How to Start an Online Store
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So you’ve got something to sell, but have no idea how to get it online.

You’re not alone.

If you’re like most people, the thought of setting up a virtual store can give you cold sweats, especially if you’re new to the eCommerce world.  

Whether you’re a tiny mom and pop shop or want to be the next Amazon, you first need a place where people can browse and purchase whatever it is you’re offering online.

This step-by-step guide will show you how to start an online store using WordPress and WooCommerce.

In no time, you’ll have a fully functional ecommerce website, where you can start selling products like a pro. If you follow this guide to the tee, there’s nothing to keep you from becoming the next Jeff Bezos.

Ready to build your ecommerce store?

Great! Let’s get to it.

If you’re selling services (not products), you don’t really need to use WooCommerce. Instead, I’d suggest making a business website and blog. If you want an eCommerce store without WordPress, read this guide on building an online store with Shopify.

Using WordPress and WooCommerce for your Online Store:

WooCommerce is an undisputed leader in online sales. Powering over 28% of all online stores, WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce platform on the internet:

eCommerce Usage Statistics 2018

ecommerce usage statistics 2018

Other popular eCommerce platforms beside WooCommerce include:

There are a lot of options, but two services dominate the landscape when it comes to do-it-yourself online stores: WooCommerce and Shopify.

If you’re just getting started, you really should stick to these two. They both make it super simple to set up a store, and simplicity is your friend in the beginning.

Each has its pros and cons, with the main difference being that WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin and Shopify is a stand-alone service with a base monthly hosting fee of $29 per month (You can try Shopify with their 14 day free trial). If Shopify is the way you want to go, I also created a guide to make an eCommerce store with Shopify.

If you know you want to use WordPress for eCommerce, WooCommerce is simply the best way to turn your WordPress website into an ecommerce store.

Before we do a deep dive on setting up a store, here are some specific details you should know:

  • WooCommerce is a WordPress.org plugin. Just like any other WordPress plugin, it needs to be installed and activated so it will work properly.
  • Setup is extremely fast. You can be up and running in an hour or two.
  • You can install WooCommerce and configure it yourself.
  • It’s free and open source (like WordPress), so there are no fees, licenses or anything like that to worry about.
  • It’s (fairly) beginner-friendly. You don’t need to know how to code to use WooCommerce with WordPress.
  • It’s the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress. Period.
  • There are dozens of useful features.
  • No matter what design or theme your WordPress site uses, WooCommerce is compatible with it. This means there’s no need to change up your web design or call a developer to fix your code or database.

Bottom line: If you need to setup an online store for your WordPress site, WooCommerce is the way to go.

If you don’t want to start your online store using WordPress, follow this tutorial on setting up your store with Shopify. I’ve also compared Shopify vs. WordPress (WooCommerce) and other website builders.

What can you sell with WordPress and WooCommerce?

Selling with WordPress and WooCommerce

There’s not much you can’t sell using WooCommerce:

  • Physical products: These are tangible, physical goods that are shipped from door to door. Think Amazon.
  • Digital goods: This includes eBooks, software products, photos, music, and so much more. Anything that can be instantly delivered digitally.
  • Access: By this we’re talking about access either to specific products (limited to members or exclusive groups only) or to content like a subscription.
  • Other companies’ products: As an affiliate, you can sell other people’s products and receive a referral commission when you make a sale.
  • Services: Selling your time means selling access to your knowledge. This might come in the form of appointments for offline services or expert advice, or even online sessions via Skype.
  • Bookings: Think of tickets sold for both online and offline events, like a live concert or webinar.

Get the point?

Basically, there are tons of ways to make money from your website. You can sell pretty much anything on your site through WooCommerce.

As you build your eCommerce store, I want you to keep one thing in mind. Realize that this is not a race, sprint, marathon or otherwise.

There is no beginning, middle, and end.

Once you decide to build your ecommerce site, the only way forward, is, well, forward.

You will never reach a state of perfect harmony with your site, and that’s okay. It should always be growing and improving.

Don’t aim for finished, because a great business is never done. Always look to be better than the day before.

Let me get off my soapbox, and let’s make an online store with WooCommerce and WordPress.

