Selling products and services on websites in WordPress is fairly easy to do. It’s also easy to screw up without knowing it, so today I want to share with you some tips for websites in WordPress that I’ve learned the hard way over the years. No sense you getting all those knots on the forehead, too, right?
Give each product or service it’s own space.
How many products and services you have, and how diverse they are impacts the decision on how best to present them on your website in WordPress. Someone offering one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry pieces has different needs than someone offering candles or flower essences (where there’s an inventory of each scent/size/formula) or someone offering create-them-once-and-sell-them-over-and-over-again e-books and services.
Offering an affiliate program puts another set of requirements on the whole endeavor, too, and is another reason to give each product or service it’s own space.
For any product or service, the goal is to present your offers in the most focused way possible that also gives you the most options for getting the word out and attracting customers. As in everything, there are trade-offs to consider.
WordPress has two main content containers: posts and pages. A third content container are widgets, but they are best used to highlight and get clicks through to your posts and pages, so we’ll skip them for now.
Put ‘em on Posts
Without even considering custom post types, regular old posts have a lot to offer when it comes to selling products and services. Posts, as you know, go out through your RSS feed, so if you use posts as containers for individual products or product sets, anyone subscribed to your feed would be notified as soon as you post. Think lovely, automated announcements to the world of your goods.
Posts also have categories and tags. Think categories=product types and tags=colors, sizes, scents, formulas. WordPress creates dynamic archive pages for both categories and tags, so with the custom menus now available in WordPress, you can create a menu structure that emulates a catalog directory. This flexibility allows you to have posts that are used for products as well as blog posts – all in the same site!
Best of all, with your products on posts, it’s easy to make something a sale item, mark it as a best-seller or an out-of-stock item just by changing its category or tag. Categories and tags give you plenty of creative ways to organize, present and manage your products when an inventory of some kind is involved, which is why posts – not pages – are the best choice here. Pages don’t have categories or tags.
Do it using Pages
When I create a new product or service, I write a sales page for it where that product or service is the ONLY topic on the page. This is not just because I like to create sales pages (though I do. I know…I’m weird.) It’s because I want your attention on the product or the service, NOT anything else. I know you’re busy, I know you don’t have time to be mucking around looking for my point. By removing all other distractions from the screen, it’s easier for you to discern what the heck I’m offering.
Pages work best for me because my products are digital, meaning I don’t have to deal with inventory issues because there’s not a limit on how many times someone can download an e-book, for example, unless I put some kind of arbitrary limit on it myself. Same goes for services I create.
A couple years ago, getting all those distractions (the sidebar, the header, the navigation menu, the footer) off my pages was a royal pain in the butt. I love WordPress, but back then, it was not an easy task. I struggled, I wrote and rewrote code, I monkeyed with this theme and that until it dawned on me that what I really needed was a sales page template that was independent of whatever theme I was using. So, I created WP-Sales-Page.
(Note: I was obviously not the only one struggling with that problem, because now there are sales page themes, themes that allow endless page layout configurations, and sales page plugins. That’s all fine and good, but if you’ve sunk a bunch of money into your design and don’t want to abandon that for a different theme, then my little ol’ WP-Sales-Page template might be just the ticket.)
On a Domain of its own
Sometimes, you just want to give your new creation an address of its own on the web. I don’t have any hard and fast rules about this other than to say that, for me, it depends on how much attention I want it to get on it’s own, unrelated to everything else I’ve got on my site. If I give it its own domain name, then I can go to town with SEO by getting a keyword-rich domain name and then optimizing the pants off of the content on the page, thereby helping it get more attention in the search engines.
You can certainly get a keyword-rich domain name and point it at a page in your site and then use that domain name for all your marketing. But, in my opinion, you can get a whole lot more traction with that approach if you put a mini-site together for it, separately. That’s what I’ve done for WP-Sales-Page and my WP-Free-Clinic.
On a Sub-Domain
Maybe you don’t need a separate domain name, but you do want some separation from the rest of your site. Another option to consider is a separate website in WordPress sitting on a sub-domain. This allows you to use a specialized e-commerce theme for your store without mucking up your main site.
Sorting through the options
I’ve just scratched the surface of considerations and options available to you for selling products and services on your website in WordPress. If you have specific questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you need help putting a plan together, this might help.