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Affordable WordPress Ecommerce

There is a runaway train of add-on fees, mandatory subscription fees, and per-site costs for reasonably functional Ecommerce on WordPress. Why is that? We are not referring to fully hosted solutions, or custom development. But merely WordPress Plugins that work reasonably well, are reasonably stable, and are updated reasonably often.

WooCommerce - The Good and the Bad

WooCommerce is now the leading WordPress ecommerce system, and therefore one of the most popular of all systems. It is pretty good as a solution, and while it has its quirks, the massive user base (and cash cow) keeps updates going as well as a user base that means compatibility with other systems is quite good. The problem comes down to their business model which means that certain integration options or third party tools that integrate with WooCommerce are licensed at a very high fee, and limited to a certain number of sites. As well, the per year fee structure kicks in (basically updates and support are denied for future versions without additional payment). While some may claim this is the only way to continue to deliver a quality product (that is, make a lot of money), this artificially constricts the number of potential buyers and therefore the idea is high cost, low volume (or medium volume, if you are lucky). Not a great proposition for the buyer. Other models are indeed quite viable, though they seem to escape those who get a nice revenue stream from referral/affiliate fees. > Protip -- if someone uses a single license on 1,000 sites, that doesn't mean there will be 1,000 support calls, since it is licensed to a single person or organization. At the same time, those organizations, e.g., large school systems, that have many sites and no budget, by using a given product, will make it way more visible and encourage additional customers through word-of-mouth and simply much better exposure.

An Approach to WooCommerce Integration

Clue one is to use WooCommerce, but not buy Woo-licensed or Woo-influenced third party tools (iThemes is another offender). Instead use reasonably licensed tools that have integration (usually free) with WooCommerce. There are several options, but go with those systems that are functional, stable (aka have been around a while and are reliable with updates), and provide good support. My favorite for Ecommerce is the oddly named Tips and Tricks - HQ. We first purchased a bundle of several of their products on 21 March, 2010. Yes, that is right, their products still work, more than 5 years later, and support has been stellar. While we did have some trouble with the PDF Stamper (and got a prompt refund when we couldn't get it to work), We've used many products for years on end on multiple sites, and feel the money paid has provided exceptional (actually, unbelievable) value. Especially when dealing with Ecommerce, a site needs to function properly or there will be a money problem.

Tips and Tricks HQ WordPress Plugins

Here are some of the plugins we use currently and have used in the past: - WP eStore - WP Affiliates - WP eMember - WP Affiliate Link Manager - WP Simple Paypal Shopping Cart - Note that this is a free version (with less functionality) of the WP eStore. This isn't a crippled version but just has fewer features. And is free. Note that they have various bundle options for combinations of products. Here is the complete list of free and paid plugins. Integrations of Tips and Tricks HQ plugins with Woo Commerce (all free): - WooCommerce Coupons with WP-Affiliate - WooCommerce and WP eMember - WooCommerce WP Affiliates advanced integration

LearnDash - Courseware / LMS

For courseware / LMS (learning management system) software that has good WooCommerce integration, there are several options. We've looked at LearnDash, Namaste, Sensei, WPCourseware, LearnPress, and CoursePress. Some of these have a bad cost structure (monthly ongoing payments) and/or are less mature/less functional. The one we recommend is LearnDash. While it does have a yearly price (50% of purchase price) the cost is reasonable and includes unlimited sites. It also happens to be the most advanced in terms of actual LMS support, such as integration with SCORM / Tin Can API. LearnDash integrates forum functionality with bbPress or BuddyPress. In addition, premium plugins are available for extended functionality, such as multiple instructors/courses that allow for commission structures, multiple courses offered by multiple instructors, each with their own access to their own courses only. While LearnDash doesn't provide functionality for all features one might desire, it covers the bases quite well, and emulates standard classroom practices.

Summary of Ecommerce on WooCommerce

In conclusion, we recommend WooCommerce as the core ecommerce plugin on WordPress, but the use of Tips and Tricks HQ plugins (and integration plugins) for other functionality (specifically WP eMember and WP Affiliate). We also recommend LearnDash as the LMS / Courseware plugin. WooCommerce acts as the hub and very functional extensions with better licensing, and solid, reliable performance are added for an Affordable WordPress Ecommerce Solution.

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Google Adwords and Organics

I've spent time recently in Google Adwords and things are as or more complex than ever. I'd say more. Here are a few issues that confront the Adwords User: - Ad display - Ad extensions - Keyword match types - Ad group to keywords to ads configuration - Dynamic ads - Tracking templates - Landing pages - Quality scores

First Principles with Google Adwords

  • Simplicity
  • Actionability
  • Human-focused
  • Bidding is key
  • Campaigns, Groups, Keywords, Ads

Simplicity begins with the singular

The very first principle needs to be simplicity, for management of complexity takes time and introduces more error. However, the simplest campaign would likely be a single keyword, a single ad, and a single geographic market. That is simplicity, not the dump everything together into a stew. So we should start by building up rather than breaking out. Of course we all make this same fundamental mistake.

