How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top 0% APR Introductory Rate Business Credit Cards

Getting your business a 0% APR introductory rate credit card could be helpful, especially if you’re planning to make a big purchase that you can’t pay back right away. Unfortunately, credit cards are packed with complicated rules and regulations, and with so many options available, it can be time-consuming to figure out what’s best for your business. A card that works well for Sammy’s Sandwich Shop down the street might not be the right option for you.

That’s where Merchant Maverick comes in! We’ve parsed through all your various options and come up with a list of the top 0% APR intro rate business credit cards. Besides offering that 0% APR introductory rate, these cards also provide savings via rewards and $0 annual fees, allowing you to stretch your dollar further.

So which one is right for you? Read on to find out!

American Express Blue Business Plus

This card leads the pack with a 0% APR introductory rate of 15 months. It also boasts a rewards program of two points per $1 on all purchases up to $50,000 per year, and one point per $1 on all purchases after $50,000. These points (which are worth $0.01 in many cases) can be redeemed via American Express’ Membership Rewards program in numerous ways, including at checkout for major retailers, gift cards, taxi fare in New York City, and booking travel through American Express Travel.

This card’s variable APR after those 15 months are up can run lower than average. It also grants you expanded buying power, which allows you to spend above your credit level without penalty.

However, Blue Business Plus doesn’t provide a welcome offer. Additionally, some redemptions dish out reward points at less than the standard $0.01. Rewards also start slowing down after spending $50,000 in a year, so this card might not be the best option if your business will break that threshold. International travelers should note that this card does carry a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%.

Want a full breakdown of Blue Business Plus? Check out Merchant Maverick’s comprehensive review to get the deets.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited

chase ink business unlimited

Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back card featuring a 0% APR intro rate for 12 months and no annual fee. Chase has set the cash back reward amount to 1.5% on all purchases—no cap whatsoever. Those rewards can be redeemed via deposit into your bank account or applied on Amazon purchases. Additionally, Ink Business Unlimited also provides a hefty welcome offer of $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Other benefits include additional employee cards at no extra cost, as well as travel and roadside assistance. Chase also provides purchase protection to cover new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account. Once the 12 months of 0% APR run dry, this card offers a variable APR that sits right around industry standard.

Marks against this card include a 3% foreign transaction fee, meaning businesses that require overseas travel may want to think twice before dipping into Ink Business Unlimited.

If you need a further breakdown on Chase’s Ink Business Unlimited, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive review.

American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus is another cash back card, although its 0% intro APR runs for nine months. It does feature a hefty rewards program for certain categories, however. Purchases at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone earn 5% percent cash back, up to $50,000 per year. Additionally, you can early 3% back on a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising purchases, shipping, or computer hardware, software, and cloud computing), up to $50,000 per year. All other purchases will nab 1% back.

American Express’ SimplyCash Plus boasts a variable APR that can clock in at below industry standard. Additionally, its expanded buying power will let you buy above your credit limit with no penalty fees. Other benefits include extended warranty and purchase protection, as well as a range of travel benefits, from baggage insurance to a global assist hotline.

Unfortunately, rewards are redeemed through statement credit only—meaning this card won’t work for those wanting to receive cash back as a check. Besides this, SimplyCash Plus doesn’t provide a welcome offer and foreign purchases are subject to a 2.7% transaction fee.

Need more info on American Express SimplyCash Plus? Head on over to Merchant Maverick’s review.

Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business

capital one spark cash select

This is the second card on our list that runs with a 0% APR for the first nine months. Its cash back rewards program features an unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases. Cash back rewards can be applied to your account as statement credits or requested as a check. Those rewards won’t expire while your account is open and can be transferred between Capital One cards.

You can additionally collect a tidy $200 early spend bonus if you spend at least $3,000 within your first three months of opening your accounts. Spark Cash Select further provides extended warranty and purchase protection, as well as access to Visa SavingsEdge, which may offer up to 15% off on some purchases from participating merchants. You can also get employee cards at no extra cost and Capital One charges no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks of the Spark Cash Select include a variable APR that may sit a tad higher than industry standard once those nine months of 0% APR are up. Additionally, the flat rate rewards program may not fit within your business if you spend a lot within categories that can earn higher cash back rates with other cards.

Those who want to dig into the nitty-gritty on Spark Cash Select should take a gander at our in-depth review.

Bank Of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard

To round out our list of 0% APR introductory rate business credit cards, we’ll look out our third entry with a 0% intro APR for nine months. This card boasts 3% cash back on purchases at gas stations and office supply stores, 2% back at restaurants, and 1% back for everything else. You’ll be able to redeem your cash rewards via a statement credit, check, or have cash deposited into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

Besides its reward program, this card’s other benefits include travel and emergency services, zero liability protection on unauthorized purchases, and overdraft protection. Clients of BofA’s Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program can get a 25% – 75% rewards bonus on the base cash back rate. This means you could earn up to 3.75% at gas stations and office supply stores, 2.75% at restaurants, and 1.75% everywhere else. There’s additionally a $200 statement credit bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 60 days.

On the negative side, there’s a $250,000 purchase cap for the 3% cash back categories, after which you’ll earn 1% back. Also, for businesses that require international travel, BofA’s card does carry a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Want to learn more about BofA’s Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard? Visit the Merchant Maverick review of the card.

Final Thoughts

That ends our look at five of the top 0% APR introductory rate business credit cards! Still can’t decide on the best option for your business? Check out our small business credit comparison page to compare some of our favorite credit cards and learn more about picking the best card for you.

The post Top 0% APR Introductory Rate Business Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Dynadot Review: Pros and Cons of Dynadot as Domain Registrar

Dynadot Review

Dynadot is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar and web host headquartered in California. They were founded in 2002 by a software engineer and state their primary focus is engineering and designing excellence.

Dynadot’s main pitch is to help customers “register domains names and create websites simply and affordably”.

They are one of the myriad smaller domain registrars that have a dedicated but smaller following than the big brands like GoDaddy.

Do they hold up to their mission? Here’s our Dynadot review with pros and cons.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Dynadot

Straightforward Search + Purchase Process

Dynadot makes good on its promise to make registering a domain simple. The interface is clean, easy to navigate, and straightforward. There aren’t any bells and whistles, which for a domain registrar is just fine — we don’t need them. What we need is function and usability, and Dynadot’s interface gives us both. It’s basic and directs you to where you need to go.

Dynadot Interface

While Dynadot does offer complementary products (such as websites and hosting — more on that in a bit), the design has no upsells, cross-sells, or visual clutter. There is no distraction from the main action, which is to search and register for a domain, and the checkout process is quick and easy to complete.

Transparent Pricing

There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a domain registrar and having to hunt for pricing information. Dynadot is 100% transparent with their pricing. From the moment you land on the homepage, you can see what .com domains and other popular top level domains (TLDs) are selling for.

Dynadot Pricing

As far as the actual value goes, Dynadot skews toward the cheaper side for first-time purchases and renewals. They’re not as cheap as NameCheap or GoDaddy for a first time purchase of a .com domain (who offer first time purchase promo codes), but their renewal rates are cheaper ($8.99 vs. $13.16 for NameCheap and $15.17 for GoDaddy), and their transfer rates are on par with the rest.

If you’re planning on holding on to your domain for awhile, it could be worth purchasing it elsewhere and then transferring and renewing with Dynadot to save money in the long run.

Variety of TLDs

Now that ICANN allows more TLDs outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all of the variations they need (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Dynadot offers a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains, from country-specific domains for international use to category-specific, like technology, real estate, etc.

Dynadot TLD Variations

Upsells

Upsells aren’t inherently annoying or bad. But so many domain registrars make the mistake of bombarding customers with direct sales tactics that they do become annoying.

Dynadot is not one of these domain registrars. While they do offer complementary products such as websites and hosting, they keep them in the background. You can add them from your account dashboard once you purchase a domain, or you can purchase them from the Dynadot homepage, but at no point are you bombarded with pop-ups or forced to navigate through upsells while trying to buy a domain.

Cons of Dynadot

Unclear Next Steps/Management

Dynadot makes registering a domain incredibly simple… but once you register the domain, there aren’t clear instructions as to what to do next. As soon as I was done checking out, I was given a referral code to share with friends and an order pending message with details. There weren’t any instructions on what to do now that I have my domain.

This is fine for those who are familiar with registering domains and building websites, but if you’re new to the experience and looking for guidance, there’s not much to go on.

Even the follow up email I received after my order had been processed was lacking detailed instructions. Again, if you’re experienced in managing domains, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re a beginner and aren’t sure how to set up your nameservers (or what those even are), you’re probably going to be confused. Transfer Code Dynadot

I also found it difficult to actually manage my domain. For example, I couldn’t find where I’d go about transferring my domain when I was logged into my account. I had to click around a good bit (and eventually consult the help forum) to get that information.

This experience relates to “onboarding” which is the jargon for moving a new customer to an active customer.

Complementary Products

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email or any other service. It’s merely your address online. It helps people locate where your property is by telling browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).

If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

Dynadot provides an all-in-one approach with complementary products. You can bundle your domain, website builder, hosting, and email and do it all from their platform.

Typically, this would be a pro —  while I personally prefer to separate my hosting and domains to provide an extra layer of control & reliability in addition to cost savings, many website owners prefer to have them bundled for convenience.

But Dynadot’s complementary products are actually a con due to serious limitations.

For example, Dynadot only offers VPS hosting (virtual private server) rather than the more traditional spectrum of shared hosting paired with a website builder or open-source software.

Dynadot VPS Hosting

While VPS provides a level of control you can’t get with Shared hosting (where every account is treated the same), you have to be technically competent enough to manage your own server resources.

If you don’t like getting in the weeds with your server, the price only makes sense if you know how to use it. It’s a bit like buying the whole chicken at the grocery store and cutting it yourself instead of buying the drumsticks, thighs, and breasts. On one hand, it makes sense if you know how to carve it and are willing to take the time to do it… but most people just want it done for them.

In most cases, if you’re looking to bundle your website, hosting, email, and domain management, then you’re looking for convenience. Dynadot, for all their simplicity in the domain buying experience, doesn’t prioritize convenience in their products. They’re a company founded by a software developer — they’re into engineering and hands-on approaches. That’s fine – but it’s also something to be aware of as a customer. It’s like going to a lumber yard over Home Depot. You get the same thing, but the feel is a bit different.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want a very simple domain purchasing process
  • Don’t need guidance on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to save on domain renewals
  • Are looking for complementary products you can customize to your own needs

…. Dynadot could be a good choice for you.

