Author: Scott Williams

Scott is the founder of Inkblot Digital. He is an ecommerce geek who leads Inkblot as we discover new, inventive ways to helps customers' business thrive through custom development.

New Resource: Ultimate Guide to Google Analytics for BigCommerce Stores

Imagine sailing across the ocean without any instruments, a GPS, or even a star chart. You might know where you want to wind up but have no idea if you are track for getting there or whether you are making progress at all. Probably not the best idea.

Yet every single day, thousands of ecommerce store owners are navigating their online business blindly, since they do not have Google Analytics properly set up or are not using the invaluable data at their fingertips. They are effectively navigating without using their instrument panels. Critical to managing your BigCommerce store is understanding what is happening, how users are engaging, where traffic is coming from, and what is and isn’t working.

We know that this isn’t easy to do. That is why we are excited to announce our newest resource: the Ultimate Guide to Google Analytics for BigCommerce Stores.

This guide will walk you through setup, integration, goal/conversion tracking, advanced configuration, and frequently asked questions.

We hope this helps you along the way and proves to be a great resource for BigCommerce store managers.

BigCommerce Announces New Stencil Theme Engine

BigCommerce recently announced their latest upgrade: a templating engine which powers stores built on their ecommerce platform — and store owners should be thrilled. This upgrade, named Stencil, opens the door for all sorts of new opportunities for their stores. The level of flexibility and power for your BigCommerce store is going to be drastically improved.


What is Stencil?

Stencil is the framework or template engine behind your BigCommerce store. This is what takes your data and settings and brings them to life in a functional ecommerce website. While the existing template engine was fairly flexible compared to many other platforms, it was due for an overhaul to allow stores to improve their storefronts. Introducing: Stencil.


Stencil is far more than an HTML template with shortcodes. It is a dynamic framework that leverages several modern technologies to create a powerful and flexible website. Stencil builds on the flexible Handlebars.js template system that uses javascript to compile the page together with YAML front matter, making data points available as templates are compiled. SASS/ SCSS will allow you to more rapidly push styling changes across the store. The combination of these technologies and other enhancements that BigCommerce has added on top of it all will create a powerful development environment that will allow for great customization.


What are some of Stencil’s Top Features?

While it is early on, some of the initial features of Stencil that really stand out are:

  • Greater customization and flexibility in terms of store design
  • Conditional templating (i.e., if a customer belongs to Group A, show this)
  • Faster customized page speed (due to the fact that much of store customization will now be handled by servers instead of browsers)
  • Local theme testing


What does Stencil mean for BigCommerce Stores?

Technical improvements aside, Stencil could make a big impact on stores. Here are a few of the things we are excited about:

  • Engage customers better
  • Tailor your store to your unique context
  • Offer more flexible, dynamic experiences to visitors
  • Implement custom functionality that does not slow the page load
  • Experiment more freely on how to improve conversion rates


Over the coming weeks we will break down the different technologies behind Stencil, outline what these mean for your store beyond having to upgrade your theme coding, dream with you about the possibilities for better user experience and conversions, and discuss how to take advantage of it all. Stay tuned.

Feel free to check out our BigCommerce Stencil Theme Engine page to discover more about how you can implement and customize this exciting new technology.

BigCommerce Stencil Theme Engine Conversion & Customization

BigCommerce’s Stencil Theme Engine is Here!


The new templating engine – called Stencil – from BigCommerce has arrived. The long-awaited update opens up all sorts of opportunities for flexible, highly customized store templates.

Benefits of Stencil Theme Customization

  • Increased template power
  • Flexibility to better engage customers
  • Improved page speed for customization


BigCommerce Stencil Theme Features

  • Greater flexibility & opportunities for customization
  • Backend, server-side processing of template for improved speed
  • Logic based, conditional page elements (i.e., if customer group is X, then Y)
  • Test theme changes across various devices on a local computer prior to launch


Stencil Template Technologies

The BigCommerce Stencil theme engine is built on the following technologies:

  • Handlebars.js template processor – allows for dynamic & conditional logic based template page creation
  • YAML Front Matter Data Syntax – provides page data on an as needed basis for dynamic use & insertion into templates
  • SASS CSS Preprocessor Scripting Language – makes it easier to manage your CSS
  • Stencil Utilities – offers templating functions and event handlers that will bring powerful functionality into your theme


Stencil Theme Resources

BigCommerce Stencil Theme Engine Announcement

Customize a Stencil Theme

Need help converting to Stencil? Contact us to get started.

