I was recently doing some site optimization work for a client and find that there were a few setup steps with Pingdom that weren’t 100% clear.

Today we’re going to take a look at how you set up Pingdom to monitor your WordPress or WooCommerce site.

It’s fairly well understood that for most businesses an online store is a good thing. It will usually increase your reach into places you can’t reach from retail locations.

My latest column for Practical eCommerce talks about some tips for those online only stores so that they can make better connections offline.

Many brick-and-mortar stores have found success in migrating online. But the trend has reversed somewhat. Pure-play ecommerce companies are finding success with physical stores. We addressed the topic last month, in “Ecommerce Merchants Embrace Brick-and-mortar.” We cited the example of Warby Parker, which found that having locations for customers to try on glasses led to higher conversions.

Read Offline Sales Tips for Online Merchants

Today we’re going to look at a membership site called Geeks Life. As always we’re looking for three things.

  1. Recent decent design
  2. Regular content for users
  3. Clear call to action

Geeks life does a good job on all points. Watch the video to hear the full commentary.

Today we’re going to look at The Willoughby Book Club.

As always we’re looking for three things:

  1. Reasonably recent design
  2. Content that engages readers
  3. Clear call to action

First off, the slider is not great. Not only does it do something funny on an iPad Pro, people don’t look at sliders. Something like 98% of people never look at the slider. Out of the 2% remaining 99% look at the first slide.

Sliders are only useful for telling your boss that you have all 5 of their ideas on the homepage.

After that, the design is decent. Minimal and nothing fancy which is far preferable to a design that is fancy and ugly or outdated.

For content, they really don’t have much. A bunch of text lists and stuff but nothing that’s going to get me coming back to see what’s up with the book club. I’d love to see them showing off their bundles on the site so that I see what I’m missing because I’m not subscribed. Maybe even do a reading each month for one of the books and do it right on Youtube?

Finally, call to action? Well they have a bunch so it’s not super clear the exact action I should be taking right off the bat. If this was my client I’d have them make one single call to action that linked to some video or maybe an email series that explained the club.

Overall, the site isn’t bad, but it could be refined to be a much more effective sales tool for them.

Today we’re going to do a site teardown. I really just randomly searched for a site in a field where I know there are a bunch of poor sites so I have no idea who the coach is that we’re looking at.

On every site teardown we’re going to be looking for a few things:

  1. Reasonably recent design
  2. Content that engages readers
  3. Clear call to action

Today we’re going to look at Natalie Bell.

First off, the design is clearly dated. I always find this discouraging because it’s so easy to get a decent design that’s current. Head over to StudioPress or Array Themes or The Theme Foundry and purchase a recent design.

Heck even head over to WordPress.org and get a free theme that looks decent. It’s not hard to get a credibility upgrade by having a decent design.

Second, content to engage readers. Looking at Natalie’s homepage we can see that she was on the Today Show. I’m sure that this gave her a boost in credibility, but that’s really the only content we have from her. If we look at her blog, the most recent post was from late 2017 and then it quickly heads back to 2013.

Nor do I see any social media profiles like Instagram that might be driving traffic to her coaching programs.

If you want to get your membership site found, you need some content that is going to be compelling.

Finally, call to action. If we look at Natalie’s homepage, we don’t see any clear and obvious CTA’s. Her contact link in the top navigation is the same as everything else. Her “book here” or really any of her links that are CTA’s look exactly the same as the rest of the content.

Further, there are no less than 9 actions she gives you the opportunity to take right on the homepage. Keep your CTA to one main thing, that’s it. The rest of the stuff needs to not even get in the face of anyone.

Recommendations for Natalie Bell

  1. Update the design
  2. Start getting some content out there that is engaging

– If you’re not sure how to do this I recommend reading 10x Marketing
3. Get a single clear main call to action on the top of the page

If you’ve got someone at your online store already making a purchase, they already trust you. That means you can use this time to provide more value to them and increase your sales.

I wrote more about this in my recent article for Practical eCommerce.

Increasing sales from shoppers that are in the process of buying is easier than recruiting new customers. In-process shoppers have jumped the trust barrier.
In this post, I’ll address five ways to increase sales from consumers who have added items to a WooCommerce shopping cart.

Read the whole article.

If you’re not familiar with what GDPR is, then in short it’s a strengthening of the EU rules around data privacy for consumers. We’ve written a longer piece on it as well though no blog post can cover the details extensively enough. You need to consult your legal council to see if you have any extra steps to become compliant with GDPR.

For most store owners, on top of any internal process changes that need to happen, you need to make sure that the software you use will be GDPR compliant. I was wondering that exactly for my store and my clients so I reached out to a number of the top eCommerce platforms on WordPress to understand what their plan was when it came to GDPR compliance.

