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  1. #1
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    Hello folks,

    Was making this a private discussion between myself and web_novice, but I decided to post it to forum since I couldn't find these answers in one nice and convenient package when I was looking.

    I can now say it's "no problem" after the nightmare I went through getting it to work. PayPal's documentation is good, only it's scattered and hard to put the pieces together... okay, it's not so good. ShareASale was helpful for sure, but the nightmare was all caused by PayPal's "Auto Return" feature (see below).

    But it can be done. I haven't had a sale to prove it yet, except for the 25 test sales I did through shareasale before I got it right. I asked a lot of people for help (thanks Esosoft.com and Proxify.com), and this is what I discovered.

    1. First, I think you'll need a business or premium account with PayPal to accept credit cards... if you're happy not accepting credit cards, then you're okay now... maybe. (Unless you've got a biz account, then this paragraph was unnecessary).

    2. Next take your "Thank you" page (whatever PayPal goes to after the sale according to your buy now or add to cart buttons) and change it's extension to .php instead of .html or .shtml (of course, you'll have to be able to run .php on your server, and there are other ways to do it per PayPal... I just know this one).

    Back it up first, just in case. This page should operate exactly the same, except includes will no longer work for shtml... or I couldn't figure out how. Just made that one page have no includes in it.

    Paste the following underneath your opening body tag (this is the nearly the bare minimum for ShareASale, PayPal lets you do much more with the right programming):

    <?php
    $item_name = $_POST['item_name'];
    $item_number = $_POST['item_number'];
    $payment_status = $_POST['payment_status'];
    $payment_amount = $_POST['mc_gross'];
    $payment_currency = $_POST['mc_currency'];
    $txn_id = $_POST['txn_id'];
    $receiver_email = $_POST['receiver_email'];
    $payer_email = $_POST['payer_email'];
    ?>

    //Comment: Replace YOURMERCHANTID with your merchant ID (silly, but true). And Spaces ARE important, I think;

    <img src="https://shareasale.com/sale.cfm?amount=<?php echo $payment_amount; ?>&tracking=<?php echo $txn_id; ?>&transtype=sale&merchantID=YOURMERCHANTID" width="1" height="1">

    //This part is unnecessary and extra, but mails you a notification of sale, nice when you're not sure if it's working right (Replace your email for the fake one listed);

    <?php mail("YOUREMAIL@YOURISP.com", "Thank you notify #$txn_id", "Transaction info\n$payment_amount\n$txn_id.");
    ?>

    Okay, save it, maybe not publish it yet until you do the following:

    3. Go to your account, click Profile, then "Instant Payment Notification Preferences"

    (Don't know if this is necessary, but better safe than sorry) Turn on Instant Payment Notification (this is the big process that allows you to track sales). Put in a URL for a php page you may or may not have to set up... this is where the power of IPN comes in (I don't use that power, as I don't have an expensive db or shopping cart software). You can probably create a blank page with .php on the end and get away with it, not sure. (If this doesn't work, I'll show you my setup for my "Notify" page, which has ZERO to do with ShareASale).

    4. Okay, next step on PayPal (very important!) Go back to your Account, and Profile, then click "Website Payment Preferences" and TURN OFF Auto Return... this is an awesome feature for paypal merchants, but it was responsible for 99% of my problems making ShareASale work with PayPal... because with Auto Return, PayPal (at last check) was not sending IPN info back to Thank You page when this feature is on... stupid! I've emailed them, and if they ever fix this, I'll use it again.

    5. Okay, now replace your "thank you" page with the modified .php page. You'll have to go into any buttons (buy now/add to cart/subscription) that reference the "Thank You" page and edit them too, in every single page (yes, been through that too).

    Now, if everythings working, when someone buys something AND clicks continue, they'll return to your Thank You page and ShareASale will be properly notified. The beauty of the faulty Auto Return feature is it takes the "Continue" button out of the loop, and automatically refers your customer back to your site's Thank You page... boy wouldn't it be nice if that worked. If they don't click continue, the sale is NOT tracked... you'll have to enter it manually at ShareASale. Most click it, I've been told.

    If you've got all that, then ShareASale will ask you to test it during signup process, and it should work fine... unless having a blank notify.php file screws it up, then I can provide the extra info (not much more, actually).

    I hope this helps web_novice and anyone else avoid the three day debacle I went through to get this to work. It's actually easy if your server is cooperative, and you know how... PayPal has about 200 pages of documentation on IPN, which is admittedly very good for high-tech merchants, but this little post I wrote is a lot more helpful for ShareASale merchants (and it's the parts of the documentation that were weak and unclear).

