Chapter 5: Build Tasks

CHAPTER 5: BUILD TASKS

At long last, we're finally ready to start building your store! This, to me, is the funnest stage of the entire process. I seriously love building stores! I just love the fact that I'm creating something out of thin air. I enjoy seeing the store come together piece by piece to form an end product that's not only going to look good, but also be optimized for customers and for Google. So without further ado, let's learn how to build an eCommerce website!

Note: Everything here in Chapter 5 is fully applicable to those building eCommerce stores. Almost everything also applies to affiliate product stores, but there are a couple sections that don't (I'll make sure to identify which ones don't apply).

Upload Your Products

The first item of business is to insert all of your products into your store. (Yes, I realize you haven't chosen your "theme" yet and don't have a home page or categories yet. But trust me, there's a method to my madness!) 🙂

Let me start off by saying that you typically will NOT want to create products one at a time within your shopping cart software (unless you only have a handful of products). This is extremely time-consuming and monotonous. The fastest and easiest way to insert products into your store is by using what's called a "feed file." This may sound a little complex, but once you understand how a feed file works, you'll see that it's actually quite simple (and yet extremely powerful)!

A feed file is basically just a text file that can be opened and edited with a spreadsheet editor (like Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc) and then uploaded into your store to create your products. Once you become proficient working with feed files, you can shave off probably 75% of the time required to create your product catalog. It is truly that powerful.

Product Feed FileWithin your product feed file, each row represents a unique product and each column represents a different piece of information about that product. Since a large percentage of the data is likely the same from product to product, you can copy most pieces of info down to all products in seconds within a feed file. The only "cells" you'll need to edit manually within your feed file are the pieces of info that are unique for each product (i.e. title, description, price, image URL, etc.). This unique product info is what we made sure to gather in pre-build task #1. Oftentimes, your supplier will provide it within an actual spreadsheet (aka feed file), which makes it really easy to pull into your feed file.

As I said before, learning how to work in a feed file is a bit tricky. But once you have it down, the skill is worth its weight in gold. If it weren't for feed files, we probably wouldn't have created a fraction of the stores we've built in the past decade; feed files literally save you that much time!

Pro's Edge: 5 Crucial Tips for Creating Your Feed File

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Set Up Your Category Structure & Site Navigation

Choosing Your Category Structure

I’ve probably already said this, but I’ll say it again because it’s so important... Focus on optimizing your store for your customers, not for Google. This goes for pretty much everything, but it especially applies to choosing your category structure.

Category StructureSome people (and, ironically, it’s oftentimes the experienced ones) make the mistake of basing their category structure on the keyword phrases they want to focus on getting ranked for. Of course, we’re going to keyword-optimize our category pages (all in good time). But you shouldn’t choose your category structure based on keywords. Remember, Google’s not going to be shopping at your store and buying stuff; humans are! So you should do what’s logical for customers. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to browse the store? What categories and sub-categories would allow you to quickly and easily find what you’re looking for so you can buy it?

Probably the best place to start is to visit the sites of your top-ranking competitors (particularly the more "nichey" ones that are similar to you) and see how they have set up their category structure. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here. They’ve been in the market for a while and have likely experimented with several different approaches before settling on their current category structure. Your best bet very well may be to just follow suit.

How Many Category Levels Should I Have?
Should I Put Products in More than 1 Category?

Pro's Edge: Use 'Product Attributes' to Sell Similar Products

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Pro's Edge: Use 'Product Attributes' to Sell Accessories/Add-Ons

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Okay, take a few minutes now to decide on your category structure and create the categories in your shopping cart's admin panel. Don't worry about adding content to them yet; we'll do that in the next section. For now, just create the categories.

Main Navigation Bar

Now that you’ve chosen your category structure, deciding what to link to in your main navigation bar is easy... just link to your categories! When visitors on your site want to browse your site and see what all products you offer, the main navigation bar is the first place they look. Very rarely (almost never) does it make sense for your main navigation bar to not feature links to your category pages.

With most shopping cart platforms, there’s a simple setting in your admin panel to activate links to your category pages in your main navigation bar (so you don't have to manually create each of the links). Depending on the size and complexity of your category tree, you may also want to activate the option to have each nav bar link show a drop-down menu (upon mouse-over) that lists the sub-categories within that category.