WooCommerce and GDPR

WooCommerce has written an overview of what they’re planning for GDPR already. While they have tightened up some of their language and settings to be compliant with GDPR the main push is to contribute back to WordPress core.

By focusing on WordPress Core work, they are helping to make sure that every plugin available for WordPress has the opportunity to be GDPR compliant.

While the new WordPress Core features still need to be approved, currently the WooCommerce team has developed an admin tool to manage requests for personal data export. This includes a method to verify a user request does come from the user you expect. Currently it uses a system similar to the password reset process that WordPress already uses.

Without this verification step, it would be trivial to spoof an email and request data which would then be sent to a bad actor. That nefarious person would then have all the personal data that your site had on one of your customers.

WordPress and GDPR

On top of the management system for requests, there are a number of things being worked on in WordPress Core to bring it into proper compliance with GDPR. Core is working on privacy policy generators, dealing with opt-ins for comment cookies, and helper functions so you can anonymize data.

WP eCommerce and GDPR

I reached out to Justin Sainton, one of the co-owners of WP eCommerce, and they’re watching core currently. Once the core features are ready, they’ll integrate them into WP eCommerce.

Given that you have 90 days to accommodate a request for information, that should leave them plenty of time to integrate with the core of WP eCommerce so that it is fully complaint with GDPR.

Sandhills Development and GDPR

Sandhills Development runs a very popular set of plugins for WordPress stores which include Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, and AffiliateWP. Talking with them, they’re planning on taking the same tack as WP eCommerce. They’re waiting to see what WordPress Core does and then they’ll integrate with the prebuilt features in WordPress Core to become compliant with GDPR.

In fact, talking to a number of other plugin developers, most of them were focusing on working with the WordPress Core features and using them when they become stable enough to use. Many of them are working on the features to ensure that they are something that can be used easily with their eCommerce platform.

So, if you’re using a WordPress based eCommerce solution and looking at GDPR wondering what will be done, you should be in good hands on the software side. All of the vendors I reached out had developer time set aside to ensure that they were fully compliant in time for GDPR.

You will still have to talk to your legal council to see what other parts of GDPR apply to your business. You will most certainly need to be familiar with the data breach protocol and disclose any data theft to the proper authorities in the EU.

Photo by: clement127

One of the first choices you need to make when you’re starting a membership site is, which membership plugin do you use? There are lots of options out there, but after dealing with membership sites and clients for years I only every recommend three outside of the one I wrote.

Let’s talk about them in no particular order.

Restrict Content Pro

Restrict Content Pro is actually my favourite membership plugin to work with. I’ve known the founder of the plugin for years so maybe that’s part of it, but the code is easy to read and use. There have been a number of times when I’ve needed to accomplish something for a client and in communication with the developers had an answer and change to the core code for the next version done in under an hour so we can achieve the features we want.

On top of that, the customer support is awesome. I can’t think of a better company than Pippin’s for providing amazing customer support. You’re in good hands long term here.

Restrict Content Pro has just enough features built into the core plugin to get deal with any standards membership site. For some of the extra features you may want, there is a great selection of official add-ons and a number of 3rd party add-ons as well.

I’ve already mentioned this, but I’ll do it again. As a developer is very easy to dig in and create any custom functionality that my clients need as well.

WooCommerce and WooCommerce Memberships

WooCommerce and WooCommerce Memberships is probably the biggest player on the market. I get the most requests for this setup because that’s what clients feel they need already.

If you want to sell recurring memberships you’ll need to also purchase WooCommerce Subscriptions.

This plugin has some more complexity to it than RCP does but I don’t regularly get clients emailing me asking how the plugin works again because the documentation is decent.

The code under the hood is readable and has many options to customize it and WooCommerce.

Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce

I wrote Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce because at the time every single membership plugin for WooCommerce was terrible. They had 12 settings screens and 82 steps you needed to take to get anything setup.

It was a nightmare and my clients always had questions and updates needed and never understood how to use the plugin I had provided to them. This wasn’t good for my clients or for me.

I wrote Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce to be easy. Purchase the plugin, turn it on and then go to the content you want to restrict and tell the plugin which product or subscription is required to have access to that content.

There are no other settings.

There is no prorating of accounts. It doesn’t figure out upgrades or anything like that. It just only shows content to users that have purchased the product specified.

Just like WooCommerce Memberships, if you want to sell recurring access you’ll need WooCommerce Subscriptions.

Paid Memberships Pro

Paid Memberships Pro is another good option for your membership needs. They have good support and a wealth of extensions available when you’re a paying member.

From the developer perspective, I find the code in Paid Memberships Pro a bit more frustrating than the code in Restrict Content Pro or WooCommerce Memberships. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just a step or two below my ideal quality.

Now this doesn’t mean that it’s going to break on you. Nor does it mean that they wrote bad code, I just always end up spending more time working around what Paid Memberships Pro does when I’m trying to extend it than I do with other options.