    I'm available to answer any questions about this if I failed to cover anything, and I can provide the notify.php file I use if anyone needs it.

    Toxey

  2. #2
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    Paypal is another place that handles your earnings. direct deposit is always the best, no wondering if checks get lost, and some programs charge you for every check they cut.
    jj

  3. #3
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    Thanks for all the info.

    What I don't see is the affiliate ID being picked up - just your merchant ID. Did I miss it?

    I would think that the affiliate ID who sent the traffic would need to get picked up - so doesn't your 'thank you'.php need to be reading the SAS cookie here and passing it so the PayPal txn_id gets associated with the affiliate ID?

  4. #4
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    Sorry, yeah, it's hard to picture. Here's the process of an affiliate sale through ShareASale, with PayPal inserted into the mix.

    I'm a surfer on Affiliate A's website and see your banner and click it. This is where ShareASale get's affiliate ID. Because the surfer is clicking on a banner chock full of affiliate info and gets referred to Merchant B's website. Cookies now have what ShareASale needs from affiliate. What they are missing is the transaction ID and the purchase price.

    That comes back to ShareASale after the customer makes a purchase, PayPal serves the IPN info back to your thankyou page, and the tracking code tells ShareASale about the info it needs (your Merchant ID, sale type, Transaction ID from PayPal, Purchase amount from PayPal). At no time does PayPal know anything about your affiliate.

    Now ShareASale has the affiliate info, and when purchase is made they use cookies and match up the purchase to the affiliate...

    Hope that helps.

    Toxey

  5. #5
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    OK, SAS can still read the cookie on the customer's computer and when you post sales info to SAS, SAS's server will look for a cookie and determine if it's an affiliate sale.

    Same way PayPal reads the shopping cart cookie at checkout time.

    But if you don't also pick up the affilite id and save it somewhere or pass it to PayPal with the cart, how can you match it up for manual entries? By that time, the customer session is gone and there is no longer a way to access the affiliate ID.

  6. #6
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    Something tells me it would be different if you tossed oscommerce into the mix

  7. #7
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    Not sure, actually. But if they can't do that, then all this breaks apart.

    I don't know... It's possible that if the customer doesn't click continue, and it doesn't go back to Thank You page, then there may be nothing to tell ShareSale that an affiliate buy happened (same thing if usuer blocks ALL cookies).

    But when it's working right, that's how they do it... I'm currently not savvy enough with cookies and stuff as to how this can be done, exactly. Cookie must last a long time though, since folks buying something many days later are successfully tracked.

    Maybe ShareASale has more info.

    Toxey

  8. #8
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    I don't know about oscommerce actually, but I've looked at the software (some of my design was made to emulate using theirs, in appearance only).

    I would hope that it would function better and with less hassle with PayPal's IPN, but I just don't know.

    Toxey

  9. #9
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    I thought I'd check out discountshopfest because I know they have oscommerce running with shareasale, but NOWHERE on their site could I see any payment method information. Also, nearly all of their image links were broken for me.

    I'm getting a business ready for online sales with an affiliate program and I was hoping my site was good enough. After seeing the lack of available information for customers on that one I'm a lot more confident, hehehe

  10. #10
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    Yes, there's nothing that builds confidence more than seeing how awful your competitors' sites are...

    That's one of the reasons I got into this market... I thought SURELY I could sell more than these guys, just by not appearing so scary! It doesn't hurt that I've discounted off of retail like the dickens, of course. But eventually my prices won't be so margin poor, as the site begins to thrive on it's own due to image and good customer service.

    I swear I saw something somewhere about PayPal IPN and oscommerce though... on a PayPal forum dedicated to IPN... if I find it I'll let you know (but try "PayPal IPN php" which is how, I think, I found it).

    Good luck, let me know if I can help at all. I'm a newbie, but I'm no stoob to be sure.

    Toxey

  11. #11
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    quote:
    Originally posted by SamyT:
    I thought I'd check out discountshopfest because I know they have oscommerce running with shareasale, but NOWHERE on their site could I see any payment method information. Also, nearly all of their image links were broken for me.


    My Eyes! My Eyes!

    I hate to see the cartoons still on an osc site, and the smooshed graphics, and the broken images, and the category counts are off. Sites like that give osCommerce a bad name and affiliate programs a bad name. A few simple changes, not even 15 minutes worth of work, would fix that site right up.