How to Make an Online Store with WordPress and WooCommerce

Make WooCommerce Store

Step #1: Get a Domain Name, Web Hosting, and SSL Certificate

Before you can start running an online store, you’re going to need three things:

  • Domain Name: This is your eCommerce store’s unique location or address on the web. It’s what people type into their browser to visit your store online. For example, our domain name is metapress.com.
  • Web Hosting: Essentially, web hosting is how you store your website in a safe location so other people can easily view it. (Here’s a more detailed answer about what web hosting actually is).
  • SSL Certificate: An SSL Certificate creates a secure, encrypted connection. This helps keep your customer’s personal information safe, and greatly lowers the risk of cyber theft. This isn’t needed for non-ecommerce stores (yet), but if you’re starting an online store, you definitely need this.

Thankfully, you can get your web hosting, domain name, and SSL Certificate all at the same time.

There are tons of web hosting and domain registrars to choose from, but I typically use Bluehost for both myself and my web development clients. They provide affordable web hosting, free domain, have good customer service, and are perfect for both beginners and enterprises alike.

To get started, go to Bluehost.com and hit the “Get Started Now” button.

WordPress & WooCommerce hosting

I’m using Bluehost as an example in this guide, but other popular companies that offer hosting and domain plans for relatively low costs include HostGator, WPEngine, A2 Hosting, GoDaddy and 1&1.

On the next screen, you’ll be able to choose from three available hosting plans for your WooCommerce store: Starter, Plus and Pro. You can begin with the “Starter” plan and upgrade later if necessary.

Starter, Plus, Pro WooCommerce

Next, you’ll choose your domain name:

Choose your domain name

TIP: Think you’ve got the right name for your domain? Well, the reality is a lot of other folks have probably thought of the same name as you. But don’t get discouraged. Bluehost lets you know if a domain is already in use and throws out a few helpful suggestions.

Adding variations to your ideal name or even something a touch off-the-wall can help set your website apart. Once upon a time, Amazon was a river in South America and Google…well, Google didn’t mean anything at all.

It might take you a few minutes, but I’m confident in your ability to tap that creative side of your brain and come up with the next big brand name. Essentially, choosing a good domain name comes to down to three things:

  • Is it memorable? You want people to recall your domain name easily.
  • Is it unique? Don’t copy major websites. Picking the name www.hoofingtonpost.com is a sure way to get people confused.
  • Is it short? Having a long domain name is harder to type in and remember.

Once you’ve got your domain name, click the “next” button to complete your payment and setup as directed.

The add-ons are not necessary at startup and are something you can add later if needed. The main thing you’re doing at this point is choosing a Bluehost package with WooCommerce ready to go.

Congrats!

Just like that, you’re the proud owner of a brand new domain name, web hosting plan, and SSL certificate.

At this point, you’ll receive an email directing you to your Bluehost login page. If not, just go to my.bluehost.com and login.

After logging in, you’ll see your Bluehost dashboard (also known as your Bluehost user panel, or cPanel). Note that your WordPress site is already installed with WooCommerce. Click the green site login button to head to your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress + WooCommerce Installed

TIP: At first glance, it may be confusing keeping your Bluehost dashboard and WordPress dashboard straight. But don’t freak out. The Bluehost dash helps control the web hosting side of things. This includes general site and domain management, email and help.

The WordPress dashboard, is for the website itself. Pages, blog posts and of course, your WooCommerce site.

Step #2: Set Up WordPress

As noted, WordPress is already installed as part of your Bluehost package.

When you enter WordPress, it’s a blank slate, ready to be molded into the eCommerce empire you’ll be ruling.  

You’re prompted with the options of either Business or Personal or to setup the site without the initial help wizard.

Welcome to WordPress

As much as we love wizards like Dumbledore and Gandalf, you’re going to click the button that says “I don’t need help”.

From there, you’ll get a full view of the WordPress admin dashboard. At this point, a little housekeeping is in order. You need to put your own mark on this place. Hang a few banners on the wall, put up that glowing Budweiser sign, etc. You need to make this site your own.

WordPress dashboard

Moving forward:

  • You can view your website at any time by entering your domain name into your browser. (go to YourDomainName.com)
  • You’ll be able to login to your WordPress admin dashboard by going to YourDomainName.com/wp-admin

From the left menu, choose Settings > General.