In general, you should NOT link to store policy pages, your blog or any other pages on your site within the main navigation bar. The navigation bar is so named because it's supposed to be for navigating to the product pages. Don't distract customers by overloading your nav bar with links to random policy pages, blog entries or other informational pages.

Sidebar Menu

Most themes have a sidebar menu, at least on most pages of your site (the sidebar menu oftentimes doesn’t appear on product pages). I just want to say a few quick things about the sidebar menu...

The first block of content in the sidebar should almost always be your list of main categories. (Depending on how many sub-categories you have within your main categories and how much vertical space it would take up, you may want to show the sub-categories as well.)

Below the category section, show 1-3 additional blocks of content that will make shopping as easy as possible for your customers (starting with the most useful ones at the top). Here’s a list of sidebar gadgets you may want to show and the scenarios where it makes sense to include them...

  • Shop by price - only if there’s a fairly large spread in pricing
  • Shop by brand - only if you offer more than 1 (or 2) brand(s)
  • Best sellers - only if there are a handful of products that truly do sell well compared to others
  • Sales & specials - only if you are truly running a sale you want to highlight
  • New arrivals - only if your store is likely to have return customers who would actually care which products are new
  • Customer service links - only if you have and actively "man" a toll-free number and/or live chat

A lot of newbies are tempted to show ALL of the sidebar gadgets their shopping cart platform makes available. Don’t do it! Especially with the way websites have been trending over the last couple years, less is more! Keep your site as clean and simple as possible. A cluttered, overwhelming website with dozens of boxes in the sidebar (and header and footer) is distracting to customers and makes your site look dated and unprofessional. As a general rule of thumb, your sidebar should never extend further down the page than the main body of the page.

Use "Prime Real Estate" Wisely

One of the most common rookie mistakes we see people make is using the "prime real estate" on their site to show the wrong things. What do I mean by "prime real estate"? I’m talking about the most looked-at parts of the page... the areas visitors' eyes are naturally drawn to and where they expect to see key information and navigation options. In order of importance, the key areas on any given web page are:

  1. The navigation bar across the top of the page
  2. The left sidebar (from top to bottom)
  3. The main body of the page (from top to bottom)

Sale FunnelMake sure to use the valuable space in your main navigation bar (and the top 2-3 components of your side bar) on things that push visitors through the "sale funnel". Don't distract visitors from doing what you want them to do: BUY STUFF FROM YOU! Links to support and policy pages are a distraction. Links to your blog and recent blog posts are a distraction. Links to your social profile pages are a distraction. Even a box to sign up for your newsletter can be a distraction. Your blog, social pages and newsletter are all tools to drive customers to your site so they’ll buy stuff. Now that they’re here on your site, your goal isn’t to get them to "follow" you, read your blog posts, or opt in to your newsletter. Your goal is to make a sale! So dedicate the prime real estate on your site to only those things that will get them to make a purchase as quickly as possible.

Now, obviously, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have links to all these pages somewhere on your site. That’s what the footer (and perhaps the bottom of the side bar) is for. I just don’t want to see any more sites that have links to their privacy policy, return policy, blog/RSS feed, Twitter page and the like in the main nav bar! Honestly, besides your category pages, the only other pages I’d consider linking to in the main nav bar are pages that specifically lead customers to buy something as quickly as possible (i.e. sales, promotions, special offers, product videos, that kind of thing). If it’s not going to push customers into the sales funnel, don’t put a link to it in your nav bar (or the top of your side bar)!

Optimize Your Store for Customers

This is probably the most important section of Chapter 5 (and maybe the entire training course)! If you skip over or ignore our advice in this section, your store will likely never do all that well. But if you do a good job implementing what we talk about here, you’ll be poised for huge success and profitability.

So, let's review what it means to optimize your store for customers. It really consists of 3 things...