However, if you’re…

  • Less experienced getting online
  • Need detailed steps on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to keep your hosting / website separate from your domain
  • Want complementary products that require less technical expertise

… there are better options out there for you (I use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

Dynadot

Dynadot is an ICANN accredited domain registrar and hosting company founded in 2002. They offer domain registration and management along with complementary products like hosting, website builders, and email.
Dynadot Review
Date Published: 08/29/2018
Simple, straightforward domain purchasing process with cheap renewal rates. Domain management and complementary products are geared toward those with more technical experience.
3 / 5 stars

The post Dynadot Review: Pros and Cons of Dynadot as Domain Registrar appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Register.com Domain Registrar Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Register Review

Register.com is a domain registrar owned by Web.com (one of the largest and oldest website hosting/builder brands in the industry). They were one of the first give companies chosen by ICANN to participate in the initial test phase of the new competitive shared registry system, making them one of the oldest and most established domain registrar companies in the game outside of Network Solutions.

Aside from domain purchasing and management, Register.com offers a range of products, from marketing to hosting to web design. Their main pitch is that their services and solutions cover all ranges of business sizes and especially help small businesses build their web presence without the need for technical experience.

Given Register.com has a certain level of brand recognition and clout, I decided to try them out as a domain registrar. Here’s my Register.com review – structured with pros & cons based on my recent experience as a customer.

Skip to the conclusion & next steps here.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Register.com

There are a lot of Register.com reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach. There is no such thing as a “best” domain registrar. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience and expertise. Just because one company is not a good fit for you does not mean it’s not a good fit for someone else.

Register.com is different. Their only pro is their brand name and corporate history. They do offer domain registration & web services, but they simply do not excel at providing any value beyond the assurance of their brand name.

Based on my professional opinion, they are a classic case of a company coasting on their name while other companies out-compete on raw value.

Even for “meh” companies, I try to pull out some reasons to choose them over others. But I really could not find a single reason to use Register.com over someone else besides their brand recognition and positioning. I liken Register.com to finding a McDonald’s at an Interstate exit in the middle of Kansas. Even if you dislike everything about McDonald’s, if it’s the only recognizable option and you’re hungry, you’d probably choose them.

But the Internet is not a highway exit in Kansas. There are so many other choices that are just a click away. Which means while Register.com carries corporate clout, that clout doesn’t outweigh the lack of value.

If you’re curious about the details, I’ll cover more in the cons section below. If not, you can skip to the conclusion and next steps for alternative options.

Register.com Cons

Convoluted Domain Buying Experience

The actual process of buying a domain from Register.com is pretty horrendous, especially compared to the big leaps in UX that other companies have made..

For starters, when you search for a domain, Register.com automatically adds it to your cart if it’s available without showing any pricing information. Even if I search for just the root of a domain and don’t specify the TLD, the .com version is still automatically added without me knowing the price.

There also isn’t pricing information for suggested domains. This complete lack of transparency with pricing is one of the company’s biggest flaws (more on that in a bit).

register.com domain registration process

Next, I tried to see my cart to view pricing info, but I was forced to create an account first. Personally, this makes me uneasy. I’m already feeling iffy with the lack of pricing transparency and the auto add to cart… now I can’t even review my cart without signing up with Register.com? No bueno.

register.com account sign up process

Once I was able to finally see my cart contents, I learned my domain would cost $5, but I have to pay an additional $11 for private domain registration. There appears to be a discount applied, but to get details you’ll have to click through for more information.

register.com pricing discount

However, with the information provided, I have no idea how much it will cost me to renew my domain each year.

Register.com Renewals

Aside from the pricing issues, the checkout process was also littered with upsells. Which brings me to…

Upsells

When a domain registrar offers complementary products (like hosting, website builders, etc.), I expect some upselling. It’s not inherently bad or annoying — it’s an option for customers who want complementary products but also keeps prices low for those who don’t.

So when I see a registrar is upselling, I try to pay special attention to how. Is it subtle and user-friendly? Or does it stall what I’m actually trying to accomplish?

Register.com does two things wrong with upsells. First, they appear at nearly every opportunity instead of only when I’m looking (AKA at checkout or in an upgrade section). Plus, the upsells in checkout impede my progress (there were at least two upsells I had to click through before I could enter my payment information).

Register.com Upsell 1 Register.com Upsell 2

Second, their messaging for many upsells is so oversimplified, it’s misleading. Take this messaging about my online effectiveness score…

Register.com upsell messaging

The combination of oversimplified and frequent upsells is both annoying and makes me wonder who they’re really looking out for.

Pricing

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest cons of Register.com is their lack of transparency in their pricing. I couldn’t find a full list of prices for TLDs, and when I searched for domains, none of the options provided had prices listed.

register.com pricing info for TLDs

Unfortunately, the complications don’t end there.

When I purchased my first domain, I could get a few basic TLDs (.com, .org, etc.) for $5 with a first-time discount that applied to my first three domains.

However, if you log back in during a new session, you’ll have to manually enter the promo code, and if you try to create a new account, you may not get the promo — it appears Register.com aggressively tag new users with cookies to prevent promotions.

After that promo was up, my next .com domain was $38 plus an additional $11 for privacy.

register.com pricing after promo

This is outrageously expensive for a simple domain. Even a big brand like GoDaddy will sell a .com domain at $11.99 and renew at $14.99, while more up and coming brands like Namecheap will sell at $2.98 and renew at 12.98 for .com domains.

Transparency (Or Lack Thereof)

All of Register.com’s cons can essentially be summed up into one glaring issue: a lack of transparency. I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of domain pricing by TLD, nor could I find a comprehensive list of TLD options. I couldn’t check out without upsells, but it’s unclear which upsells I really need due to oversimplified messaging.

All in all, the experience made me very wary of Register.com. I’m all about information — I like to know what to expect and to compare options. When there’s such an obvious lack of information, it makes me wonder why that info isn’t provided.

Conclusion + Next Steps

Overall, I was throw by how bad Register.com was. I figured for a company that carries such brand recognition, surely there has to be some value… but I really couldn’t find anything besides their corporate name. If you are still sold on them, go check them out here.

But remember… this isn’t an interstate exit in Kansas with only one recognizable option! So with that said…

If you still want to purchase domains from a well-known brand but want some deep discounts, check out GoDaddy here.

If you prefer an overall excellent domain registrar with the best long-term pricing, then I recommend checking out NameCheap here.

And if you want to just get a domain with your hosting company to keep everything convenient, then take my hosting quiz to find the right company for you.

Register.com

Register.com is a domain registrar owned by Web.com (one of the largest and oldest website hosting/builder brands in the industry). They offer domain registration and complementary products such as hosting and website builders.
Register.com Review
Date Published: 08/28/2018
Register.com is a classic example of a company riding on its name while getting outdone by other companies who are competing on raw value. Their lack of transparency and high prices make them a poor choice for a domain registrar.
1 / 5 stars

The post Register.com Domain Registrar Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Hover Domains Review: Pros & Cons of Hover Domains as Domain Registrar

Hover Domains Review

Hover Domains is a domain registrar founded in 2009 as an offshoot of Tucows Inc. (the second largest ICANN accredited domain registrar online). Hover’s M.O. is that they stick to what they know, and that’s domains.

But let’s be honest, you probably only know them from their podcast ads on shows like Hello Internet and 99% Invisible. While Grey and Roman might plug them – you want to know how they actually stack up.

Well – this domain registrar deals solely with buying, managing, and transferring domains on their platform. They do offer email services, but do not offer other complementary products such as hosting, website builders, etc.

Check out Hover’s products & pricing here.

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not an email, an app, or any other service. It’s simply your online address. It helps people locate where you are. If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting (which Hover does not provide).

I’ll dive deeper into this in the pros and cons, but it’s an important distinction to make up front, because it helps us understand what Hover’s goal is. They’re not about being an all-in-one solution — quite the opposite, actually. Their focus is on on simplicity. They’re all about getting you your domain and letting you use it wherever you need it through app integrations.

How does Hover stack up against other domain registrars? Here’s our review of Hover Domains as a domain registrar with pros and cons.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Hover Domains

Interface

Hover’s interface is about as user-friendly as it gets. It’s clean, simple, and easy to navigate. The domain search is the most prominent thing on the homepage, making it clear exactly where to go to get started.

Hover Interface

Once you search for a domain, you’re given a clean list with an exact match and other recommendations. Hover offers a ton of top level domain options (more on that in a minute), and gives an easy way to navigate through them with different filter categories.

Hover Domain Search Results
The checkout process itself is simple as well. It took me four easy steps to get my domain from my cart to my dashboard. For a domain registrar that prides itself on simplicity, Hover definitely delivers.

Variety of TLDs

Now that ICANN allows more TLDs outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all the ones they want (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Hover has a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains, which are broken down by categories to make finding the perfect match easier.

Hover TLDs categorized

Hover also offers a ton of country-specific domains for international use, making it a great choice if you need to buy up domains for various countries/regions or even cities.

Hover TLDs Countries
Transparent Pricing

Domain registrars use a whole host of pricing types, from cheap upfront pricing with high renewal rates to expensive with cheap renewals.

Hover is fairly straightforward with their pricing. Their table breaks down pricing for purchase, renewal, and transfer for all of their TLD types. Their rates include WHOIS privacy protection, which means that your personal details like name, address, and contact information are protected from spammers, marketers, and others who may do a WHOIS lookup. The prices do not include ICANN fees however, which means you’ll need to add an additional $0.18 on to your purchase (more on that in the cons).

Hover Pricing
Hover also offers discounts on renewal rates when you have 10 or more domains registered with them. You can see how the pricing breaks down for the domain ranges in their pricing table.

Hover Pricing Bulk Savings

“Real Person” Support

While I haven’t had to contact support, Hover is well known for their excellent customer service. They claim to be fellow haters of the phone tree, and as such, don’t use automated systems. Whether you’re calling in, emailing, or live chatting, you’re connected to a person.

Hover Support Mentality

In terms of coverage, Hover offers a pretty robust schedule. You can contact them weekdays (8:00 AM – 11:00 PM ET) and weekends (8:00 AM – 8:00 PM ET) via email, phone, or live chat.

Their “Need Help” tab also follows you throughout the site and offers frequently asked questions and answers, as well as a link to their live chat and additional support information.

Hover Support Options

Integrations

Although Hover focuses solely on domain registering and managing (and email), it does offer a plethora off apps you can easily integrate your domain with, from website builders like Squarespace to ecommerce platforms like Shopify.

Hover Integrations
Aside from the integration options, the actual process of integrating your domain is fairly straightforward. Hover provides step-by-step instructions for each app, making it easy for even the least tech-experienced website owners. They’ll even handle some of the work for you (like adding your DNS records to connect your domain with your website platform).

