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  1. #1
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    Scratchin' my head
    There seems to be a trend among merchants on Shareasale to upload feeds that aren't categorized at all. Thousands of products in some feeds, yet every line item in the category fields is the same generic category name. I've noticed this all along, but it really hit home last night when I pulled 25 feeds from various merchants, and out of the lot, only ONE of them was categorized at all, and loosely, at that.

    It's just baffling to see that so many merchants can be so clueless about how a feed needs to be set up in order for their affiliates to be able to use it to promote them.

    Couldn't somebody at Shareasale do something about educating merchants on how to set up feeds? Or at least making suggestions to their clients?
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  2. #2
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Thousands of products in some feeds, yet every line item in the category fields is the same generic category name.
    It's not column 10 your looking at is it? That's the SAS defined category. The merchant category is "supposed" to be in column 22.

    You probably didn't make that mistake, and I agree that there are way to many without categories. It's not just SAS. CJ has it's share too. I'm working on some uses for these cat-less ones, but nothing to brag about yet.


  3. #3
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    There are a LOT of feeds up there where the merchants have simply not bothered to categorize at all. It isn't uncommon with merchants on CJ and GAN too, but it's only encountered occasionally there, whereas with Shareasale merchants it's almost to be expected. My random 25 out of which only one was useable is a 96% defect rate.
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  4. #4
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    Some merchants are just clueless

  5. #5
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julian
    Some merchants are just clueless
    We've all been knowing that. But.... of those who are clueless about this particular issue, why such an alarmingly high ratio on Shareasale?

    How hard would it be and how much more punch would it add to the bottom line for somebody at SAS to suggest to their clients that they will get much better results from offering datafeeds if they offer datafeeds that can be used.
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  6. #6
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    There does seem to be a large number of merchants on Shareasale that just don't have any idea.
    Maybe the people at Shareasale really only concentrate their efforts on those merchants that are going to provide the most in network fees? At the expense of some of the other merchants who need the extra help.

    I am not accusing the Shareasale team of being anything less than amazing. It is just that some merchants do seem to be in need of some major help in getting their act together

  7. #7
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julian
    There does seem to be a large number of merchants on Shareasale that just don't have any idea.
    Maybe the people at Shareasale really only concentrate their efforts on those merchants that are going to provide the most in network fees? At the expense of some of the other merchants who need the extra help.

    I am not accusing the Shareasale team of being anything less than amazing. It is just that some merchants do seem to be in need of some major help in getting their act together
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  8. #8
    http and a telephoto
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    Unfortunately some merchants think that the generic Shareasale category fields are the only fields that affiliates use. There are actually several podcasts that people have done over the past couple of weeks addressing this, we just need to get the merchants to listen to them and pay attention.

    Merchant training (on all the networks) is a priority for me because if affiliates get frustrated overall, it's bad for everyone. The good feeds get overlooked because affiliates get frustrated and give up.

    And even as an OPM getting a merchant to "fix their feeds" can be like pulling teeth. I explain the whys and they don't see the direct benefit. Or it's "too hard to program" or any number of excuses.

    We're working on it, and as I said in one podcast this week, affiliates need to point out to the merchants with bad feeds what it is that is missing and how it would benefit them to fix it. Some merchants need to hear from multiple people before they escalate a problem to be fixed.

    For a couple of my merchants *I* have actually paid for a script because I know in the long run it will benefit everyone involved.
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  9. #9
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    We're working on it, and as I said in one podcast this week, affiliates need to point out to the merchants with bad feeds what it is that is missing and how it would benefit them to fix it. Some merchants need to hear from multiple people before they escalate a problem to be fixed.
    Ahhhhh!!! I just downloaded the second datafeed in 2 weeks for a relatively new merchant on SaS and I'm about to jump off a bridge (not really, if you've ever seen the Chicago river, you'd know that's not the way you want to die).

    The first feed contained over 3,900 products, unfortunately several hundred of these products were no longer available. Hell, some of the manufacturers were no longer listed on the merchant's site. The new feed has eliminated almost 1,700 products, unfortunately I'm still finding products (and manufacturers) that are no longer available. If I'm finding unavailable products by just picking random products from the feed, the merchant should also be able to. Hint to merchants; pull your datafeed from the same database that populates your site, that way as long as I keep the feed up to date, there's no chance that I'll display products that are no longer available.

    Let's take a look at a few more issues with this feed. As I mentioned previously, in the first feed there were over 3,900 products and in the new feed there are about 2,300 products. There is a single category and a single sub-category for all products. And if it weren't bad enough that there was no distinction by category of similar products, about 20% of the products in the feed aren't even close to the single category that does exist. Hint to merchants; A single category is actually no better than no categories at all. And if you do bother to add a single category, at least make sure it's the correct one.