This takes you to the General Settings. Here you can, among other items, pick a site title, add a tagline, set up some basic formatting (date and time) and add an email address.

Site title and tagline

How to set up HTTPS (Install SSL Certificate)

Next, make sure your WordPress site is configured for the address to use HTTPS.

This allows the SSL certificate that came with your hosting subscription to work properly. Don’t worry if you have no idea what this means. It just means that your site will be secure and hackers won’t be stealing important info.

This should be done automatically, but if not, change the http to https in the WordPress and Site Address boxes.

WordPress address and site address

All you need to do in WordPress is go change your Settings so your site loads with HTTP (instead of HTTP).

Navigate to Settings > General, and below the Tagline, change the following:

  • WordPress Address (URL) – update http to https
  • Site Address (URL) – update http to https

Click on the “Saves changes” button at the bottom of the page to save your new settings.

TIP: As part of your Bluehost plan you will receive an SSL certificate. Short for Secure Sockets Layer, SSL is a security protocol that ensures any data shared between a web server and browser remains encrypted or private.

Ultimately, it keeps sensitive data like usernames, passwords and credit card information from hackers and thieves. Always make sure your site SSL certificate is up to date.

Easy enough, right. Now onto your WooCommerce store.

Step #3: Install and Activate WooCommerce

Now we get to the really good stuff. Are you starting to get pumped? Is your heart beating slightly faster? Are visions of eCommerce riches floating before you?

Head back to the WordPress dashboard, click the setup wizard prompt near the top of the page welcoming you to WooCommerce.

Run the Setup Wizard

Up comes the WooCommerce setup wizard, which is straightforward and easy to use (unlike real wizards, which often require you to cast spells and incantations before they’ll work with you).

Click Let’s Go!

Welcome to WooCommerce

If for some reason the WooCommerce plugin isn’t already installed:

  • Go to your WordPress admin dashboard
  • Go to Plugins > Add New
  • Search for “woocommerce” from the search bar on the right-hand side
  • click “Install Now” for the WooCommerce plugin
  • After the plugin installs, the “Install Now” will update to “Activate” Hit that button.
  • Head back to your WordPress admin dashboard
  • Click the “Run the Setup Wizard” button at the top of your dashboard

Create the essential pages of your store

This brings you to the Page Setup tab, where your basic pages get created. They are:

  • Shop: A page dedicated to showcasing and displaying your products.
  • Cart: This is your shopping cart page, where customers can add and remove products, edit their orders, view their cart, and begin the checkout process.
  • Checkout: This is your almighty checkout page, where customers purchase their orders online, and choose their delivery and shipping methods.
  • My Account: Customers who register for an account with your store can use this page to view their past orders, current account details, and other information.
Page setup

Click Continue to have these pages created automatically.

Set up your store location

Next up is your store location setup tab. This is where you’ll add details about:

  • Where your store is based
  • The type of currency your store will use
  • Whether you’ll be charging sales tax
  • Whether you’ll be entering product prices including or excluding tax
Store location setup

This is a quick, but important step.

WooCommerce automatically detects your location using your IP address and then selects the country, currency and tax rate.

The tax rates for your online store might differ based on your store’s needs, but in most cases you’re going to click “Yes, I will be charging sales tax” and “I will enter prices exclusive of tax.”

Remember to confirm your tax settings with an accountant or local authority to better understand your country’s taxation rules. For a more in-depth look into taxes and tax rates, read WooCommerce’s documentation on sales taxes.

For now, click Continue. You can always update this information later (if needed).

Shipping setup

Shipping setup

The next tab is all about Shipping, where you’re asked to add details about your products weight and dimension unit.

With WooCommerce, you can offer physical and digital products to your customers. This means you can sell bobbleheads of yourself AND digital downloads of your senior picture, if you so choose. The world is your oyster.

If your screen looks different than what’s displayed above, it’s because some of these options are only shown in the US and Canada.

If you live in the United States, USPS Shipping can be enabled for your store. Canada Post rates can be pulled in for calculating shipping if you’re based in Canada.

For convenience, I’d recommend clicking the checkbox “Enable WooCommerce Shipping.”