Hover App Integration Instructions

Data Protection

One of the main things that stood out to me while registering a domain with Hover was how far they went to protect my data. There’s nothing worse than registering a domain and getting tons of spam emails immediately afterward (or getting retargeted by ads left and right). WHOIS privacy protects this somewhat, but Hover goes a step beyond during the checkout process by allowing you to select how your data is shared. I also received an email after purchasing my domain prompting me to set my data use consent preferences.

Hover Data Use Email

Cons of Hover Domains

Lacking Complementary Products

Hover’s focus on only domains is a pro, but it’s also a con.

There are several products that almost always go with a domain. If you want to make your site secure with SSL, you’ll need an SSL certificate associated with the domain. You can buy it separately from a third party, but from my experience, managing it with your domain is simpler.

When it comes to hosting, I like to separate my domains and hosting, but many owners prefer that their hosting and domains get bundled into one (even if it’s not ideal from a performance perspective).

NameCheap has competitive hosting; GoDaddy offers affordable managed WordPress hosting with domains. And most hosting companies offer domain registration (or even free domains) with hosting purchase (such as InMotion or Bluehost).

Those kind of products simply aren’t available with Hover. You can purchase domain email (AKA match your domain name to an email address (or several), but if you’re looking for the convenience of having your hosting and website builder all in one platform, you’re out of luck.

Pricing

While Hover offers straightforward pricing (which is a pro), the con is that they tend to be pricier than other registrars — and this is the largest con going against them as a domain registrar.

If you want to compare prices, let’s look at NameCheap vs. Hover. You can get a .com domain on NameCheap for $10.98 (plus the $0.18 ICANN fee), which then renews at $12.98. With Hover, that same .com domain will cost you $12.99 and renews at $14.99.

The pricing discrepancy gets even larger when you get into other specialty TLDs. See the comparison for this .condos domain between Hover and NameCheap.

If you’re looking to save money on a domain purchase or renewal and don’t mind the upselling/cross selling that typically comes with those registrars, there are better choices out there for you than Hover.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more for a domain registrar that’s straightforward and keeps their cross selling and upselling out of it, Hover isn’t a bad choice – but you need to fully factor in your costs.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want a very simple domain buying and integration experience
  • Need a registrar that offers plenty of support
  • Want to keep your email and your domain with the same provider
  • Don’t need complementary products (besides email)

… Hover Domains could be a good fit for you.

However, if you’re…

  • More experienced in getting online
  • Looking to save on domains (especially specialty TLDs)
  • Want to keep your hosting and domains in the same place

… there are better options out there for you (I mostly use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

Hover Domains

Hover Domains is a domain registrar founded in 2009 as an offshoot of Tucows Inc. (the second largest ICANN accredited domain registrar online). This domain registrar deals solely with buying, managing, and transferring domains on their platform (they also offer email services, but no other complementary products).
Hover Domains Review
Date Published: 08/08/2018
Simple, straightforward domain purchasing process with solid support and easy integration with a wide variety of apps. Pricier than other registrars and no complementary products aside from email.
3 / 5 stars

The post Hover Domains Review: Pros & Cons of Hover Domains as Domain Registrar appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Name.com Review: Pros & Cons of Name.com as Domain Registrar

Name.com Review

Name.com is a Denver-based, ICANN-accredited domain registrar company that also offers web hosting, email, a website builder, and SSL certificates. It’s owned by Donuts Inc, a domain servicing company who specializes in serving premium & new top level domains (TLDs), which go beyond generic .com/.net/.org domains website owners were previously limited to.

Name.com touts an all-in-one approach to getting you online — they have everything you need to get up and running quickly, AKA a domain name, hosting, website builder, security, and email.

Check out Name.com’s plans & pricing here.

So, how does Name.com stack up against other domain registrars? Here’s my Name.com review with pros and cons based on my experience with them so far…

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Name.com

Complementary Products

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email or any other service. It’s merely your address online. It helps people locate where your property is by telling browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).

If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

Name.com offers an all-in-one approach with their complementary products. You can bundle your domain, website builder, hosting, and email and do it all from their platform.

Name.com Complementary Products

While I personally like to separate my hosting and domains to provide an extra layer of control & reliability in addition to cost savings, many website owners prefer to have them bundled for convenience & time savings.

Sophisticated Search

Right off the bat, it’s easy to search for a domain with Name.com’s interface. And while the search results aren’t the easiest to decipher (more on that later), what’s really enticing about this domain registrar is its bulk search.

Name.com has a built in bulk search functionality that allows you to search and register for many domains all at once. You can filter by specific TLD or TLD category, meaning you don’t have to scroll endlessly or type in the TLDs you want. Just add the root domains/keywords to the search bar and filter from there to only see results that make sense for your business.

TLD Selection

Thanks to ICANN, the internet’s governing body, gone are the days where website owners are limited to basic domains like .com, .net, and a few other generic and country-designated top level domains (TLDs).

Now you can find unique TLDs, like .kitchen or .academy among hundreds of others. Which means the issue now is making sure your domain registrar has all of the TLDs you want to register.

Name.com has a large selection of various TLDs, making it easy to find unique choices to match your business needs (and multiple endings for the same root).

Name.com TLDs

They also offer country-specific domains (not all US-based domain providers do), making it a good choice if you need international domain types.

Name.com Country TLD

Simple Transfer Process

Despite the ICANN process being standardized for transfering a domain, some registrars make moving your domain a pain. While I haven’t transferred a domain from Name.com yet, the process seems fairly straightforward. In your profile, you can unlock your domain (as long as you’ve had it longer than 60 days due to ICANN regulations).

Name.com Transfer Process

After unlocking your domain, you’ll use your transfer authorization code to go through your new registrar’s transfer in process.

Inexpensive Upfront Pricing

Domain registrars typically have a few pricing models companies stick to:

  • Discounted upfront pricing with expensive renewals
  • Expensive upfront pricing with cheap renewals
  • Higher renewal + included services
  • Free / cheap initial purchase + consistent renewal
  • Cheap + zero services
  • Expensive + tons of services

Name.com falls into the first bucket. They offer discounted upfront pricing for traditional domains and more unique/premium TLDs (which can be more expensive), which then renew annually at a much higher price. At the time of writing this, there was also a new customer discount for .com domain registration (reducing the price to $7.99).

The pro with this model is you can grab a domain for super cheap and then transfer it out to a platform with cheaper renewals (like NameCheap) so you avoid the high renewal rate.

That being said, if you’re really committed to grabbing a cheap domain and transferring it to avoid high renewals, I’d recommend starting with a registrar like GoDaddy. Their domains tend to be cheaper.

Cons of Name.com

Domain Search / Purchasing Process

While it’s simple to search for a domain name on Name.com, once you actually get into the search results… there’s a lot going on.

Name.com Search Results

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you may not find it overwhelming. But if you’re new to registering domains, the number of options and breakdowns of premium domains, sales, etc. can be a bit confusing.

The purchasing process was also lengthy. It took me several steps to purchase one domain name, including a text confirmation (great for security, a hurdle for convenience).

When adding a domain to your cart, the pricing automatically increases as it adds security features, and when you go to click on your cart to see your items, your served upsells before you can see what’s actually in your cart (more on both of these below).

After checking out, there aren’t clear next steps as to what to do next (the only next step outline is to check out their domain forwarding tools).

Name.com Order Complete

For a platform that makes its stand on being an all-in-one solution, there could be more guidance for those who don’t have a ton of technical experience and want to convenience of complementary products, but don’t know exactly what to do once they’ve purchased their domain.

Pricing

While Name.com’s inexpensive upfront is a pro, it’s also a con. The renewal price on domains is significantly higher, especially for specialty TLDs. Keep in mind that the domain will automatically renew unless you unselect this option during the checkout process. There also aren’t upfront options for bulk purchasing — you have to contact their team to discuss pricing, which is unfortunate given the great bulk search option.

Name.com no auto renewal

Another con to the pricing structure is that WHOIS security/privacy features aren’t included in the domain price. ICANN requires that personal information including your full name, address, phone number and email be provided. This information is made public via a WHOIS lookup and remains so unless you have privacy and security add-ons that restrict this information.

Some domain registrars will include this in your domain price. Name.com adds it automatically when you register a domain, which adds an additional $4.99 to your bill. You won’t know until you add your domain, then click in to view your cart emails (and make it through the upsells).

With the additional $4.99 pricing, you start getting back to standard pricing for domains, especially for .com domains. For example, let’s look at Name.com vs. NameCheap.

On Name.com, architechtureandbeauty.com sells is on “sale” for $8.99. But once you add on WHOIS privacy, you’re sitting at $13.98 for the domain.

Name.com Comparison Pricing

Meanwhile, the domain sells on NameCheap for $10.98. With the ICANN fee, it brings the total to $11.16 and includes WHOIS privacy.

NameCheap Pricing Comparison

The same applies for specialty TLDs (like architectureandbeauty.com, which would cost you a total of $34.98 on Name.com vs. $26.06 on NameCheap).

So if you’re looking at Name.com because of their savings, you could actually save more elsewhere.

Upsells / Cross Sells

For several website owners, a domain registrar that offers complementary products is great. And while I like to keep hosting and domains separate, I do get behind added security features like an SSL certificate.

However, if your goal is to just purchase a domain (and maybe an SSL certificate), the upsells and cross sells on Name.com can be getting in your way. You can’t view your cart items without seeing the upsells/cross sells, and you have to sort through that information when trying to buy your domain.

Name.com Upsells

That being said, Name.com isn’t nearly as pushy as other registrars. At the time of writing this, I’ve received no promotional emails urging me to buy hosting or a website builder.

It’s all about what you’re looking for. If you need complementary products and want the convenience of having your services bundled, then you won’t mind navigating the upsells and cross sells. But if you just want to purchase a domain quickly, there are better registrars (like iwantmyname.com).

Support

Despite having a fairly robust Knowledge Base where you can troubleshoot your own support needs, Name.com gets a fairly bad rap for support. Complaints range from availability to the levels of support provided.

At the end of the day, anecdotes go both ways. It’s difficult to decipher whether it’s the website owner who isn’t clear or the support who is dropping the ball, so let’s take a look at the actual process of getting connected when you need help.

When you go to the support area, you’re first prompted to troubleshoot your issue with Name.com’s Knowledge Base, which is broken down by category.

Name.com Support Area

From there, you’re given a list of articles that could address your needs.

Name.com Knowledge Base

If you can’t find your question in the articles, you’ll then find contact information at the bottom of the page where you have three options: email support, call (Monday-Friday 8 AM – 6 PM MT. Denver), or live chat every day between 10 AM and 5 PM MT, Denver.

It’s a bit of an arduous process, especially when you have a pressing matter. There are also some apparent support gaps, especially for other timezones (or again, if you have a pressing matter that falls outside of support hours).

If you’re someone who knows their way around domain management and the back-end of your website system, you could probably get by with the support articles. But if you’re new to registering a domain, hosting, and setting up a website, you may want to go with a registrar with more hands-on support and coverage.

