PayPal Add to cart buttons – Safest way to sell online

Setting up an ecommerce site is still one of the most challenging tasks for a small business. While the advantages and reach remain unchallenged by any other means of commerce, security is the first and foremost factor that concerns most webmasters and small business owners. In this article I’ll explain one of the safest ways to set up your online store using PayPal’s “buttons”.

This article gives you step-by-step instructions on how to sell online easily using the following PayPal options:

  • Add to Cart
  • View Cart

  • Before you create these buttons, you need to find out your ...

    Secure Merchant ID

    This is  secure identification that PayPal uses to identify businesses and their email addresses. In order to see this ID you’ll have to login to PayPal and click Profile under My Account. The ID is displayed under the heading Profile Summary. (I am mentioning this here because I’ll be referring to this ID as I explain the steps to set up the online store below.)

    Note: The secure merchant ID is available only for Premiere and Business accounts.

    Now you can create the buttons ...

    PayPal Shopping Cart

    PayPal shopping cart works a bit different from the other shopping carts you might have come across in the past. Every item you wish to sell must be first added to PayPal. All the items are added using Add to Cart link under Merchant Services. Don’t take notes yet. I’ll give you step-by-step instructions later in this article.

    For each button that is added, PayPal assigns a button ID. All you need to do is to grab the button ID and the secure merchant ID and using the code snippet given below you will be able to add the button on any website you want. PayPal has no restriction at this point on how many places these buttons can be placed. You are free to add the buttons anywhere you want and on as many places are you want.

    Ideally you want to create one button per item you are selling but PayPal doesn’t seem to restrict this. So you can create multiple buttons for the same item if you wish to do so.

    In order to finish the full shopping cart experience for your customers you have to do one last thing which is placing the View Cart button in a convenient place where the customer will be able to see irrespective of page they are on.

    I have the code snippet to add the View Cart button below. You only need the secure merchant ID to add this button.

    Note for GetACustomSite's Website Builder Customers: If you are using our Website Builder we give you an easy way to add buttons to your site. All you need to do is place the button using our specialized tags. See example below:

    To place an Add to Cart button (say, button id = 12345678) insert the below line in your content:
    [wb:paypal-button button=12345678]

    To place the View Cart button (say, Secure Merchant Id = ABCDEFGHIJK) insert the below line in your content:
    [wb:paypal-viewcart mechant=ABCDEFGHIJK]

    Isn’t that easy!

    Step by step instructions to enable ecommerce in your site using PayPal

    1. Create a PayPal account: This step is only required if you don’t already have a PayPal account. When you are signing up with PayPal make sure to take a Premiere or Business account. If you have an account already please make sure that your account is a Premiere and Business account.
    2. Create a button: Sign in to your PayPal account and click Merchant Services. In this page you’ll see a section called Create Buttons. Click on the link titled Add to Cart. This will take you to a page where you’ll be able to create the button you want for an item that you would like to sell. (See next section for tips on filling out the form on this page.)
    3. Place the button on your website: Use one of the techniques explained below to add the button to your website.
    4. More buttons: Repeat steps 2 and 3 for every item you wish to sell.

    Simplest way to do Step 2 above

    Many times I have customers coming to me asking how to fill the "Add to Cart" form. This is what I tell them: Use the simple and quick way which is:

    1. Use the defaults provided by PayPal which means don't touch any of the fields that you don’t understand.
    2. Change only Item name, Price,  Shipping & Tax and hit Create Button at the bottom of the page. Don’t bother touching anything else on the page.
    3. Once the button is created PayPal will show you the list of the buttons you have. Each button you have created will have the ID displayed in the same line like this: (ID: 1234567). This 7 digit number is the button ID corresponding to the item.

    How do I see my current buttons in PayPal

    You can see the list of all your buttons by clicking My Saved Buttons link under Create Buttons  in the page under Merchant Services.

    Placing the Add to Cart button in a page

    Using HTML:

    Using Website Builder:

    In both cases use the button ID of your item in place of 1234567.

    Placing the View Cart button

    Using HTML:

    Using Website Builder:

    In both cases use your secure merchant ID in place of ABDCEFGHIJ.


    Using PayPal as your ecommerce solution has several benefits. Among the several that we see the most compelling ones are covered in this article. Although the user experience varies a bit from conventional shopping carts the benefits definitely outweighs the rest.

    If you have any question or comments about this article please feel free to contact me using the form below.

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