Podcast Episode

460 – Prepare Your Website For Black Friday Sales


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

WPHelpful  is a WordPress plugin that helps your users provide feedback for all the pages they visit. It helps you learn if your posts are actually helpful to your visitors.

Prepare Your Website For Black Friday Sales

I know it’s still September, but we have to get ready for the online craziness that is Black Friday.

Here are some of the things that you can do two months out from the big day!

  • Find a secure payment gateway like Stripe Payment Gateway
  • Make sure your site is secured with an SSL Certificate
  • Use LoadImpact to make sure your site can handle all the traffic
  • Test all your contact points on your site, contact forms, phone numbers, etc
  • and more!

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

I know we are only in September, but Black Friday is coming, Yes, Black Friday, Cyber Monday – all of those things are happening, and they are coming soon. And so today we are going to talk about different ways to prepare our website for an ecommerce sale coming up at the end of November. Right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast Episode Number 460. Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler, and I’m excited to be here with you this week just like I am every single week.

I love talking about WordPress. And I hope that you found the last few weeks of the podcast very – kind of informational or exciting if you want to dive into the building a theme section of WordPress. Like if you want to get into that space. I hope that was very helpful. If you haven’t heard the last episode – Episode 459, it was talking about some of the future enhancements and some of the things that I wanted to change or customize, things that weren’t quite right.

It turned out last week when I published the episode it didn’t quite go out. I posted the wrong URL for the MP3 file. And so, it showed up in Your Podcast Directory, but it couldn’t actually download. If that was the case and you want to hear some of those last-minute things that I talked about then I would recommend checking that out. So, going back over and downloading 459 again. All right, so let’s go ahead and get into the announcements. There’s a few things that happened this week.

And they weren’t just all here at Hartzler headquarters. Like setting up my new Broadcaster Pro. I’ve had this for the last couple of months, but I swapped out a bracket here for my arm for my microphone. And so that works a lot better. And now I’ve got it directly connected via USBC to my Mac. And so, I can use this microphone as an input for my Mac for anything. So, if I wanted to do some sort of call or whatever, it’s just kind of fun. And the technology piece is cool. I think this is why I like WordPress too just because of all the tech things.

I just really, really enjoy and really, really like. So, that’s one of the things that happened this past week. The other thing that you may have heard about is Salesforce Ventures invested $300 million in Automatic. And that is at a $3 billion valuation. So, there’s a couple links that I’ve shared in the show notes to get more details on that. But basically, Automatic has joined – or has gotten more funding and has a $3 billion valuation which is crazy, crazy high. So, that is the first thing that I want to share.

The second thing is that WordPress 5.3 beta one is now available. It’s still in development, and it’s not recommended to run on any live server. But you can test it a couple ways. You can download the beta directly from WordPress.org or you can use the WordPress beta tester plug in. And then you can choose the Bleeding Edge Nightlies Option inside of the plug in setting itself. And some of the things that are coming. It’s going to be slated for November 12, so after Word Camp U.S.

So, that’s kind of the release timeframe. But they’ve got a bunch of new features and improvements to the block editor which is really nice. There’s a lot of things coming. There’s that new theme we talked about a couple of weeks ago – 2020. There are more enhancements for admin interfaces. There are more things for developers with date and time component fixes. There’s PHP 7.4 compatibility and just tons and tons of stuff. I’ve linked out to the show notes – or in the show notes is the link to the WordPress.org news site, and you can see all of the details there that’s happening in WordPress 5.3 beta one.

And then one other thing that was shown on WP Tavern about this release is that there is a new admin email verification screen that is going to be set up in WordPress 5.3. It’s going to be shown every six months after an admin has logged in. So, it was a feature that was proposed like seven months ago in a ticket, and it is basically trying to help the site health component of improvements. And so basically what it is, is it is important because it allows people to get notifications and make sure that they don’t have a defunct admin email address on there.

And so, when they log in it says, “Oh, is your email address admin@admin.com?” Like no, you’re not going to get any important notifications from your website from there. So, that gives you the option to verify and you can – so, you can just say, “Yes, this email is correct.” Or you can update it. It’s kind of when you log into Google sometimes and it’s like, “Here are the back up codes that I have for you. Or here’s the backup information in case you get locked out of your account. Are these still active and you’re still” – I don’t know if it happens every six months or however often that happens.