Next Steps

For what it’s worth, Name.com is an okay choice for a domain registrar. But unless you have an pressing reason to go with Name.com (like an amazing deal on a TLD that you want to grab upfront for cheap), then you’d be better off with a domain registrar like NameCheap.

NameCheap offers inexpensive upfront pricing, cheaper renewals, and still has complementary products for website owners who want to keep everything together. You can find my review of NameCheap as a domain registrar here.

Name.com

Name.com is a Denver-based, ICANN-accredited domain registrar company that also offers web hosting, email, a website builder, and SSL certificates. It offers everything someone needs to get up and running online, all in one place.
Name.com Review
Date Published: 08/08/2018
Offers basic complementary products and a wide variety of TLDs. Inexpensive pricing upfront with high renewal pricing and WHOIS privacy not included.
2 / 5 stars

The post Name.com Review: Pros & Cons of Name.com as Domain Registrar appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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iwantmyname Review: Pros & Cons of iwantmyname as Domain Registrar

iwantmyname Review

iwantmyname is a New Zealand-based domain registrar company focused solely on domain registration and management. The company, which was founded by employees from several ICANN accredited domain registrars, has been around since 2008 and prides itself on its simplicity, transparency, and ethics.

iwantmyname believes in making the domain buying, managing, and transferring process transparent and simple. They’re big on company values (like transparency) and give off the “good guy” of domain registrars vibe.

Check out iwantmyname’s plans & pricing.

So, how does this domain registrar stack up against the rest? Here’s my experience so far and my full iwantmyname review with pros & cons…

Before we dive too far into the pros and cons, there are a few things to keep in mind:

First, iwantmyname is strictly a domain registrar. They allow you to buy, register, and manage domain names. They do not offer complementary services such as hosting. We’ll dive deeper into this in the pros and cons, but it’s an important distinction to make upfront, because it helps us understand iwantmyname’s goal. They’re solely focused on “getting online” easy for small and/or less tech-y businesses — and the first step to getting online is getting a domain name.

Second, it’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not an email, an app, or any other service. It’s simply your online address. It helps people locate where you are. If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

Third, a disclosure that ShivarWeb receives customer referral fees from many companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on experiences as a paying customer and professional judgement.

All that said – let’s look at the pros & cons of using iwantmyname as your domain registrar.

Pros of iwantmyname

Interface/Backend

iwantmyname promises simplicity, and simplicity is what you get. You’ll notice as soon as you go to their website that it’s so plain, it’s almost bland — which for a domain registrar, is fine.

I don’t need the design to be pretty… I need it to be functional. It should be easy to find exactly what I’m looking for, and iwantmyname’s interface accomplishes that. It’s basic and directs me right to where I need to go.

iwantmyname interface

The design has no upsells, cross sells, or visual clutter. In fact, iwantmyname prides themselves on no upselling and/or cross selling. It’s refreshing when compared to the typical onslaught of direct response offers from most domain and hosting companies. To buy your domain, you’ll follow a simple three-step checkout process that requires absolutely no “online savviness” to complete.

Transparent pricing

iwantmyname gives standard pricing per domain extension. And while their pricing is on the more expensive side (more on that in the cons), there are no setup costs, ICANN fees, or any other hidden chargers. Your domain renews automatically at the same rate every year, and you won’t be bombarded by upsells or cross sells upon checking out.

In short, what you see is what you get.

Tons of TLDs

Given iwantmyname is a global domain registrar, the company offers a plethora of top level domains (TLDs). If you’re looking for a unique domain like .kitchen or .academy, iwantmyname’s got you covered.

iwantmyname tld options

What’s great about this registrar’s selection of TLDs though is the country specific domains. Not all domain registrars offer TLDs outside of the US-only generic options. If you want to build an international presence, you’ll have a lot of availability and options with iwantmyname.

iwantmyname tld uk

Integrations

Although iwantmyname focuses solely on domain registering and managing, it does offer a plethora off apps you can easily integrate your domain with, from website builders like Squarespace to ecommerce platforms like Shopify to email providers like G Suite.

iwantmyname integrations

Not only are there are ton of integration options, but the actual integration process is incredibly simple. You don’t need any tech experience to connect your domain to these apps and services. In fact, to connect a domain to G Suite, it takes just a few clicks.

iwantmyname G Suite integration

Transfer process

Despite the ICANN process being standardized, some domain registrars make transferring your domain hell. This isn’t the case with iwantmyname.

iwantmyname transfer process

I haven’t personally transferred a domain with them, but the process looks incredibly straightforward. All you’ll need to do is unlock your domain and note the authorization code, then follow the steps your new registrar provides

Simplicity

All of iwantmyname’s pros can really be summed up in one major pro: simplicity. From the domain search to the process for updating nameserves (it’s one click), everything is straightfoward and tailored to those who need to get up and running quickly without a ton of technical experience.

It helps that iwantmyname takes such a strong interest in transparency, too. Their values definitely translate to how they do business and have designed their platform, making it a refreshingly transparent process with little confusion or convulsion.

Cons of iwantmyname

Support

iwantmyname’s interface and model is focused on eliminating any possible need for customer support. It’s simple, straightforward, and tailored toward individuals who need no tech experience to get a domain. That said — things happen. And when things happen, you need support.

I’ve never had to use iwantmyname’s support, however, their options are pretty limited. They only offer email support (they explain why here… small organization + flat rate salary + being people-centric). They do claim to have 23 of the 24 hours of the day covered Tuesday-Friday and acknowledge the holes their working on, but when you’re in a bind, it’s nice to know you have immediate access to someone… and that might not always be the case here.

Pricing

While iwantmyname’s transparent pricing structure is great (no fees, no upsells, and no change in rate upon annual renewal), the con is that their domains get pricey — especially for TLDs outside of the basics (like .com, .org, etc.).

iwantmyname pricing

There also aren’t any discounts for bundling domains, so if you’re looking to buy in bulk, you may want to look elsewhere.

No Complementary Products

iwantmyname’s focus on only domains is a pro, but it’s also a con.

There are several products that almost always go with a domain. If you want to make your site secure with SSL, you’ll need an SSL certificate associated with the domain. You can buy it separately from a third party, but from my experience, managing it with your domain is simpler.

When it comes to hosting, I like to separate my domains and hosting, but many owners prefer that their hosting and domains get bundled into one (even if it’s not ideal from a performance perspective).

NameCheap has competitive hosting; GoDaddy offers alright WordPress hosting with domains. And most hosting companies offer domain registration (or even free domains) with hosting purchase (such as InMotion or Bluehost).

Those kind of products simply aren’t available with iwantmyname. They make recommendations, but if you’re looking for the convenience of having it all in one place and not having to figure it out for yourself, you’re out of luck.

Next Steps

If you’re looking to….

  • Registrar for generic domains
  • Get up and running online ASAP without needing a ton of tech experience
  • Buy from or transfer your domain to a company who values transparency
  • Don’t need to buy a bunch of domains in bulk

…. then iwantmyname is an excellent choice for you. If that doesn’t sound like you, you can use this quiz to help you find which domain registrar would be the right fit for your business needs.

iwantmyname

iwantmyname is a New Zealand-based domain registrar company focused solely on purchasing and managing domains. It promises simplicity and transparency for global customers.
iwantmyname Review
Date Published: 08/08/2018
A bit pricier than rivals, but a solid product for those who want an easy domain-buying experience. Clean, simple, and zero tech experience necessary, but lacks complementary products.
4 / 5 stars

 

The post iwantmyname Review: Pros & Cons of iwantmyname as Domain Registrar appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Advertise On Pinterest Effectively

How to Advertise on Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest was launched in 2010 and has grown to at least 200 monthly active users in 2017. The social sharing platform is designed to help people discover information on the internet. Therefore, just creating an account on Pinterest can draw viewers to your brand.

Pinning content from your own website puts it in front of a new audience. Even pinning other people’s content can draw followers to your Pinterest account. You can get more data from your account. Optimizing the SEO of your Pinterest boards can boost their organic search rankings in Google. All of these strategies are free.

The platform began experimenting with monetizing certain pins in 2014, initiating an effective way for companies to advertise. Nowadays, advertisers can create Promoted Pins, which show up alongside all of the other pins on the page. In this image, you can see that the pin that says “Get 500% more traffic” indicates that it’s promoted by Pinterest in the description below it:

In this case, Pinterest is using its platform to advertise tips for businesses. It’s always encouraging to see a company using its own advertising services. That’s one way to know that the system works.

What Is Pinterest?

First, let’s discuss Pinterest and how it works. Some people say that Pinterest is a social network. Others refer to it as a search engine. Through Pinterest, you create a profile and then “pin” visual content onto different “boards.”

It’s like a collection of virtual bulletin boards. Instead of cutting out paper images from magazines, though, you save images that you find on the internet. You can write a description or include a link with those images so that you can refer back to the website from which they came.

You can create several boards and label them however you’d like. Most people set up boards for different categories. For example, you might have boards that are labeled:

  • Home décor
  • Fun summer activities
  • Dessert recipes
  • Knitting and crochet
  • Boho style

If you’re looking for inspiration for a project, a shopping venture or content that falls in line with your interests, you can search for it on Pinterest. Your search results appear as visual pins with short descriptions underneath them. This is what came up when we searched for “watercolor tutorials”:

To find out more about each search result, you can click on it. From here, you can see the full description, the URL from which the image came, when it was published and any comments that other users have left.

Here’s where things get social. You can leave a comment or ask a question. You can also follow the original poster’s account. Therefore, simply pinning items that interest you can drive traffic back to your Pinterest page and potentially to your website.

Emarketer says that there are 2 billion monthly searches on Pinterest. The platform drives about 5 percent of referral traffic to websites.

When you log onto Pinterest, you’ll see your feed, which shows the pins that the platform thinks that you’ll be interested in. You might see pins from people you follow or a combination of content that you might care about, based on other items that you’ve pinned.

However, Pinterest prefers to show content from trusted sources in users’ feeds. Therefore, if you’re using Pinterest for your business without advertising, you need to make sure that you pin high-quality content and that your pins are receiving engagement in the form of click-throughs, saves and comments.

Why Pinterest Advertising Works

While Facebook is the largest social media platform, Pinterest is competitive with Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter, according to Pew Research. Twenty-six percent of all American adults use Pinterest, and most of them are women. Pinterest reports that 40 percent of people who actively pin have a household income of at least $100K. If you sell products targeted toward women who want to shop, you’re in the right place.

Here are some other statistics about Pinterest users and their purchasing power:

  • Millenials use Pinterest as much as Instagram.
  • People who use Pinterest are ready to make a purchase.
  • 93% of active pinners use the platform to plan future purchases.
  • 73% of pinners say that brand content makes the platform more useful.
  • 61% of pinners have bought something after viewing a promoted pin.
  • 75% of saved pins are initiated by businesses.
  • People who use Pinterest spend 29% more on retail than non-users.

