To build monthly income, building an affiliate store in WordPress blog is like putting money in the bank. Every post is like an investment that will pay you back again, and again, and again…
The next 8 weeks will be the busiest time of the year online. More people will search, shop, and buy than ANY OTHER TIME OF YEAR! What you do for these 2 months will determine how much income YOU WILL EARN during that period. Some bloggers and affiliates spend nearly the entire year getting ready for just these 2 months. I have used just about every affiliate product, service, and plugin out there – and for the next two months I’m going to post a lot about which ones work (and which ones don’t).
I consider this post to be the first in the “How to Build an Affiliate Store in WordPress” series, but I kind of consider it a sub-section of both How to Build Income Online, and How to Monetize Your Blog series. There will be soooo many posts about setting up an affiliate store, I felt an entire series devoted to it was in order.
What is an Affiliate Datafeed?
In the past I’ve blogged briefly about data feeds twice: Create an Affiliate Store in 5 Minutes From a Data Feed, and Monetize Search Results with Data Feeds in WordPress. I will explain once again what a affiliate merchant “datafeed” is. If you are already an affiliate for Commission Junction, Google Affiliates, LinkShare, Pepperjam Network, or ShareASale you already know that you can sign up for Merchants that sell products. You can put up banner ads and text links on your blog or web site, and if someone clicks (and buys) – you get a small percentage commission on that sale for the referral. Most merchants now also allow you to find products on these affiliate sites, and will give you the copy and paste code to place actual products and descriptions on your blog or web site. Most of us have been blogging, and adding relevant products to our posts, reviews, and web pages for years.
Imagine if you had access to every product in a merchants store without having to copy and paste them all one by one by one? What if you could add thousands of products, pages, and categories turning your blog into a virtual store? When you visit Google Affiliates, ShareASale, LinkShare, and Commission Junction and view merchants product descriptions and links, what you see is just the result of a “merchant datafeed”. In other words, when you look for merchant product links for say – Target, Best Buy, or Sharper Image when you’re logged in to LinkShare or another affiliate program, the merchant supplied those products to them in a datafeed file. Nearly all affiliate programs will give the datafeed to YOU if you ask. Some now have tools where you can download the datafeed directly, or set it up to email to you or FTP to your web server. Depending on how many products that merchant has, the datafeed file can range from a few megabytes to hundreds of MB’s. Each datafeed file typically contains fields like title, product number or sku, description, keywords, image URL, buy URL, and more.
Problems Trying to Manage a Datafeed on Your Own
Problem #1: Actually getting the datafeed file
Once I first found out about datafeeds I was enthralled. I thought that I could use this data for all kinds of virtual online storefronts and I began to collect datafeeds from all over to see what I could do with them. Apparently, some affiliate programs were inundated with requests too – some datafeeds I didn’t get access to for months. Some affiliate programs wanted to charge a “setup fee” to get the datafeed to me, anywhere from $50 – $250 (per feed).
Problem #2: Finding software, scripts, and plugins to parse the merchant datafeed files
I did a lot of research to find software and scripts to setup BANS like niche stores from data files, as well as WordPress plugins, scripts, and downloadable software. Some were free, and others cost up to a few hundred dollars. Most had some useful qualities, but none did nearly as much as I was looking for (or had hoped).
Problem #3: Inconsistent or Bad Data
The worst thing about a data feed is the fact that merchants constantly update and remove products, so the data changes all the time. In addition, no two merchants use the same format. Some have descriptions, some don’t. Some have both a large image and a preview thumbnail, some don’t. Everybody names their fields differently, and every merchant has them in a different order. On top of that, merchants can their format at any time, name the datafeed file something new, or send a corrupted file my mistake (hosing up your entire virtual store). I had one merchant have all kinds of weird characters in their datafeed, probably something that didn’t translate well from another language to latin encoding.
