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Best way to accept payments at web site??

I'm new to online sales, and I have never been in this topic area before.

I am creating my own web site using a combination of XHTML, Javascript, and more recently a variation on Flash called "SWISH." I will be learning ASP in the very near future. My host account is running on Windows 2000 servers, with ASP.Net, VB.Net, Javascript, and SQL2K enabled. (They do not allow PHP on Windows hosts) I already know how to use PayPal on a personal or private level, but would like to be able to offer Paypal, or even credit card transactions on my site. I will be trying to sell music CD's and art work, and I'm sure I will have future clients who want web pages created where they can display online catalogs, sell their own products and accept payments. I will need to know how to program the same online payment functionality for them, as well. I'm assuming it would be the same functionality that I learn to use on my own web site.  

I would like to know what you think is the best way for me to accept payments online, as well as the methods that are easiest for an experienced db programmer to program or code when adding a "shopping cart" type feature to a web site. Is PayPal by itself enough? Or is it always best to be able to accept credit cards, too?? Or should I just program a shopping cart and let PayPal features handle all payments whether PayPal account or credit card?? This is the part I am most unfamiliar with when it comes to web site programming, but I have read that PayPal will handle those types of transactions.  

If you would care to add some tips or pointers or links that I can go to to read/learn more about programming a "shopping cart" function, that would be appreciated as well.

I hope this is a simple question posted in the correct topic area. Once I get a good handle on this issue I will probably be back with more difficult, more worthwhile questions! Thanks in advance for any help! I am willing to up the number of points if someone wants to give more in depth info. But since it is starting out fairly simple I'll keep it at 200 for now.

VITIX (from Nebraska!)
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VITIX
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VITIX
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duzCommented:
VITIX -

Welcome!

We have a resident expert on the subject of payment methods and shopping cart 'coreybryant' who I am sure will be along soon to help you out. You sound as if you are at the beginning of the design and build process so the one piece of advice I can give you is - design the whole site for the search engines from the ground up. You can create the most slick website in the world but if it's on page five of the search results no one will ever see it.

- duz
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VITIXAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the tip, duz. I'll see if I can dig up info around here on the search engine stuff. I've always been told that it's possible to code for search engine visibility without having to pay $$$$ to get listed. I've seen my site turn up in results simply by putting a long list of keywords in the meta info in the headers. Hopefully the books and my research will tell me if there's more to it than that!

VITIX
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humeniukCommented:
I concur with everything Duz said, including the fact that coreybryant is the man you're looking for.

One clarification, though - you said, "they do not allow PHP on Windows hosts".  That's not actually true.  I use PHP rather than ASP and, while most of my sites are hosted on Linux/Apache, I manage three Windows IIS servers for a couple of my clients, all of which run PHP websites.  I also have a Windows/IIS/PHP/MySQL web server at home.  PHP can be installed on Windows and it will run well.  Some Windows hosts provide PHP support, some do not.  Nevertheless, ASP is a perfectly good (and much more common) solution for a Windows/IIS server.

This is an aside and a small point, but I wanted to clear up the misconception.  Good luck with the project.
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humeniukCommented:
"I've seen my site turn up in results simply by putting a long list of keywords in the meta info in the headers. Hopefully the books and my research will tell me if there's more to it than that!"

There is more to it than that :)  It's called Search Engine Optimization and you can learn the basics here - www.seo-guy.com/tutorial.html - and get good answers to your questions about it here - www.experts-exchange.com/Online_Marketing.
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coreybryantCommented:
Thanks Duz :)

Well most gateways (LinkPoint, Authorizenet.com, and Verisign) all come with their coding to integrate into your website.  They have an API so that you can take credit card information on your secure website & maintain consistency.  They also provide their own secure webpage to allow you to transfer the client over.  Most merchants though do not like this because it looks way too much like third party processing (2CO, Paypal, etc).  

I will say this - if you are going to be doing more than $1,000 dollars a month and since you are in the United States - consider a merchant account.  It will be cheaper in the long run.

The main differences with a 3PP & a MAP: a 3PP you usually have to wait to get your money, the customer sees the 3PP on their CC statement, and the customer is usually transferred over to the 3PP's website.  A MAP will usually deposit the money into your banking account 24-48 hours after the sale, you can have the customer stay on your site and the customer will see your name on their statement.  A MAP will also give you a virtual terminal also to process CC on a secure website if you happen to take an order via the phone.

Most shopping carts will be compatible with all the gateways.  LinkPoint is usually one of the stronger ones out there & they do not charge a transaction costs.  Authorizenet.com charges a transaction cost on top of what the MAP charges.  And Verisign usually gives you between 500-1000 free transactions a month before charging you.  Verisign is the more expensive gateway.  They did have some problems with their CISP compliancy but don't let that really worry you.  CISP is just a big pain.  Authorizenet.com was hit a few times last year with DDOS attacks but it looks like they have gotten those problems taken care of. If you are really worried about the gateway being down - Cybersource actually has two redundant DCs.  LinkPoint will have two actually by this summer as well.

And yes - as far as the PHP on the Windows server - it is possible. We had to install the program.  Some hosting companies do not want to - they want to keep things separate and for some good reasons.  

-Corey
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VITIXAuthor Commented:
It's a good primer, I printed it...Thanks! Everything in it is easy to understand and use. And I like that part about using LESS javascript! LOL!! - Vitix
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VITIXAuthor Commented:
Thanks CoreyB, that is all very helpful. I have seen references to those things, but have never understood how they all work.

BTW: The PHP thing is, as you have probably guessed, simply not allowed by the tech support group at my host. It will run on Windows, they just dont want to support it on any platform other than Linux.

A couple of final questions pertinent to the original post:  

1- PayPal offers a "merchant account" is that something you would recommend I consider? Are you saying if I have an option to use a merchant account, then I should lean in that direction, even if it's PayPal? My own site will probably not exceed $1k per month, but some of the clients' sites I build may go well over that.

2- Do you have any links or book titles I could research to learn more than what can be typed in these answer boxes?? Or do those entities you mentioned have their own online tutorials on how they integrate into my web pages and what they end up costing, etc? Maybe an "Idiots Guide To Shopping Carts For Dummies"..... LOL!!

Thanks again, cb (et al).....I'll be back shortly to close up this particular question. Appreciate it! Maybe you guys can all chime in when I post a more specific question about the shopping cart "feature." - Vitix
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coreybryantCommented:
I am not familiar at all with their merchant account.  I honestly did not know they offered it.  I have worked / consulted a couple of times wiht some of Paypal's reps & have consistently told them - they have branded themselves this way - spent millions on this brand - why change?  If they are now offering a real merchant account - very interesting.  But be careful - just by them saying you can accept credit cards does not actually mean you have a merchant account with your own MID (merchant ID) & TID (terminal ID).

You might also look into becoming an affiliate for some MAPs.  Refer your customer over to them & then get a percentage a month of their proceeds.  This way - you do not have to worry about all the information that is really needed in selling a merchant account.  

As far as shopping carts - I'll have to let someone else answer. We looked thru a lot & just decided to build our own to offer.  A lot easier in the long run

-Corey
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VITIXAuthor Commented:
Thank You. This will definitely get me started...... Appreciate it! - Vitix
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