Too little data is not actionable

There needs to be enough data from a set of parameters in order to have actionable intelligence. This means that if you are setting up 100 ads for a low frequency keyword, there will never be enough data to decide which ads are better. Therefore, ensure the traffic patterns justify experimentation at low levels.

Landing pages are for humans

Landing pages are for visitors, who (mostly) first encounter the website at that page. There should not only be a match between ad, keyword, and landing page, but a match between human, landing page, and site. This of course means low quality content, which means irrelevant content, is content that is irrelevant to a high quality, highly relevant human. Focus on the relevant human, then derive the relevant content, the relevant landing page, the relevant keywords, and the relevant ad. Yes, there is always a bit of research, guesswork and error, but the feedback of conversions helps guide these things.

Bidding is the key to campaign management

I've embraced this as a core concept. Campaign management is not managed by a budget, but by a bid. Manage the bids, and you manage the budget. And bids need to ultimately get to a reasonable price per customer acquisition. Of course one needs to know the value (or lifetime value) of a customer, but for the small business that means at the most, the profit margin for a given transaction (conversion), and relative to other marketing channels (and their volume). In some cases, with time-based goods and sufficient inventory, the profit margin can be sufficiently gouged by marketing costs, as what is left becomes free money that will expire (provided there are few variable costs and quality can be maintained at a higher volume). For a given set of keywords and match types, a set of ads and landing pages, there will be costs per conversion. It is simply an optimization task to find the place where profit per month is maximized. The main fixed parameters are market size (in terms of keyword search). Bidding is the key to campaign management as well, because bids, relative to other factors, will provide ad positioning, which may have an effect on cost per conversion via both conversion rate at a given position as well as CPC. And finally, reach factors are also driven by bid, namely higher bids will account for more first page ads, which are more plentiful than second, third, fourth page ads, in general.

First things First - Geographic Campaigns

Geographic targets, which can actually be metro area-focused, are essential. Since this is a Campaign-level variable, that means each geographic segmentation is in fact a campaign. This means campaigns need to be created first, targeting geography, and also segmentation at the level of search vs. display (if any display is needed).

Second things Second - Ad Groups

Ad groups can be single keywords (SKAG), but also any groups that might share an ad. Bidding is at the level of the ad group, but keyword-level bidding can override. However, for any given ad group, only a single keyword bid may be entered, and applies to all ads in that group. For granularity, any given ad group can have one keyword (or more) and one ad (or more). Single keyword, multiple ads -- or -- multiple keywords single ads can provide information (but the two together have a more muddied response. Only ad is displayed for a given account, for all campaigns, for a given search, and those ads are determined (among other things) by the best match of keywords (given more than one). We don't want campaigns competing with each other, as that is where budgets are set, but multiple ads for a keyword match can be useful.

Third things Third - Primary Keywords

Actually, primary keywords are first things, but not the order for dealing with Adwords. Take the primary keywords, the ones that define a category, and do extensive permutations. Usually this is a thing + place keyword combination, but can be anything, really. Bidding will be adjusted based on conversion costs, but that does require a lot of data. The point is to guesstimate and do enough bidding to find out the search volume with major permutations. Focus on negative keywords as well, but be careful not to be trigger happy there.

Fourth things Fourth - Landing Pages

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Fifth things Fifth - Ad Permutations

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Finally, the Bid

Yes, the most important, but it comes last, though there are obviously intimations and estimations come at the beginning, but really a bid is a tool to achieve reasonable customer acquisition costs while remaining within budget.

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Import Adwords to Bing Checklist

This is a handy checklist since Bing conveniently forgets a few settings, and also doesn't fully support a few features (and so generalizes, naturally). - Currency differential in bids and budgets. Bing treats a number as a number, even when Adwords campaigns in Thai Baht is imported into a US Dollar Bing account. Use the bid adjustment. For example, lower the bid by -90% then by -70% for THB to USD. - Do this on campaign budgets, ad group bids, and keyword bids. - Native Ad bid adjustment, set to -90%. - Display network bid, set to 0.05 USD (lowest amount possible). - Under devices, Mobile and Tablet bid adjustments appear to be fine, but check them. - Country targeting is changed from people in your target location to include those searching for, or showing interest in the targeted location, switch back. - Bing metro area targeting in some places is fairly poor, and so one needs to do proximity targeting. In any case, Bing will generalize from a metro area it doesn't recognize to an entire country. Check all geo target settings. - Negative keyword lists are not imported, so recreate and apply to campaigns. - No display ads are imported, have to recreate and add to ad groups.