The Volusion Mobile SEO Dilemma

Google recently announced that mobile user experience will play an even greater role in mobile search results come April 21. We recently wrote an article detailing why Google prefers sites with a good mobile experience and how a website might respond. However, many sites (including many of our ecommerce clients) have a more nuanced set of options resulting from the platform they are on. Such is the case with Volusion stores.

Volusion Mobile SEO Dilemma

The Volusion Context

Volusion, like many other ecommerce platforms, does not offer a great amount of flexibility. As a result, it is not as easy to meet the mobile-friendly guidelines laid out by Google.

Those used to self-hosted, open platforms such as WordPress might not understand the hosted CMS scenario. Here is the Volusion context:

Mobile Storefront

In the Fall of 2013, Volusion released version 2 of their Mobile Storefront. Although it had many issues at the outset, they have since made many improvements — especially involving SEO aspects. Unfortunately, the mobile store is limited and falls short of the needs of many modern stores. There are many contexts where it simply does not function properly for a store’s needs in the way the desktop version does.

Updated Theme Engine

In the Spring of 2014, Volusion announced the pending arrival of a new “theme engine” that would power Volusion templates going forward. This theme engine was to be built using AngularJS, which was to give web developers great flexibility to, among other things, build responsive websites to better reach mobile customers. While the release of the new theme engine was due out at the end of the summer of 2014, it quietly fell off the radar. While it was alluded to at the beginning of 2015, there is no telling when or if it will go live.

Responsive Templates

Instead of releasing the new theme engine, Volusion launched “responsive templates” in the fall of 2014 and has pushed them hard since. It sounded like great news at first, but they are not quite what was hoped for. While these templates adapt to various screen sizes, they are not truly responsive. As they are built on much of the same HTML table code as before, they cannot truly adapt to the context. For example, instead of a row of four products on a category page switching to rows of two on smaller resolutions, the products are simply shrunk and squished into the device width. This is not a true responsive solution. Additionally, it is unclear how much of a stopgap this is. Will it will last or be scrapped if and when the theme engine releases?

Such is the context for Volusion stores looking to implement a mobile solution.

SEO Implications

In a time when it is imperative for those who want to reach mobile searchers to have a solid mobile strategy, Volusion owners are faced with a difficult decision. Whereas all stores likely want to improve their SEO, the options are limited with no clear cut path forward.

Again, the issue — laid out in our previous Google Hates Your Poor Mobile Experience article — is that not having a “mobile-friendly” website will likely result in the loss of mobile search traffic at a greater level come April 21, 2015. For many Volusion stores, mobile search traffic is currently a significant source of revenue. To be under-optimized for mobile SEO could be painful. Furthermore, in a world where visitors often move from device to device, many customers may start on mobile but checkout on a desktop or tablet, masking the true revenue resulting from mobile search.

The SEO guidance is clear and I will not belabor this point: mobile-friendliness is a key factor for mobile search. Online stores hosted on the Volusion platform need to find a way to respond to this latest change.

Mobile Options for Volusion Stores

Here are four key options available for your Volusion store as you consider how to best target mobile visitors and adapt for mobile search:

Responsive Web Design Device Types

Option #1: Use the Volusion Mobile Storefront

Many stores currently use the Volusion Mobile Storefront to better reach their mobile visitors. Volusion has certainly improved several key features — especially the SEO setup — since the launch of version 2. However, there are several drawbacks to be aware of.


Some of the top benefits of the Volusion Mobile Storefront include:

  • Reaches mobile visitors with a version of your store made just for them
  • Enables mobile optimized checkout
  • Passes the “mobile friendly” test

Challenges & Limitations

The Mobile Storefront also has the following challenges and limitations:

  • Minimal customization available
  • Not all web content displays
  • Many features are not supported
  • Unable to run conversion tracking codes

Option #2: Use/Customize a Responsive Theme

Volusion’s responsive templates have been around for a while now and appeal to many sites. While it does not offer the theme engine that many expected, it does enable your site to adapt to various device types. It is important to note that you cannot simply turn this on for your existing template. You must switch to a new, responsive template and customize it from there.


