An affiliate is in need of good product feeds as much as Portsmouth FC are in need of a couple of quid. The latter merchants probably can’t do much about (sorry Pompey dudes, hope it works out) but why the heck are product feeds still a flaming problem? Does anyone look at them? Check them? Care about them?

First the good news – things have improved. There does seem to be better descriptions, product names, manufacturer codes etc – and on the surface everything in the garden looks rosy! That is until you start looking for something and the following two examples have been encountered far too often of late…

New Products On Websites

An affiliate spots that Merchant X has some wonderful tshirts on their site and thinks “hey that could be a nice central point for a blog post”. They head over to their clever little feed tool or perhaps easy content units (who will have the same feeds) and search for those wonderful items. They’re not there!

So where are they? OK let’s allow 24 hours for an update! Days pass and still those products don’t appear.

Result: Merchant doesn’t get promoted!

Items In Emails

Quite honestly this gets right on the proverbials. You receive a wonderfully crafted email from a merchant. The items are screaming “promote me! promote me!” and so you set to work. Is it in the feed? Oh dear, no it isn’t. Again let’s be patient. In the words of Annie “ya gotta hang on ‘Til tomorrow” as it’s only a day away. But no, sadly those items don’t appear.

They’re pre-order items and therefore aren’t going to be in the feed!

Result: Merchant doesn’t get promoted!

So here’s a February challenge to all who are charged with managing product feeds for their clients.

1. Go and check the product feed and make sure it’s up to date
2. Check the images and links. Can an affiliate use them?
3. Check that the feed is being updated daily (or as frequent as required)
4. Make sure it’s being updated. Do spot checks!
5. See if new products on site appear in the feed.
6. Make sure old products are being removed.
7. Do tests on downloads. Are the feeds usable in both XML and CSV.
8. Do tests on putting CSV feeds and XML feeds into a database.
9. Make sure all site items are in the feed and are properly categorised.
10. Go back to 1 and repeat.

Now, it’s appreciated that some of the above is a faff and some may not have the technical know how to check some of suggestions, but in simpler terms – please check the feeds and if you see they’re not right, get it sorted!

And please don’t send emails with products to promote that aren’t in your feed! Just because they’re on site doesn’t mean affiliates can get to them via your feeds. We have tools, whether they be our own, third party like ECU, or networks and if your items aren’t right, up to date or in the correct format you’re losing out on promotion.

Even worse for you… if your competitors are up to date and have brilliant product feeds then they’re going to be used instead!