beginning to think about driving traffic to your site, which is what the rest of this post is about. But before you dive deeper, consider whether your site will accomplish what you want it to do: generate those sales, leads, or even donations – known as a conversion. There is a grave danger in spending money, time and effort in driving traffic to a site that won’t convert – this is where conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes in. Simply defined, CRO is the process of testing your site’s content to see if it drives conversions.
Just like SEO, the concept of CRO can get complicated. At a beginning stage, simply keep two things in mind: 1) what you like may not necessarily be what your customers like – this applies to colors, images, words, and styling, and 2) you should run a test from day one. (shameless plug alert #2) We sell a plugin called Ingot, which automates testing website content on WordPress. Nugget by Ingot, our free version, allows you to run one test. After setting up your site, set up a headline test. Try an emotional headline versus a rational headline. Even if you don’t have the traffic to extract meaningful results for a long time, thinking about this complex and expanding process now will put you in the mindset of CRO today.
Let The People Know
Let’s cover the leading categories of how we drive traffic to e-commerce sites.
Pay-per-click (PPC). You’re familiar with the idea that Google, Facebook, and other tech giants make money by selling targeted advertisements. When you start selling online, you’ll quickly find yourself on the other side of that equation. Your favorite social media sites as well as Google AdWords are excellent platforms to start serving advertisements to potential customers. Again, draw back to the basics – don’t overthink this. Set up an advertiser account on Google AdWords, and create a simple ad to drive traffic to your home page. Start with the budget you can afford – you can set up ad buys as low as $5/day – and revise, improve and increase as needed.
Content marketing. If you’ve ever followed a company on Twitter, shared a company’s Facebook post, or read a small business owner’s blog (hi), you’ve been exposed to content marketing. The idea of content marketing is that if you can provide information – which can come in the form of useful, practical, inspirational, creative, and more – that is of value to your customers, when the time comes to shop, they will be more likely to think of your company. In a hyper-competitive marketplace, content marketing can be the difference between sink or swim. Draw back to the basics – don’t overthink this. Your business doesn’t need to be on every social media platform by tonight. Pick one that you’re already familiar with, and start a conversation. Revise, improve and increase as needed.
Digital PR. This one is a tricky one, and perhaps you won’t get to it until you are feeling comfortable with the points above – and that’s OK. However, its power is crucial to your success. The driving idea behind Digital PR is that there are mutually beneficial relationships for you to form with fellow ecommerce denizens. Begin by joining groups about your topic – whether on Facebook, Google Groups or another platform of your choice – and interacting with fellow business owners. You’ll often find that you can help each other by cross-promoting each other’s businesses via your content marketing, creating joint promotions, and more. As it often tends to be, that which is the most loosely defined is often holding the most potential. Don’t be afraid to be creative, and always be bold.
How are you feeling? Overwhelmed? It is true that there is much to explore within each of the topics above. However, I hope that the key takeaway for you, as a future merchant, is that there are broad categories that are clearly defined upon which you can take immediate action to realizing your business aspirations. To drive that home, check out this nifty infographic of the key points above.
And that’s basically it – a super short guide to selling online using WordPress. What was unclear? What would you like to read more about? Let me know in the comments.