Some of the top benefits of the Volusion Responsive Templates include:

  • Provides a single template for your site
  • Creates a responsive site, the Google-preferred option for your mobile solution
  • Passes the “mobile friendly” test

Challenges & Limitations

The Responsive Templates also have the following challenges and limitations:

  • Requires a new template
  • Continues to use HTML table code
  • Adapts somewhat, but is not truly responsive

Here you can find the responsive templates that Volusion currently offers: Responsive Template Store.

Option #3: Migrate to Another Platform

Of course, it is always possible to migrate your Volusion store to another ecommerce platform that offers the flexibility to implement responsive web design. While the most difficult of all options, this opens up a myriad of options.


Some of the top benefits of migrating to another ecommerce platform include:

  • Accessing theme engines that fully support responsive coding
  • Upgrading to a modern platform
  • Passing the “mobile friendly” test

Challenges & Limitations

Migrating to a new platform also has the following challenges and limitations:

  • Requires a significant investment of time and resources
  • Other platforms may not suit your business processes like Volusion does
  • Business will need to adapt to new systems

Option #4: Do Nothing / Wait for a Volusion Upgrade

The easiest option is to not do anything. Perhaps you don’t want to invest in the other options. or decide you want to wait for the new theme engine to come out prior to making a change.


Some of the top benefits of doing nothing include:

  • Avoid investing in temporary technology
  • Save funds for key improvements

Challenges & Limitations

Doing nothing also has the following challenges and limitations:

  • It is unclear when other, better options will be available
  • You risk a drop in mobile search results
  • Your site will not pass the “mobile friendly” test


So, what should you do? It depends (I know, I know …)

Here are a few options you might consider based on your situation:

Scenario #1: Minimal Store Customization

Scenario: Your store is barely customized and you plan on staying on Volusion for a while …

Recommendation: Utilize a Volusion Responsive Template

If a new, responsive template will require minimal customization to meet your needs, this might not be a bad option for you. Generally speaking, the Volusion responsive templates do not provide enough benefit for the amount of effort involved in customizing them as they do not resolve all issues. However, in this scenario it might just make sense.

One key drawback is that you cannot run conversion tracking codes for Google Analytics ecommerce transaction tracking or other conversion tracking. If this is critical data for your store, as it is for many, this recommendation would not apply to you.

Scenario #2: Moderate Store Customization

Scenario: Your store design is moderately customized, you plan on staying on Volusion, and are not utilizing unique Volusion features unsupported by the mobile storefront…

Recommendation: Volusion Mobile Storefront

If your store design is unique and would require significant effort to re-skin a responsive template, I would recommend using the Volusion Mobile Storefront. The key factor here is that you are not using any of the features that do not work on the mobile storefront. In this case, the minimal effort required to switch to the mobile store option is worth the trade off to become mobile friendly.

Scenario #3: Planning on Leaving Volusion

Scenario: You already plan on leaving Volusion…

Recommendation: Migrate Now & Implement Responsive Web Design

If you already plan on migrating to another cart but have not done so for one reason or another, now would be a good time to make the move and to implement a responsive web design in the process. The opportunity cost may justify the expense of migrating. Consider what you might lose in mobile sales each month versus the expense of migrating.

Scenario #4: Heavily Customized

Scenario: Your site is heavily customized or the Mobile Storefront does not work for your store…

Recommendation: Implement Responsive Web Design (customizing a Volusion Responsive Template or Migrate to another platform and build a template with responsive web design

If your store has been significantly customized or if you are utilizing features that do not work properly with the Mobile Storefront, the decision is more complicated. In this scenario, I recommend first determining how valuable your mobile traffic is. If mobile, organic search drives minimal sales and is unimportant to you as a sales channel, you might actually want to “do nothing” for now and stick with the desktop-only site. If it drives a higher volume of traffic and is a valuable source of revenue, then you will want to go responsive — either on Volusion or not. While a Volusion responsive template is more of a stopgap, it may still be worth investing in a new template and the subsequent customization if you are committed to the platform. If you are indifferent or frustrated with Volusion, you might consider investing the same funds into a one-time upgrade onto another platform.


Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately, there is no single, clear guidance here. Many nuances such as mobile traffic, revenue driven from mobile, business process, and long-term plans, along with a lack of clarity about Volusion’s plan, create a complex landscape for you to navigate. Our final recommendation is to look at all of these factors to truly understand what you are dealing with first, then make a decision. Work with the information you have today and then adapt as things progress. Not making a decision of any kind is effectively choosing to miss out on mobile search traffic. Choose wisely.

Google Hates Your Poor Mobile Experience

Long have website owners and SEOs tried to figure out the inner workings of Google’s search algorithm. With over 200 factors that play into a site’s ranking that are not entirely clear and guidelines that seem to continually change, it can feel like you are aiming at a moving target. While so much of this is unclear, one thing is certain: Google hates a website that offers a poor mobile experience.

Though not a surprise, businesses small and large had mixed reactions as they heard Google’s most recent announcement — starting April 21, 2015 mobile-friendliness will play a much bigger role in mobile search. Those who are optimized for mobile are rejoicing that they might have a leg up on the competition. Those who are not are groaning in misery.

Responsive Web Design for Mobile Search

Why Would Google Do This?

While it is easy to get frustrated at Google if you are in a place where your site is not mobile optimized and is unlikely to be in the near future, there are clear reasons why they would make this switch.

I have have often said that many of Google’s decisions can be explained by looking at the impact on their dominance in search. There is a symbiotic relationship between Google and online searchers. Google offers the best results so a search can quickly find what they are looking for, and in turn searchers click on search ads to send revenue to Google and ensure they stay in business. If searchers are not pleased with the results that Google offers up, they will head to Bing or Yahoo or Duck Duck Go.

As 50% of search clicks now come from mobile devices, it is imperative that Google fulfill its end of this bargain by offering mobile searchers not just good results, but results that work for the device the searcher is on. While might have incredible content or might have the best products, sending a mobile user to their websites that offer a poor experience on mobile devices does not make sense. Moreover, it disappoints searchers to the point where eventually they will turn to another search engine. Google and their shareholders do not want this to happen.

How to Test and Know if Your Site is “Mobile Friendly”

While “mobile friendly” may seem quite subjective, Google Webmaster Tools actually offers a convenient mobile usability tool to review the basics of how your website is optimized for mobile. Check it out.

Mobile Usability Tools Report

Why Would a Site Not Choose to Upgrade?

The first question that comes to mind is: why would a website not simply make the necessary changes?

Usually it is not a matter of wanting to upgrade or not, but moreso a matter of the challenges associated with moving to a mobile friendly design. While a small WordPress site might just install a free, responsive theme in minutes, it is much more complicated for others.

Reasons websites are not made mobile friendly include:

  • They cannot afford the cost of the associated web development
  • The site is so large and the content so diverse that it is a massive project
  • They do not have the time to manage the transition
  • Their existing CMS or ecommerce platform that has much invested into it (including many costly third party integrations that are business critical) does not have the capability to truly be mobile friendly

What Are Your Options to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Google Mobile Friendly Search Results

Generally speaking, you have 3 options:

  1. Do nothing – stick with the desktop-only version
  2. Add a separate mobile site
  3. Redesign or convert your site responsive web design

These options are listed in order of worst to best. Doing nothing and sticking with a desktop only site is generally not a good option. A separate mobile site (whether on a subdomain or using the same URLs) is the next best option. Results here can vary significantly depending if things are set up properly or not. Finally, a responsive website — where a single set of code allows your site to adapt to the various devices, sizes, and resolutions of your visitors — is the best option. Google themselves have pushed for this particular solution.

I realize that while it is really easy to say a site should be mobile friendly, achieving it can be much harder. Some of the challenges mentioned above — finances, complexity, time, platform limitations — can significantly impact your ability to move forward. The reality, however, is that if your website is not mobile friendly, you need to do something if you want to get mobile visitors from organic search results.