If you’re located outside of these areas, you’ll need to answer if you’ll be shipping goods or not. If you’ll be selling only digital goods, leave this box unchecked. If you’ll be shipping goods, check the box that says “Yes, I will be shipping physical goods to customers.”

Keep in mind that you can always change these settings in the future, if necessary.

Once you’ve completed the shipping setup tab, click Continue.

Selecting your payment method

This will bring you to the Payments tab. Players gotta get paid, and you’re no exception. This page is where you tell WooCommerce which payment methods you’ll accept.

Payments setup

WooCommerce is very flexible in this regard, offering two of the most popular online payment services with PayPal and Stripe. Set your site up for both by clicking the checkboxes and following the setup prompts.

TIP: To get paid, make sure you have separate accounts set up with PayPal and Stripe. WooCommerce allows for the incorporation of the accounts you currently have, but will not set up new accounts for you.

You also have the option to install additional payment methods in the future if the need arises.

When you finish the payment setup, click continue.

And…done!

The WooCommerce setup is complete and it’s time to start filling up those virtual shelves with some real merchandise. You’re just a few moments away from becoming a kingpin of a virtual kingdom.

If you ever need to rerun the setup wizard in the future, you can always find this from your dashboard sidebar. Go to: Help > Setup Wizard and select Setup Wizard.

Step #4: Add Products To Your New Store

Unless your business model involves customers giving you money for free, you’re going to need to get some products in your store.

To get started with this step, select Products > Add Product from the left navigation menu.

Add new products

You will then want to type in a title in the box provided and add some info about the item in the text area just below. Don’t skimp on your product descriptions. You want people to be seriously drooling over your product after they read the description. Sell them! If you’re product is made from the hair of a rare Alpaca, include that!

The page you’re looking at is a standard WordPress content editing page. Let’s take a closer look at each section.

Product page overview

1. Product name

This is exactly what it sounds like. Pick a title that quickly explains your product for your store’s visitors. The product name will typically be used in your URL as well. So if your product name is “purple socks,” WordPress will automatically include this phrase in your URL unless you update it.

2. Product description

This section is where you can enter as much detail as you like about your product. You can add images, create columns, included unique headings, add videos, and additional media types.

3. Product data

Product data

This is the specifics of the item. You can add the price point and taxes, track inventory, or enter shipping parameters like dimensions and cost.

This section also allows you to link your inventory and to show shoppers items other customers may have viewed. You can add attributes such as different product colors or other variations, as well.

Make sure to check the appropriate checkbox to let WordPress know if your product is downloadable or a virtual product (such as a service).

In addition, choose your product type from the dropdown menu in the top left of the product data section:

  • Simple product: Recommended for most physical goods and services.
  • Variable products: For more complex products, such as pants with multiple sizing options.
  • Grouped product: For grouping multiple simple products into one offer.
  • External/affiliate product: Used for linking off-site to another website

Next, let’s cover each tab of the product data section:

  • General: This is where you add your product’s regular price, schedule a sale price, tax status (taxable, shipping only, none), and tax class (standard, reduced rate, zero rate).
  • Inventory: If you’re selling a physical product, WooCommerce asks for your products unique identification code or “SKU”. This is how you’ll manage your stock, determine if the product is in stock, and if the product is meant to be sold individually.
  • Shipping: Here you’ll add the product’s weight, dimensions (length, width, height), and shipping class/costs.
  • Linked Products: If you’d like to include upsells or cross-sells, you do it here.
  • Attributes: Optional, but you can setup custom attributes in this tab. For example, if you’re selling sneakers, you could setup all of the color options here.

Advanced: These are the additional settings. You don’t need to update anything here, as it’s optional.

4. Product short description

Product short description

Similar to your detailed product description in #2, this text gets shown on the product page underneath the product name. This is where you enter a very brief summary of your product, which will show up under the item’s name.

5. Product categories

Product categories

You’ll find this on the right side of the screen. There will be an area that allows you to categorize the item you’re selling. Go ahead and click the + Add New Product Category link to enter a category for the item. This is your item groupings, like shirts, books, toys, etc.

6. Product tags

These function just like normal WordPress tags do. Tags allow you to set extra descriptive words or search terms. For instance, if you’re selling books, you may want to tag novels with fiction or their genre.