All the others???

So there are lots of membership plugins I haven’t even mentioned. I’ve worked with most of them and in short, they’re usually a pain. Some try to keep their code secure by doing fancy stuff to make it unreadable. That just makes my life harder as a developer since I have to email support to do anything with the plugin that’s not clicking settings in the admin area.

Others have terrible support that might get back to you 2 weeks after

So how do I decide on a membership plugin?

So, how do you decide exactly which option you should be using. The first place to start is to write down a list of your “must have” features. Then, you can probably trim a few of your must haves, because most people make that list way to long to start.

Then it’s time to look at which of the options solve most of those problems.

If you’re less technically savvy or want something without all the extra options, then look at my plugin Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce.

If you have a bunch of access options required, then maybe WooCommerce Memberships is right for you.

If you feel like the options in WooCommerce are just too much, then look at a dedicated memberships solution like RCP or PMPPro. I lean towards RCP here, but if PMPPRo solves more problems out of the box for you then it’s the right choice.

If you’ve got any specific questions about your membership needs, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Today we’re going to look at restricting downloads to members inside WooCommerce. I’m going to assume you’ve got some members and want to provide them with downloadable resources but you don’t want everyone to be able to download them.

We’re going to need three plugins to make this easy.

First, WooCommerce is installed. We’ll use WooCommerce to sell our products and subscriptions.

Second, Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce. This is a plugin I wrote and is the simplest way to build a membership site on WooCommerce.

Third, you’ll need the WooCommerce Amazon S3 plugin. We’ll host our files on Amazon S3. This will secure them for us and get us out of the WordPress uploads folder which is hard to secure. Using S3 will also mean that we don’t have to worry about crushing our server if all our members download files at the same time. That means you’ll also need an S3 Account. Sign up for one now. They’re very inexpensive for hosting your files.

If you don’t have an S3 account, pause now and create one because I’m going to start assuming that you have our account created.

You should also have your product or subscription setup already in WooCommerce.

Setup WECR

Now, let’s start by adding a ‘members content’ page. Here is where we’ll host the links for our downloadable content for members.

We’ll need to restrict access to the page to people that have purchased our products or are valid subscribers. Click on the “restrict content” box on the right side of the page and select the products that you want members to purchase to see the content on this page.

If you want this page to show on the Account Page for your members, then leave the “remove content from My Account” checkbox empty. You might do this as a single spot that members can go to find the links to their custom content.

Now click the publish/save button on your page to make sure that your content is live where members can view it.

Setup S3 Plugin

Our next step is to setup the plugin that interfaces with S3. Open up your Amazon account in one tab of your browser and the S3 configuration settings in another.

You can find the settings under the WooCommerce Menu on your site.

We have four fields/options here. The first two are your access keys. They’re long numbers that Amazon generates for you so that you can securely access your S3 bucket without others being able to access it. We’ll go over how to get those in a second.

Third is the option to serve HTTPS or secure files. You should check this so that you only serve files over HTTPS.

Finally, you’ll need to set the URL valid period for the download links that are built by the S3 plugin. It’s set in minutes. I usually use set it for 1000 minutes which means that a URL is valid for just over half a day. If you’re having issues with people sharing the links generated for your content, change this to a lower limit so that the links don’t live as long.

Now, let’s get our two keys from our S3 account.

You can find a link to the documentation for setting up your S3 keys in the here.

Setting up the URLs for your site

Now that we’re setup with our S3 account, we’re ready to set up our custom download URLs. Go to the members page you created and create a link in the WordPress editor.

In the link field, add the shortcode that the WooCommerce S3 plugin uses.

You’ll need to get the link to the resource and you’ll need to know your bucket name.

You can get the link to your resource by going to your S3 account, navigating into your bucket and then clicking on the resource you want. On the right side you’ll see a popup. Here you need to click “copy path”. That will put the path to the file inside your bucket in your clipboard.

Now got to your shortcode. There are two parameters we need to add for it to work. First, we need to add our bucket name. Second we’ll need to link to the resource we just copied.

You can see that my bucket name is sfnmembersscreencasts. The resource path is becoming-master.pdf which links to a book that I provide to members on my site at curtismchale.ca.

The shortcode we just setup will generate the URL we want for our download.

That’s it, we now have a download URL for members that is only accessible on a single page that is restricted to members.

If you have other questions about building membership sites, leave a comment to let me know what you’d like me to talk about.

My latest post at Practical eCommerce is up. This one is all about making your reviews awesome.

It is no secret that product reviews can help merchants increase sales. Reviews are proof that others found a product valuable, or not.

WooCommerce provides the structured data to display rating stars in search results. But product reviews, properly utilized, can do much more. They can greatly increase conversions. In this post, I’ll address four WooCommerce extensions that supercharge product reviews.

Read the rest at Practical eCommerce