With such a great percentage of search coming via mobile devices, the stakes are high. If you don’t attract visibility on mobile, you can bet your competitors will. Like it or not, the time to go mobile friendly is now — errrh, actually it was a couple years ago — but if you still have not done so, let this be the impetus for you to make the necessary changes. Even if you cannot update your website by April 21, make a plan and get started. Visitors are (usually) looking for what your site offers. You just have to package the best of who you are in a way that they can find it and engage with it.

So, yes, Google hates your poor mobile experience. But maybe you should too.

Automate Your Ecommerce Business with “If This Then That”

Managing an ecommerce business comes with many challenges. As many online stores are SMBs (small to medium-sized business), it is hard to afford the level of sophistication that major retailers use to increase their efficiency. As a result, it is easy for things to fall behind or slip through the cracks.

The key to improving efficiency is automating wherever you can. How much better would your business be if you could notify the warehouse sooner to process orders faster, track social media mentions, manage customer service issues, and take action the moment your site goes down?

Domino Cause-Effect Automation for Ecommerce

Enter If This Then That (often referred to as IFTTT), a web-based platform that helps you integrate various channels (social media, Dropbox, SMS, and much more) with one another  based on a variety of “triggers” that kick off an action. This system can be used to automate much of your life or business. Each conditional activity you set up is called a recipe, which is made up of a trigger and an action.

Here are a few of the recipes I use on a personal level that may help you better understand how it works:

  • Every day at 5pm, turn on a WEMO-connected light switch at my house
  • When I arrive at the office (based on my phone’s GPS location), add an entry into a Google Drive spreadsheet so I can track my hours at the office
  • If it is going to rain tomorrow, send me a text message
  • If I post a photo on Instagram, upload it into a Dropbox folder
  • If I text “escape” to IFTTT, call me with a “fake” call so I can get out of an awkward situation (haven’t used that yet)



The first thing you need to do to automate your business is to identify a series of triggers that will initiate your actions.

  • New order received
  • Certain time of day or day of the month
  • Website is down
  • New return (RMA) request
  • New lead comes in
  • Mention on social media
  • Competitor product price drops (w/TrackIf)
  • Inventory reaches a certain level



Once you have your triggers figured out, you need to set up an action that will be initiated. The following are some sample actions that you might consider automating:

  • Send a text message
  • Flash light or change light bulb color
  • Add a line to a spreadsheet
  • Send a phone or desktop notification
  • Save to Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Set a reminder
  • Send an email to a staff member
  • Send a Twitter Direct Message (DM) or tweet something
  • Adjust the thermostat


Rube Goldberg Self Operating Napkin


Top Recipes to Automate your Online Store

Here are some of our favorite ecommerce recipes to get you started. We have even created the recipes for you to quickly add them in.


Order placed, send notification to fulfillment crew

The ability to respond quickly is key to keeping your customers satisfied. Why not ensure that your fulfillment crew or warehouse staff get notified right away?

One way you can accomplish this is to trigger an email to up to 5 members of the team when an email arrives in Gmail with a subject that matches “New Order Received” (or equivalent). Here is a sample New Order Received Recipe we have created for you to use:

IFTTT Recipe: If New Ecommerce Store Order Received, Email Fulfillment Team connects gmail to gmail


Website went down, send SMS & push phone notification to remind you to turn off Adwords

Working in online marketing for ecommerce stores, I have many clients waste hundreds or even thousands of dollars because their website went down and no one bothered to turn off the paid search. Don’t waste precious dollars — automate and ensure you are alerted immediately.

One way to accomplish this is using a service such as Pingdom and Uptime Robot (free). When your site goes down, they will send you a notification via email or SMS that can be used as an IFTTT trigger. Create an action that sends a text message or push notification to your phone (or your online marketer’s phone) with a reminder to pause Adwords campaigns.

