Congratulations on successfully launching your WooCommerce store! Hopefully now you are sitting on a beach somewhere, Mai Tai in one hand, watching the sales numbers tick upward on your iPad, with a big silly grin on your face. You deserve it.
After your congratulatory journey is over, it is time to start thinking about what it takes to keep a WooCommerce store healthy and continually drawing customers in. Here, at Mindsize, we are often called in to support new and existing stores, and to help them grow and scale as customer traffic increases. I wanted to take some time to share some thoughts on how to keep your WooCommerce store healthy.
We are here to support your business endeavors. Any time you have a question, would like additional support, or need help with scaling and performance, head over to the contact page and drop us a line.
Without further ado- here are the things we, at Mindsize, pay attention to post-launch, to enable sales growth and discoverability.
Your site launched with the best scenario SEO that could be implemented, now is the time to pour through the site and tweak SEO to make those search engine bots happy, happy, happy.
There are a pile of great resources online to keep you updated on the latest SEO trends. A few we like are:
- Niel Patel’s Blog
- Yoast’s site has a lot of great articles and training
- And of course we cannot forget one of the pioneers in the SEO space, Moz
There are some automated tools out there that will crawl your site and provide SEO suggestions. One we have been experimenting with is Sitebulb.
Double check backups
There is an old saying, “you are only as good as your last backup.”
A couple of years ago, I was working with a client to transition their site from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.2. They had daily backups running, but when I logged into their host to look around I found the earliest backup was from THREE MONTHS AGO! If their site experienced a major issue that necessitated restoring a backup it would have been a disaster.
Never assume your automated backups are still working. They must be checked periodically.
While you are checking backup status, it is a good idea to also test a backup by restoring it in a development environment. I have also run into instances where backups were empty.
With backups, the motto, “trust but verify” holds true.
Scan for broken links and missing images
As your site grows and changes, content and images may be added and removed. Links to external resources can change as well. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to verify every link and image yourself, but luckily there are tools that automate this process and provide a nice report.
A couple of the tools we like:
- Integrity – Link checker for Mac
- Screaming Frog – Link checker for Windows, MacOS and Ubuntu
- Sitebulb – Shows not only broken links and missing images, but much more!
- If you use Google, do not forget the Google Search Console
Monitor server performance
At Mindsize, we are heavily focused on performance. That is how we have been able to scale some of the largest WooCommerce sites on the planet! Optimizing performance is a bit like peeling an onion- start by identifying the biggest culprit and resolve that layer, and another will present itself. This provides iterative performance gains.
Our favorite tool for monitoring performance at the server level is New Relic. New Relic provides insights into how the server is handling resources and a deep stack trace into the application. This allows us to identify which particular method is causing an issue. New Relic goes even further, into database performance profiling, browser performance, and more. Some hosting companies offer New Relic as part of their platform of value added services.
Monitor page load times
Having a performant server is priority #1. The rest of the page assets cannot load until the server delivers the rendered html. The second layer of performance optimization is on the front end. There are a ton of resources on the internet that go deep into front end optimization, so I am not going to dive into them here, but I will share a few of the tools that we like to use.
- WebPageTest – Often the first tool I reach for, WPT provides an in-depth analysis of full page loads.
- GTmetrix – This tool is similar to WebPageTest, but offers a couple extra features. It’s often a matter of preference as to which is the primary tool a Mindsize engineer will reach for first.
- Pingdom – Pingdom is the classic testing tool. It is quick and provides a high level view of your page. While not as in-depth as WebPageTest, it is great for quick analysis and second opinions.
- Google PageSpeed Insights – While this is a great tool, it should be used with caution. There is a fair amount of confusion amongst site owners and GPSI, because it can report a vastly different rating than the other tools. For example, https://mindsize.com scores well on the other tests, but receives a measly 26 in GPSI. For more info, WP Rocket published an interesting article titled, Why you Shouldn’t Care About Google PageSpeed Insights. I suggest reading it to learn more about using GPSI.
Having a working SSL certificate, and HTTPS capability, is required on all ecommerce sites nowadays, and dare I say all sites should be running SSL. Verify your SSL certificate is installed and working properly. Certificates do expire! Make sure yours is not in danger of expiring and preventing or limiting access to the site.
Microsoft runs a cloud service called Azure. Azure has a storage service similar to Amazon’s S3. A few years ago the SSL certificate for Azure Storage expired and a new certificate had not been added to the service yet. This caused a massive outage for thousands of sites, which blocked access to everything on Azure Storage. A few people were less than happy…
Check your SSL!
Verify the domain
The domain is typically set it and forget it. However, sometimes things do change. It is always good to verify the DNS entries are still setup and working properly for the primary domain, subdomains, and all services that hang off them (such as email).
Domains are rented from a registrar. Be sure to check when the domain registration expires and update it if needed.
Beef up and optimize content
The content of your site is the draw for your visitors, regardless of if you run a blog, marketing site, ecommerce, etc. Over time, content can go stale. Checking for outdated content that needs updating is important.