People search the platform for information that they can use to fuel upcoming purchases for things like home renovations, weddings, parties, vacations or having a baby. This is the place where people are looking for new information, ideas and brands. If you can provide these new ideas, you can make connections with a new audience.

Pinterest advertising looks natural. It fits into place with the other pins in your feed, and it doesn’t detract from or interrupt the user experience. Promoting your pins puts you in front of a receptive audience who is looking for products and ideas that will help them make their next move.

Types Of Pinterest Advertising

There are several types of Pinterest ads, including:

  • Promoted pins
  • Promoted video pins
  • One-tap pins
  • Promoted app pins
  • Cinematic pins

Promoted pins look just like a regular pin, except that they have the word “Promoted” at the bottom of the pin. Businesses pay Pinterest to give these priority over non-promoted pins. Once someone saves your promoted pin, it’s considered an organic find, and that person will no longer see the word “Promoted.” Other people who follow these pinners may find and save these pins, bringing you added traffic for free.

If your promoted pin contains a video, it will appear in search results, news feeds and a “More Like This” section that comes up below a clicked pin and shows similar content. The video will play automatically.

One-tap pins bypass the close-up image and “more details” page that normally shows up when you click on a pin in your feed. When a user clicks on these ads, they go straight to a landing page that you designate. You might think that this is a great way to get your audience in your lap, but some users are surprised by the change in the normal process and click off of your website quickly to get back to Pinterest.

If you are promoting an app, you can use a promoted app ad to get people to install it. The ad will include an app icon and install button so that users don’t have to leave Pinterest to sign up for your app.

Cinematic pins contain animation that moves when a user scrolls. This captures users’ attention and makes them feel like they’re in control without missing the end of the video.

5 Things To Do Before Advertising On Pinterest

Paying to promote pins can be an effective marketing strategy. However, there are a few steps that you should take before you set up your first advertisement on Pinterest.

1. Register For A Business Account

If you haven’t used Pinterest before, you’ll need to create a new account. It’s free to set up, and it takes less than a minute. Start by going to Pinterest’s Business Account page and clicking “Sign Up.”

Enter your email address, password and business name, select your business category from the drop-down menu and click “Create account.”

Follow the next steps, which are self-explanatory. These include selecting your language and country, adding your website URL and picking at least five categories in which you’re interested.

If you already have a Pinterest account, log in and click on Settings. It will say “Business Account Basics” on the top left if it’s a business account. If it’s a personal account, you can convert it to a business account by going to this link.

2. Claim Your Website

When you set up your business account, you should have added your business website URL to your profile. If you didn’t do that yet, go to your settings by clicking on the profile image on the top right when you’re logged into your account. Scroll down until you see the “Claim Website” section.

After you claim your website, you can utilize features such as:

  • Website analytics – Track traffic to pins from your site.
  • Featured logo – Add your profile picture to any content that’s pinned from your site.
  • Early access to tools – Be the first to hear about new business tools that Pinterest rolls out.

To claim your website, you’ll need to either add a bit of code to the <head> section of your website’s index.html file or download a file from Pinterest and upload it to your site’s root directory. After you do that, you can submit your website to Pinterest for review.

3. Install A Conversion Tag

You can add another Pinterest code to every page that you want to track on your website. The code is the same for every page, but you can use it to retarget people who have visited specific pages on your website.

To do this, click on “Ads” on the top left of your account, and then select “Conversion Tracking.”

Choose “Generate Pinterest Tag.” You’ll get code that you can insert between the <head> and </head> elements in the HTML of every page on your website for which you want to track visitors.

4. Upload Your List

If you have amassed a list for your newsletter, you can upload it to Pinterest so that you can target the same users with your Pinterest ads**. Just create a .csv file with the email addresses that you’ve collected over the years. Log into your Pinterest account.

**If you go this route – you need to have your audience’s consent. If you are in the EU, because it’s the law. If you are outside the EU, because you need to be cool, not creepy.

Click on Ads > Audiences.

Then, click on “Create Audience.” Choose “A list of customers that you upload” from the window that appears. Name your audience, and include the date so that you can update it a few months from now.

Pinterest will match up the email addresses from your list with those of its users so that you can show ads to the same people. In the future, you can also create “an actalike audience that behaves similarly to the one you already have.” This will choose people with similar demographics and interests as the people on your email list.

5. Pin Some Content

You can’t promote a pin unless you’ve pinned it publicly. Therefore, if you have created a new Pinterest account in hopes of setting up some ads, you should take some time to create boards and pin content for free before you put money into it.

Make sure that all of your pins contain high-quality images. The visuals are going to grab people’s attention before anything else. Therefore, they need to be top-notch.

Vertical Pins

Pinterest displays images vertically. Therefore, you need to use the correct aspect ratio to get the most out of your pins’ appearance. For years, Pinterest has claimed that a 2:3 aspect ratio is ideal. However, some pinners said that posts with these dimensions didn’t perform well. Some people even created extra-long posts to capture people’s attention.

As of June 2018, however, Pinterest said that those “giraffe pins” may be cropped and won’t show up as frequently in people’s feeds. The ideal aspect ratio is 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels high (720 x 1080 works well too). Square images look good, and they are easy to import from Instagram.

An aspect ratio of 600 x 1260 (with 1260 being the height in pixels) won’t be cropped. Anything taller will.

If you’re creating long giraffe pins, make sure that they add value. Infographics and step-by-step tutorials are ideal for these space-hogging pins.

Rich Pins

Creating Rich Pins can help people learn more about your products. Rich pins contain additional information, including:

  • App – Takes viewers to the app store for download
  • Article – Includes a headline, author and story description
  • Product – Includes pricing, availability and purchase location
  • Recipe – Includes title, ingredients, cooking times, serving information and ratings

By adding the metadata directly to the pin, brands can increase engagement. Picture a recipe that contains a gorgeous picture of the food that you’re eating with the recipe itself below it. The pins pull from the metadata on your website.

Creating Rich Pins is a two-step process. First, you must add metadata to the articles, products and recipes on your site. If you have a WordPress site, you can do this easily with a plugin like Yoast. Then, you need to verify your Rich Pins with Pinterest. Once you validate one URL with a Rich Pin on your site, you’re all set. You don’t need to validate all of the URLs with Rich Pins.

Buyable Pins

Pinterest rolled out Buyable Pins in 2015 to make it easier for its audience to shop directly from a pin. These pins list the price in blue and contain a Buy It button so that people can make a purchase right from the app. When someone clicks Buy It, they go directly to the checkout, where they can pay with a credit card or Apple Pay.

If you’re a retailer or sell your own products, you’ll need to have a Shopify store that’s linked with the Pinterest sales channel to take advantage of Buyable Pins. As long as you point a pin’s URL to the product detail page on your Shopify store, it will activate as shoppable.

Pinterest automatically matches your product feed with your pins and generates Buyable Pins for any products that you have already pinned. For any other product, you should create pins from scratch. These can include additional images so that more people can discover your products.

Buyable Pins are similar to Rich Pins in that they display additional information. Rich Pins, however, don’t send you to the checkout when you click on them.

How To Set Up A Pinterest Ad

If you’ve decided to spend money on advertising, you might wonder how to advertise on Pinterest. This is a step-by-step tutorial that teaches you how to do it.

1. Create The Ad

When you’re ready to start advertising, click on the + sign that appears toward the top right, and then select “Create Ad.”

This brings you to your Ads Manager, where you can create your campaign.

2. Set Your Goals

You’ll begin by selecting your campaign objective.

Then, you’ll enter your campaign details. You’ll have to come up with a name for your campaign if it’s new, or you can select an existing campaign from the drop-down menu. You’ll also designate your daily and lifetime budget for the campaign here.

Then, decide on your campaign placement, which includes whether you want to make your ads one-tap. This feature can’t be edited once your campaign starts running.

If you’re creating an app install ad, you will have the option to select whether to optimize the campaign for completed installs or visits to the app download page. Both are charged on a cost-per-click basis. Pinterest also has direct integrations with mobile measurement partners, or MMPs, which help you track the install performance.

Finally, click “Create campaign and continue.”

3. Set Up An Ad Group

An ad group is a set of promoted pins that fall under the same campaign. You can have multiple ad groups for one campaign, which means that you will have a separate budget for your ad groups than you do for the campaign as a whole.

Understanding Ad Groups

Each ad group can have multiple promoted pins within it. You can assign different budgets and targets to each ad group, though. Therefore, you can use ad groups to set up unique budgets for different marketing areas, such as regions, demographics or products. You can also use ad groups to test the design, placement and objectives of your advertisements without building separate campaigns.

For example, you could create separate ad groups with maximum daily budgets to target:

  • Your email list
  • People who have visited related pages on your website
  • Actalike audiences

To keep everything straight, you should name your ad group based on its organizational structure, such as who you’re targeting or what promoted pins are showing up within that group.

4. Create A Target Audience

On the ad group page, you’ll be asked to create a target audience. This helps you get your ads in front of the right people. You can target viewers based on the following criteria:

You’ll need to give this audience a name and description. If you choose to retarget people who have visited your website, you’ll have to create a Pinterest tag to track them. If you choose to target individuals from an email list, you’ll be asked to upload the list.

You’ll be able to further clarify your audience by interests, such as boards and pins that they’ve interacted with in the past, keywords, languages, locations, devices and genders.

5. Create Your Maximum CPC Bid

On the page where you create your ad group, you’ll be asked to set a maximum CPC bid. This is the maximum amount that you want to pay per audience action, whether that’s impressions, clicks, engagement or app download. You won’t be charged the full bid unless it’s necessary to beat out the next-highest bidder.

6. Select Your Promoted Pin

Now, you can select the pin that you want to promote. You can only choose from items that you’ve publicly pinned. The pin doesn’t have to be one that you have initiated through your own website, although it would probably be a good idea to use an image that you’ve created.

Next, you’ll give the promoted pin a name (optional) and set the URL of the landing page that you want visitors to end up on when they click on it.

Consider the URL carefully. Ideally, you’ll send people who click on your ad to a page dedicated to your Pinterest audience. The landing page should have something to do with the pin that led people to it. If you’ve added Pinterest tag code to your website, you’ll be able to track the success of each promoted pin.

Click “Promote Pin” when you’re finished. The ad will go to Pinterest for review, which can take 24 hours. At this time, add your billing details so that you can pay for your ad once it’s approved.

The Quick Way To Promote A Pin

Pinterest also provides a way to promote your pins in about 10 seconds. Go to your profile and hover over a pin that you want to advertise. Click on the Promote button.