But every once in a while, you log in and it just makes you verify the information you already have on your site. And so that is one thing to check out, and that will be in the beta. And it’s also part of 5.3 when it comes out in November. All right, that is the news for the week. The other thing that I want to share with you as always is a plug in that I want to talk about. And the plug in is actually called WP Helpful. And this one is kind of cool. It’s a brand-new plug in. I find these brand-new plug ins. And I think they’re just helpful and useful to point out because you might have never known this before.

But this is a plug in that allows your users to provide feedback on all the pages that they visit. It helps you if your posts are actually helpful. So, you can pick what page or posts these go on. And it basically adds a little widget at the bottom. It says, “Was this lesson helpful? Yes or no?” And then you click on either one of those. And then, “How helpful was it?” And then it can do either stars or it can be smiley faces. There’s a free version, and you can just use the WP Helpful short code to put the emoji rating widget somewhere.

But there’s also a Pro version that has a lot of extra features. So, you can do multiple templates. So, you can do stars or emojis or just a simple yes or no. You can customize everything. Like you can choose the wording and the colors and whatnot. And so, you can find out more on the WordPress Repository for searching WP Helpful or there’s also a website at wphelpful.com. And so hopefully this is something that is wphelpful for you. All right, moving right along to the show today.

We’re going to talk all about different ways to prepare your ecommerce site for November. And maybe you don’t have an ecommerce site yet. Maybe you are working on that. Maybe there are some things that you are trying to just get ready. Some other things that you haven’t thought about as we’re getting closer. I mean closer in the fact that we are two months away. You should definitely be able to set up an entire ecommerce store from scratch in two months depending on how many products.

If you’ve got hundreds and thousands of products, that might take a little bit more than two months. But if you are wanting to start selling your sale – if you are wanting to promote products that you sell, already sell, or create new products or maybe have an online course – whatever that may be. This is how we are going to prepare our site and get it ready for an ecommerce sale come this holiday season. So, the first thing you want to install WooCommerce or any ecommerce plug in per se. But I’m going to have a bias towards WooCommerce.

It’s a free plug in. It’s built right on WordPress. And you can just install it from the WordPress Repository. And it’s going to look good right out of the box. As long as your theme is using proper coding standards, it’s going to inherit all the CSS properly. It’s going to look just like the rest of your website. And it is going to work rock solid. You also need to decide on a payment gateway. This is going to be different based on different geographical regions, where you live in the United States.

Some regions only have a couple options. In the United States we have tons of options. You can use Stripe or Square. Both of those are very well used plug ins on WooCommerce. They are free plug ins. And you can use those. There’s also PayPal. There’s Authorize.net. There is Amazon Checkout. There’s a new feature for WooCommerce that’s an Amazon Checkout button. They can log in with their Amazon account which is kind of a cool thing.

So, you’ve got to decide what type of payment gateway that you are going to use. Then the next thing and this – I don’t know if we really need to say this in 2019, but I do have to say it is that you need to get an SSL certificate for your website. Most websites and website hosting companies these days are already including that, or they are automatically including that, so you don’t have to worry about it. But you just have to make sure that most payment gateways require an SSL certificate.

And it gives you just another layer of encryption to keep hackers out. And it lets your customers know that you are doing due diligence to keep them safe. If you are not using an SSL certificate, you shouldn’t be selling online. And this is one of those things that I kind of cringe at. You go to somebody’s website, and it doesn’t have that. And it’s like, “I don’t want to put my payment information into this website.” And so that is something to think about as well. Get an SSL certificate.

You also will probably want to use some sort of cache in plug in for the Black Friday, Cyber Monday – especially if you are thinking you are going to get tens of thousands of people coming to your site at one time. Just want to make sure that your caching plug in does not cache the account pages – so the My Account page, the cart page, and the checkout page. Those are three in WooCommerce specifically that you can not cache or otherwise you will get a cached version. And somebody will add something to their cart, and another somebody will add something else to their cart.