  1. Gain visitors' trust so they feel comfortable buying from you
  2. Make it fast and easy for them to find what they want
  3. Do a good job convincing them to buy it

Gaining visitors' trust is far and away the most important conversion rate factor. Others will say price is #1, but I don't buy it (never have)! Price is important, but if you fail to gain your visitors' trust, I can guarantee you'll struggle to make sales even if you offer the rock-bottom lowest prices. People aren't going to risk buying something from a sketchy-looking store they don't trust just to save a few bucks. (Besides, if your store doesn't impress them right off the bat, they likely won't stay long enough to even notice that you have such great prices!)

Using "Trust Graphics" to Build Visitors' Trust

Building Visitor TrustThe proper use of trust graphics is key to gaining visitors' trust. "Trust graphic" is a phrase that I (unintentionally) coined several years ago when we first started teaching eCommerce. It really just refers to any type of graphic, image, icon or logo on your website that increases visitors' trust. Without overwhelming your visitors, the more trust graphics you can use, the better! The header and footer are prime real estate for the vast majority of your trust graphics, so start there.

Here's a list of the key trust graphics you'll want on your site...

Store Logo - One of the most important visual components of your website is your store's logo. It appears at the very top of every page of your site and represents your store's brand everywhere you market your store online (like social websites). The quality of your store's logo says a lot about your store, and it's generally the first thing a visitor notices (consciously or subconsciously). Because of this, there's a strong correlation between the quality of your logo and how high or low your conversion rate is. The cost of a logo can range anywhere from free (if you design it yourself) to well over a thousand dollars! Since the logo can have such a huge impact on conversion rates and trust, we don't suggest pinching pennies here. Now, we're not suggesting spending over $1,000! With a service such as CrowdSpring you could have an incredible logo created for your website for as little as $199. At CrowdSpring, you can post a project and dozens of designers (and possibly more) will begin designing logos according to your requirements. You give feedback, they make revisions, and you choose the winner. And if you use this link you can get $25 off the published price PLUS a promotional package valued at $99 that will feature your listing on the site for thousands of designers to see. One final thought on logos: Don't get overly caught up on having the "perfect" logo. Yes, you want it to look professional... but there's no reason to stew over every tiny detail for hours, days or weeks. A logo is the type of thing that people will notice if it really sucks but won't pay much attention to as long as it's pretty good.

Toll-Free Number – Along with a professional store logo, a toll-free number is a critical core trust graphic. Nothing says “professional” like proudly displaying a true toll-free phone number your customers can call. And it may surprise you to learn that getting a toll-free number is both easy and inexpensive. In fact, in less than 10 minutes you can set up a toll-free number that costs less than $10/month and can be used for all of your websites! We use and recommend Phone.com.

Live Chat - Who doesn't like live chat? It's like a toll-free number, but you don't have the awkwardness of having to speak to another human being. 🙂 (This is the visitor talking, not me!) Seriously, though, you'll have a fairly even split of visitors in each camp... those who prefer talking to someone on the phone, and those who prefer typing via live chat. There are numerous live chat options available, but our hands-down favorite is Zopim. It's affordable (free for most stores, actually), powerful and integrates seamlessly with Skype (which is super handy).

Free (or Low-Cost) Shipping - Everyone's had the incredibly frustrating experience of thinking they've found a really good deal on a great product only to find out in the last step of the checkout process that shipping is a bazillion dollars. 🙁 That's why online shoppers are so fixated on how much shipping is going to be. If you're going to offer free shipping, free shipping for orders over X amount or fairly low (compared to the competition) flat-rate shipping, you should definitely have a prominent trust graphic highlighting it. Talk about a great way to immediately gain your visitors' trust when they land on your site!

Credit Card and Shipping Company Logos – Another great way to build trust is to use household brand name logos that everyone recognizes! You won't find an adult in the USA who doesn't recognize the Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express logos. Same thing goes for UPS, FedEx and USPS. Displaying any of those that apply is a great way to make the customer feel like your store is legit and trustworthy.

Security Trust Seals – Visitors love seeing graphics that make them feel safe and secure. That's why seals that relate to security are great for your store's conversion rate. Security trust seals can come in the form of paid seals like the 'Hacker-Safe' seal or generic graphics that talk about SSL encryption and safety and security.

