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  1. #1
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    I am new to the world of affiliate marketing and I am interested in "getting my feet wet" with datafeeds.

    As a newbie with absolutely no programming skills whatsoever, I have downloaded the trial version of Webmerge to play around with. (From what I have read elsewhere on this forum, this program seems to be recommended by many as a good starting point for us newbies.)

    However, I have also read that we should not just plug in the product data "as is" into our automatically generated pages but we should try to add additional information onto them to make them more "unique".

    By doing this, the search engines would be happier and in the eyes of the visitor, the Web pages would be more appealing -- the additional content on the pages (beyond the product info) would give them more perceived value.

    Besides going in and manually writing a few extra paragraphs of content on the pages of a few key products, can any of you share on what other techniques (preferably automated) you use to customize individual pages on your Website?

    To make these cookie cutter pages appear more unique, I have read about things like "SSI", "RSS feeds" and scripts that can "easily be used" to add related information and products onto the Web pages from sites like Amazon.com

    Although those posts said that these things are "easy" to add, they didn't explain what they are or actually say _how_ you would go about doing it!

    So I have no idea how I would begin to customize my datafeed pages. It's like being given a destination to go to but with no directions on how to get there!

    Can any of you give me any tips on how to do this "page customization" thing with data feeds?

    Or point me to the best resources on the Net where I can go to read up on the step by step procedures of how I can add these features to the templates that I create?

    Or point me to any posts that have already discussed this issue in detail, in case I have missed them. (I am finding that this is a great place to get a huge dose of "information overload!")

    Any info to push me in the right direction would be most appreciated.

    Stephen

  2. #2
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    "Although those posts said that these things are "easy" to add, they didn't explain what they are or actually say _how_ you would go about doing it!

    So I have no idea how I would begin to customize my datafeed pages. It's like being given a destination to go to but with no directions on how to get there!"

    Think of it as a musical instrument. An instructor can teach you all of the scale and chord types, and how they theoretically fit together to make music. It's up to you to develop your own style of playing the music.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your reply.

    Point taken. I get what are trying to say but there is a subtle difference...

    So, I've been given a guitar. I've strummed it and I like the sound of it. I've been told I can play classical music and country music with it. The only problem is, I can't read music. So where can I find out how to learn how to read music first?

    Back to datafeeds... So I guess what I was trying to say is this.. I've been told that I can use SSI, RSS, scripts, etc. to customize my pages.

    What I am asking is where do you guys recommend are the best places or best books or resources to buy for a newbie to read in order to get started along this path?

    In other words, the point where I am at now is that I am "looking for the instructor". I haven't even got the skills yet to know how to start playing the simplest of melodies, let alone develop my own style of music, if you see what I mean?

  4. #4
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    htmlgoodies.com

  5. #5
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    Thanks.

    Now that's definitely more concrete!

    I know some very basic HTML, so which tutorials at htmlgoodies.com do you recommend are the most relevant to getting started with customizing data feed pages?

    At this site, there are "Primer" links on the left-hand side to Ad Banners, Javascript, Perl & CGI, ASP, DNS, DHTML, XML, etc.

    Do I need to learn all the basic skills of these areas or only specific techniques?

  6. #6
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    Learn the basics first...

    Then move from there...

    Server Side Includes basically just include the text from another file, or script into the page.

    If you have a database of 'articles' related to the theme of the merchant that you're generating the site for, then you could use a cgi script to select a random article and include that in the site, when a user visits the site.

    With even a little bit of programming experience, creating a datafeed program from scratch isn't that hard.

    On the simplest level, to build an on-the-fly datafeed program, you open the datafeed as a text file, read the feed, break the feed down into the variables, then search the variables however you wanted to generate the content.

    The one benefit of an on-the-fly solution, compared to a static generate, and upload solution is that all you need to do is upload the new versions of the datafeed, and you're done. (Simple Maintenance)

  7. #7
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    On Server Side Includes, you want to make sure that your web hosting provider allows for SSI, or if the hosting provider requires a specific extension (like .shtml) for web pages with SSI.

    If your web hosting provider allows for .htaccess access, then you may be able to set .html and/or .htm as being server-parsed HTML as well so that the files can have the standard .html extensions.

    An alternative if your web hosting provider doesn't support SSI, would be to use PHP, essentially PHP scripts are web pages, which also include PHP code, so you can design the majority of the site using HTML; then include the PHP code for including whatever you want to include into the HTML template when you generate the site.

  8. #8
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Joseph Alex Martin:
    Learn the basics first...

    ...Server Side Includes basically just include the text from another file, or script into the page.