You can use our Website is Down, Pause Adwords Android Notification Recipe to accomplish this:

IFTTT Recipe: Website is Down (via Uptime Robot), Android Notification to Pause Adwords connects gmail to android-notifications


Customer mentions you on Twitter, add a line to a spreadsheet

Social media is an incredible tool that can be used for online marketing, branding, and customer service. However, as there are so many social media platforms and those in charge often wear many hats, it can be a real challenge to stay on top of it. What happens when a customer complains online and it falls through the cracks?

Why not see all social media mentions in a Google spreadsheet where you can not only track them, but ensure that someone has responded. Include a couple of additional columns in your spreadsheet to track if a mention has been responded to, who did it, and when. To accomplish this, we use a simple IFTTT recipe that adds a new row to your spreadsheet upon each mention:

IFTTT Recipe: If Customer Mentions You on Twitter, Add a Row to Google Drive Spreadsheet connects twitter to google-drive


Send an email reminder to run Google Analytics reports at the end of the month

As many SMB owners and managers have so much on their plates, it can be easy to forget to stop and analyze what is happening. At least in a brick and mortar business, you have anecdotal evidence based on what you see happening. With an ecommerce store, some owners go months without reviewing what visitors are doing. This can be a critical mistake, as you might not only be missing anomalies that could cause you to lose visitors at a drastic rate, but missing opportunities to fix those anomalies and improve your business.

Ensure that you are staying on top of your store’s activity by sending yourself a monthly reminder to review your site analytics. The following recipe will send you a text message on a particular day of the month to remind you to review your Google Analytics performance:

IFTTT Recipe: Monthly reminder to review ecommerce store analytics connects date-time to sms


Create a task for your Sales Manager to review pricing when a competitor’s product price drops

With the global competition your online business faces, product pricing is more more complicated. While it only takes minutes for a customer to do comparison shopping, it can be a real challenge to stay on top of pricing for your product catalog.

If you have even a decent volume of products, it can be very difficult to monitor pricing across multiple competitors. Trackif simplifies this process by monitoring product pricing on a URL for you. Go one step further with the recipe below and create a to-do for your sales manager on Todoist to ensure he/she follows through:

IFTTT Recipe: If Compeitor Product Price Drops Create Todoist Task to Review connects trackif to todoist


More Ecommerce Recipes to Consider

This is just a sampling, a starting point really, and that’s the true beauty of If This Then That. It opens the door for almost endless possibilities to automate and improve your business. Here are a few more ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Send a reminder when inventory gets low
  • Send promo code to each new social media follower
  • Pause Adwords when site goes down (this will be a little more complicated)
  • Upload customer Instagram photos you are tagged in to Dropbox for later use
  • Save articles for the whole team to read
  • Flash the lights or change the LED light color when new sales come in
  • Adjust the thermostat to make the room colder when sales are low 😉


We hope that this post helps you to find new efficiencies as you manage your ecommerce store. The potential to automate is incredible and limited only by your imagination and channels available on IFTTT. Please be sure to share your innovative ecommerce recipes with the rest of us in the comments section below.

3 Lessons from The Natural Grip’s Shark Tank Experience

Recently The Natural Grip was featured on Shark Tank, ABC’s investment television show. The Natural Grip is a one year old company that sells reusable tape hand grips that protect your hands during CrossFit training. They do business primarily through distributors but also have an online store, hosted on Bigcommerce’s ecommerce platform.

The company has seen great growth in its first year and shows a lot of promise. So much promise, in fact, that it generated a heated bidding war between investors Robert Herjavec and Daymond John. Eventually Herjavec won and invested $125,000 for a 25% stake in the company.  The exposure they have received from their TV appearance, along with Mr Herjavec’s expertise, seems to guarantee that The Natural Grip will see continued growth and expansion.  Here are a few takeaways from the show and our experience visiting their website.

The Natural Grip on Shark Tank

Ashley Drake on ABC’s Shark Tank


Lesson #1: Focus on Your Goal

As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats and are pulled in numerous directions. Furthermore, with all the challenges you face, it can be easy to be blown by the wind and chase after every possible revenue opportunity.

From The Natural Grip’s experience on Shark Tank, we learned that they are extremely focused.

Mark Cuban: “I don’t think you want to expand outside of CrossFit. That’s not the opportunity. The opportunity is adding additional products that leverage your credibility and the trust you’ve developed.”