Low Price GuaranteeGuarantee Seals - It gives customers a "warm, fuzzy feeling" (which is what trust graphics are all about) when they see a 'Lowest Price Guaranteed' or 'Price Match Guarantee' seal on your site. Do you have to actually offer the very lowest prices online in order to show such a seal? No. Your 'low price guarantee' page can be worded such that you're only promising to match another competitor's price if and when a customer brings it to your attention (which almost never happens) and only in certain situations (which ensures that you'll never lose money). But having such seals on your site instantly builds trust with your visitors.

Over the years, we've had graphic designers create dozens and dozens of trust graphics for the stores we've run. We recently compiled all of them into a single ZIP file, which we're making available for Pro Members in the Pro's Edge box below.

Pro's Edge: Trust Graphics ZIP File Download

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Okay, we've talked quite a bit now about item #1 (building visitors' trust) for making your store customer-friendly. Now let's talk about items #2 (making it easy for customers to find what they want) ad #3 (convincing them to buy it). As we do so, I'm going to be walking you through the process of adding content to your 1) home page, 2) category and sub-category pages and 3) product pages. So we'll be killing two birds with one stone!

Optimizing Your Home Page for Customers

Visitors on your site don’t always arrive on the home page, but they often do. So we’ll start there.

Online shoppers are VERY impatient! If they don’t see what they’re looking for within just a couple/few seconds, they’ll click the 'Back' button and they’re gone! That’s why your home page needs to make it extremely fast and easy for them to find what they’re interested in.

Your home page should have these 4 components (from top to bottom)...

  1. H1 heading tag
  2. Shop by category grid
  3. Best sellers or featured products
  4. Textual content

H1 Heading Tag - Right at the top of your home page, you should have a 1-line heading (this is called the H1 heading tag) that immediately tells visitors they’re on a site that sells what they want. The H1 heading is basically your 1-line "sales pitch" to convince them to stay and take a look around. (We’ll talk about keyword-optimizing the H1 heading later on.)

Shop by Category Grid - Right below your H1 heading, you’ll typically want to have a Shop by Category grid (AKA matrix or table) that shows/links to each of your main categories, each represented by a large product image. This is both pleasing to the eye and gives visitors an obvious place to click and start shopping.

Best Sellers (or Featured Products) - Below the category grid, you will probably want to show a handful of either your best-selling products or several featured products. I say you'll probably want this because it doesn't always make sense to include it. If your supplier tells you that 3 or 4 or 5 products will likely make up the vast majority of your sales, then it very much makes sense to feature them on the home page. On the other hand, if your supplier has indicated that sales will be fairly evenly distributed among all 50 or 75 or 100 products in the catalog, it doesn't make any sense to use valuable real estate on the home page to highlight styles/models that very well will not apply to 80% of shoppers. Just use your brain on this!

Textual Content - At the very bottom of your home page, it’s time for a few paragraphs (at least 500 words, but 1,000 - 3,000 words is preferable) of unique, "hand-written" textual content. Talk about the brands you carry, your outstanding customer service, your selection of products, why customers should buy from you, and so on. Honestly, this text is more for Google than it is for customers; but some customers will read it, so make it good. 😉

Optimizing Your Category Pages for Customers

Each category page is basically like a "mini home page" and basically everything I said above applies to category pages as well... just specific to a particular category of products.

As a general rule, a category should have EITHER sub-categories in it OR products in it, but NOT both. For a category page that contains sub-categories, the "main event" of the page should be a grid/table highlighting each sub-category (including a large representative image for each), just like on the home page. For a category page that contains products, the "main event" of the page should of course be a listing of all the products in that category.

Just like on the home page, each category and sub-category page should have several paragraphs of original textual content. (We'll talk more about this below when we go over optimizing your site for Google.) But again, the text should be towards the bottom of the page (after the sub-category list or the product listings). Remember, the one and only goal of category pages is to get the customer to the product they want to buy as quickly as possible!

Optimizing Your Product Pages for Customers

Optimize Your Product PagesI could write an entire book on this subject! I'll go over the basics here, but a lot of what I want to say is going to be in expandable sections and Pro's Edge boxes. Make sure to read ALL of them.