    ... With even a little bit of programming experience, creating a datafeed program from scratch isn't that hard.

    ... The one benefit of an on-the-fly solution... is... (Simple Maintenance) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Thanks, Joseph, for your insights.

    A few questions...

    By "learn the basics", which specific topics do you mean as they relate to learning how to build customized Websites from datafeeds?

    For SSIs, that definitely sounds useful for automatically inserting content onto a Web page. I'll start looking for online resources on how to create SSIs. Any recommendations? There doesn't seem to be a tutorial on this at the htmlgoodies.com site that Chief_Beef recommended.

    And you say that "creating a datafeed program from scratch isn't that hard". Which particular programming language do you have in mind for doing this so I can go and learn a little about that?

    For the "on-the-fly solution" you mentioned, can you point me to what programs, scripts or books can I purchase to get me started on this as this also definitely sounds like a very interesting option for me to look into.

  9. #9
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    I use PHP for the two (currently) datafeed based sites that I use.

    The site that I created for them has technically 2 different script templates, 1 for generating a script for the category of the products, and another for generating a more information product detail script.

    For the category scripts, I generate a script from the template, change one line of code, and save it as Category.php, and publish it. It looks as if the page is a static page, even though it is a dynamically generated page.

    For the more information product detail page, I generated one page, and send the name of the product to display via the URL, instead of creating a separate static page for each, the search engines seem to still like the product details pages, even with the query string, and I don't have to regenerate any new files unless the vendor adds a new category, or I decide to spend a little bit of extra time doing a little bit of extra SEO, or add another feature.

    The next script that I want to add to the sites is a search engine which can search the product descriptions.

    But essentially using Macromedia's DreamWeaver, if I update the two templates, DreamWeaver updates the entire site to add in the new code. ;-)

    And DreamWeaver also has the ability to guide you through the scripting with either PHP, ASP, or SSI.

    I haven't added any extra content other than the datafeed generated content, but one of the affiliate programs does have an RSS feed available so for that program, I will be working on coding an RSS feed script to integrate the RSS feed content into the scripts.

  10. #10
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Stephen Kingsley:
    For the "on-the-fly solution" you mentioned, can you point me to what programs, scripts or books can I purchase to get me started on this as this also definitely sounds like a very interesting option for me to look into. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Here is the workhorse of the script that I generated, I made it generic, and removed the actual data return, but it should give you an idea.

    This is what the script which displays the product detail looks like.

    Like I said, its not too hard with even just a bit of programming.

    You would just have to look at the datafeed, change the variable names to be symbolic of how that company's datafeed looks, and work on tweaking it for your site.

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
    $db_file = file('data.txt');
    $n = count($db_file);
    $i = 0;
    while($i &lt; $n) {
    $line = $db_file[$i];
    $line=trim($line);
    $line=substr($line, 1, (strlen($line)-2));
    list($DB_value1,$DB_value2,$DB_value3,$DB_value4,$DB_value5,$DB_value6,$DB_value7,$DB_value8,$DB_value9,$DB_value10,$DB_value11,$DB_value12) = explode('","',$line);

    if ($title==$DB_value1) echo

    // echo will print whatever is after it to the visitors browser, so you can generate a table to display the product information however you want it to look, replace the placeholders with the variables, and your set.

    $i++;
    }
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

  11. #11
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    Wow!

    I have absolutely no programming knowledge whatsoever so the above all looks like mumbo-jumbo to an old dog like me!

    I take it that the above lines are PHP commands. If I were to start learning about the basics of PHP, would the meaning of the lines you've shown above begin to make sense to me?

    Also, can you recommend a good place for a newbie like me to start learning about PHP?

    I just did a search at Amazon for a review of Kevin Yank's book at the bottom of this page and I am slightly hesitant about whether I should buy it or not since some reviewers have said that it was absolutely useless for a beginner with no knowledge of PHP at all.

    What are your thoughts? Or do you know of any other books that are more suitable for someone starting out with zero programming knowledge and expertise.

    Once again, thank you for sharing your experiences.

  12. #12
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  13. #13
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    PHP and MYSQL web development by Luke Welling is a good book - that's how I started with php.

    Oscar
    My DataFeed Scripts - php datafeed scripts for your site
    Shareasale datafeed scripts - to display Shareasale datafeeds
    Linkshare datafeed scripts - for multiple Linkshare merchants

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador buy_online's Avatar
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    And another more important question is - How does one customize the content on each product page generated (whether on the fly or a static creation)?

