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If you operate a WooCommerce shop, you should be aware of some particularities when it comes to hosting and optimizing your WordPress website. This is why we show you today what to look out for in your WooCommerce hosting to improve your customers’ user experience, your shop’s search engine ranking and your conversion rates.
According to current data provided by BuildWith, WooCommerce is used by 35 percent of all e-commerce sites and thus clearly takes the largest share of the market, followed by Shopify (8%) and Magento (4%). The success comes as no surprise: The WooCommerce plugin enables your WordPress website to transform into a fully functional online shop and is even free of charge. With more than 4 million active installations it belongs to the most popular plugins in the WP world.
An overloaded WooCommerce shop hurts your business
An infographic by Truconversion shows how one single additional second of load time already leads to a reduction of your conversion rate by 7 percent and to 11 percent fewer page views. The often-quoted statistics are a clear reminder on how important page performance actually is for your success. Negative user experiences not only result in more cancellations during the checkout procedure, but also lower the rate of recommendations.
Optimizing the performance of your shop does not only enhance your customers‘ user experience, but also your visibility. After all, page speed has already been included as an official ranking factor back in 2010. From July 2018 on, Google will also incorporate page speed in mobile searches.
4 things you should consider when it comes to your shop’s hosting
WooCommerce websites normally generate a great deal of data and requests which is why, on the one hand, they place special demands on the hosting, but on the other hand, they also require your personal action to take some optimization measures. For this purpose, I’m showing you four aspects today which you should pay attention to regarding WooCommerce hosting:
How does caching work for WooCommerce shops?
In order to make online shops function properly, specific exceptions need to be made regarding the caching. A good example for such an exception is the shopping cart. Caching this area of your shop would lead to a complete chaos in the orders, plus a pretty problematic situation from a data privacy protection perspective. For this reason, it is simply necessary to exclude certain areas systematically from caching in WooCommerce hosting.
Here it is crucial that you as the shop operator develop an understanding for the amount of visitor load your shop can bear. For this you can run a stress test, e.g. via Loader.io. The tool simulates accesses to your page and reveals the threshold when your shop is endangered to bend under pressure or slows down to the extent that users terminate their visit. In case you prefer working with the command line, you can also use this 7 tips for heavy load testing with Apache Bench.
Another area which cannot be cached is the WordPress backend. Without taking further optimization measures, extensive actions such as bulk uploading product images or editing a multitude of product information will lead to long load times.
Simultaneous visitors in your shopping cart or large actions in the backend will directly impact the processor performance. To optimize these dynamic areas, we have to search for other tactics than caching.
2. WooCommerce hosting needs powerful servers
Since a WooCommerce shop generates many dynamic contents and requests which cannot be stored temporarily, a correspondingly powerful server performance is required.
Depending on your shop’s size and popularity, tens of thousands of visitors might be frequenting your website simultaneously during peak shopping times. Visitors who search for products, filter items by different product categories, fill their shopping carts and complete their purchase.
This is exactly the case your shop’s hosting should be prepared for. After all, every additional second in which your WooCommerce shop is busy loading, in congestion or even being offline means a loss of potential revenues.
More CPU power to deal with high visitor numbers and order volumes
An important optimization measure for your WooCommerce shop hosting is upscaling your CPU core.
At the bottom, your server needs to have the capacity to cope with the enhanced stress of a high number of visitors and their corresponding database requests (e.g. sorting products by different filters). Our CTO likes to illustrate the mechanism with a fast food stand metaphor:
Imagine the server of your WordPress website as a fast food stand. Every staff member of the food stand depicts a CPU core. If only one salesman is standing behind the counter, only one request can be processed at a time. When only a few visitors stand in line, this initially poses no problem.
If the visitor number increases to the extent that the food seller becomes overburdened with the requests, the stand has to come up with more staff members (hence more CPU cores). The more staff members in the food stand, the more orders can be processed at the same time.
In this context, it is important to understand that more CPU cores do not automatically imply an improvement of your page load time – after all, the single cores still work in the same pace. But the upscaling of the cores ensure that more requests and orders can be dealt with simultaneously, and that your shop won’t break down.
Give your shop a sufficient PHP memory limit!