The product page is "where the rubber meets the road." This is where you need to "convert" casual visitors into paying customers. If you're not familiar with the term conversion rate, I just introduced you to it! Notice the wording I used... you're trying to CONVERT visitors into customers. The better your product pages are, the higher your conversion rate will be (i.e. the more sales you'll make).

When you uploaded your product feed file, you already created all of your product pages. They should be "live" on your site already. But I'm guessing your feed file just had basic product descriptions (likely the exact descriptions your supplier provided to you), right? That's fine... but you don't want to leave them like that long-term. Whether you do it now or whether you "chip away" at it over the next few weeks, you definitely want to replace the generic product descriptions your copied and pasted from the manufacturer's website with original, unique product descriptions.

In the product description, focus on solving the customer's problem or need and addressing the top 3-5 questions or inherent questions or concerns they are bound to have about the product. Don't simply list the product's specs and features (this is typically what the manufacturer's product descriptions look like). People don't buy features; they buy solutions to needs (and wants)! 🙂

Pro's Edge: How to Create High-Converting Product Pages

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Pro's Edge: Advice on Store Template, Color Scheme, Logo & Images

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Optimize Your Store for Google

What Does 'Optimize for Google' Mean?

Making Your Site Google-FriendlyI think I’ve said "we’ll talk about keyword-optimizing later on" about 15 times. Well, the time has finally come. 🙂 Let’s talk about how to keyword-optimize your site to make it Google-friendly so that your site's pages will rank high in Google when shoppers search for keyword phrases related to your product line.

Now, we obviously care about ALL the search engines, not just Google. But I always focus on Google because a) Google is the biggest search engine and will bring you the most free traffic, and b) Google is the most advanced and “pickiest” search engine, so if you do a good job making your site Google-friendly you’ll simultaneously do well in all the other search engines.

Back in Chapter 1, you selected the primary keyword phrase you wanted to target (i.e. try to get ranked for). Now that your store is (mostly) built, it’s time to target it. We do that through keyword optimization. Sound scary? Well, it isn’t. It’s actually really, really simple.

How to Keyword-Optimize a Page

To keyword-optimize a page, just do 3 simple things…

  1. Put the keyword phrase in the page's title tag 1 time
  2. Put the keyword phrase in the H1 heading tag 1 time
  3. ”Sprinkle” the keyword phrase throughout the textual content on the page maybe 2-5 times

That’s really all there is to it! And to think, you’ve been scared of “keyword optimization” all this time! 😀

For now, only worry about keyword-optimizing your home page for the primary keyword phrase you chose. Is this the only page you’re ever going to keyword-optimize? No, of course not. You’ll eventually want to keyword-optimize your category pages and brand pages (if you’re offering 2 or more brands and actually have brand pages) and possibly even a few product pages. But I don’t want you to worry about that yet. For now, let’s just stick to the home page. I’ve found that if you do extensive keyword research and try to keyword-optimize too early in the store build-out process, you inadvertently focus on Google too much and you end up with a store that’s not very customer-friendly (which should always be top priority).

Be careful not to over-optimize your pages! Google doesn’t take kindly to “keyword stuffing.” Going overboard can get you penalized by Google. Just be natural. Write all your content with only your customers in mind firstthen read through it and see how many times you’ve included the keyword phrase (without even thinking about it). Chances are, it will be properly keyword-optimized naturally (or very close to it). At most, you’ll probably just need to work in 1 or 2 additional instances of the keyword phrase.

Pro's Edge: Demo on Keyword-Optimizing Your Home Page

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Unique Content is King

Quote by BillSome of you who have experience with Internet marketing are probably familiar with the phrase ”Content is King!” Basically, it’s just saying that content matters A LOT to Google. Having lots of original, well-written textual content a) shows Google that your site is worth indexing, and b) improves your site’s Google "Quality Score", which allows you to hang onto the authority your site’s going to earn through backlinks you get (we'll get into all of this in Phase 3). For now, suffice it to say that it’s important for each page on your site to have a decent amount (at least 200-300 words, but 500+ is preferable) of unique textual content.