7. Product image

This is your main product photo. Make sure to pick a high quality image so customers can see all the fine details.

8. Product gallery

In addition to your main product image, you can add several product images to really show off your product. Take advantage of this option to show several angles, colors, sizes, and overall appeal of your product.

After you complete the above section, click the “Publish” button near the top of the page. Now you’ve successfully added your first product!  

Once you’ve added more products, you’ll be able to to see a list of all of your products on your dashboard:

Product list view

TIP: Descriptions and pictures are everything. Make sure product narratives pop and contain plenty of easily searchable keywords. For pictures, clear and high quality are key to presenting your products in the best way possible.

Starting out, the do-it-yourself route is perfectly fine. As your store grows, consider hiring outside help for both the copy and pics. In the long run, it will end up a nominal investment that rewards you with a very high return.

That wasn’t too bad, was it? After adding a few things you’ll get the hang of it.

Step #5: Choose Your Store’s WordPress Theme

Now we arrive at the step where people can have the most fun, but also deal with the most frustration. It’s time to shape the actual look and feel of your web store. This is where you channel your inner interior decorator.

Up to this point, it’s been set up and staging, but customizing your WordPress site is what separates you from your competitors.

The good news is that WordPress has a lot of theme options. The bad news is that WordPress has a lot of theme options. Lots of options gives you loads of choices, but can also be tremendously overwhelming.

First, let’s go over how to find a WordPress theme.

Bluehost automatically installs the Storefront theme for your website, but you’ll need to customize it to meet your needs.

Click on Appearance > Customize page, which will launch theme customizer where you can change different theme settings.

Customize theme

The default Storefront theme is functional, but you’re better off picking a new theme that was built with WooCommerce in mind. These are typically called eCommerce or WooCommerce-optimized themes.

I’d recommend checking out the eCommerce section over at ThemeForest.

Themeforest ecommerce themes

ThemeForest is the largest directory of premium WordPress themes on the web and a staple of the web developer community. Just within the eCommerce category, they have over 2,700 eCommerce templates to choose from.

If you do purchase a new theme, you’ll need to upload it into WordPress. To do this, go Dashboard > Appearance > Themes. From here, click on Upload to add your new theme.

Upload theme

To customize your theme, click Appearance > Customize from the left navigation panel. This takes you to the customization page, which allows you to tinker with the different settings of your active theme.

TIP: At their core, all ecommerce sites are essentially the same. The basic functions and pages do not deviate much from each other. From a small-time t-shirt seller up to Amazon and the big box retailers, all have the core Shop, Cart, Checkout, and Account setup.

What sets everyone apart is the products they offer and the design of the site. Keep that in mind when choosing your theme, plug-ins and all the little extras. It may be the difference between making a sale or losing a customer.

Should you want to change your theme, simply go back to Appearance > Themes from the navigation panel and select Add New Theme.

What to consider when choosing a WordPress theme

Again, there are lots of themes to choose from, both free and paid versions. To help you choose one that works best for you, here are three basic, but very important points to be mindful of when picking a theme:

  • Keep It SimpleYep, taking it back to the beginning. But it’s not just us. You will hear this time after time. Maintaining a simple framework allows your products to be the star of the show and not the shop itself.People tend to trust a site with less clutter and a simple interface and navigation. That’s pretty important since you want to make it easy for your customers to browse, view and buy your product. Speaking of which…
  • Friendly for Multiple PlatformsEver get frustrated when you look up a website on your mobile device and half the content gets chopped off at the sides. Us too. Your online store needs to be online  wherever and whenever a customer wants to shop.Also referred to as responsive web design, the theme you choose needs to work not only on computers but smartphones and tablets of all shapes and sizes.Always perform your own test when checking out themes to make sure your site will look great on any device.
  • SEO
    Search engine optimization or SEO is one of those buzzy phrases you always hear thrown around when people talk about web traffic, web searches and a lot of other webby things.There’s a good reason for that.The vast majority of traffic on the web is driven by search engines, with Google, Bing, and Yahoo being the largest ones out there. Social media does help too, but it’s more the little push to the search engines’ big shove in aiming traffic to your site.Make sure your WordPress theme is optimized for SEO, otherwise your page views will be far below where they should be.