Optimizing server performance comprises not only the CPU cores and memory (RAM), but also an appropriate PHP memory limit. It determines the maximum disk quota which the memory provides for PHP processes. The set limit prevents that the server encounters overload through, for example, an erratic script.
A higher PHP memory limit makes sense for a rather complex website such as an online shop, so the server is able to cope with large-sized and simultaneous processes. For this reason, the PHP memory limit in our WooCommerce solutions is set at 512 megabytes.
By the way, the PHP version recommended by WooCommerce is PHP 7. At RAIDBOXES, you get more options beyond to switch your shop with just one click to the even faster PHP versions 7.1 and 7.2.
How many CPU cores does your WooCommerce shop need?
There is no general answer to which exact specifications your WooCommerce hosting should offer, since it depends on several factors, amongst others on your monthly visitor numbers and page views per minute. On our page overviewing our WooCommerce hosting plans you can find a small orientation guide to assist you in finding the perfect hosting solution for your shop.
Another factor determining your requirements on server performance is the number, size and quality of your plugins. For instance, if you use a bigger plugin like Yoast SEO which needs to be loaded on each and every page of yours, your server should bring along some power. Same if you want to connect an analog cashier system with your shop and the server needs to process live requests constantly.
3. Many pictures = more necessity to optimize
Large images and graphics can be an enormous performance-devourer. Since online shops usually need a lot of pictures to present their products, a huge optimization potential opens up in this area which you should definitely exploit. Fortunately, there are a few image optimization plugins to support you in this task.
Compressing your images correctly not only has a positive impact on your WooCommerce shop’s load time and thus on your customers’ user experience, but ideally, it also improves your search engine ranking and your conversion rate.
As for all modern websites, it is furthermore important to tweak your images for mobile-friendly designs. According to an e-commerce study conducted by Qubit, mobile-influenced sales had an impact of up to 19 percent on all digital sales in 2017. Moreover, the results of the study reveal that digital sales can be increased by up to 33 percent via an improvement of mobile product discovery.
4. Security and data privacy protection
Backups and staging keep you on the safe side
Should a plugin update or some other modification actually destroy your website, first thing to do is to get your shop running again as soon as possible. This is when your backups come into play: In all our WooCommerce hosting plans, a backup of your website is created fully automatically every night which you can restore with a few simple clicks. Additionally, you can create backups manually anytime.
Saving you a space-consuming backup plugin is beneficial for security and performance reasons. To line it up with our plugin guideline: “As much as necessary, as little as possible!”
To prevent problems on your live website in the first place, you can use our staging environment to try out modifications on a copy of your website. After achieving successful test results, the staging environment can be transferred live with just one click. Be cautious that you exclude the database tables with the orders and customers while overwriting the live website. While testing modifications in staging mode, your live website can still receive new orders you would eventually lose when overwriting.
In times of GDPR, data privacy protection is more important than ever for shop operators
As a WooCommerce shop operator, you process personal data on a daily basis, such as address, bank details and credit card numbers of your customers. Especially having the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in mind, you should take the issues security and data protection seriously. In our 30-page e-book on GDPR you can learn which measures you need to implement to make your WordPress website legally secure.
Look for a WordPress hosting provider who offers free SSL certificates, daily backups and managed WordPress, theme and plugin updates, and uses only servers which are located in a legally safeguarded country like Germany. Beyond that, we have integrated further data privacy tools at RAIDBOXES to take as much work as possible off your shoulders concerning the implementation of GDPR requirements. Examples include our WP Session Eraser or our feature Limit Login Attempts.
Conclusion: Good WooCommerce hosting has your back
Due to its many functionalities and dynamic processes a WooCommerce shop has special demands on hosting. To save you precious time, money and energy, you should choose a hosting provider who is experienced in these particularities, guarantees the required performance and security and offers first-class WordPress support.
Because in the end, your hosting provider should have your back, so you can focus on what really matters: Developing and driving forward your shop and your products. This way, you enable your customers a perfect sales experience which they would want to repeat and even recommend to others.
What experiences have you made with WooCommerce hosting? Which requirements are important to your shop in particular? I look forward to your comment!