Think about this... Why would Google even index — let alone give good rankings to — a page that is 100% copied and pasted from another site on the web?!! Answer: It wouldn’t! Your content needs to be original and unique… “hand-written” content that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the web. Don’t copy and paste from other sites (including your supplier’s site or the manufacturer’s site). This is called duplicate content, and Google basically ignores it. And never use spinning software (i.e. software that goes through and replaces a bunch of words and word phrases with synonyms and phrases that mean the same thing but use different wording) to generate "spun content." That’s a big no-no that will get your site penalized. You also don’t want any pages that have little or no content on them (i.e. "thin content")... they drag down your Quality Score and hurt your site’s ability to rank well.

Set Your Prices and Shipping Options

Important Note: This section as well as the next section are only applicable to eCommerce store owners. If you're building an affiliate product store, go ahead and skip down to the final section here in Chapter 5.

Introduction

Although not nearly as important a factor as visitor trust is, the competitiveness of your products' prices is also a very important conversion rate factor. As I’ve said before, you don’t need to be the cheapest online for your products, but your pricing does need to be in line with the pricing on the top 3-5 specialty shops in your niche.

75% of the Time…

If (and this is the case probably 75% of the time)…

  • your supplier enforces MAP pricing,
  • you’ll still make decent margins if you offer free shipping, and
  • most/all of your competitors are pricing their products at MAP and offering free shipping

... then setting your prices and shipping policy is a piece of cake: price your products at MAP and offer free shipping. Done. 🙂

The Other 25% of the Time…

Back in Chapter 3, you already did a profit margin analysis on a sampling of your products (3-4 low-end products, 3-4 mid-range products and 3-4 high-end products). Now you’re basically just going to go through the exact same process for the rest of your products and choose the total delivered retail price you’re going to charge for each product.

Jump back to that section in Chapter 3 and complete a profit margin analysis for ALL of your products now. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and proceed...

Jeopardy music is now playing in the background...

Done? Okay, so from your profit margin analysis spreadsheet, you’ve now determined the total delivered retail price for each product (i.e. the total you’re going to charge customers). So the only remaining question is: how much of that total is going to be product price and how much of it (if any) is going to be for shipping? See the Pro's Edge box below for a lengthy discussion on that.

Pro's Edge: How Much (if Any) Should I Charge For Shipping?

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Set Up Payment and Checkout Settings

Important Note: This section is only applicable to eCommerce store owners. If you're building an affiliate product store, go ahead and skip down to the final section now.

You’re basically done building your store. Doesn't it feel good? Well, it will feel even better when your store is actually capable of receiving payments from customers! Let’s take care of that little detail, shall we? 😉

Accepting Payments from Customers

Every store should accept PayPal. If you don’t already have a (business) PayPal account, go create one now. It’s free (as in no monthly fee), and it’s a must-have for every store.

Accept Credit Cards On-SiteBut you can’t stop there! Offering only PayPal looks very amateur and unprofessional. A lot of online shoppers don’t have a PayPal account and, even though you actually don’t need a PayPal account to check out via PayPal, A LOT of shoppers don’t realize it. And some shoppers just don’t like PayPal for one reason or another. Even though it’s perfectly secure (maybe even safer!), some people are uncomfortable with how they actually leave the retail site, go make payment at PayPal.com, and then they’re sent back to the retail site afterwards.

Accepting credit cards ON-SITE (i.e. without the customer ever leaving your site) will greatly increase your store’s conversion rate. Not only will you capture sales you wouldn’t have gotten had you only offered PayPal, but it will build your visitors’ trust and boost your store’s overall conversion rate substantially (as much as 200%)!

Durango Merchant ServicesA few years ago (after trying out several providers), we discovered an amazing merchant account provider called Durango Merchant Services. They offer great rates and have been a dream to work with. No application fee, no long-term contract, no early termination fee... none of that garbage. And they’ll allow you to use a single merchant account for all of your stores. Your total monthly cost to have a merchant account (making it possible to accept credit card payments on-site) is going to be right around $30. If having a merchant account results in getting just 1 additional sale per month (which it will if you’re getting any traffic at all!), it’s a no-brainer. Apply here if you haven’t already done so.

Note to non-US members. If you’re a Canadian, Durango can set you up with the same great terms and rates Americans get. Click here to sign up. If you live in some other country, check out our recommendations here.

