We started hosting and managing e-commerce shopping carts in 2005, when we joined Miva Merchant as their premier hosting partner. Now we host over 5,000 ecommerce shopping cart softwares, ranging from open source shopping carts like PrestaShop, Magento and OpenCart, to the more popular licensed shopping carts like Pinnaclecart and Miva Merchant.
Throughout the years I?ve come across a lot of business owners: I?ve helped them make their websites easier for search engines to crawl, I?ve sped up their storefronts; and more importantly, I?ve helped my customers maintain their ecommerce shopping cart software in professional manner.
When you are operating and managing an advanced shopping cart and selling products online, as your storefront continues to grow, and shoppers continue to add and remove products to the basket, you will begin to realize your shopping cart is not as fast as it originally was.
This has to do with a number of factors:
1 ? You are adding multiple products and plug-ins, and many times this will require more resources from the server that are not available because you are hosting your website in a shared hosting environment. It?s time to upgrade to either a VPS or a Dedicated Server?or better than that: a Cloud Server.
2 – You are not properly maintaining your store: Your store is growing, and you need to make sure you follow a few important steps, which are mentioned below.
Owning an e-commerce website can be a lot of work if you do not properly maintain your storefront. Here are some helpful tips that will help you correctly manage it:
Keep your Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software Updated
This is one of the most important steps when it comes to maintaining your own e-commerce website. You need to be sure to keep your shopping cart software updated to the latest version. In some cases you can easily run an update within the shopping carts web portal; but in other cases you will have to hire help for this task, as the software will require you to download the new version. Go into the backend of the file manager, and upload the files manually to either the file system or the database.
As a web host we gladly help upgrade customer?s storefronts at no charge (depending on the complexity of the storefront). This not only helps our customers out, it keeps our servers free of open holes for hackers to hack.
Delete Old Files
You will need to make sure you do not keep old, un-wanted files within your hosting account?unless they are very small. Many times large images or videos that are not used will take up a lot of space. This does not make a difference in a Cloud, VPS or Dedicated Hosting environment, but it can make a difference in shared hosting space.
Back Up Your Complete Website
It?s very important as the owner of your website that you have a copy of the site accessible to you at all times; this makes it easy for you to make changes and upload your site to the server. Additionally, if you break something on your website, you can easily upload it via your own local copy. As a web host we keep 2 copies of backups for all of our customers, but we always encourage customers to have their own local backups, just in case.
Make Sure to Compress Large Images
One of the most important rules when it comes to having your product pages load fast is to make sure you do not upload product images that are too large. Oversized product images or thumbnails will cause your webpage to download more slowly. Users do not want to wait to purchase products: they want the process to be fast, and they want all pages to load quickly.
Delete Expired Shopping Baskets
Some shopping carts allow you to delete expired baskets; this is a very important step, which should be done often. You want to do this on a daily basis to keep your shopping cart clean. This maintenance can help speed up your cart for the convenience of your customers.
Install a CDN
Installing a CDN?which we offer with all of our packages at no additional cost?will help significantly increase your website speed. A CDN will cache a local copy of large files on your website all over the world, so your website will be super fast no matter what location your customer is browsing from.
Keep Your Website Updated
Just like any other website, e-commerce websites also need to be updated often. Continue to enhance your website by updating images and product descriptions with the latest information. Search engines keep track of website changes, and they like to see updates to a website. Remember one of the factors that major search engines use to rank websites is how often they are updated, which brings me to my next point?
Install a Blog
Installing a blog is one of the easiest ways to add new content to your website easily. Establishing a blog for an e-commerce storefront is very important! It shows major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo that you are continuously updating your website with new content. Be sure to blog about your current products, upcoming products and industry news. This will make a significant change to your ranking over time. Remember you have to be patient: It doesn?t happen overnight.
Fix Dead Pages
Fixing dead 404 pages is one of the most important maintenance steps to be taken. Never remove a product and leave a dead page on your site just hanging there. Always use a 301 re-direct to redirect the link value of that page to another page. Search engines hate dead pages and you will lose link value for that page if it?s a dead 404 page. We can help locate dead links on your website by running a scan and creating 404 pages for it.
I cannot overstress the fact that shared hosting is for small websites and not CMS driven or database driven sites with shopping carts. Remember in a shared hosting environment, you are sharing resources from the server with over a few hundred other websites. The best platform to host a small to medium e-commerce website is on a VPS Hosting Package or Dedicated Hosting package (my recommendation is always a Cloud VPS Hosting package). When you purchase a hosting package on a Cloud, not only is it secure, you?re also guaranteeing growth. Tomorrow if you were featured on Oprah, on a normal non-Cloud environment, your website would crash and you would have to wait 24 hours for your host provider to move your data and upgrade you. But in a Cloud environment, you can do it right away without any downtime: you can allocate as much resources as you need to your server. Remember a cloud is a network of servers interconnected, so if 1 server were to crash, the others would offset instantly.
I hope the following steps have helped shed some light on important maintenance steps to be taken regarding your e-commerce-shopping cart. I am confident if you follow the rules above, you will not only increase your search engine ranking for your storefront, but you will also increase your conversions.