    Note: This is a rhetorical question, I am curious though how many here know how to do more than (for example) making keywords all lower case.

    Fred

  15. #15
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    One thing great about PHP, is the documentation is available from their web site www.php.net

    You can also download a copy of PHP to your computer and play around with it locally to get your feet wet in it.

    Unlike other programming languages where you have to write everything in the programming language, with PHP, you can write 99% of the page in HTML, and include the PHP script inside of the HTML.

    So, you can create the entire layout of the page, then slowly work on migrating that page layout into a PHP script, just by adding the script to the page where you want the content to go.

  16. #16
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    Let me make it a little clearer.

    $db_file = file('data.txt');
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Open the file 'data.txt', and place it into a variable $db_file <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    $n = count($db_file);
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Count how many lines is in the database, and place that in the variable $n <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    $i = 0;
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>We're going to want to start processing the feed at the first item, so we want to set a pointer to 0 <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Until we get to the end of the file i.e. $n is less than our pointer, read the database file, and process the line of the database. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    while($i &lt; $n) {
    $line = $db_file[$i];
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Put the $i'th line of the database into the variable $line <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    $line=trim($line);
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Trim any spaces from the $line <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    $line=substr($line, 1, (strlen($line)-2));
    list($DB_value1,$DB_value2,$DB_value3,$DB_value4,$DB_value5,$DB_value6,$DB_value7,$DB_value8,$DB_value9,$DB_value10,$DB_value11,$DB_value12) = explode('","',$line);
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Place the 12 variables in the datafeed into variables while we're working with that line. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    if ($title==$DB_value1) echo
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>If the current line of the feed we're working with matches the search criteria, then we want to print that line to the web page for the browser to view. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    // echo will print whatever is after it to the visitors browser, so you can generate a table to display the product information however you want it to look, replace the placeholders with the variables, and your set.

    $i++;
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Increment the pointer value, then return to the top of the loop. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    }

  17. #17
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by buy_online:
    And another more important question is - How does one customize the content on each product page generated (whether on the fly or a static creation)?

    Note: This is a rhetorical question, I am curious though how many here know how to do more than (for example) making keywords all lower case.

    Fred <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Well...

    Stylistically, hopefully no two developers will design their sites 100% identically, so even without content customization, no two different solutions should be 100% identical.

    If you are designing a layout for scratch, and you want to include additional content other than the product information, one way to go about it would be to create an array listing a number of different include files with each containing the articles that you want to display with the content.

    Set a counter to the number of files listed in the array, and pluck a random integer between 0 and the number of files, and include the lucky file in that display of the script.

    The more included articles available, the less likely that the same articles would be displayed every single time that the script is called.

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador buy_online's Avatar
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    PHP =

    Fred

  19. #19
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Well, with webmerge, you could make each page different by using the product name in the title field and in the field you use for meta content and so forth. You could also use it in the heading and other places as appropriate and then each page would be different. Also, add a couple of words there to make sensible sentences using the product name. Then all the pages are different.

    Have a stock bunch of descriptive phrases and adjectives.

    I guess, the same would apply to other ways of making pages as well.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  20. #20
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
    Originally posted by Stephen Kingsley:
    Wow!

    I have absolutely no programming knowledge whatsoever so the above all looks like mumbo-jumbo to an old dog like me!

    I take it that the above lines are PHP commands. If I were to start learning about the basics of PHP, would the meaning of the lines you've shown above begin to make sense to me?
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Stephen,

    I will agree that all those PHP commands would look more than a mumbo-jumbo to many of us the first time we see it, since we may not know what the hell all that code are suppose to do and better yet, what it's with all that (list($DB_value1,$DB_value2,$DB_value3,$DB_value4,$DB_value5..... etc....) but, after we learn PHP, all that will make sense, just like the first time we all heard about html, css and WebMerge for the first time.

    Just look at one of my first posts I made on last December 11, 2003 about my first datafeed experience and you may get the idea of what to do next.

    posted December 11, 2003 09:56 AM

    I just bought the full version of WM...but...

    While I will not going to get into the details of what I have learn about datafeeds and the way I am happy with what I have done with what I have learned about how do I use WebMerge with some datafeeds, all I can tell you is that, there is more than one way to skimp the cat. :-)

    Good Luck, if you're serious about "getting your feet wet" with datafeeds.

    Personal Note.

    About a little more than a year ago, I was introduced to ABW by Linda Buquet, she was the affiliate management consulting person for a merchant that I was affiliated with at that time and I was asking her some of the same questions you're asking now about the datafeeds.