Above all else, pick a theme that best represents you and the products you are selling.

As mentioned earlier, WordPress has a lot to choose from, so finding the right fit, with all the key ingredients to ensure a successful web store will take a little time.

That time is well spent when you find that perfect mix and create a site that you are proud of and your customers’ trust and want to use.

Step #6: Add WooCommerce Extensions and WordPress Plugins

Almost there. And if you wanted to, you could even launch your site right this moment. But hang on for just another minute.

There’s a bit more to comb through before you’re truly ready to get out there and sell.

Chances are you’ll want to add a few more elements for your site to be a true multi-dimensional web store.

This is where the power of WordPress plugins and WooCommerce extensions come in.

On the plugin side of the coin, you can add tools that create forms for your customers to communicate with you, social buttons for them to share their experiences at your store and extras to help boost your SEO.

WooCommerce extensions, which are official add-ons approved by WooCommerce,  allow you to easily add more functionality to your ecommerce store in just a few clicks.

You don’t need to have any extensions, but they can make your life a whole lot easier.

Extensions can help you create product sliders, add sale badges, include a delivery date tool for shipping and even make your store multilingual.

Numerous possibilities exist and I’d suggest you start slow and add only those extensions and plugins you think vital to finalize your initial launch.

After that, the sky’s the limit and as your store grows, so too will the needs of you and your customers.

Below is a quick list of the top WooCommerce Extensions and WordPress Plugins.

Top WooCommerce Extensions

WooCommerce extensions

Here are some of the best extensions for WooCommerce.

  • Stitch Labs: Automatically sync inventory, orders, purchasing, and fulfillment into a single operations platform.
  • WooCommerce Google Analytics Pro: Add advanced event tracking and enhanced eCommerce tracking to your WooCommerce site.
  • WooCommerce Bookings: Allow customers to book appointments for services without leaving your site.

  • WooCommerce Subscriptions: Let customers subscribe to your products or services and pay on a weekly, monthly or annual basis.

  • EU VAT Number: Collect VAT numbers at checkout and remove the VAT charge for eligible EU businesses.

  • TaxJar: Automate sales tax, multi-state sales tax calculations, collection, and filing.

  • Square: Accept payments online and in person easily, and sync all payments, items and inventory.
  • WooCommerce Customer / Order CSV Export: Export orders and customers froCm WooCommerce to a CSV file with ease manually or on an automatic schedule.

  • WooCommerce Shipping: Get live rates, discounted labels, tracking numbers without leaving your dashboard.

  • WooCommerce Memberships: Give members access to restricted content or products, for a fee or for free.
  • WooCommerce Product Search: Make sure customers find what they want when they search your site.
  • WooCommerce Checkout Add-Ons: Highlight relevant products, offers, and other upsells during checkout.

  • Google Product Feed: Let customers find you when shopping for products via Google.

  • Smart Coupons: Enhance your coupon options by creating gift certificates, store credits, coupons based on purchases and more.

  • Facebook for WooCommerce: Increase sales by syncing your WooCommerce catalog directly to your business Facebook page.

  • MailChimp for WooCommerce: Easily sync your MailChimp account with WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Extensions are sorted by category, including Marketing, Payment Gateways, Product Type, Shipping, Store Management, Subscriptions, and more. Check out the WooCommerce Free extensions category as well.

Top WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins

In addition to WooCommerce extensions, WordPress plugins offer a tremendous amount of various features and capabilities to further boost your site’s success. Here are some of the best WordPress plugins:

Plugins for Security

  • Sucuri: This plugin is really important as it offers web monitoring as well as malware cleanup services. Installing this WordPress plugin will enhance the security of your website and also block cyber-attacks.
  • Login Lockdown: Helps prevent login attacks to your website’s WordPress admin. It locks the user’s IP address after a certain number of failed login attempts.
  • iThemes Security: Includes 30+ ways to protect your site from hackers.
  • BackupBuddy: Automatically backups your website, so you never need to worry about losing your website again.
  • VaultPress: Creates automatic backups for your website.