Ashley Drake: “Right now though, let’s deal with this… what we have going on.”

Without losing sight of future opportunities, she maintained her focus on her existing product in the untapped market before her. That’s not an easy thing to do when talking to a billionaire with a lofty vision for your company.

Now, what Cuban says makes sense in a lot of contexts. However, for a young company that has yet to fully find their identity and take advantage of what lies before them, it’s not the  best idea. Too many people jump at every opportunity – never finishing what they started.

With finite bandwidth, you cannot do everything. Excel at one thing first.

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For your business or online store, you might find yourself in similar scenarios, but don’t get distracted. Focus and achieve your goals, then move on.


Lesson #2: Go All In

Like many entrepreneurs, founder Ashley Drake and her family are fully committed to the business. Although she is an active duty Captain in the Army Corp of Engineers, she finds time to dedicate to the business by sleeping less than four hours per night. On top of that, her husband has left his day job to commit full time to the business.

Rarely do entrepreneurs survive, let alone succeed, without this type of dedication. Of course, timing and preparation are key. Long gone are the days when you could merely open an online store and easily get sales. Commit to the journey.

Sacrifice and commitment are critical to your success.

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It is critical to understand the vision and see the endgame. However, don’t expect that you will get to the finish line without putting in hard work first.


Lesson #3: Optimize Your Website

While The Natural Grip shared on Shark Tank that they have built the business through distributors, they have focused some of their effort online as well. They have an online store — hosted on Bigcommerce’s ecommerce platform — on a subdomain, as well as a basic site with a fancy parallax splash page featuring their Shark Tank experience and their products.

While Bigcommerce was a great choice for their ecommerce platform, the website is poorly optimized for online visibility.   Hopefully they become aware of this while the company is still young, because it can impact their presence and sales significantly.  Not once is CrossFit included in a page title, URL, or H1 tag! Only one product has a product review, and none of them are marked up with structured data.

The results of all this? See for yourself — Google “crossfit grips” and see what happens. They are nowhere to be found (though their Facebook page shows up at the bottom of page one of the search results).

There are also a few critical user experience issues such as not having their own SSL certificate, and forcing users to check out on an unbranded URL ( instead of their own domain. As a result of the splash page, root domain site, store site, and unbranded checkout, there are multiple different experiences that potential customers have to navigate through to buy the product. These types of user experience challenges can seriously hurt a store’s conversion rate.

Don’t get so caught up in the business that you forget to do your due diligence on this critical marketing channel. Even if the focus is not on online sales, potential retailers and distributors are going to have a hard time finding The Natural Grip over their competitors.

Don’t forget about your users.  Make it easy for them to find you.

Click to Tweet

It is critical that you optimize your website for both online search and user experience. If you don’t know how, start by filling in the standard fields with descriptive text as if talking to a customer. From there you can learn more about online search or hire an ecommerce SEO agency to help you out. Be sure to have a friend (or a stranger) go through your website for the first time – with no background – and share their experiences.


There are always lessons to be learned from observing others’ experiences.  We wish The Natural Grip continued success in their growing business, both wholesale and online.

How to Add a WordPress Blog to your Bigcommerce Store

Despite the addition of an integrated blogging feature in Bigcommerce earlier this year, many store owners still want the power and flexibility of a WordPress blog for their website. While you cannot install WordPress onto Bigcommerce’ servers to fully integrate the code into the Bigcommerce system, it is possible to have it function together well with your online store.

Integrate WordPress into your Bigcommerce Store

How it Works

Effectively you have to set the blog up on a subdomain (ie that is hosted elsewhere. By doing so, you can control the environment to be able to install WordPress onto the server and modify as desired. In doing so, there will be 2 sites (store & blog) running on 2 platforms (Bigcommerce & WordPress) hosted on 2 servers (Bigcommerce server & other) all creating 1 unified experience.

This allows you to take advantage of the flexibility of WordPress for your blog while retaining the power of Bigcommerce for your online store.

The image below demonstrate what this looks like.