    This was her response:

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
    The only information I have comes in the forum of a lot of great posts
    from people like you who are trying to learn. It's a lot to dig through
    but I hope it helps you.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    So here I am today, I don't longer care or worry about how to use a datafeed, (now, I know how) now I worry about all the stuff that I have learned in ABW about the way to make more money on this business and all the evil that parasites do to us, the rest is just history.

    Sal.

  21. #21
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    Stephen,
    If you have no programming skills, I am a little curious why you choosed datafeeds. Datafeeds are just that - a large bunch of datas, which are to be processed using some software. If you don't know programming, you have to rely on others to provide the necessary scripts. That's fine, but if you are not even able to modify them on your own, that could be a rather big disadvantage.

  22. #22
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by oscar:
    PHP and MYSQL web development by Luke Welling is a good book - that's how I started with php.

    Oscar <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Thanks, Oscar, for your book recommendation.

    I just went over to amazon.com and read the reviews of it. There doesn't seem to be as many negative reviews from beginners on it as Kevin Yank's book so I whipped out my credit card a few minutes ago and went ahead and ordered it, so it should arrive on my doorstep in a few days' time.

    Obviously, I will read the introductory chapters.

    At Amazon, it says that it's a 984-page book so I guess it must be the size of of shoe box or something like that!

    So in terms of using PHP to manipulate datafeeds, and as you have this book yourself, can you tell me which chapters or sections of the book are most relevant for this task?

    I'm not a particularly fast reader, so if I have to read the whole thing, I don't think I will be able to get started until 2006! So I do hope that you can give me a "quick start guide" to this book.

    I also hope that it's not going to be too technical. But if it is and I can't understand a word of it, I have a backup application for it...

    I can use it in the kitchen to stand on whenever I need to get to any of the jars on my top-most shelves!

  23. #23
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    I'm new to datafeeds and am not a programmer. I looked at PHP and decided that I just have the time right now to spend learning it, so I opted for WebMerge.

    To be fair, WebMerge has a learning curve as well, though possibly not as big as PHP. The FourthWorld forum on here is really, really good and includes links to tutorial sites for WebMerge.

    As far as customization, you can easily accomplish that with html and manipulating the datafeed with Excel and a decent text program (hect, I'm using Windows notepad right now).

    I've got my datafeed pages set up to look much like the rest of my site, so that there is a consistent look and feel. This is down with HTML and is not very difficult.

  24. #24
    Full Member ahmar's Avatar
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    Here are two good sites I can recommend, so you can have a feel of php till your book arrives:

    http://dev.mysql.com/tech-resources/...es/ddws/8.html

    http://www.w3schools.com
    <DT>[size=1][color=navy]"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return.[/color][/size]<DT>[size=1][color=navy]It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale." Arthur C. Clark[/color][/size]</DT>

  25. #25
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by void:
    If you have no programming skills, I am a little curious why you choosed datafeeds. Datafeeds are just that - a large bunch of datas, which are to be processed using some software. If you don't know programming, you have to rely on others to provide the necessary scripts. That's fine, but if you are not even able to modify them on your own, that could be a rather big disadvantage. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Well, we all have to start somewhere...

    Or as in that famous quotation, "Why did you climb Everest?" -- "Because it's there!"

    A little while ago, I started reading about the concept of datafeeds from within the Webmerge forum and that piqued my interest. Getting started with affiliate marketing by building my own affiliate store sounded pretty cool, especially when the sellers were handing over all their product information for you to just plug into your Website for content.

    All I have to do on top of that is figure out a way to customize the pages in order to add some value to them.

    A number of people who posted said that they, just like me, knew nothing about databases either when they first began but they eventually were able to build their online 'stores'.

    There were also a few questions about whether Webmerge or PHP was the way to go.

    From this discussion, the general feeling I got from reading the replies was that if you don't know either Webmerge or PHP, then many folks suggested learning PHP (even though it may take a little bit longer) as that would serve you better in the long run.

    So here I am trying to take a crack at it!

    Another general comment about PHP that I noticed, just as Joseph mentioned earlier in this thread, is that quite a number of people who have PHP experience said that "it's not too hard" once you have grasped the basics.

    So I am hoping that if I can learn the basics and get my first Website up and running, it will be just a case of modifying and adapting the scripts used from that first Website to build any further Websites based on datafeeds.

    As you say, I only looking to get the right scripts and then knowing enough to know how to modify them, not writing PHP scripts or full-blown programs from scratch.

    Heck, if I can't figure it out in a few weeks' time, I just might take the easy route and buy myself a copy of Webmerge to create a Website with!

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