Plugins for Forms

  • Contact Form 7: Used on 5+ million WordPress sites, this is the standard for adding contact forms for WordPress.
  • WPForms: Enables you to add a contact form to your WordPress website. It also creates forms based on lead generation, including payment orders and email opt-ins.
  • Gravity Forms: A full featured contact form plugin with a drag and drop interface, advanced notification routing, lead capture system, and other features.

Plugins for Comments

  • Akismet: This is used to combat comment spam.
  • Subscribe to Comments Reloaded: Allows users to subscribe to comments. This will enable users to get email notifications when there is a new comment on a post.

Plugins for Speed and Performance

  • WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache: These plugins improve the speed of your website by doing page and browser caching. These function similarly so choose one, not both.
  • WP Smush: Aids in compressing and optimizing images without reducing their quality.

Plugins for SEO

  • Yoast SEO: More specifically, I’m talking about the “Yoast WooCommerce SEO” plugin. This plugin improves your on-page SEO by helping you add title tags, meta descriptions, sitemaps and much more. For those who don’t know, SEO is the optimization process of ranking a website in search engines like Google. Achieving valuable rankings can help grow your website’s number of visitors and boost sales.
  • Schema: Helps search engines and searchers to understand more about your online store. Adds schema.org structured data markup in recommended JSON-LD format to your site.

Plugins for Analytics

  • Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights: Easily integrate Google Analytics and WordPress, without touching a line of code.
  • Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP): Allows you to connect Google Analytics with WordPress, then view your Google Analytics stats from within your WordPress dashboard.

Plugins for Marketing

  • OptinMonster: Helps in converting website visitors into customers and subscribers. 
  • Ninja Popups for WordPress: This drag-and-drop visual editor helps you increase email subscribers by allowing you to design and run popups on WordPress.
  • WP-Bitly: Used to automatically generate short URLs for your WordPress posts.
  • Icegram: Lead generation plugin with popups, welcome bar, optins and more.

Plugins for Engagement

  • Social Media Share Buttons | Mashshare: Social media share buttons for nearly all social networks.
  • Social Media Share Buttons & Analytics by GetSocial: Share buttons and analytics, used by small websites and Fortune 500 companies. No coding required.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP): Display a list of related posts on your website.
  • KK Star Ratings: Allows visitors to leave a star rating of your blog post.

Other Plugins

  • Duplicate Post: Copy posts, pages, and custom posts with one click.
  • Use Any Font: Embed any custom font in your website.

If you’re selling services (not products), you don’t really need to install WooCommerce. Instead, I’d suggest making a business website and blog. If you don’t want to use WordPress for your online store, this tutorial will show you how to make an ecommerce store with Shopify. I’ve also compared Shopify vs. WordPress (WooCommerce) and other top website builders.

Sell, Sell, Sell

Well, there you have it. Your very own WooCommerce store.

To recap, here are the steps to start an online store with WooCommerce + WordPress:

  • Step #1: Get a Domain Name, Web Hosting, and SSL Certificate
  • Step #2: Set Up WordPress
  • Step #3: Install and Activate WooCommerce
  • Step #4: Add Products To Your New Store
  • Step #5: Choose Your Store’s WordPress Theme
  • Step #6: Add WooCommerce Extensions and WordPress Plugins

Now what? Did you really think I’d leave you hanging after the setup phase?

Remember when I mentioned that this journey has no middle or end? That once you get it started, there is nowhere to go but forward?

Well here we are.

You’ve got the site. You’ve got the products. Now it’s time to get those sales.

So how do you stand out when it feels like you’re a needle in a stack of needles?

You have to have the sharpest point and shiniest sheen. You’ve got to be the king needle.

In other words, you’ve got to be bold.

We’re going to go with the basics here, but these are tried and true insights to make sure you shine brightest and boldly keep moving forward.

Social Networking

In today’s always on, always connected social world, marketing through social networks is usually the easiest and quickest way to generate traffic.

Whether the quick hitting Twitter, the visual mediums of Instagram or Snapchat, the more buttoned-up LinkedIn, or the Friday casual Facebook, all of these sites are helpful in drawing in customers.

Connecting initially with your known network will help you reach your circle’s extended friends and acquaintances and in turn their friends and acquaintances. Call it the six degrees of separation marketing technique.

Also, don’t forget the power of Facebook Ads. Similar to Google AdWords, you can generate interest and sales from targeted campaigns.

