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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager AffiliateBuddha's Avatar
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    Question Good datafeed bad datafeed
    For those of us who extensively use datafeeds to include product data on our affiliate websites, some datafeeds are good and some are not quite as good.

    My question is, what are the factors that make this difference? what do you want to see in a datafeed that many merchants ignore, what kind of data do merchants include in datafeeds that is absolutely unnecessary?

    For example, I don't want zappos to brand them in every product description, I am building a price comparison shopping engine which sometimes picks up zappos' description on certain products, but other vendors sell the same shoe, too .. yet the description will read "Zappos.com is proud to present ..."
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  2. #2
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    My question is, what are the factors that make this difference? what do you want to see in a datafeed that many merchants ignore, what kind of data do merchants include in datafeeds that is absolutely unnecessary?
    There are a lot of merchants on SAS that have a good datafeed, but they don't use any of the Custom fields for anything, so they end up with just using the default SAS Category and SubCategory, which is no good if they have different Categories and SubCategories for their products, and we are just making a table for that merchant only.


    Some merchants include too much Html, and other non safe characters on their datafeeds, also some include Custom Categories and SubCategories that are too long, and even some times they also include some [ " . ( ) , # < > $ ] ect, on the Custom Categories and SubCategories fields, and that is absolutely unnecessary.
    ...

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Out of stock products. This is the biggest problem with datafeeds and many merchants don't seem aware of it or simply don't care. I'd say this mostly happens with Linkshare merchants because of the way merchandiser works. Merchants just aren't aware that they need to send a list of out of stock products to Linkshare to have them removed. Besides that, incorrect prices is another huge problem that continues to plague datafeeds.

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  4. #4
    Full Member jollygoodpirate's Avatar
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    Mortal Sins of Datafeeds!
    I like this thread. I think there are mortal sins in feeds, and by this I mean that if they make these, the datafeed should be dropped (dead) because it is not useful.

    1. Out of Stock Items
    2. Bad Prices
    2. No Images
    3. Bad Product Names / Repetitive
    4. No descriptions

    Somethings like HTML in descriptions, website names in descriptions, bad categories, all those can be worked a bit, but the above there is nothing that service providers (like myself) or affiliates can do to fix.

  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Oh, lack of a UPC code would be my number one complaint, followed by lack of Manufacturer's Part Number and Manufacturer Name. Out of Stock or Discontinued items in feeds is also a biggy.

    What I really hate is merchants that put a lower (and invalid) price in their feed files for most of their products. It could be a mistake on their part, or it could be a deliberate attempt to manipulate comparison engines. I don't care, when I see it, I ban them. I don't need the headache...

    Ohhhhh, and this little gem.... "N/A" or "Empty", etc in columns they don't have values for. If you don't have values, leave them blank.

    Ohhhh, and the fact that some merchants use Affiliate/program specific phrases in their feed file name so that my site shows prices for "Company XYZ, 60% affiliate commissions". Merchants, the name of your affiliate program is the name of your website or company, don't add other stuff into it.

  6. #6
    http and a telephoto
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    Quote Originally Posted by isellstuff
    Ohhhhh, and this little gem.... "N/A" or "Empty", etc in columns they don't have values for. If you don't have values, leave them blank.
    The Shareasale datafeeds require an entry into some fields and we use n/a or empty or another term to fill it. I would expect the affiliate to be able to sort and delete those records if they choose, or to remove that term. I don't like it when I am preparing feeds, but *something* has to go there. Open to suggestions....
    Deborah Carney
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  7. #7
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    To all the other bads, I'll add:

    Gobbledygook characters

    800-numbers in the description!

    duplicate products/descriptions (often only the SKU is different)

    WRONG picture/description--elements don't match (made-up example: picture of gloves, but the title says shoes, has description of pants)

    RADICALLY variant image sizes (pixel dimensions, not file size)

    Product links that actually go to the category pages

    Category-page links stuffed into the PRODUCT feed

    UNNECESSARY INFO:
    Personally I find the field with the merchant's plain URL (in the CJ feeds) to be univerally utterly useless. I'm not about to give 'em a plain link, after all!

    Bad-for-conversions names in the ProgramName field Grrr! "GadgetUniverse 'Share the Riches'". "All-Ink.com Affiliate Program." "Backcountry, Tramdock, Dogfunk, & That Other Site & Maybe Even Yet Another Site I Forgot & BlahBlahBlah"
    And other programs with names that would scare buyers away if they make it onto a site unchanged. It's a PITA to have to get rid of all that affiliate-targeted promotional crap!

    Other things, it depends on the affiliate. I find too much category info to be useless, but others may want even more. Then there's things like books (which I don't promote). I know they usually put the "ISBN number" somewhere. To me, that's a crap field...who the heck looks for a book like that?! I know I'd look for one based on the title, or maybe the author name. Yet I see book sites displaying ISBNs like they're some kind of informational gold.

    I generally think sending out updates for 1-product changes is a waste. But I know that some affs will pick through and email over a single OOS (yes I think that is a BIT MUCH!).

    USEFUL info that merchants often don't realize the importance of:

    Color information! I see many feeds where it looks like they've got 10 dupes--including the pictures--but upon clicking to the merchant site, it turns out that the colors are all different. If they'd just show a properly-colored pic instead of a "representative" one, AND mention the color in the description, it wouldn't look like a sea of nothing but dupes. (Since it does look like dupes, I don't run those feeds.)