And all of a sudden, the carts are mixed. And it is just not a good idea. So, if you use some reputable cache in plug ins – W3 Total Cache. There’s Super Cache. There’s a bunch of them out there. Most of them – WP Rocket is another one. A lot of those will exclude the WooCommerce pages automatically. But if not, there is a how-to section on WooCommerce.com on how to get that set up and running. Another item that you need to think about is stress testing your site, especially if you are using – if you are going to have lots of people on your site at one time.

There is a tool – there’s a link that I created – that I added in the show notes. But basically, this will allow you to prepare your site. It’s a tool called Load Impact. And then you can do all kinds of things with Load Impact. You can use their website. You can run your URL through these. And it’s got free tests. And it’s also got paid tests. But it will show you like, “Oh, if you have 5,000 people using your site at one time,” – or I guess it says it will load 25 virtual users for three minutes.

And then you can see what kind of impact there is on the server. So, if you really want to see – like you really want to stress test it, I think you have to get the paid plan over at Load Compact – Load Impact, sorry. And that will allow you to test run – run multiple tests and make sure everything is working. Now this isn’t something that if you expect a few hundred people to make some purchases, that’s probably not a big deal. It’s more for the sites that are going to get tens of thousands of people coming right at the same time.

Let’s see what else we can do here to get ready. We can optimize our images. There’s a few different plug ins like that. There’s a Smush plug in that will optimize your images, compress them in Lazy Load. So, that plug in will do all those things at one time. So, it basically makes the image smaller. It will only load them when they’re visible on the screen which will make your website load much faster. You’ll want to make sure that you are mobile friendly and ready to go.

There’s a tool – again there’s a link in the show notes for this. You can do a mobile friendly test, and you can see that how well your website behaves on a mobile device because a lot of people may see your ad on Facebook or might be browsing. They’ll come across your page, and they’ll want to check out and purchase right there. Maybe going back to the payment gateway section too that we want to talk about. If you are using the Stripe payment gateway, there’s an option to turn on Apple Pay and Google Pay.

So, if customers are using their phone, they can automatically check out easily with Apple Pay or Google Pay which is pretty handy. Let’s see – as web traffic increases, we want to test all of our contact points. So, we want to make sure that our contact form ours, our phone numbers work, our email addresses work. If you have live chat, you want to make sure that works. You want to know that if you have some sort of online knowledge base, you want to make sure that works.

If there are links to social media, you want to make sure that works. You just want to test all of those contact methods to make sure there’s no random black holes that somebody could submit something somewhere and it never gets to you. So, make sure you check out that. You also want to check out – if you want to do recommended products or if you want to have that as an additional option on your site. If your customers don’t contact your directly, you should still have a way to recommend related products.

And so, there are different plug ins that you can do that inside of WooCommerce. You can add recommended products to specific products. So, if you have product A and you think people might also buy product B, C and D, you can add those in the product details of product A. And from there then those will automatically display at the bottom of a post. And so, you can say, “If you didn’t like this, you may like this.” So, maybe for example of you are selling keyboards, you might have a regular standard keyboard, and then you might want to recommend one that has even more keys, like the number pad or something like that.

That’s something that you can do with related products. You can do – one of the other options that I came across when kind of pulling together resources for this episode was A/B testing your product pages. This is a good and best practice. It makes you be able to make some informed decisions about your design, your copy, and your images. The holidays are not a good time to do this. So, if you wanted to do some A/B testing, you should probably start doing it now. See which page converts better.

And you can run some simple tests just to kind of see what is going on there. You can add some conversion boosters. This is a way that you can add either some sort of popup on the side or a live sale notification plug in so people can see, “Oh, other people are buying this or making purchases or whatnot.” This is a nice way that you can just add visuals on your website that show that other people are in fact making purchases on your site. That is another one. You can do – let’s see, you want to improve your credibility between now and November. Online shopping isn’t like shopping in person where you can wander up and you can talk to somebody.

In online shopping your site is against all the other sites and Amazon and everything else. So, you want to just have social proof or include testimonials or enable ratings and reviews and add security seals, anything that you can do to warm up your customers and show them that you are a trusted and a worthy person to accept payments from. And you are going to deliver on your products and whatnot. That’s going to go a big, long way in November. You want to maybe take some time to update your navigation on your website.

