Padraic RyanProfessional E-Commerce Designer/Developer

Reformed Architect. Builder of 500+ E-Commerce sites in the past 15 years. Don't know what cart to choose? Confused about PCI Compliance? Design questions? Taxes got you down? I can help!

Recent Answers

You need to be careful here - you can't just plop a form on your site any longer. Embedded forms are not compatible with Mailchimp's GDPR forms. You need to either send the customer off site to the hosted Mailchimp form, or use certain types of pop-ups. As the previous poster said, be sure to read this post in its entirety:

In my experience, classified sites have always been a total waste of time. I've been in business for 15 years now and here's what has worked for me:

- Referrals - absolutely the best method hands down
- Facebook Advertising
- Becoming a trusted expert in the forums of whatever platform you use
- Guest blogging/guest on podcasts
- Community involvement (trade groups, conferences, forums)
- SEO using long-tail - broad keywords like web developer are impossible

What hasn't worked well:

- Bidding out jobs on sites like Upwork (the competition there is tough to match on price)
- Direct marketing (mail, personal emails, cold calling)

There really are no geographic boundaries when it comes to web development - many of our clients are in Europe and Australia so don't limit yourself to just your home country!

There is no 'right' answer to this question, as it totally depends on the needs of your specific store.

Shopify is an excellent choice if you want to get set up quickly and prefer to not deal with hosting, PCI Compliance and developers. They have many beautiful pre-made templates, excellent support and a huge marketplace that will provide you with just about any feature and function you need.

The downside to Shopify is that it gets extremely expensive. That $29/month plan looks great until you realize that you have to add another $100/month in apps to get it to do what you want. And Shopify Plus? That's $2000/month, which is insanity. As with most SaaS platforms, you also have very little control over the checkout, even with the Plus plan. So you may not be able to customize things as much as you would like. You also have to use Stripe if you don't want to pay extra transaction fees. Shopify also doesn't do multi-language, multi-currency or wholesale well, so if one of those is important to your business you will need to look elsewhere.

WooCommerce is a great platform if you want to be able to completely customize every aspect of your store. It is also free, and integrates seamlessly with WordPress, which is a bonus.

The downsides are numerous. You need a developer, there is no way around it. If you don't have a good development partner to keep your store updated and running smoothly you'll be in big trouble. There is also very little support (it is free, what do you expect?). You will constantly be dealing with upgrades and conflicts with other apps. PCI Compliance and security are constant concerns, as WordPress is the most hacked platform on the planet. You will need an excellent hosting partner as well, as that is the foundation you are building on.

Bottom line is, if you want a completely custom cart, Woo is a better choice but requires a developer, hosting and PCI Compliance. If you want simple and easy without having to deal with developers and hosting, Shopify is a better choice, but it comes at a steeper price.

Also don't limit your choices to these two carts - there are numerous other ones that may be a better fit for your business including Pinnacle Cart, Americommerce and Magento. They all have their pros and cons as well. Just because Shopify is the most popular doesn't mean it is the best for your business. Pick a cart that handles 75% of what you need out of the box, not just now but 5 years down the road as well. Re-platforming is never fun, so you'll want a cart that grows with your business. Good luck!

Hi Tanya, SEO has become much less of a game than it used to be, and pretty much anyone can do it these days. Provide your customers with unique, well-written copy and you have done most of the job. Using a site like you can easily do the keyword and competition analysis yourself, so I'm really not sure what someone would be working 8 hours a day on. Building backlinks is the trickiest part of the process, and that is usually best done by you as well - posting in forums, guest posts in blogs, getting your link on trade web sites, etc.

If you do decide to go with an SEO firm, you should speak to two or three references who can provide real feedback on exactly what this firm has done for them. You should also get a breakdown of exactly what they will be doing for you as well. Does it include copywriting? Keyword research? Link building? Adwords/FB advertising management?

The danger of hiring an unknown firm, particularly from overseas is that they will use 'black hat' techniques which will provide quick results, but will get you banned in Google. Based on what you have said above about this firm, I would be very cautious.

Ideally these days you want to manufacturer and sell your own products. While I don't want to say the drop-ship model is dead yet, it is definitely dying. Selling someone else's products has become much more difficult and risky for a number of reasons:

1. Amazon - they can decide to sell the product you are selling at any time, and given the volume they can churn along with their low margins you'll never be able to compete. On top of that, customer's user Amazon AS a search engine, so if they are selling the same product as you the customer will never even find you.

2. It is much easier for the manufacturer to sell direct to the customer these days, and when they do that it will be impossible to compete directly with them.

3. Google has made it tougher as they are pretty strict about duplicate content. If you just upload a CSV from the manufacturer using the same title and description as everyone else, chances are Google is just going to list one of them, probably the one on the Manufacturer's web site.

If you do want to sell a product from another company, become THE authority on that product. If you want to sell Red Widgets, build a site that is rich in information and advice about Red Widgets and make it a destination for everyone who wants a Red Widget. Another site may be able to undercut you on pricing, but if you prove yourself as an authority you will build up customer trust and repeat business. Amazon may be able to compete on the number side of things, but they are by no means experts on the products they sell.

Ideally though, having full control over the supply chain of your product is what you want. You need to either make whatever you are selling yourself, or reach an exclusive deal with the manufacturer of that product.

You will find a number of third party services that will offer you discounted USPS shipping including,,, etc. Note that many of these services are getting bought up by, which actually may end up benefiting everyone as they will have more leverage to get better rates from USPS.

You'll also be able to get a discount when you use some shopping carts like

Bottom line - shop around and see which one will give you the best rates - the higher the volume, the better the rate!

Don't forget the business plan. Even if you aren't looking for funding or investors, taking the time to write this up will help you get a realistic picture of what to expect as far as revenue, costs, profitability, goals, etc. And if you are looking for any type of capital, having this is a requirement.

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