A window will open up where you can add all of the promotional details, including the URL, daily budget, campaign duration, target audience and keywords.

Tips And Tricks For Optimizing Your Pinterest Advertising

Just putting yourself out there isn’t always enough to gain an audience. Instead of wasting your dollars by advertising blindly, follow this advice to get the most out of your budget.

Promote The Best Pins

You might wonder what pins to promote when you advertise on Pinterest. Those with strong visuals do best. Making multiple pins for the same product is a good idea. You can show different angles, styles and descriptions to pull in different customers. Adding your brand name or logo to the image improves credibility.

If you sell products, Pinterest says that photographing them in lifestyle shots is more effective than displaying the product on its own. For example, a fashion pin should show someone wearing the clothing in a real-world setting. Home décor pins do better when they concentrate on the product instead of people. Hair and beauty products get great engagement when the items are displayed against a plain, contrasting background.

Most experts recommend promoting pins that are already doing well. Even though you might figure that boosting a low-performing pin could help it get in front of your audience, promoting a high-performing pin is more likely to give you results. Wouldn’t you want to pay for results as opposed to a lackluster reception to your ad?

When you’re picking a pin in step 3 of the ad creation process, you have the option of choosing from all pins, 30-day most clicked pins or 30-day most saved pins. Use this to your advantage to promote your most engaging content.

Add Text To Your Pins

Even though Pinterest relies on photos, it doesn’t hurt to add a little text to your images. The text overlay should clarify what viewers are looking at without detracting from the design as a whole. The words shouldn’t detract from the aesthetic. A simple overlay works wonderfully.

Make sure that you’re using the description wisely too. A call-to-action helps users stay engaged. You can ask people a question or give an instruction, such as “Learn more” or “Buy now.” You might even try having your call-to-action say, “Pin this for later” to remove the urgent sales quality but encourage people to save your pin.

Consistently Monitor And Analyze Your Ads

It’s hard to predict what’s going to resonate with viewers. Pinterest is a visual platform, and some images may capture more attention than others. When you’re just starting out, test everything, including the:

  • Image
  • Description
  • Call-to-action
  • Keywords
  • Bids
  • Audiences

After doing this consistently for a while, you’ll begin to notice which combinations are more effective.

Focus Your Keywords

Although you’re allowed to include up to 150 keywords with a promoted pin, you don’t have to use all of them. If you’re all over the place, you won’t get many click-throughs. Think about the way that your audience interacts with Pinterest.

The keywords should match the way that your target audience uses the platform (similar to how you “theme” keywords for SEO). Make sure that the keywords are also consistent with the information in the pin and the landing page to which they’re directed.

Because Pinterest is a search engine, keywords are crucial to your pins’ visibility. Create your descriptions the way that you would create meta tags for a web page’s title and description. Using trending keywords earlier in the text will help your pins get noticed.

When you place pinnable images on your website, make sure that you include keywords in the alt text. Your boards should contain long-tail keywords. Use Pinterest Analytics to track which pins get the most impressions and experiment with the keywords that you use.

Add Value

The best practices for advertising on some other platforms involve using a call-to-action to send people to a lead page. However, people who search using Pinterest are looking for information. They might get annoyed if they come across your promoted pin, click on it to investigate it further and reach a page that simply asks them for their email address.

An effective way to use Pinterest for advertising is to send people to a landing page where they can explore what you offer. You can certainly include a lead generation form on this page, but don’t make it the only asset at that URL.

Group Boards

Group boards are sometimes referred to as shared, community, collaborative or contributor boards. Using them can lead to significant increases in traffic.

More than one person can add pins to a group board. Therefore, when anyone adds pins to the board, those pins may appear in the home feed of anyone who follows any of the board members. This exponentially increases your reach.

If you focus on sharing your own content to group boards, you’ll gain exposure for your brand. Keep the content relevant, however.

Because Pinterest rewards high-quality pins with exposure, make sure that you join the right group boards. Those that are targeted to a specific theme usually have more traction with an audience and get more engagement. Click on several of the pins on a group board that you’re thinking of joining to make sure that the links aren’t broken or redirect to a spammy or inappropriate site.

Pinterest is an opportune way to expose your brand to a new audience. The platform isn’t just used by crafty people, DIY-ers and foodies. Travel, fashion, design, hobbies, health and beauty, entertainment, accessories and sporting goods are commonly searched categories on Pinterest. Creating a business account for your brand is free, and you can play around with promoting your pins at a low cost to determine whether it works well for your business.

Next Steps

Pinterest holds a lot of opportunity for businesses of all sizes. It’s also straightforward and fairly risk-less to experiment there.

You’ll learn more from running a single experiment than any blog post – so go for it!

If you want to know other ways to use Pinterest for marketing, check out Nate’s post on Pinterest & SEO research in addition to Using Pinterest Analytics.

The post How To Advertise On Pinterest Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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3dcart VS Volusion

3dcart-vs-Volusion

3dcart VS Volusion
✓ Pricing
Ease of Use ✓
✓ Features
Web Design ✓
✓ Integrations & Add-Ons
✓ Payment Processing
Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Winner Final Verdict
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site

Everyone knows starting a business is a challenge, and setting up an online store can be particularly difficult. Not only do you have to find a product and make a business plan, you also have to build an entire website that can operate as your selling platform. This was an almost impossible obstacle for many sellers just a few years ago, but modern software has eliminated many of the hurdles merchants would otherwise have to overcome.

Cloud-based, all-inclusive store building software programs like 3dcart and Volusion can give you the tools you need to make your idea a reality. And because these software place a strong focus on ease of use, all sellers (even those with little technical knowledge) can get a store up and running in just a few weeks–or less!

As a fully hosted solution, 3dcart aims to be accessible and affordable for all merchants. Small and large businesses alike can use this eCommerce platform successfully, as is evidenced by the 22,000 current users. What’s more, 3dcart is continually expanding its features and services to fit even more users.

In the same way, Volusion is a comprehensive shopping cart solution for small to large businesses. Volusion hosts over 30,000 stores and is now offering two versions of their software: the more feature rich V1 and the easy to use (but still developing) V2. Volusion gives merchants the option of choosing between the two.

So, which of these shopping cart solutions should you choose? Well, it depends.

3dcart and Volusion both come with unique advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will depend on your business’s needs. To learn which solution is right for your online store, keep reading. We’ll compare the two shopping carts head-to-head in categories such as pricing, ease of use, and web design. Read on.

Don’t have time to read an entire article? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both platforms are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

None. You just need a computer, secure internet access, and an up to date browser.

Pricing

Winner: 3dcart

3dcart and Volusion follow similar pricing models. Both services are billed on a monthly basis, no contract required, with advanced features included in higher level plans. If you commit to a year-long purchase, you can benefit from a discount of 10%. Keep in mind that many software solutions do not offer refunds on year-long purchases, so don’t commit to a full year until you’re sure the platform will work for you.

3dcart determines pricing levels by the number of staff users and availability of features. All plans beyond the startup plan come with unlimited products and bandwidth. Take a look at a brief breakdown:

  • Startup: $19/Month
    • 1 Staff User
    • 100 Products
    • Sell Up To $10K/Year
  • Basic: $29/Month
    • 2 Staff Users
  • Plus: $79/Month
    • 5 Staff Users
  • Pro: $229/Month
    • 15 Staff Users

3dcart also makes an enterprise platform available for any merchant with an annual revenue of over $400K/Year. There are also discounts available for charities and non-profits.

Pricing for Volusion differs between their two versions: V1 and V2. The most notable difference is that pricing for V1 does not include any transaction fees; however, bandwidth on this plan is limited and bandwidth overage fees apply. On the other hand, V2 comes with unlimited bandwidth, but merchants will have to pay transaction fees on all their sales. See both pricing models below:

V1 Pricing

  • Mini: $15/Month
    • 1GB Bandwidth
    • 100 Products
  • Plus: $35/Month
    • 3GB Bandwidth
    • 1,000 Products
  • Pro: $75/Month
    • 10GB Bandwidth
    • 10,000 Products
  • Premium: $135/Month
    • 35GB Bandwidth
    • Unlimited Products

V2 Pricing

  • Personal: $25/Month
    • Unlimited Products & Storage
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Professional: $75/Month
    • Unlimited Products & Storage
    • 1% Transaction Fee
  • Business: $135/Month
    • Unlimited Products & Storage
    • 0.5% Transaction Fee

When we compare 3dcart and Volusion, we can see that monthly rates for each pricing level are similar, with Volusion offering cheaper premium level plans. However, Volusion also charges fees in addition to these monthly rates (either bandwidth overage fees or transaction fees, depending on the version). For this reason, we’re awarding the category to 3dcart.

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

Ease Of Use

Winner: Volusion

3dcart and Volusion both claim to be easy to use solutions. Let’s take a closer look at each software.

3dcart offers all potential users a risk-free, 15-day trial, so you can test out the platform for yourself without handing over any credit card information.

When you log in, you’ll get to explore 3dcart’s dashboard. 3dcart organizes all features in a toolbar on the left. Use categories and subcategories to navigate the software. Use video tutorials to learn the basic procedures.

Adding a product to your store is a two-step process.  First, you have to input and save basic product information. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add in more detailed product information. For example, you can adjust shipping, inventory, and SEO settings.

3dcart is relatively easy to learn, though you may have difficulty locating features initially. Some features are buried in places you wouldn’t expect under titles you might not know to look for. Discounts features, for example, are available under “Promotion Manager.” Overall, we give 3dcart a four out of five stars in ease of use.

Volusion also offers trials of their software. You can sign up for free 14-day trials of both V1 and V2. Let’s start with V1.

When you log into your trial, you’ll find this dashboard:

Use tutorial videos to quickly learn your way around.

As it is with 3cart, adding a product on Volusion is a two-step process. First, add your basic product information. When you’ve saved that, you can add advanced information like SEO and shipping details along with more product descriptions.

While we don’t think Volusion V1 has the easiest dashboard in the eCommerce industry, it shouldn’t take too long to learn. You’ll find plenty of features available in the tool bar up top; you just have to figure out how to implement them the first few times.

Volusion V2 is the company’s newest attempt to make an easy to use eCommerce platform. The software is still in development, and while it is missing a few features, the UI is looking pretty good.

We’d still like to see a bit more work done to this admin. In particular, we’d like to see subcategories added to the toolbar on the left. This would make navigation require fewer clicks, which can really add up for online sellers.

V2’s “add a product page” is inviting in its simple and colorful design.

We have experienced some frustration with V2’s simple design, however. V2 tends to railroad users through basic operations, which can be a pain when you don’t need the help.

For example, when you go to set up a discount, you will encounter this screen:

You have to select the appropriate options before you’ll be presented the more typical discount creation page:

I would rather enter my information first into this second page. I don’t find the first page to be particularly helpful.