    Yikes....
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  12. #12
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    I don't mean to run that site down though! I just wish he put a little more into it for the customers who 'want to know'

    Am fairly sure it uses Pay Pal at any rate (btw Toxey, I have pay pal IPN working through my oscommerce - it works) just don't know if it will work with shareasale but I am hoping so. I'm nearly ready to get going!

  13. #13
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    Best of luck to you, I'm sure you'll do great as long as ShareASale will work with you. I'm sure they will,

    Toxey

  14. #14
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    Same here, not trying to be mean, just pointing out a couple of easy to fix problems. The broken images are the biggest problem and the other things I mentioned are asthetic. As an affiliate, I would not promote the site as is. And that is my perogative as an affiliate. I don't think the site will convert, people will not take it seriously.

    I may be going the same route as you at some point SamyT, unless I can find a better alternative in the next couple of months. I am getting edgy and want to move along....

    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  15. #15
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    Deborah,

    Just went to your sites, and wanted to say how nice they were! Lovely pictures (I love cats and dogs) and lovely artwork! Plus the sites themselves are very pleasing to the eye, and well laid out.

    Do you have an affiliate program for your artwork? Or is that not possible with cafepress? (Maybe I'll search abestweb and find out). :P

    Toxey

  16. #16
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    Thanks

    I have emailed ShareASale and Cafe Press both about the technical aspects and haven't heard back from Cafe Press. Cafe Press sent an email to all their shop owners earlier this year asking if they were interested in an affiliate program being offered and stating they were looking into the possibility. However, there isn't anything moving on this.

    Depending on what Cafe Press says, if they can't pass the necessary information to the confirmation page, I may need to set up a separate store (I would use either oscommerce or the newer, more flexible, Zen Cart http://zen-cart.com ) and start out with just taking PayPal. I would prefer that CafePress just work because they take almost all currencies and ship worldwide And http://loxlygallery.com is running a custom script so that my sites don't look like Cafe Press until the checkout process. I will be setting up the shopping portion of Gifts For Animal Lovers to be the same thing soon instead of passing people directly through to Cafe Press for browsing.

    Also, that script is so customizable that it would be a great thing for affiliates to run on their sites to pull in just the products they want to feature from my available stuff. And it pulls the information in real time from Cafe Press, so they wouldn't need to keep an eye on prices or add new products manually. The section they feature would always be uptodate.

    So that's my goal. Now I have to wait for answers and then decide what to do next
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  17. #17
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    Loxly,

    (nice name by the way, take it from a Toxey)

    I just sent a PM to Rodney (of ihateclowns.com) about a closed discussion where he said he'd worked it out with cafepress to handle affiliates properly.

    If he replies, I'll pass it on here.

    Toxey

  18. #18
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    I know Rodney, I'll email him I thought he used offsite processing.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  19. #19
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    Toxey, I think you'll find if your customer does not press 'continue' in your scenario, you will be paid for the sale but the sale will not register with shareasale. Some customers prefer to simply browse away once the payment has been made.

  20. #20
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    Hmmm...

    That's really unacceptable for affiliates, and personally I think it's unfair. How am I supposed to know which affiliate sends me a sale if the information does not get transmitted?

    Obviously, the best solution would be to have PayPal fix the problem with Auto Return... that's really the way to go. I hope they fix it soon.

    Toxey

  21. #21
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    With my system there's a timestamp and because I do use auto-return, the order successfully gets entered into the system. All I have to do is match the timestamp with the order that gets recorded at SAS.

  22. #22
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    That's good to know. Your system works with Auto Return because PayPal does send IPN to your notify page whether or not Auto Return is enabled. Mine won't work with Auto Return at all because I need the IPN purchase info sent after the sale to my Thank You page... something that PayPal does not do with Auto Return enabled.

    Dumb, really dumb. Still no reply from them about the problem, except some computer generated something or other based on the keyword IPN.

    They need to fix this, it just makes good sense.

    Toxey

  23. #23
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    I know.... it would make my life much easier also

  24. #24
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    Tobey,

    Wanted to thank you for your contribution to the community. I used your instructions to enable SAS via Paypal, and it was a snap! Took about an hour or so overall, including changing all the site "Buy Now" buttons.

    Appreciate it!

    Lotus.
    www.LotusWhite.com
    Handmade designer apparel and accessories.

  25. #25
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    Lotus,

    I'm really glad this helped someone, and so quickly too!

    Checked out your web site. You have a very clean and inviting look. You should do very well with customers.

    Toxey

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