You should also look for areas where content can be optimized and targeted more specifically to your user. Many SEO training sources provide guidance on optimizing content to draw in more and better qualified traffic, go check them out.
Analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics, can provide a wealth of information about how customers interact with your site. A small sampling of available data:
- Customer location
- Customer demographics
- How they arrived at your site
- Search terms used to find your site – This can open up new content possibilities
- How much time customers spend on your site before leaving
- Top pages – These can be used to optimize content further!
- Revenue per customer
- How effective sales funnels are
- Devices and technology customers visit the site with
- And of course the number of visitors!
And much much more…
Effective use of analytics goes beyond just knowing how many visitors are coming to your site. It can be a powerful tool for creating a more interesting and sticky site that will convert more visitors into customers. This is a deep subject that cannot be addressed in this article alone. I recommend working with your analytics provider to learn all they can offer.
One of the site functions that we routinely see neglected are the various forms, be they contact forms, surveys, email submission, or others. For instance, it is not uncommon to find broken contact forms that simply do not display on a page.
Keep a list of all the forms on your site and periodically test them to ensure they are visible, validate fields properly, and function as expected when submitted.
Test a full checkout scenario
The cart and checkout make up a large part of the lifeblood of your ecommerce site. It is how your business makes its money online! Pretending to be a customer and running through a full checkout scenario will ensure that money keeps rolling in. How frequently this is tested is dependent on several factors, two of which being: business requirement and frequency of code changes.
The more frequent the code changes, the more frequently checkout should be tested. Our recommendation is to test at least before and after every code change, to ensure it did not break with the updates.
Beyond getting the customer’s money in your account, there are other actions that may happen during checkout that you should be validating. A few examples to watch for: order status emails, inventory stock changes, fulfillment integration, shipping integration, etc.
Manual testing is important to ensure the user experience looks and feels smooth, but if you need to test frequently it can be an onerous task. Luckily there is a tool out there that automates checkout testing in WooCommerce for you. It is Robot Ninja. Give it a look. No automated checkout testing should fully replace manual testing, but it is a great augmentation.
Stay up-to-date with the latest software patches
Stories abound across the internet of sites getting hacked due to some piece of software that had not been updated with a security patch from years ago. When you run an ecommerce site you open an attack surface to the very real threat of hackers. A breach of your site could lead to theft of customer data, legal inquisitions, millions of dollars lost, and loss of brand reputation.
Take security seriously.
Keep your site updated with the latest patches.
If you have any concerns about site stability, or simply would like a hand updating the software on your site, do not hesitate to reach out. We would be happy to help! Our process for updating software ensures zero or minimal downtime of your WooCommerce store.
As mentioned previously, security is a big deal for your site. The unfortunate truth about security is that determined hackers will always find a way, no matter how good or up to date your software is. With millions of other sites out there powered by WordPress and WooCommerce, there is a very real possibility that a successful attack vector is found on one of them that is exploitable on all of them.
To mitigate the possibility of a successful attack against your site, security monitoring is critical. That means inspecting logs for hack attempts and learning how to block them. It means staying up to date on what is happening in the industry. It means monitoring server software, not just the website, but the underlying software powering the server, for releases.
Sound intimidating? It is. As luck would have it, there are services you can leverage to help in your quest to have the most secure site in town. To start with, your web host likely monitors and patches your web server without any interaction on your part. If you are not sure, contact your host and ask them. WordPress has an update system built in that will let you know when updates for WordPress, WooCommerce, and any plugins or themes are available.
Web Application Firewalls, or WAF, exist as a barrier between external traffic and your server. A couple of benefits of these services:
- The resources needed to deal with validating traffic are removed from your server, freeing it up to serve content and sweet product info to your customers.
- Most companies offering WAFs are monitoring traffic on thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of sites. This gives them the unique ability to identify attack patterns on one site and proactive apply protection to block that type of attack across all the sites they protect.
There are also security companies out there dedicated to monitoring and protecting your site.
The arena of web security is too vast to cover in this post. Mindsize can help identify what protections you currently have in place, and recommend additional steps to take. Drop us a line today to get the ball rolling!
Verify 3rd party services are working as expected
To not end on a depressing security note, lets insert one more check to run :).
Few WooCommerce sites exist entirely on their own. The vast majority tap into some sort of 3rd party service. Commonly these could be:
- Tax calculation
- Fulfillment service
- Inventory management
- Payment system
- Address validation
To name just a few!
Companies specializing in running one of these 3rd party services are usually pretty good about ensuring their service stability, but occasionally they do have issues, be it an outage, API change, or something else.
It is always a good idea to check the integration points from your WooCommerce store with 3rd party services to ensure they are operating as expected.
Wrapping it up
Whew, that was quite the list to digest! It was said before, but to reiterate, Mindsize is here to help you not just succeed but exceed your current performance! If you have any questions, would like assistance with implementing any of the above listed tools or scaling your store, reach out to us today. We would love to hear from you!