Volusion’s goal with V2 was to create a platform that’s easier to use, and they accomplish that goal. Personally, however, if I were to choose a version of Volusion, I would still pick V1. I think it’s worth learning a slightly more difficult software in order to access better features.

With so many versions of these software available, it’s difficult to directly compare 3dcart and Volusion. As far as ease of use goes, I think 3dcart and V1 are comparable, and V2 is slightly easier to use.

For this reason, we’re giving ease of use to Volusion.

Features

Winner: 3dcart

To get the best idea of these shopping carts’ features, a good plan is to visit each platform’s website and review the full list. However, if you don’t have time to do that just now, we’ll provide a brief overview of a few special features that each software offers below.

3dcart offers users lots of features, even at the lowest pricing plan. Here are a few:

  • Sell Digital: Sell digital products alongside your physical products.
  • Checkout Options: Choose either one-page or three-page checkout.
  • Automatic Calculators: Use tax and shipping calculators to generate real-time quotes.
  • Abandoned Cart Saver: Email customers to remind them to complete their orders.
  • Built-In Blog: Boost your brand and SEO with a blog.
  • SmartCategories: Create an “On Sale” category to showcase items.
  • Bulk Import / Export: Migrate platforms or make large scale edits with import and export features.
  • POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart Point Of Sale.

As you might expect, Volusion’s two versions come with different feature sets. Here are a few V1 features:

  • Abandoned Cart Reports & Emails: Encourage more conversions.
  • Allow Reviews: Let customers leave reviews on your products.
  • Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Tool: Easily process returned products.
  • Sell On Facebook, Amazon, eBay: Sync channels with your store and manage your multichannel orders from Volusion.
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN): Use a CDN to deliver site content faster.

And here are features for V2:

  • Instant Search: Let customers search products on your storefront.
  • Checkout On Your Domain: Customers will not be redirected to a Volusion subdomain at checkout (available for merchants on the Professional and Business level plans).
  • Shipping Features: Create shipping options like signature-required shipments, discounted shipping, and flat rate shipping.
  • Bulk Import: Use CSV files to import new inventory in bulk.
  • Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Tool: Process returns easily.
  • Dropshipping App: Use Volusion’s already-integrated dropshipping app to fulfill orders without handling merchandise.

3dcart is well known for their robust feature set. Volusion, on the other hand, is still working on expanding their feature set to better match their competitors’. 3dcart wins this one.

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

Web Design

Winner: Volusion

As hosted software, 3dcart and Volusion work to provide elegant, easily customizable design templates for their customers.

3dcart users can find 90 free themes in 3dcart’s marketplace, all of which are mobile responsive. These themes are rather middle-of-the-road. They aren’t spectacular, but they aren’t ugly.

3dcart also has a few dozen premium themes available for purchase. These themes cost $99-$199.

Sellers can edit these themes in a variety of ways. Tech savvy users can edit the HTML and CSS, and less experienced users can use the WYSIWYG editor to make changes to your store’s language (like buttons, tabs, etc.). 3dcart also has a drag and drop available for merchants who request it, but it isn’t a very strong editing option.

Volusion features different themes for V1 and V2. V1 has a selection of 46 themes, 11 of which are free. V1 also sells premium themes at $180.

V2 has a much smaller set of themes–just 14–and all of them are free and mobile responsive. There do not appear to be any premium templates available for V2.

Theme editing between the two versions is different as well. V1 users are equipped with code editing tools. You can use HTML and CSS editors. There are also a WYSIWYG editor and visual style editor, which you can use to adjust and add blocks of content to your site.

Theme editing with V2 is much more focused on ease of use. You can use V2’s visual editor to make larger changes without touching the code. Or, if you’d prefer, you can make changes directly to the CSS.

While 3dcart provides more template options, we think Volusion has more user-friendly editing tools. Volusion wins web design.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: 3dcart

3dcart’s marketplace features plenty of add-ons that offer a variety of features, including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertisement, and more. There’s also a RESTful API that developers can use to build more customizations and connections.

Volusion also has a strong app marketplace for merchants on the V1 version. There are over 70 integrations available for shipping, email, accounting, and more.

V2, on the other hand, does not provide so many options. There are only 22 applications currently available. It’s worth noting, however, that one of those applications is Zapier, which facilitates connections to many, many more integrations. Zapier is a paid service.

Both versions of Volusion also have APIs available for further development.

We’re basing our decision for this category on numbers. 3dcart wins!

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. You’ll have plenty of options.

Both versions of Volusion connect with significantly fewer payment gateways. V1 has 30+ payment gateways, and V1 only connects with two options: PayPal and Stripe (if you connect with Stripe, you can also enable Apple Pay).

In addition, Volusion offers its own in-house payment service for V1 merchants only: Volusion Payments. Volusion Payments lets you process transactions for around 2.15% + $0.30 per transaction with no monthly fee (note: this rate is a ballpark number. Your actual rates may be lower or higher). Volusion Payments requires users to sign a three year contract. If you terminate this contract after the 45 day grace period, you will be charged a $99 termination fee. While we’re happy that Volusion has its own payment services, we are displeased with the way they provide information about the services. Volusion is not very upfront about their fees on their website. We wish they were more transparent.

We’re giving the category to 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

All 3dcart plans come with personalized support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help support options include a knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and an e-university. 3dcart’s response times are good for inquiries via phone or web ticket. However, their response times for live chat support are significantly delayed. Essentially, “live chat” is just another way to submit web tickets. It takes hours for support reps to get back to you.

Customer support is the same for both versions of Volusion. All plans (except Mini on V1 and Personal on V2) come with 24/7 support via phone, chat, and email. Self help resources include a knowledge base, webinars, video tutorials, a blog, and guides. There are mixed reviews only about the quality of Volusion’s customer support. Some have great experiences, others don’t.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Every shopping cart comes with its fair share of negative reviews. Here’s what users dislike about each platform:

3dcart

  • Poor Customer Service: Users claim customer support is slow to respond to inquiries. Note below in the “Positive Reviews” section that this is not a universal experience.
  • Plain Templates: 3dcart’s templates aren’t bad, but they lack pizzaz.
  • Expensive Add-Ons: The cost of using multiple integrations and extensions can add up.

Volusion

  • Additional Fees: Merchants on both versions face additional fees: bandwidth overage fees on V1 and transaction fees on V2.
  • Dated Software: Users complain that Volusion’s features are not up-to-date with cutting edge software.
  • Misleading Sales Reps: I have seen a lot of reports of misleading sales tactics. It’s worth noting that Volusion has recently put a lot of work into improving their support system, and they claim higher levels of customer satisfaction.
  • No Free SSL On V1: Merchants on V1 have to purchase their own SSL certificate. These are normally included for free with hosted software.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Despite these negative reviews, there’s still a lot of good things to say about both of these platforms. Here’s what users love about 3dcart and Volusion:

3dcart

  • Low Price: 3dcart’s prices are competitive with other leading eCommerce software.
  • Good Customer Support: Some users have positive experiences with 3dcart’s support team.
  • Easy To Use: 3dcart’s UI is easy to learn, no matter what your technical ability level is.
  • Many Features Built In: 3dcart offers a robust feature set right out of the box. You’ll be able to access advanced features without add-ons.

Volusion

  • It Works: Users like that they can get started right away with all the necessary features. In addition, Volusion users say the software is bug-free, which is a huge plus.
  • No Transaction Fees On V1: Merchants on V1 do not have to pay transaction fees. They just need to monitor their bandwidth usage to make sure it stays within limits.
  • Ease Of Use: Volusion’s UI are very user friendly, especially on V2.

Final Verdict

Winner: 3dcart

It’s a close race, but in the end, 3dcart takes the lead. A strong feature set, low pricing, and high ease of use make 3dcart an excellent eCommerce platform for many merchants.

Despite the results of this comparison, Volusion may still be the right choice for your business. Volusion’s two versions give merchants a level of choice that 3dcart can’t offer. You may find that V1 or V2 fits your needs perfectly.

Whichever you choose, we hope you’ll consider signing up for a free trial of the software before you purchase. You can learn a lot from just a couple of hours exploring a software’s admin panel. Click the links below to get started with a trial of 3dcart or Volusion.

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

The post 3dcart VS Volusion appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS 3dcart

If you’re looking into building an online store, you’ve probably seen mention online of both Shopify and 3dcart. Both of these are fully hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, and both boast usability and plentiful eCommerce features. These shopping carts call themselves all-in-one solutions, meaning that they will provide you with site hosting, web security, and customer support, all for one monthly fee.

Let’s start with a quick overview of each eCommerce platform:

Shopify VS 3dcart
Tie Pricing Tie
✓ Ease of Use
Features ✓
✓ Web Design
Tie Integrations & Add-Ons Tie
Payment Processing ✓
Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Tie Final Verdict Tie
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site

Shopify and 3dcart clearly offer their users a lot, but how do they stack up against each other? In this article, we’ll go over the price, features, and design editors of each solution. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of which software better fits your business.

Shopify is a Canadian eCommerce solution, which has grown since 2006 to host more than 600,000 stores worldwide. Shopify’s claim to fame is usability and affordability. Merchants at all stages will be able to access the software and use it to build a site to their liking.

Shopify’s downfall, however, is related to this usability. Because Shopify aims to provide easy-to-use features, they often fail to add more advanced functionality. Users have to add-on these advanced features with integrations and applications.

3dcart3dcart, on the other hand, is a feature-rich eCommerce solution that is built to serve merchants large and small. They offer a range of pricing options so that users can select a plan that fits their budget. 3dcart is a less popular solution than Shopify, currently hosting over 22,000 customers, but it is still a main player in the eCommerce industry.

However, 3dcart is not a perfect solution. While the platform is still relatively easy to learn, it is not quite as intuitive as Shopify. In addition, users often report that 3dcart’s customer support is not reliable.

Keep reading for more in-depth information on each of these platforms. Learn which software is best for you.

Don’t have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both services are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

None. You’ll only need a computer, internet access, and an up-to-date web browser.

Pricing

Winner: Tie

Pricing plan for 3dcart and Shopify follow a similar model. Both are available as a monthly subscription in which price is based on features. Neither service requires you to sign a contract, although you can get a discount on your monthly rate if you commit for a year or more. What’s more, Shopify and 3dcart both offer enterprise-level platforms for users who need a higher level of support and capabilities.

Shopify’s plans are billed on a month-by-month basis. If you choose to sign on for one year, you can benefit from a 10% discount on your plan, and if you pay for two years, you’ll get a 20% discount.

One way in which Shopify’s pricing is different from many eCommerce platforms is that Shopify charges transaction fees. You will be charged these fees (0.5%-2.0% based on your plan) in addition to the processing fees that you’ll pay to your payment processor of choice. Shopify will waive these transaction fees if you use their in-house payments solution, Shopify Payments. You will still have to pay processing fees to Shopify Payments, but you won’t be charged the additional transaction fee.