It’s not the time of year where you can expect visitors to shop and take their time browsing. They may look for sales pages or they may just want to look for the clearance section or deals or whatever. So, you want to make sure that you are optimizing, and you are focusing – this could be something that you can plan out, and you can update navigation. And you can set it up, so it is something for the sale week only. And then you can turn back your regular notification when people can browse your website. So, you can do that.

Landing pages, this is a great way to lure some customers in. If a landing page is set for a specific product, you might have a better rate of return. People may – they may purchase more based on the sales page or the specific landing page for a product. You can also add a festive touch if you want. This is something that could provide benefits if you want to add some snow or some special offers that have sort of Black Friday logo or something along those lines.

And maybe you could add some of those pieces. Again, that would be something you could design now and get ready. But you definitely wouldn’t want to launch that until the sales weekend. You could do – you kind of want to start taking into consideration your prices. Online shoppers are going to start comparing prices between you and competition soon, as soon as the holiday shopping crosses their mind. So, probably around early November most people start thinking about holiday and Christmas.

And so, you want to make sure that you’re taking into account these different pricing strategies by other people. So, if you know that other people – and maybe you even plan like how much of a discount you’re going to give on certain products. You can always get that information ready and then display it on your site at a later time. I think with WooCommerce you can actually put in all the sales information, and then you can schedule when your sale is ready to go.

You can say, “I’m ready to – it’s going to go live on X date.” You want to advertise your holiday promotions early. And Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday – those are all deals that – people know those days are coming up. But I would say that you want to start determining these special deals early in November. You want to use promotional tools like Hello bars or time popups to let people know when deals are going to be available.

Having annual events and promotions pinned in your office could help you prepare ahead of time. So, maybe if you know that you have a deadline of November 5 you want to have everything ready on your site. Put that up on your wall that you see it every day, so you are ready for November 5 and ready to start your holiday promotion. You also want to make sure that you have convenient shipping options, and you want to make sure that free shipping – most people are looking for that or some sort of shipping that’s not going to cost and arm and a leg.

Maybe you want to make sure that customers can order – they can have a billing address, and they want to ship their products to somebody else. You want to make sure that is possible. And you want to just simplify the whole decision-making process. So, don’t list out like 32 different shipping options – you know, USPS and Post Office and UPS and all of the different options. Try to condense them so there’s only a handful of choices to make it easy for them to purchase.

Offering gift cards is another option if you have customers that may be interested in buying a gift card. I think that would be a worthy investment of time and effort because you are getting money now. And then customers will pay for things later. So, that is a way that you can do that through WooCommerce as well. A couple more things left on my list here is to blog regularly, build hype on social, and stay in touch by email. All of these are pretty self-explanatory. It’s basically continuing to let people know that you are out there. You are blogging regularly.

You are building your hype on social, and you are talking through things with all your social different accounts. And then if you do have an email newsletter, let’s be sure to stay in touch. Just don’t blast things out on the day before Thanksgiving and say, “Hey, we’ve got this sale.” We want to be nurturing these customers and these people that are on our list for weeks as we are kind of leading up to that fact. You don’t have to send out a message next week saying, “Hey, get ready for our Black Friday sale,” but say, “Hey, we’re developing this,” or “Look at this new product.”

Or, “These are some exciting changes or things that are happening within our store.” So, those are some things that I came up with; different ways to prepare your ecommerce store for Cyber Monday, the holiday sales and making sure that your fourth quarter is – or the fourth quarter of the calendar year is the best quarter that you have online sales wise. And just make sure that you are doing these things to prepare yourself now because as we get closer and closer to the holidays then there’s just not business stuff that we’re worried about.

We’re worried about what we are going to do for family. And we’re buying our own gifts, and we are doing this, and we are doing that. Usually our business kind of falls to the wayside especially if it’s not a full-time thing. But now is the time to prepare so you don’t have that stressful holiday season. That’s what I want to share with you this week. We are going to continue to talk about all things WordPress next week. And until then, take some steps and do some things to set up and get ready for the holiday season.

And until next week, take care and we’ll talk again soon. Bye- bye.