Published for: Wednesday, 19/06/2013

Opinion: ShopSafe - Suggestions for best practice in data feeds.

Leverage your Inventory via Data Feed Publishing

data feed best practices

Note: 04-04-2011: There has been a lot of water under the bridge since this page was first published. My opinion has changed so much that I considered scrapping the page altogether but data feed publishing is still useful as long as the ramifications are known.


Data feed use can bring out both the best and worst in internet publishing.

Here are my tips to avoid the pitfalls and perhaps extract the best value from your affiliate marketing programs.


quoteAim for quality. A data feed should add value to the internet. The product's landing page on your site should match the datafeed description, photo, and price on the page clicked from the affiliate site. Buyers are disconcerted if you do it any other way.

Have your data feed updated automatically whenever your pricing or products change.

Use the best possible product descriptions to sell your product with one important proviso.

Since there is only one "best", you might think that this should be the same description that appears on your site. You should not do this. Consider offering two feeds, one to the wider population of affiliates and a better feed to the affiliate/s that you think will be most valuable to you. Although neither you or your affiliates will be penalised for "duplicate content", there is little doubt that products will be "filtered" out by search engines. Duplicate content is a real issue. Using your site's product descriptions in data feeds given to any affiliate (including ShopSafe™) is a bad idea, we do not want to rank over you for your products or cause your products to be filtered for our benefit.

Do not skimp on product descriptions, our system will reject products with too-short descriptions. Use keyword-rich descriptions, categories, and product names. Take advantage of the available "brand" column and, if applicable, append the model number to the product name.

Do not use the same fake description for every product in your data feed, nobody will publish it. A data feed must add value to the internet.

quoteAim for impact. You are able to add two sizes of image to your data feed, full-size and thumbnail. The thumbnail is optional but a full-size image is a mandatory requirement.

Use a very large full-format image for your main image. Affiliates like ShopSafe™ will download your image only once, cut it into the various sizes we require for different sites and formats, and then store it on our own image server. (Your images will only be used to accompany your own products, our system is engineered to reserve your images only for you).

(Note: It is OK to include products without full-size images in your data feed but our system will selectively ignore the products without a larger-than-thumbnail image. Please ensure that there are no scripts which block the downloading of data feed images, if all images are blocked, all products will be rejected.

quoteAim for automation. Do not trust your data feed to manual implementation. Wherever there is a possibility for human error, errors will occur. The ideal set-up for data feed supply is via a permanently-available XML url.

Here is an example from the Anglers Warehouse website. Every time a product is added or any detail or price is altered on the Anglers Warehouse website, a new XML file is uploaded and published to the internet. Every three days, the ClixGalore Datafeed servers collect this file and load it ready for collection by ClixGalore affiliate publishers. Every night, a ShopSafe™ server queries ClixGalore for newly-available merchant data feeds. These are then integrated with our existing records for data feed publication on ShopSafe™.

quoteAim for coverage. Try to include every product on your site. Data feed publishing set-up for your inventory will cost the same for 500 products as it does for 5.

Reducing your sales force to one or two affiliates is not a fundamental mistake. Your best advantage will come from having only the affiliates who add value to your data feed publishing your products.

quoteAim for results. Deeplink every product listing to the last landing page before the buyer can add to the shopping cart. Hopefully the buyer will be ready to buy before they leave your affiliate's site and click to yours.

quoteIf you need help: ShopSafe™ is committed to quality improvement in data feed publication and we will help wherever we can. My Skype address is OZBIZWEB and I will be pleased to assist if I am online. You can also call our land-line on 0755 999 999.

The best way to implement an automated data feed is via your usual webmaster. You can ask them to contact us if they are looking for implementation advice, we will be happy to assist without charge.

All of the afore-mentioned is free but if you no longer have web support for your database driven web site then ShopSafe™ can carry out the work and provide a completed data feed automation solution for a flat fee of AU$350.00.(We will need once-only administrative access to your website and database.)

quoteIf you do not need help: Here is some guidance on populating the available nodes in the ClixGalore Feed System to be seen on this page. Once you have created your csv or xml file and published it to the internet, you will need to schedule it for automatic updates. Here is what one of our scheduled updates looks like.

Product Name/Title (Max 70 Chars) REQUIRED:
Only 70 Characters but try to append product type and model number to product name if it fits.

Product Currency e.g. US$ REQUIRED:
Do not forget this, For Australia you can enter AU$ or AU$ etc

Product Price (Max 15 chars) e.g. 10.99 REQUIRED:
This is the important price column - it should match the selling price of the item on your landing page.

Product Recommended Retail Price (Max 15 chars) e.g. 10.99:
Sometimes useful but generally not used by us.

Product Sale Price (Max 15 chars) e.g. 10.99:
Sometimes useful but generally not used by us.

Product Delivery Cost (Max 15 Chars) e.g. 10.99:
Please try to use this column if possible. We intend to publish it when enough data is provided.

Product Brand Name (Max 50 Chars) RECOMMENDED:
If your product has a brand name, even if it is not well-known, it should be entered here.

Product Brief Description (Max 300 Chars):
We do not generally use this column UNLESS there is nothing available from the full description column.

Product Description (Max 2000 Chars) RECOMMENDED:
Described as "RECOMMENDED" but it is an absolute requirement for us. Our system automatically rejects products with a ridiculously short description or no description at all. A quality image and a good description is what sells your product. You should not skimp here.

Product URL (Max 500 Chars) REQUIRED:
Do not forget to include the complete URL commencing with http://.

Product Image URL (Max 500 Chars) RECOMMENDED:
Do not forget to include the complete URL commencing with http://. Use a large full-format quality image. We will download it only once. We will then cut it into many sizes to suit our various formats and store it on our own image servers for you. Your images will only be used to accompany your own products, our system is engineered to reserve your images only for you.

Product Image Thumbnail URL (Max 500 Chars) Max size 125x125 pixels:
Not generally used by us but should not be overlooked as it is useful for many affiliates

Product Category (Max 500 Chars) RECOMMENDED:
Described as "RECOMMENDED" but should be "REQUIRED" for every datafeed that contains more than 12 products. Use it to allocate your products into logical groupings. If a single product fits more than one category then provide the same product twice, one in each category.

Season (Max 50 Chars):
Sometimes useful but generally not used by us.

Gender e.g. M/F or leave blank:
Sometimes useful but generally not used by us.

Product Availability (in days):
Very useful, you can also add keywords like "in stock" and "immediate shipping" here.

Sizes Available (Max 50 Chars):
Sometimes useful but generally not used by us.

Colours Available (Max 50 Chars):
Sometimes useful but generally not used by us.

quoteSumming Up: Data Feed Best Practices.

Accuracy is paramount. Use a method that will ensure your data feed is always price- and content-accurate.

Large format images and keyword-rich text (titles, brands, comprehensive descriptions and categories) are the key to maximum impact from your data feed.

Open your data feed to every affiliate. New publishers and publishing innovations appear every day.