How to Create an Affiliate Store Without Touching Datafeed Files
If you had wasted as many hours on this as I have you would most likely come to the same conclusion, manipulating these merchant datafeeds on your own (unless you’re a genius programmer) isn’t really much of an option. You know of the power that a datafeed could provide as an affiliate, but for some reason none of the affiliate programs like Commission Junction and ShareASale offer any tools at all other than copy and paste code for individual products. That’s pretty moronic if you ask me, I’ve always said that was an absolutely HUGE missed opportunity. I had (a glimmer) of hope earlier this year when I thought Pepperjam was developing some tools like this, but so far they have only made datafeed downloads available (like everyone else).
There are quite a few third party developers out there that have created products, and/or services for affiliate datafeeds. As I said – I’ve tried nearly of them that I could find. I’m going to give you a short list of affiliate datafeed tools I think you should look at – followed up by the one I think is better than anything I’ve ever seen…
GoldenCan: GoldenCAN is a datafeed integration service. They get the datafeeds, parse them, remove the garbage, and give you some copy and paste code to add little shops to your blog for merchant products. It’s free, costs no money, and is paid for by taking every “4th” click generated from your site. There are, however, 75 or so merchants that have paid to make their feed completely free (and you get all the clicks). Great little service for being free – not enough (in my opinion) to build a fully featured affiliate store.
PopShops: I only got interested in PopShops because I found out they had a Blogger, Typepad, and WordPress Widget. Their basic account is free, and the “Pro” version with SEO friendly URL’s is only $5 per month. With the widget, when you blog in WordPress using the visual editor, you can popup a window that allows you to search for products, and the results that come back are from all the merchant’s datafeeds they have in their database (some 20 million products). I liked their service (and still use it), but the only cons for me were the fact that you can only look up and add one product at a time, and you had to be very careful that you were signed up for the merchant the product came from (or no commissions for you!).
WebMerge: WebMerge is downloadable software that you install on your computer to parse a merchant affiliate datafeed file and created static web pages from it. It’s $99 for a single user license. I’m sure it can do what it says, but I’ve been building web sites for 13 years and I found it hard to use, hard to setup, and the static pages I created were pretty piss poor, even after creating a “template”.
My Datafeed Scripts: This site sells scripts that parse ShareASale datafeeds (only). I’m sure they work fine, but I wouldn’t pay a hundred bucks for scripts that only work for ShareASale merchants.
AffiliStore: When I found Affilistore I really thought I had the holy grail. This free downloadable script sets up an affiliate store that sucks up datafeed files and creates products, categories, and pages including seo titles and descriptions. The sample stores look great, but I found the script provided very mixed results depending on your datafeed format. In the end, it was too much work, categories weren’t working right, some links were breaking, and it was just taking completely too much time for what it was worth. It basically would have been a BANS like niche store, but with affiliate links from a datafeed. I’m glad this never worked out (for me), now that google is attacking “thin affiliate” sites anyway. You’re welcome to try it out, but be warned – “your mileage may vary…”.
How I Recommend Setting Up an Affiliate Store
DatafeedR: Having tried just about everything I could find to setup an affiliate store from a data feed, I think that I may finally HAVE found the Holy Grail of tools! DatafeedR is a service that you can sign up for to build affiliate stores from merchant datafeeds. They get the feeds, remove all the crap and format them so you can add them to your web site or blog. You can add products from Commission Junction, ShareASale, LinkShare, NetShops, Bridalux, AND Clickbank (something none of the previously mentioned products will do).
I just couldn’t believe when I found DatafeedR that it did nearly everything I’d been looking for, for so long…
Features of DatafeedR:
- Create unlimited affiliate stores
- Drip feed products into blog posts
- Products Sidebar Widget
- Unbranded (no “powered by” text or links
- Pick products from multiple merchants and networks
- Include up to 100,000 products per store
- Product categories
- SEO friendly URL’s
- Meta Description and keywords tags
- Editing of product titles and descriptions
- Add original content to ANY product, category, or store page
- Product “tagging”
- full HTML and CSS control
- Choose what to display (description, image, URL, etc.)
I will be using DatafeedR for the next 2 months to prepare all my blogs and web sites for the holiday season. I will blog about everything I’m doing with DatafeedR multiple times per week. I encourage you to follow this series to see if you can benefit from it as well. The next installment will show how to set DatafeedR up and all the customization options that are available. Stay Tuned!