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  1. #1
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    October 24th, 2013
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    3
    Unhappy Category mapping woes
    I'm working on an affiliate site that ultimately will display products from dozens of merchants with the goal to make it easier for customers in the niche to find what they are looking via guided search/wizard, good taxonomy, advanced filtering, etc. with a unique twist for those who like to research in-depth before making a purchase-decision. Started with AvantLink affiliate network because of the merchants in their program.

    As we've been working with the data feeds the category mapping is turning into a monumental task. Each merchant uses different categories > subcategories > product groups and so we've been manually mapping merchant categories to our site taxonomy using spreadsheets... And of course, we have to build a method to convert the data when we pull it into our system... with merchants having hundreds of categories and including dozens of merchants this is turning into a real nightmare. But more importantly, it is the opposite of solving it programmatically (it seems) so it will never be particularly scalable or sustainable. Not sure what to do There must be a better way.

    The Google product taxonomy seems like a possible bright light in this dark, dark night, but AvantLink, for example, does not currently allow it in the feeds, even though they recommend it (which makes sense, since one could assume most stores on their network have this already).

    Does anyone have suggestion for which networks:

    1. Support Google product taxonomy in their feeds
    2. ALSO include UPC
    3. ALSO include additional product attributes (like MPN, size, weight, etc)

    With the three criteria above, would that eliminate the need for category mapping? Then we'd just have to eliminate duplicate product data (using UPC).

    Are we thinking about this all wrong??

    Would love to hear how others have solved this issue.

    Much appreciation.

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  3. #2
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    November 29th, 2009
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    CO, USA
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    820
    It's a big one for sure. We have worked with every major network to push the adoption of the Google taxonomy, especially since most merchants already have the data for the datafeeds they use with Google shopping. As far as solving it on your own, you are probably doing about the best you can. It shouldn't be "too bad" with a couple dozen merchants. We have over 3,000 and it's a nightmare. We ended up hiring a professor of mathematics from CU to help us come up with some machine learning algorithm's to map the categories properly. We will see how that goes.

  4. #3
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    October 24th, 2013
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    3
    Thanks Prosperent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Prosperent View Post
    We have worked with every major network to push the adoption of the Google taxonomy
    Since you didn't follow that with, "and here's the list of the networks that now have adopted it" does that mean none have, as of yet?

    Machine learning seems like a good approach, though a lot of heavy lifting for newbie that doesn't have a business generating cash flow yet

    To me, the nightmare of working with even a couple dozen merchants starts after we've got the initial pass done (not a small task) and then merchants change their feed layout.

    Thus... it would be nice if merchants conformed to a standard. "nice" = more efficient/valuable for all.

    Gary @ AvantLink recently mentioned they are scoping a project to start to allow for the Google standard datafeed, which most stores on their network apparently have already. Though he said not to expect it till early next year..

    This sounds promising.

    Thanks again for the reply.

  5. #4
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    November 29th, 2009
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    CO, USA
    Posts
    820
    Avantlink is the only network we have spoke with that is moving quickly to adopt the Google taxonomy. The head of feeds at CJ has expressed interest, but beyond that it has been slow going.

  6. #5
    Newbie
    Join Date
    September 23rd, 2013
    Posts
    34
    Morning,

    I've also fairly new to affiliate marketing and this was causing me major problems too. I was actually downloading .csv feeds, running them through many macros and then re-uploading the .csv file. This was very time consuming and also very demotivating as I was putting In many hours for very little (if any!) return.

    Initially I started trying to use the merchant's categories and comparing them to each other but I soon found there was very little standardization between my suppliers, therefore even if I got the categories to align the products in them were generally totally different depending on the supplier.

    What I did do, with some help, was create my own category structure by creating a table in my database, this table had the following fields "Category","Includes" and "excludes".

    Category was the category of the item
    Includes was a list of keywords that would link an item to that category
    Excludes was a list of keywords that would be excluded from the category.

    Then I used PHP (stripos() and preg_match()) so when my feeds get imported the "description" of the items is checked, if the "description" contains a word in "Includes" and doesn't contain a word in "Excludes" then it is assigned to "Category".

    It was a lot of work at first to come up with the keywords but I now have approx 100,000 products that get imported and automatically assigned categories this way every night.

    This is just how I got around it and I'm new to this, I'm sure more experienced members will have other ways.

    Cheers
    Chris

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