If you run a WooCommerce shop, there are some unique features you need to be aware of regarding hosting and optimization. We'd like to show you today how to use specialized WooCommerce hosting to optimize your customers' user experience, the search engine ranking of your shop and your conversions.
According to the latest data from BuildWith, 22 percent of the top one million eCommerce sites use the shop system WooCommerce. This means the popular WordPress plugin has the largest market share, followed by Shopify (17%) and Magento (13%). This success is no accident, the free WooCommerce plugin turns your WordPress site into a fully-functioning online shop. With more than 4 million active installations, it is one of the most popular WordPress plugins of all time.
You can read about the benefits and potential drawbacks of WooCommerce compared with other shop systems in our article "WooCommerce: The Advantages & Disadvantages of the Popular Shop Plugin" .
According to an infographic from Truconversion, just a single second of additional loading time will reduce your conversion rate by 7% and result in 11% fewer page views. These often-quoted statistics clearly demonstrate how important page performance is for your success. A negative user experience not only leads to more customers abandoning during the checkout process, but also reduces the recommendation rate.
Optimizing the performance of your shop not only improves the user experience of your customers, but also your visibility. After all, since 2010 the site speed has been an official ranking factor. Google has confirmed that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches from July 2018.
WooCommerce sites generate a whole lot of data and requests and so place great demands on your hosting. This means you'll likely need to implement one or even multiple measures to optimize your site.
For this reason, I'll show you four things you should pay attention to when looking for WooCommerce hosting:
How does the cache work for WooCommerce shops?
For online shops to function properly, there has to be certain cache exceptions, for example the shopping cart. Caching this area of your shop would not only lead to a total chaos of orders, but would also be problematic from a privacy point of view. So with WooCommerce hosting is absolutely necessary to systematically exclude certain areas from caching.
As a shop operator you therefore need to get an understanding of how much traffic your shop can cope with. You can do this, for example, with a check at Loader.io. The tool simulates hits to your site and shows at what point your shop is in danger of collapsing under the load or slowing down so much that users abandon the site. If you prefer working with the command line, you can also use the Apache Benchmark Tool instead.
Another area that cannot be cached is the WordPress backend. Without optimization long loading times occur, especially for large actions like bulk uploads of product images or the processing of a lot of product information.
Simultaneous visitors in your shopping cart or large actions in the backend are directly reflected in the processor performance. To optimize these dynamic ranges, you can't rely on caching and need to look elsewhere.
Since a WooCommerce shop generates a lot of dynamic content and requests that cannot be cached, you need to have server performance to match.
Depending on the size and popularity of your store, there may be tens of thousands of visitors during peak shopping hours - all searching for products, filtering items by product category, filling their shopping cart and making purchases at the same time.
This is exactly what your shop hosting should be equipped for. After all, for every second that your WooCommerce shop is overloaded or even offline, potential sales are lost.
More CPU power for high-traffic sites with high volume of orders
One important way to optimize your WooCommerce shop is to increase the number of CPU cores. Ultimately the server must be able to handle more load when there are many visitors and corresponding database queries being made (e.g. displaying products according to different filters). Our CTO likes to use the metaphor of a chip shop to explain the principle:
Imagine that the server of your WordPress site is a chip shop. Each employee in the chip shop represents a CPU core. If there is only one person behind the counter, only one request can be processed at a time. When you only have a few visitors, this isn't going to causes any issues.
However, if the number of visitors becomes so high that the employee is overwhelmed with requests, more employees (i.e. more CPU cores) are needed. The more employees there are in the chip shop, the more orders can be processed simultaneously.
In this context, it is important to understand that having more CPU cores does not automatically improve the page load time - after all, the individual cores work equally fast. Increasing the number of cores rather ensures that more requests can be processed simultaneously and your shop does not get overloaded.
Give your shop enough PHP memory limit!