    And why on earth would you include Ships Immediately (html included) at the beginning of every line item's description? Why not put that in a separate field to make it easier for me to choose how (or if) I would like to display that information? I mean, it's not as if you actually used all the available fields now is it? How about one of those unused description fields? Frankly, for me to display that information on every product description seems a tad redundant. How about I add a line on the merchant description page that says "All products Ship Immediately"? Saves ink.

    By the way, what's with all the HTML in your descriptions? Let me decide how I want to format your descriptions. And since you were very inconsistent in the way you added the HTML, a search and replace is out of the question, which means that I had to edit 3,900 line items manually and now have to repeat that for the new feed. Thank God there are only 2,300 items now.

    Damn! I just noticed, you've rearranged the one field that I could actually use as a rudimentary category. The data that was in your Custom3 field is now in the the manufacturers field. Which is actually the way it should have been in the first place, unfortunately my scripts are looking for Custom3. You've now broken the one bit of automation that I could actually add to your feed, this problem is easily fixed but it's just one more frustration. Thanks, I should have seen that coming.

    So merchants, if you see any of these problems with your feeds, you know they need a wee bit of work. If you're thinking that your affiliates can just fix the problems, think of it this way. Let's just suppose that you have 500 affiliates in your program using your datafeed. A small percentage will just post your feed as is without any cleanup. Another percentage will use your existing categories after cleaning up some of the other issues. The majority will probably decide that it just isn't worth the trouble and will find another merchant in your category that does a better job of maintaining their feeds.

    If you clean up your feed and provide a usable feed to your affiliates all 500 of our hypothetical affiliates will have a better chance of getting those feeds up and running quickly which means more exposure for your products and brand which I assume is why you started an affiliate program to begin with (no time for punctuation in that last sentence, here it is [,,,,] insert where appropriate). If you continue to send out feeds like the last two, you probably won't be happy with the results that you get, if in fact anyone is still using them.

    So if you're wondering why I wrote this post, it's because you never responded to the 2 e-mails that I sent you over the past 2 weeks. If this sounds like your feed, you know you've got some work to do. If you're an affiliate and this sounds like a merchant feed you've downloaded recently, then please send the merchant an e-mail too, that way they won't think that I'm just an a$$hole that likes to complain (I am, but that's besides the point).



    -rematt
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  10. #10
    http and a telephoto
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    Rematt, that is exactly the kind of email that some merchants need to get, and as I said, they need to get it from more than one person, PLUS hear it from their OPM or inhouse AM.

    As to html, the feeds for some of my merchants do have some basic html. Like
    and and

    . We figure that for the people that pop up the feed without looking, if the html tags aren't there, the description will be a blog of text that makes no sense. And I assume that the people that are smart enough to want to reformat it themselves can strip out those common tags.

    If you find crazy crap in any of my merchant's feeds let me know. I check each one but sometimes "stuff" slips by.

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  11. #11
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    I find that there are 2 kinds of merchants with feeds. The first type will respond to problems with the feed and seem to appreciate our input. The affiliate manager and the merchant see the value in their feed, and work to keep it updated and usable by individuals and services like PopShops.

    The second type is what drives us nuts. If you do get hold of someone and offer a suggestion only promises result. Sometimes the OPM or other AM gets it and responds rapidly passing your request to the merchant. That's where it ends.

    I don't know whether the merchant sees no value or doesn't understand feeds. Possibly they are understaffed or have too many other problems. The end result is that a bad feed at the start rarely turns good later on.

    I'm learning to cut my losses and not invest too much time with these Orphan feeds. Also when a quality feed goes South it seems that it stays that way. I have several that had nice categories a couple of years ago, and then all of a sudden the categories vanished never too return.


  12. #12
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Powell
    I find that there are 2 kinds of merchants with feeds. The first type will respond to problems with the feed and seem to appreciate our input. The affiliate manager and the merchant see the value in their feed, and work to keep it updated and usable by individuals and services like PopShops.

    The second type is what drives us nuts. If you do get hold of someone and offer a suggestion only promises result. Sometimes the OPM or other AM gets it and responds rapidly passing your request to the merchant. That's where it ends.
    There's a third kind, I'm just not sure how to categorize them. But about a year ago I sent an e-mail to a merchant and asked when they were planning on updating their feed as it was over a year old and about 40% of the products in the current feed were no longer available. They insisted that their feed was up to date and when I sent them several examples of discontinued products their response was to drop me from their program.

    BTW, I just checked and their current feed is still from 3/07.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

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