WordPress Blog on a Subdomain

How to Integrate WordPress & your Bigcommerce Store

Step 1: Set up your Hosting

The first step is to set up a hosting account (unless you already have one you can use) with a website hosting company. Typically people use GoDaddy, Bluehost or a similar hosting service. We highly recommend Bluehost for use with this.

Quick Disclaimer: we are a Bluehost affiliate and do get a minor commission if you click on that link but most hosting companies offer similar programs and we choose Bluehost because we have had great experiences using them ourselves for over 8 years.

The hosting account is where website files are stored and the server-side code is run (WordPress is built on PHP which is processed by the server). You will want to host on a Linux server as IIS is more complicated to set WordPress up on and is not recommended.

Step 2: Install & Configure WordPress

Most hosting companies now have easy “single click” installations of WordPress. This means that the hosting company has an automated process to help you with this installation.

When adding WordPress onto a subdomain you will want to set that up prior to beginning this installation process.

Be sure to install WordPress onto the subdomain you have set up for your store (and not onto some other location). This process is quite simple with the only other key to success really being that you need to remember the username and password you set up.

Step 3: Change your DNS Settings

Once ready, you need to make the necessary changes to point the subdomain at your WordPress hosting. If you are not familiar with DNS, this process effectively maps the location of your website’s subdomain to the server where your blog resides.

Most of you will have pointed your domain’s nameservers at Bigcommerce. In that case, you will likely want to set up an A record to point at the IP address of your self-hosted WordPress blog. If you don’t know how to find that, just call or chat with your hosting company’s support team.

To set up the DNS records on Bigcommerce:

  1. Login to your Bigcommerce store dashboard as an Administrator
  2. Go to Setup & Tools > DNS Records
  3. Add an A Record where your “Fully Qualified Host” is your new blog subdomain (ie and your “Value” is the IP Address you tracked down for the hosting server

Bigcommerce DNS Settings

DNS setups can be very complicated and vary widely. We highly recommend you ensure you know what you are doing (and take note of current settings) prior to making any changes.

Note: propagation (the process of these changes pushing to servers around the world) can take up to 72 hours but typically you will see this change within a couple hours.


That’s it! It’s time to implement all those blogging and content marketing plans.

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Why Would You Want to Use WordPress with your Bigcommerce Store?

There are many great reasons to use WordPress to host you blog (or other content). Here are some of the top ones:

  • Flexibility – you have access to all the source code to make it do whatever you want
  • Ubiquity – while there are some 55,000 stores on Bigcommerce, WordPress is the platform that runs over 13 million websites around the world. Support & developers are easy to find
  • Plugins – you can choose from thousands of plugins to help with site layout, functionality, SEO optimization and much more

What if I Want a Seamless Experience?

Some of you will be content with a blog that does not match your Bigcommerce theme. Other will be looking for a much more unified experience. Your blog experience can range from totally different from your Bigcommerce store to a truly seamless experience where the user does not realize they are moving back and forth unless looking at the URL. We have worked on every range and while it takes a whole lot of work to offer a seamless integration, it can provide a really great user experience to complement your online store.

What Are the Alternatives?

There are not too many alternatives to this setup. The top contender is Bigcommerce’ built-in blogging. While it will never be as powerful as WordPress, it is a decent option. Other alternatives would be to do this exact same thing just with some other blogging platform other than WordPress.

Step by Step Guide

Google Authorship Destroyed!

Like many of you, I had drunk the Google Authorship Kool Aid. I was fully invested. I double and triple checked my profiles. I told clients it was imperative they set it up. I believed this was a critical part of the future of search.

And then yesterday’s announcement heard around the world torpedoed those hopes and dreams like the Death Star destroying Alderaan in a single blow.

Google Authorship Destroyed - A Disturbance in the Force

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars A New Hope

I’m still coming to grips with all this. I understand that if it wasn’t quite helpful for users, then it needed work. However, this seemed so connected to the direction the Galactic Empire Google was headed.

But that is all a thing of the past…. for now.

I have a sense that while author snippets may be removed from the search results pages at this point that authorship has not breathed it’s last breath. I for one am not removing the rel=author code at this point.

What do you think? Have we seen the absolute last of Google authorship?