    Properly-colored pix! Sometimes they DO mention the color in the title and description--but then wreck the effect by using the same pic for everything. So, it may say "red marbles," but have a pic that clearly shows green ones. This confuses people--are the marbles going to be red (wrong pic) or green (wrong description)? Worse yet, this type of error is often repeated on the merchant's own site!

    SIZES:
    Not clothes sizes. But package sizes. For example, say the product comes in a can. Is it a big huge can, or a little one? If something says, $25.00, it might be a ripoff if that's for a tiny little can. But it could be a great deal if it's a 5lb can. Yet, some merchants never add that info, despite the fact that they must get lots of customer emails asking about it. These merchants also don't say on their own sites. It's like a mystery pack.

    Update frequency: Either too little or too much is bad. DON'T just reupload the same, unchanged thing with a new date!! Only change the feed date if the feed has really changed! Usually if a merchant does this to me once, it's the last time I'll do anything with their feed on any unautomated site.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum are the merchants who haven't updated since 2002. AND who have indeed had stock changes (usually the 2002 feed is totally dead by now)! Needless to say...it's about time these merchants DID do an update.

  8. #8
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    The Shareasale datafeeds require an entry into some fields and we use n/a or empty or another term to fill it. I would expect the affiliate to be able to sort and delete those records if they choose, or to remove that term. I don't like it when I am preparing feeds, but *something* has to go there. Open to suggestions....
    If those Custom fields are used to list some of their Categories or SubCategories, I rather see an empty space in there, than any n/a or another term to fill it.

    Yes, I know we can always filter those out off place terms, but why make it more difficult than necessary?

    Another thing that I have found out is when the merchant have a nice category list, but somewhere on that list they make these mistakes:

    EXAMPLE:
    Categories
    one .............. ok
    one .............. ok
    one .............. ok
    two .............. ok
    two .............. ok
    two .............. ok
    three ............ ok
    THREE ............ NOT ok, here they went all upper case [we need to filter here]
    three ............ ok
    four .............. ok
    four .............. ok
    Four ............. NOT ok, here they went capital case [we need to filter here]
    five .............. ok
    . five ............. NOT ok, here they went with one blank space first [we need to filter here]
    five .............. ok
    six ................ ok
    six.. .............. NOT ok, here they went with one blank space after [we need to filter here]
    six. .............. NOT ok, here they put a dot at the end [we need to filter here]
    seven ............ ok
    seven ............ ok
    seven ............ ok
    ETC,ETC....

    And a worse thing to find out later:

    Today the feed say:
    Custom1 --- is ok because:
    apple
    bannana
    cherry

    Custom2 --- is ok because:
    IS EMPTY





    BUT then, on another feed update they may do this:

    Custom1 --- is not ok because:
    NOW IS EMPTY

    Custom2 --- is not ok because now it have the:
    apple
    bannana
    cherry

    The Custom field switch, is something that I have noticed some merchants do once in a while, and unless you're doing regular datafeed updates on your site, you may not noticed when they do it, until the next time you try to manually update the feed.

    Case in

    Last year while I was experimenting on how to do the auto datafeed update with a cronjob, I found two merchants that changed most of their datafeed format practically overnight, and the next day the site was a mess, lucky I like to keep an old copy of the previous working datafeed in case the again, because I know it will happen again with some merchants.
    ...

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador
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    great thread, I certainly agree to a lot of these issues pointed out and this thread should be read by all merchants using a datafeed.
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  10. #10
    Outsourced Program Manager Stephanie Harris's Avatar
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    I've been looking for a topic like this where we really dissect what makes the ideal datafeed (i.e. necessary fields, unnecessary fields) but I see this is a little dated. Does anyone know of another thread that is similar to this one that is more recent? Figured I'd ask before I go through the search.
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  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Doug247's Avatar
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    I too have been waiting for a topic like this. I just converted a fan apparel niche site over to amzn web services because all the merchants feeds were horrible.

    Merchants do not need to inclued a bread crum path in their categories column

    Merchants do not need to inclued HTML in the datafeed.

    Merchants do not need to products listed multiple times.

    Merchants need to include COMPLETE data for every row.

    Merchants Should offer two feeds 1 complete Datafeed and 1 as an updates feed.

    I a few years ago I developed an access database for the feeds I used. It automated the entire importing, editing, instering IDs and merging of merchant feeds into one feed.

    I be happy to clean up and manage feeds for merchants. ;-)

  12. #12
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    Full Updates should occur 1x per week
    Incremental updates daily (including ONLY products with actual changes).
    This helps avoid the significant amount of code I have to write to evaluate if a record has really changed and should result in pushing the "new" data to production.

    Plain text across the board...no html, no javascript etc, no funky characters

    ideally I would like to see the data feeds available via db queries rather than only flat files...understand this might not be ideal for everyone though.

    column for a thumbnail + column for full size image

    UPC or ISBN 100% of the time.

    use a consistent layout/structure....I understand if you need to provide multiple feeds based on your categories (ok, no I don't....but I accept it....) but believe it or not each data feed does not need it's own unique structure!

    oh and dream of all dreams for me.....we actually arrive at an industry standard for the structure of datafeeds.....imagine the time and money that could be saved if this were possible? However, I am not holding my breath....

    Chris

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