Effectively Use Datafeeds to Enrich Your Website – By Eric Nagel

by Colleen on February 16, 2011

Datafeeds are a hot topic today, but many people don’t know where to begin. Luckily, there are tools available that make datafeeds useful to anyone who has a website.

To start, it’s best to understand what a datafeed is (usually)… a plain-text file which contains a list of all of a company’s products, and includes the product name, description, URL to an image, price, your affiliate link, and more.

Each line of a datafeed represents one product. A datafeed can be one to tens of thousands of lines long.

Many affiliate networks not only have ways to download a merchant datafeed, but also provide a means to view the products of a datafeed through their interface. By viewing the datafeed in the network’s interface, you can browse through their products, and select which you’d like to promote.

The simplest way to use a datafeed is to search via the affiliate network for a product you’d like to feature, copy the given HTML code, and paste it into your website (much like adding a banner).

Some affiliate networks also have tools which allow you to search and select multiple products to feature on your site. Similar to a single product, you just copy the HTML code and paste it into your website. The code that you paste may be static, meaning when the datafeed updates, your website does not, or it may be JavaScript, which updates your site when the datafeed is updated.

Once you’ve reached the limits of what the network tools can do for you, you may want to look at third party tools. PopShops and GoldenCAN are two examples which read merchant datafeeds and update your website when the datafeed is updated. This is the true power of datafeeds: setting it up once, and not having to update it every time the price changes or the product goes out of stock.

If you really want to get into datafeeds, you can write programs (in PHP, Perl, ASP) that go out, grab the datafeed, and update your website. This eliminates third party tools (and any associated costs) and gives you greater control over the look, feel, and content displayed.

While datafeeds may seem like an easy way to enhance your website, there can be problems. First, not all merchants provide datafeeds. If they do, the information in them is not always the most up-to-date.

The merchant’s website may show one price, yet there could be a completely different price in the datafeed. In addition, sometimes products that are no longer available on the merchant’s site are still listed in the datafeed. When this happens, your user will see the product on your site, click through to the merchant site, and be presented with an error message.

Datafeeds may not be the Holy Grail affiliate marketers are searching for, but by using them with your existing content, you can enhance your website, improve on your user’s experience, and maybe even increase your profits.

Eric is an affiliate marketer who uses his programming knowledge to create unique, automated sites.

Download the entire FeedFront issue 13 here – http://www.scribd.com/doc/45332687/FeedFront-Magazine-Issue-13
FeedFront issue 13 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/article00date/2010/12a>