So you’ve gotten the keys to your eCommerce storefront from your designers and developers, but what comes next? Well, this question will depend largely upon how much work was done by the aforementioned boffins and artists but we’ll take a stab at outlining the required steps before you go live.
Just keep in mind that if you’ve found that some of this has already been taken care of for you, all the better. We will also be talking specifically about AspDotNetStorefront-based eCommerce sites but the principals are the same across just about any eCommerce storefront.
- We’ll assume that your selected design has been integrated and all of the cogs and gears (and databases) have been fitted together to make it operate.
- In many cases, if the site is on a temporary or staging server, you will need to find a suitable hosting company. We recommend Applied Innovations for our AspDotNetStorefront customers. Once you’ve selected your host, communicate the necessary account information (site URL, SQL server address, site IP address, FTP address, login and password (for cpanel, ftp and SQL) to your developer so they can move the site from staging environment into what will shortly become the live site environment.
- You’ll need to determine how you are going to accept payment on your website.
– For many customers, this will mean nothing more than a PayPal account. The best level of PayPal service is PayPal Pro which enables you to not only accept payment from a customer’s PayPal account (which many customers prefer since they don’t need to give the retailer any financial information) as well as accept credit cards within your website AND have a virtual terminal available as well.
– Another option to investigate is Google Checkout. This offers many of the same features as PayPal but with the exception of AspDotNetStorefront, most eCommerce websites don’t fully support Google Checkout. Google Checkout is a bit harder to implement into the website than PayPal but is not too hard once you’ve created your merchant account. One of the biggest problems with Google Checkouts comes when you don’t use an authorized/approved SSL Certificate on your website. Please see “API authentication and security : Accepted SSL certificates …” for more information.
– You could also use a traditional payment gateway. Merchants with existing merchant credit card accounts, especially if they do higher volumes, may find this a better option on a pricing standpoint. It is best to talk with your developer to determine which gateways are supported by your site software.
- I’ve touched briefly on SSL certificates above under Google Checkout. If you think you will ever want to offer Google Checkout (as a primary or a secondary payment option), you’ll want to ensure that your SSL certificate is up to snuff. See the link above and talk with your contact at your hosting provider about getting a certificate installed on your website. If your storefront uses standard PayPal and hands off to them to collect billing information, you won’t need an SSL certificate. However, the price paid for an SSL certificate to keep the transaction on your site is a small price to pay in comparison to the confidence that little lock in the browser window has for many consumers.
- You’ll need to start thinking about how you want to handle shipping the items that you are going to sell. This can be as simple as setting a flat-rate or as complex as setting up zones for weight-based pricing or setting up RealTime Shipping which will do weight-based lookups against any number of shippers to come up with options for your customers. The latter is probably the most complex since it requires getting various licenses and keys from your shipping companies but will be most reliable. AspDotNetStorefront offers pretty comprehensive directions on how to set up RealTime Shipping but someone who’s experienced can help make this go quicker.
- Lastly, you should be looking at content on your website. This includes “traditional” content (text on pages) as well as search engine settings like Keywords, Page Titles, Descriptions and such. Some areas to look for specifically are:
- Physical and Email Address needs to be updated on Contact and About pages as well as in outbound emails
- Descriptions and SE fields (Page Title, Meta Keywords and Meta Descriptions) need to be set sitewide (in many eCommerce sites the default is applied to any page that doesn’t specifically define it’s own values) as well as for all Categories and Manufacturers (if any)
- Product names, images, descriptions, prices and inventory counts (if you are tracking inventory) will need to be added to the site and mapped to their appropriate categories. You will want to keep your Search Engine target keywords in mind as you craft the various parts of your product offerings.
- Content for the various topics used through out the site (primarily items found off the customer service menu link)
- If they will be doing drop shipping, distributors will need to be added to the system.
This may seem like a daunting task but it shouldn’t be. We are of the opinion that it is more important to get your site out there in a timely manner with a partial offering of your wares than to wait to launch while you meticulously craft every one of your product descriptions and other information. By launching early with a subset of your products and the bare minimum of content you
- Start the clock on your domain aging. Research has shown that links and domains that have a greater age will outperform and outrank similar sites and terms that have a shorter “time in service” in search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
- Condition the search engines to come back to your site regularly as you add items to your site over the coming weeks. The more frequently that the search engine spiders see changes to the content on your site, the more frequently they will come back and look for new content.The more new content they find, the more they will like you.
- Launch your search engine optimization program. Sure you want to have the basics covered but you really can’t start your linking campaigns and advertising until you have something that you can direct traffic to.
- Can start driving income through your site to help offset the time and effort involved to continue populating your site with product and information
So, if you have categories that you haven’t added any products to (provided they aren’t direct linked from a non-dynamic navigation structure, unpublish them until you have product underneath them. If they are linked from your primary navigation structure AND that navigation structure isn’t generated automatically from the data base (there are many reasons to do this but that is fodder for a different post) you should craft the description for that category quite well with your keyword strategy in mind and update the standard “No Products Found message” to be something more witty so you don’t upset your customers when they see the message too often.
Similarly if you have products that don’t have images attached yet or you haven’t had time to write a good description of the product that works well with your keyword strategy, unpublish them until you have the time to correct these items.
In the coming days/weeks, I hope to follow this blog posting up with screencasts that will address many of these points specifically for AspDotNetStorefront to help customers learn some of the tips and tricks for moving around in the admin interface and complete these goals so they can concentrate more on making money and less on being a “content monkey.”
As always, if you have any LEGITIMATE questions or comment, please feel free to use the comments section below.
At Over The Top and Exhibit A Communications, I've programmed solutions for Google as well as at least one other company that was later acquired by Google.
I've been CTO of an Internet SaaS company and spent my time pretty evenly between guiding the future technical strategy of the company, architecting software solutions for my dev teams, designing and running a data center to service our clients world-wide as well as being a technical evangalist/sales engineer to our media clients large and small.
I've also been Chief Photographer of the Daily Sun/Post newspaper back when it was a 5-day a week daily newspaper.
I also spent a great many years as a beach lifeguardfor the City of San Clemente as well as Jr. Lifeguard instructor and then as it's program coordinator.
Private Pilot with Instrument rating and proud husband of soon to be 25 years (and counting).