Building an online store in WordPress presents one challenge that platforms like Shopify and Squarespace simplify; using and maintaining plugins. Starting your own online store is tricky enough. Your focus on web programming and design will likely come at the expense of of selling products online. how to pick good and stable plugins for your WordPress store can help that.
When building an online store in WordPress (WP), it’s important to use plugins to minimize development time. However picking the right plugins for WP should be easier than it actually is. How many times I have been recommended a plug-in and couldn’t find it or installed the wrong one with the same or a similar name. However, using stable plugins will help the security and overall longevity of your online store.
As a rule of thumb the simplest plugins will be the most stable. Frequently updated plug-ins can be a mixed blessing but I usually think of it as a positive sign but sometimes frequently updated plugins may require you to frequently update the version of WordPress your running which can cause problems with your website theme. Finally, I may look at the amount of stars as an indicator but mostly I look at the sheer number of reviews and downloads of the plugin. That leverages the Wisdom of the Crowd in my opinion, more so than what a given user does or doesn’t say about their experience with a given plug-in.
If you are using Amazon FBA or eBay they both have plugins and programs that can make the whole process easier and increase your cash flow at the beginning. When I build my own website store I plan to use both of these programs while I get everything right with my own product displays and e-commerce shopping cart. This could save me thousands in lost sales in terms of my shoppers getting used to my shopping cart and cuts down on the initial development costs and time setting up all the things that need to be set-up with your won website.
If you do have more resources at your disposal, WordPress Simple Paypal Shopping Cart allows you to publish “Add to Cart” to any page or post or to use custom buttons. If you have 20 products or few or are selling a digital good on your store (software downloads for example), this plugin might do the trick. One of the minor features that is pretty major is being able to add SKU numbers if you need to keep track of those if you are drop-shipping or have a number of similar products being fulfilled by a vendor or employees. It has 169 reviews at the time of writing and has been downloaded 426,599! That is some serious crowd wisdom! Also there is a advantage in using a trusted brand like Paypal which will help first time shoppers get over the “trust hump” and try to buy from you.
While a store mainly has products, many sites also develop search engine traffic by using content pages such as review, testimonials and FAQ pages to help a potential prospect feel comfortable with your quality guarantees and shipping policies. There are also great pages to optimize for SEO. Unlike product description pages which will have alot of graphics and may laod more slowly (hopefully not but maybe!) content article pages are mostly text and thus be more readable by the search engines. The standard SEO plug-in for WordPress is the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin. Try 3,329 reviews and 10,493,481 downloads! It is one of those plug-ins that updates a lot but I only have had one issue with it. This plugin allows you to pick a target keyword for a given page on your website and gives you the tools to change the title tags and meta description (the text in your listing on a search engine results page) wihtout opening up the backend.
Google Analytics WordPress Plug-in
When setting up my own store websites, I like to include Google Webmasters and Google Analytics as part of the strategy. The Google Analytics plugin boasts 875,302 downloads and is super easy (you can just add a template to the theme on the backend if you it prefer it that way) just requiring the UA identification number in Google Analytics. And that’s it. From there you can log-in to Google Webmasters Tools directly and verify the “Alternate Method” of associating it with a Google Analytics account.
Why Webmasters and Analytics. For basic by the numbers SEO, Webmasters provides a road-map of what search keywords, referred to as queries mainly, customers type in to find your products. Google Analytics counts the number of visitors and ton more. I suggest basic sellers just use the built in WordPress Site Stats that you get when you install.
Jetpack plug-in which is made by Auttomatic the company that makes WordPress, so you know that one is stable. I will find a better link to talk about Jetpack fully which has easier ways to work with basic forms and share your posts when they are published.