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The Clear Guide to Online Business Step Eight in Developing a Web Site

By Virginia Lawrence

Besides designing a handsome site, you must prepare your Web site to sell.

1. Set up secure ordering.

Buyers must be assured that their orders will be handled securely. This means that the order form must be in a secure directory. The actual security is complex, but the process of setting up a secure directory is easy for Web site owners. All good Web hosting companies offer secure directories at no extra charge. It's simply a matter of placing the order form and its scripts in the secure directory.

Decide on the Web address (URL) for the secure order form. The default URL for the order form in the secure directory will be a version of the Web host's URL, rather than your URL. That is the free version of the secure directory, and it works well.

If you prefer to have the browser display your own URL when the browser displays the order form, you can purchase your own security certificate. Your Web developer can guide you through that $100 per year purchase, and your developer will install the certificate for you.

2. Do not save credit card information on your site.

Any site that saves credit card information on the server is just asking for trouble. Hackers are constantly searching for online credit card lists. If your customer credit cards are not online, there is no way for a hacker to get them.

Amazon keeps credit cards online, and so do some other large sites, but they have very expensive squads of technicians and security experts to protect those sites. Their Web servers are being monitored constantly, and any hacking activity is instantly countered. But small Web sites don't have security teams, so take the easy, failsafe way to credit card security: never store credit card info online.

3. Process the credit card charges automatically online.

The safest way to process the online orders is to use a credit card processing gateway. That's a secure connection between your secure order form and your merchant account bank.

Your Web developer can help you to decide on the best credit card gateway for your site. Some merchant accounts, such as CardService International and ECHO, offer their own processing gateways. However, if your merchant account does not offer a gateway, you can sign up with an independent gateway service like offers outstanding online credit card processing services at reasonable cost. The signup fee is only $150, and the monthly fee is $20, plus $0.10 per transaction.

Summary: When you have a secure order form and automatic credit card processing, you're offering your site visitors a secure environment for their purchases. And when you never save the credit card numbers online, you're protecting your customers from hackers.

Next month, we'll discuss the process of your sales transactions.

–© 2004 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is a professional Web Developer and Online Marketing Consultant. She routinely places client sites on the first page of a Google search. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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