Do I Need to Purchase an SSL Certificate?

Set Up Sales Tax

The dreaded word: TAXES! Don’t worry, it’s not that bad. 😉

As far as I understand it at the time of writing this (and please recognize that I'm not a CPA/attorney and I'm not giving you official tax or legal advice), here in the USA you only need to collect sales tax on orders from customers in your (business') state. So you’re not going to need to charge (or remit) sales tax for orders in 49 out of the 50 states. For orders placed by customers in your state, you have 2 choices...

  1. In your cart’s admin panel, set it up so customers in your state are charged the appicable sales tax percentage (very easy to do), or
  2. Don’t charge sales tax on any orders (including those in your state) and just pay your state the sales tax due for orders placed by customers in your state (eating the cost yourself).

Typically, we go for option 1 (so we don’t lose any of our profit margin) since people are getting more used to being charged sales tax for online purchases (because of mega-stores like Walmart, Target, BestBuy, etc. that have a "physical presence" in every state and therefore have to charge sales tax on all online purchases).

Other Checkout Issues

Before I wrap this up, I just want to mention a couple other checkout-related issues. First, you should always give customers the option to complete checkout as a guest or to create an account. Many online shoppers prefer not to create accounts at random sites (such as yours) all over the web, especially for one-time purchases. Forcing customers to create an account at your store will scare off customers and bring down your conversion rate.

Along the same lines, you typically want to give customers the option to subscribe to your newsletter rather than forcing it upon them. People hate spam, and they might run if they see that they’re being forced to subscribe to your newsletter. (We’ll talk more about newsletters in Chapter 6.)

Finally, unless you’re actively using the coupon/promo code functionality (i.e. posting promo codes on social networking sites, in your newsletter, in sales banners, on your blog, etc. - we’ll talk about all this in Phase 3), I recommend that you HIDE the coupon/promo code field on the checkout page. Most people won’t even notice it, but some will notice it and say to themselves, "Hey, I don’t have a promo code... I’m not getting as good of a deal as I could be", which may cause them to back out of the purchase.

Pro's Edge: Templates for Policy & Store Info Pages

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Are You Ready to Launch Your Store?

Your store’s grand opening is just moments away! Are you pumped? I sure hope so! (I’m pumped for you just knowing you’re reading this.) 😀

Before you move on to Chapter 6 and officially launch your store, I want to quickly review everything you should have accomplished here in Chapter 5 just to make 100% sure you're ready for that exciting step! Use this final review checklist to make sure you’re good to go...

Store Buildout Checklist

Store Buildout Checklist1. Complete all 5 pre-build tasks we covered in Chapter 4 (i.e. assemble product info, register a domain name, choose a shopping cart platform, “link” your domain to your cart, and set up payment processing).

2. Upload all of your products (preferably with unique product descriptions).

3. Create your main category pages and sub-category pages (if any), and link to the main categories in your site's main navigation bar.

4. Use the "prime real estate" on your site (header, main navigation bar and left sidebar) for leading visitors into the "sales funnel.” Put links to information and store policy pages in the footer.

5. Keyword-optimize your site's home page for the main keyword phrase you're targeting.

6. Create compelling product pages with sufficient product descriptions that address customers' problems and needs.

7. Make sure all the key conversion rate factors are in place...

  • Professional store logo and trust graphics
  • Toll-free number (eCommerce stores only)
  • Live chat (eCommerce stores only)
  • Trust graphics in the header, in the footer, on product pages & on checkout pages

8. Make sure every page on your site has a unique title tag.

9. Make sure every page on your site has unique textual content (at least your home page, category pages & brand pages - it's okay if you're still "chipping away" at making product descriptions unique).

10. Complete your competitive pricing analysis and update all of your products' prices (eCommerce stores only) and set up your shipping option(s).

11. Set up a PayPal Standard account and a merchant account (we recommend Durango), integrate them with your store, and complete a couple test transactions to ensure checkout works perfectly (eCommerce stores only).

12. Configure your checkout options (guest checkout, newsletter opt-in, coupon code field, etc.).

Done with everything? Awesome! You're ready to launch your store and open up for business. Proceed to Chapter 6 now!