Have you prepared your WooCommerce website for holiday traffic?
It’s not just our roads that tend to be busy, but our websites too, as shoppers race to beat deadlines for holidays or holiday shipping. Add the typical sales that pepper the holiday season into the mix and you have the potential for huge surges in traffic.
You can get in ahead of the busy season right now by taking steps to ensure that your website is optimized to handle it. Here’s how and why:
Why optimize for the holidays?
When was the last time you checked on the overall health of your website? Just like humans, websites need regular checkups to make sure they’re operating in prime condition. Many businesses have made the unfortunate discovery that something on their website was not up to par only when their Black Friday sale was plagued with bugs, or worse, their site went down during the busiest period of the year.
Your site should be optimized for traffic at all times of the year, but it becomes more urgent when you lose lucrative holiday sales! Doing the maintenance work early can help you to avoid situations like:
- Buggy features that aren’t working properly for customers.
- A website that’s not working well on mobile (or desktop).
- A slow-running website.
- Website outages.
All of those things impact the customer experience and can result in lost sales for your business. Getting ahead of them is important!
What should you check for optimization?
Here are a few things that are important to check for WooCommerce websites:
Evaluate your current state
The best place to start is by understanding where your store stands right now. Start by asking some important questions:
- Am I running the most current versions of WooCommerce and WordPress? If not, how long ago were they updated? If it has been a while, you may want to work with a developer to make sure you don’t “break” anything with an update.
- Are my plugins, theme and any extensions up-to-date? Again, being far behind in versions can lead to problems when you update, but also, they’ll need updating to work with bug or security fixes.
- Are all of my plugins and extensions still operational? Excess plugins and extensions can slow a website down. Also, if you have any plugins that are no longer supported, it’s best to get rid of them or find an alternative for the function they were performing.
If you do all of this early enough, you may be able to use a staging site to test out any changes before going live. It’s always better to use a testing environment rather than discovering issues when customers are using your website.
Run speed tests
Website speed tests help you to identify whether your load speeds could be faster. This is important because slow page speed gives a poor customer experience, meaning they will leave without purchasing. Additionally, page speed impacts your SEO – a slow page speed will push you down the SERPs.
If your website is slow, some common culprits include:
- Themes, plugins or extensions that aren’t up-to-date or are of poor quality.
- Large image files that take a long time to load. If you have any, replace them with optimized images in an appropriate file format.
- Poor quality website hosting. You should have a host that specializes in WordPress/WooCommerce websites and maintains reliable servers.
- Lack of website caching which makes the server work too hard. Caching is easy to set up with a reliable plugin such as WP Super Cache.
Create seasonal landing and product pages
Are you running seasonal sales or stocking seasonal products? Having seasonally appropriate product and landing pages can help put the suggestion into the minds of customers that they should purchase for the holidays.
Do any of this work early and in your staging site so that you can check it for optimization.
Check your product pages and descriptions
Are your product pages and descriptions complete? Do they give the customer all of the information they might ask for when deciding whether to buy? Are you using SEO keywords in your descriptions to help with search?
You should also make sure that you have product images for everything, preferably with different views. Products without an image tend not to sell well – people want to see them! Now is the time to have more pictures taken if they’re needed.All product pages and descriptions should be complete and optimized for busy season Click To Tweet
Go through the customer experience from start to finish
Now is a great time to see for yourself what customers experience on your website. Start from wherever they would usually land first (most often the home page). Check to see that customers can easily navigate your website and conduct searches for products. Do menus make sense? Is there a logical hierarchy? Does the search function turn up accurate results?
Follow the pathway the customer would take adding things to the cart – if they’re taken to the cart as they add, is it easy for them to click “continue shopping” to get back out of the cart? Is adding or removing items from the cart easy? Can they already see how much shipping is going to cost them? (A common reason for abandoned carts!).
Check your WooCommerce checkout
If you’re running the default, “out-of-the-box” WooCommerce checkout, we can tell you now that it’s not well-optimized for conversions. So here, step one is to do better than the default checkout!
WooCommerce checkout optimization should smooth out the process for customers. Instead of one long, tedious form, you need a multi-step checkout that shows them their progress. You should cut out any unnecessary form fields and pare it down to the basics of what you need. Where possible, add automated field population and offer express checkout options.
This may be a good time to bring in a WooCommerce checkout solution that has already been optimized. CheckoutWC offers a slick customer experience that helps to reduce abandoned carts and customer frustration. You can get a seven day free trial here.
It’s a good idea to go through the whole checkout process (or get a third party to do it for you) to check for any sticking points that may prevent people from completing the checkout. Now’s the time to fix any issues and make checking out an easy decision!
Have a backup plan
If your website is hosted by a third party, part of their service should be running website back-ups for you, so that your site can be restored if there are any issues. If you self-host, you’ll need to run backups yourself. There are several plugins to help with this.
Most of the time, daily back-ups are fine, but if you have a particularly busy WooCommerce store, you may want hourly backups during busy holidays so that you don’t lose an entire day’s worth of sales if anything goes wrong.
While you’re at it, if you have third-party hosting, check to make sure their backups are suitable for ecommerce. They should include store order and payment information.
Doing some optimization work early on your WooCommerce website can help to ensure it remains stable over busy holiday periods and minimizes any risk of down time. This also helps to keep customers continuing on through checkout!
While you should always aim to keep your store optimized, working on any issues that impact speed or customer experience should start at least a month before holidays. Give yourself plenty of time to take action, especially if it will take more than a little work!