Not only adequate CPU cores and RAM are needed to optimize your server performance,an appropriate PHP memory limit is also required. This limit determines the maximum amount of memory available for PHP processes. This set value prevents, for example, the server from being overloaded by a bad script.
A higher PHP memory limit is useful for more complex sites like online shops so the server is able to withstand large and simultaneous processes. For this reason, the PHP memory limit for our WooCommerce solutions is 512 megabytes.
The minimum version of PHP recommended by WooCommerce is PHP 7.2. With RAIDBOXES you can upgrade to the even faster PHP version 7.3 with just one click.
How many CPU cores does your WooCommerce shop need?
What exact specifications you need your WooCommerce hosting to offer depends on many things including your number of monthly visitors and how many hits per minute. For this reason, it's impossible to give a generalized answer. On our page for WooCommerce plans you will find a small guide to help you choose the right hosting solution for your shop.
Another factor that determines your server performance needs is the number, size and quality of your plugins. If you use, for example, large plugins like Yoast SEOwhich need to be loaded on each of your pages, then your server must have the appropriate power to deal with it. The same applies if you want to link an analog cash register system to your shop and the server has to process constant live requests.
Large images and graphics can be huge performance eaters. Since online shops usually need a lot of images to display their products, there is enormous potential for optimization here that you should maximize on. Fortunately, there are several image optimization pluginsout there to help you.
The correct compression of your images not only has a positive effect on the loading time of your WooCommerce shop and your customers' user experience, but ideally improves your search engine ranking and your conversion rate too.
As with any website today, it is also important that you optimize your images for mobile viewing. According to an eCommerce study by Qubit the mobile web will account for up to 19 percent of total online sales in 2017. The results of the study also show that online sales can be increased by up to 33 percent by improving mobile product discovery.
Be on the safe side with backups and staging
If your shop is knocked out by a plugin update or other change, getting it back online as soon as possible has the utmost priority. And this is where your backups come into play. With all our WooCommerce plans, a backup of your site, is created automatically every night. This backup can then be restored with just a few clicks. You can also create additional manual backups at any time.
This means you can do without any large backup plugins - a plus in both security and performance. After all, our motto for plugins is "as many as necessary, as few as possible!"
To avoid problems occurring on your live site, you can use our staging to test changes on a copy of your site. If you're satisfied with the result, you can go live from the staging environment with just a few clicks. It is important here that you exclude the database tables with the orders and customers when overwriting the live site. This means that while you're making changes in the staging environment, you can still receive orders you would otherwise have lost when overwriting your live site.
In times of GDPR data protection has never been so important for shop operators
As the operator of a WooCommerce shop you process personal data such as the address, account data and credit card numbers of your customers on a daily basis. Especially in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you need to take the issues of security and data protection seriously. In our 30-page GDPR e-book you will find out what measures you must take to ensure your WordPress site is legally compliant.
It's best to find a WordPress hoster that offers free SSL certificates, daily backups, managed WordPress, theme and plugin updates and only uses servers located in Europe. In addition to all these features, we have implemented additional data protection tools at RAIDBOXES. These tools are designed to take as much work as possible off your hands getting your site GDPR compliant. One example is our WP Session Eraser or the feature Limit Login Attempts.
A WooCommerce shop places extra demands on hosting due to its many functionalities and dynamic processes. To save yourself valuable time, money and nerves, you should choose a hoster that is familiar with these special requirements, guarantees the performance and security you need and offers first-class WordPress support.
In the end, you hoster should be freeing up space for you to concentrate on the essentials: developing your shop and products further. This is how you give your customers an impeccable buying experience, which they will not only repeat but also recommend.
You can find more WooCommerce tips in our 70-page e-book WooCommerce for Professionals: Online shops with WordPress. The book is aimed at freelancers, agencies, WP professionals and also at beginners.
What is your experience with WooCommerce hosting? Which requirements are particularly important for your shop? I look forward to your comment!