Here’s a quick overview of plans:

  • Shopify Lite Plan (No Online Store Included): $9/month
    • Transaction Fee: 2.0%
  • Basic Shopify Plan: $29/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 2.0%
    • Two Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)
  • Shopify Plan: $79/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 1.0%
    • Five Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)
  • Advanced Shopify Plan: $299/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 0.5%
    • Fifteen Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)

With 3dcart, you’ll be billed monthly. However, if you pay in advance for a full year on the platform, you’ll receive a 10% discount. Keep in mind that 3dcart does not allow refunds, so be sure 3dcart is the right software for you before you commit for a year.

All of 3dcart’s regular plans (excluding the Startup Plan) come with unlimited products and bandwidth, free domain registration, API connectivity, and 24/7 phone support.

  • Startup Plan: $19/Month
    • 1 Staff User
    • 100 Products
    • Sell Up To $10K/Year
  • Basic: $29/Month
    • 2 Staff Users
    • Unlimited Products & Bandwidth
  • Plus: $79/Month
    • 5 Staff Users
  • Pro: $229/Month
    • 15 Staff Users

Pricing for 3dcart and Shopify is very similar. Your choice will depend on how many staff users your business needs and how Shopify’s transaction fees would affect you. For our comparison, we’ll call this a tie.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

For many merchants looking for eCommerce software, ease of use is the number one priority. Fortunately, both Shopify and 3dcart provide that ease of use to all their users.

Shopify is one of the most intuitive eCommerce platforms on the market. Try out the admin for yourself with a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Here’s what you’ll find when you first create your account:

Adding products is easy. All of the information you’ll need to enter is available on one page. Just fill in the fields provided.

Discounts are similarly easy to set up, and you can make them specific to certain products or categories. You can limit your discounts to customer groups, number of uses, or minimum order total. There are also BOGO discounts available.

Shopify also makes site customization accessible to all merchants. Read more in our web design section.

3dcart works to make their software accessible to all merchants, regardless of technical experience. Try out the platform with a 15-day free trial, no credit card required.

When you sign into your account, you will immediately be presented with a setup wizard. This wizard and the available tutorial videos will help you locate and learn to use some of the more basic features.

3dcart’s dashboard is user friendly. You can find everything organized in the toolbar on the left. Most of this organization makes sense, but there are a few features that are buried where you wouldn’t expect them. ‘Discounts,’ for example, is under a tab called “Promotion Manager.”

Adding a product with 3dcart is unique because it involves a two step process. You’ll start by entering basic product information like images, product name, and a product description. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add more advanced information. On this page, you’ll be able to adjust your shipping and inventory information, write SEO descriptions, and more.

Discounts follow the same two-step model. The more detailed (second) page lets you apply your promotions to specific categories, to an order that includes a specific product, and more.

While we love that 3dcart’s dashboard, we have to award this category to Shopify. 3dcart is just not quite as intuitive as Shopify. There is a slight learning curve to overcome, and a few features are difficult to find in the admin.

Features

Winner: 3dcart

As we’ve stated, Shopify comes with all of the basic features merchants need. However, advanced functionality often requires add-on applications. Let’s take a look at a few of the features that come built-in with Shopify:

Front End Features

  • Language Capabilities: List your site in over 50 different languages.
  • Automatic Shipping Rates: Users on the Advanced Plan can integrate with UPS, USPS, and FedEx to calculate shipping rates. All users have access to Shopify Shipping, which lets you calculate shipping rates, and purchase and print shipping labels.
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery: Automatically send an email to remind customers about items they left in their cart.
  • Integrate With Shopify POS: Sell in person with Shopify’s Point Of Sale (see our review) system.

Back-End Features

  • Customer Segmentation: Group your customers by location, shopping tendencies, and demographics. Use those customer groups to market more effectively.
  • Dropshipping Apps: Shopify integrates with dropshipping apps like Ordoro, Inventory Source, and eCommHub (now HubLogix). Learn how to start a profitable dropshipping business with Shopify.
  • SEO Best Practices: Shopify includes many SEO tools, including a customizable H1, and automatically generated sitemap.xml, and the ability to write titles, meta tags, and product tags.
  • Discounts: You can create discount codes and coupons, including BOGO (Buy One, Get One) discounts. Gift cards are available at higher plans.
  • Digital Products: Sell physical and digital products on your site.
  • Bulk Import/Export: Make bulk edits to your products, or use the bulk import feature to easily migrate from another software.

3dcart, on the other hand, includes many of the bells and whistles that Shopify is lacking. For example, 3dcart includes the option to enable one-page checkout on your site. Here are some of the features you get with 3dcart:

Front End Features

  • Sell Digital: Let customers download products immediately after purchase.
  • Checkout Options: Choose to enable either one-page or three-page checkout.
  • Product Images: Include multiple product images, image zoom, and videos on product pages.
  • Promotions: Create gift certificates, discounts, and coupons.
  • Automatic Calculators: Provide real-time quotes for taxes and shipping at checkout.
  • Abandoned Cart Saver: Remind customers to complete transactions.
  • Blog: Include a blog on your site to boost your SEO and add value to your site.

Back-End Features

  • Inventory Management: Monitor low stock and make sure inventory is accurate.
  • SEO: Use a variety of tools to optimize your organic traffic.
  • Bulk Import / Export: Migrate platforms and make bulk edits.
  • POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart POS.

This one is close, but 3dcart has a few more features that are not available with Shopify. So, we’re giving the win to 3dcart.

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is well-known for its beautiful and responsive web design options. In the Shopify Themes marketplace, you can find 64 theme options, 10 of which are free. Take a look at one premium theme below:

There are a few ways you can go about customizing your theme. Users with little technical experience can use a WYSIWYG editor to make changes to site content. For example, you can update headings, categories, and button text. Shopify’s drag and drop editor, Sections, lets you make larger changes to your storefront. Use Sections to add and move widgets on your storefront. Shopify also offers code editors for the more technologically inclined. Shopify uses a language called Liquid, which some developers like and some don’t.

3dcart, on the other hand, offers 90 free themes, which is many more than Shopify. All of these themes are mobile responsive. In addition, there are a few dozen premium themes available from $99 to $199.

Users sometimes complain that 3dcart’s themes are dated, and I tend to agree. That isn’t to say that the themes are ugly; they just don’t have that sleek look I’m used to finding on modern eCommerce platforms.

You’ll have to edit these templates primarily using the HTML and CSS editors. 3dcart also includes a limited WYSIWYG editor for buttons, tabs, etc., and a drag-and-drop editor for older HTML5 themes (you must request to have this editor enabled). It isn’t a perfect editor (which is why it isn’t automatically available), but it could be a help as you learn your way around the code editors.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

Both 3dcart and Shopify offer plenty of integrations and add-ons to further functionality.

There are over 1500 apps available in Shopify App Store, which essentially guarantees that there’s an app to fill whatever feature gap you may have. Unfortunately, for many merchants, multiple applications are necessary, and the costs of those add-ons can quickly add up. Shopify also has an API that you can use to develop your own own applications.

In the same way, 3dcart offers integrations for a variety of features (including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertising, and more.) Users of 3dcart also complain that the cost of these add-ons can quickly become expensive. 3dcart also has a RESTful API available.

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

Shopify integrates with over 100 gateways.

In addition, Shopify has its own in-house payment solution called Shopify Payments. As we stated in the Pricing section of this article, if you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their additional transaction fees. Shopify Payments is currently available to merchants in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Ireland.

Credit card processing rates for Shopify Payments are based on a user’s Shopify plan. Take a look at the fees for each plan in the screenshot below:

Keep in mind that Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution, and there are many complaints online about withheld payments and cancelled accounts. Read our full review of Shopify Payments for more information.

3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. They do not offer an in-house payment solution, but they also don’t ding you with transaction fees if you use a third party processor, which in my opinion is a much bigger deal.

The winner here is 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

Merchants using Shopify have access to 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help resources include a knowledge base, a community forum, videos, podcasts, and guides. You can also hire a Shopify expert to help you through a particularly rough patch.

I’ve seen mixed reviews of Shopify’s support team. Some users say they’re helpful, while others blame them for reading from a script and being informed about the product.

3dcart also offers 24/7 personalized support via email, live chat, phone. Resolve issues on your own with a knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and e-university courses.

Not too surprisingly, I have also seen mixed reviews of 3dcart’s quality of support. Users frequently complain about delays in response time via live chat (in my experience “live chat” is more like another way to submit a web ticket), but response times for web tickets and phone calls are decent.

Another tie here, folks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Surprisingly, complaints about Shopify and 3dcart are very similar.

Shopify is often blamed for including only the basics in their platform. You’ll have to find a few extensions in the Shopify App Marketplace in order to access more advanced features. And unfortunately, costs for these add-ons can quickly add up. Users also frequently complain about Shopify’s customer service. Some users have less than positive experiences. Finally, that transaction fee continues to be a frustration for many merchants, as does Shopify Payments’s tendencies to cancel accounts and withhold payments.

Users of 3dcart also complain about customer support, saying they are very slow to respond to inquiries. In addition, 3dcart merchants dislike that add-ons can be expensive, especially when you need to use multiple extensions. Finally, some merchants state that 3dcart’s available design templates are dated, and that they’d like to see more current designs.

Because these negatives are so similar, we’re calling it a tie.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Users of Shopify and 3dcart have similar things to say about the advantages of each platform. A few commonalities include the low monthly price of running your store, strong ease of use, and good customer support.

This final advantage may be confusing as we’ve also included it in the complaints section above. It is very common to see a 50/50 split between positive and negative comments on customer service. Both Shopify and 3dcart have these mixed reviews.

One notable difference is that Shopify is celebrated for its themes while 3dcart is praised for its features. If you scroll up to the negatives section you’ll see that users often complain about Shopify’s features and 3dcart’s themes. It’s interesting to see that what is a strength of one platform is a weakness of the other.

The two platforms tie in this category as well.

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

It’s always disappointing to end on a tie, but with such a close race, we don’t think it’s fair to call a definitive winner. Your decision will depend on your business’s needs.

Are you looking for an easy to use platform with beautiful design templates? Try Shopify.

Are you willing to overcome a slight learning curve to uncover a few more advanced features? 3dcart is your best bet.

We will say that overall we think Shopify better fits the needs of most merchants, which is why we’ve given Shopify a perfect score of 5 stars in our full review while 3dcart has 4.5 (see our review). However, it’s evident here that both shopping carts are strong options. We recommend you sign up for a trial of each eCommerce platform and decide for yourself which option you prefer.

Get Started With Shopify

Get Started With 3dcart

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