Samples

That’s right. Samples. Free stuff. Swag. Give it out. But be selective about who you give it to.

It’s called influencer marketing, and it can be quite lucrative.

Research the movers and shakers of the internet. People with a bit of influence or bloggers with large followings. Send them some samples of your wares and in turn, they may hit you back with a mention on one of their platforms.

In one case study from Marketing Sherpa, this tactic helped a nutritional food supplier increase their web traffic by over 200% in a four-month period.

Blogging

But I’m a seller, not a writer you say. Why not be both? By adding a blog to your site, you add another layer of content and communication to push information about your store and its products out to the masses.

And you don’t even need to be Hemingway.

A simple FAQ, highlighting a particular product that the storefront description can’t convey or writing a few lines that relate to the lifestyle of your target demo is all it will take.

Your blogging will help infuse your site with free content that in turn helps feed search engines and social media alike.

Content is the glue that builds trust with your customers, and can help increase your web store’s traffic. A consistent content plan is one of the best next steps once your store is up and running.

Email

What? That old dinosaur? It may be an old communication method, relatively speaking, but it’s far from being extinct.

By creating an email list, through past contacts or new ones, you develop a captive audience that you can directly reach via their virtual mailbox. You can’t always guarantee that with social media outlets.

Include an area on your website to collect new visitor emails to add to your list. If you find it tough in the beginning to capture what you want, add a little carrot. A 5% discount or something similar for leaving their contact info will usually do the trick.

There are plenty of other methods to try, but these four will certainly set you off in the right direction.

And don’t get discouraged if you feel your site isn’t taking off as quickly as you hope. Developing good marketing and sales strategies takes time and often several attempts before gaining traction.

Set Your Goals

If you don’t have any, set some.

Little ones or lofty ones, it doesn’t matter. Give yourself something to aim for.

It’s always important to know what you want to do and where you want to go.

Taking your ecommerce site from idea to reality is no different. Goals keep you focused and on track.

  • When do you want to launch your store?
  • How much revenue do you want to generate in the first year?
  • How big do you want to become?

Even if you don’t meet them, your goals will help you measure where you’re at and where you need to be.

Keep It Simple

The internet these days can be a cluttered mess.

Walls of text.

Endless pages of links.

Scrolls and scrolls of pictures that never stop loading.

Sometimes the best way to stand out is to not be the loudest, brightest, or most obvious, but to be simple and clear.

Google

Take a look at Google. Their homepage is a simple word (or sometimes doodle), search bar and a few links filling out the corners. The rest is beautiful whitespace. You can only do a few things on their homepage and they don’t overwhelm you with options.

Another example is Craigslist.

Now you might be saying, “isn’t that an example of a wall of text and page of links?”

Why yes, it is.

However, by combining the two eyesores and making them well organized and easy to read, they’ve created an effective, yet simple design.

Don’t hesitate to check out other sites and take a few ideas from those. If you see something you like, improve upon it and make it your own. In doing so, you’ll give your site its own voice and uniqueness.

Always Move Forward

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This is not a race, sprint, marathon or otherwise.

There is no beginning, middle, and end.

Once you decide to build your ecommerce site, the only way forward, is, well, forward.

You will never reach a state of perfect harmony with your site, and that’s okay. It should always be growing and improving.

The products you sell may evolve.

Customer feedback may alter your particular outlook or improve an onsite function.

Your marketing will change to target new customers, or even reach old ones again.

The point is knowing that you’re never finished and your online store will grow as you do. If Amazon keeps trying to improve, you can assume that you should too.

Don’t aim for finished, because a great site is never done. Always look to be better than the day before.

Conclusion

Actually, this isn’t the conclusion. It’s really the beginning.

You are officially an online entrepreneur with your own online store and a nice little marketing plan to boot.

Remember, make the most of your WordPress and WooCommerce tools. They’re not just there to get you going, but to keep you moving forward.

As you continue to build your business, and both your products and your marketing efforts become more sophisticated, so too will your store. Soon enough, it will gel together in a cohesive and ultimately very successful endeavor.

How to Start an Online Store

Written by Alex Jasin

Originally published November 2, 2017, updated March 7, 2018