What should I do to prepare the feed?
Once you have
the feed on your desktop computer, you will need to see if it is
in a compressed format. The Eastwood feed is compressed
in a ZIP format and can be decompressed with a program like WinZip.
The next step
is to open the file in a program like MS Excel. There are others,
but we'll use Excel in our example here. When opening any text file
(or any file that isn't a bona fide Excel file with a .XLS extension),
you will have to tell Excel that you want to look at "All Files
(*.*)" Once you have selected the data feed file, you'll get
the "Text Import Wizard" that pops-up asking
how Excel wants to handle the file. Select the radio button marked
Delimited, (there's that word
we learned about earlier). Click Next.
Now we have
some choices. How is your file delimited? If it is Pipe
delimited, (like the Eastwood feed) all you have to
do is type in the Pipe character ( | ) in the Other box.
When you have made the correct choice, you'll notice an immediate
change in the way the data looks in the Data Preview window. If
you have selected the correct delimiter, you'll see your data organized,
with neat vertical lines outlining the columns.
text qualifier can be left at the default double quotes.
Leave the Treat consecutive delimiters as one checkbox
un-checked. At this point you are ready to go, and there should
be no reason to click Next, so just go ahead and click Finish.
The data feed should now load into Excel.
Cleaning up your feed
One of the
items in your data feed that will cause problems is where
you need to create file names or directories based on information
in the data feed. For example, if you are trying to build file names
based on categories in the data feed, and there are forward slashes
"/" in the category name,
you'll need to get rid of them. WebMerge might create a directory
where you want a filename, because it thinks there might be a Path
there (as in path to a directory or URL).
The solution is to perform a Search and Replace. This is
something you'll want to get very familiar with, in creating a really
effective data feed file. It also takes a little imagination as
to what will happen, or what are the consequences of replacing characters
in the feed. If you replace the slashes in the Main_Category
field names, should they be replaced with something else,
or nothing? The answer is -- it depends!
If the slashes
are just there to separate a group of numbers, then you can replace
the slashes with a dash "-" The replacement character
does not have to be a dash, it can be anything that will work into
your scheme: a space can be inserted, or nothing at all. See the
example below where the slash was replaced by a dash.
(Before Search and Replace):
Pinstriping/Custom Art > Paints
(After Search and Replace):
Pinstriping-Custom Art > Paints
you'll want to highlight the entire column by clicking on the appropriate
column letter (O, for example), and have the search a replace function
fix the entire column at one time. In Excel, the Replace
function can be found in the Edit drop down menu, or by
pressing CTRL+H on your keyboard.
The current version of WebMerge allows the user to make filenames
with either underscores '_" or dashes '-" in place of
spaces in the proposed filename.
What if you made a mistake? It is always a good idea to
check the results right away. If there was a mistake, pressing CTRL+Z
will undo the entire Search and Replace operation you just performed.
This undo will work for all major operations in Excel, and can undo
the entire operation (not just one cell at a time).
In the field name (Column header
in Excel) called "Category," you can see there is actually
more than one category (or sub-categories) in each column separated
by slashes. We recommend separating the categories, and making new
field names (columns) based on these
new splits. Take a look at the example.
called "Category" (Before Text to Column Operation):
Body & Fender > Panel Prep >
Sanding, Grinding & Fitting
reaction might be 'Sheesh, how come they didn't make different field
names (column headers) for each category and sub-category
and separate them?" In this case, regretfully, that is the
job of the affiliate. You need to be prepared to handle this yourself,
if you are creating a multiple level
hierarchy of index pages. So how do we fix it?
you need to make new columns for the new field names to be used. If you don't
do that, during the Text to Column
Operation Excel will ask you a question that is very important to
answer correctly. "Do you want to replace the contents of the
destination cells?" The answer is "No way!" If you
let Excel do that, the information in adjoining columns gets erased!
Actually, the answer is Cancel. What Excel is trying to
tell you is that there is information
in the columns to the right or left of the column you are trying
to break apart. It is really saying that you need more room.
Click the letter of the column adjacent and to the right of the
Category column you want to break apart. Go to the Insert
drop down menu, and click on Columns. Excel makes a new
empty column just to the right of your original Category column.
You need to do this several times, depending on how many sub-categories
you think exist in the original Category column. We have not encountered
more than six, but there may be feeds that have more than that.
So make six empty columns to the right of the original Category
highlight the Category column. Go to the Data pull down
menu, and click on Text to columns. The Convert text
to columns wizard then pops-up asking if the information is
Delimited. Click this radio
button and then click Next. This
should all look very familiar, with check boxes for different delimiters
(just like when you opened the file in Excel to begin with).
Your delimiter may already be checked; if it is not, type
the > character in. You should immediately see the information
separated for you in the Data preview window. Click Finish, to make the conversion. If you
see the Do you want to replace the contents of the destination
cells?, then there were not enough blank columns created to
put the separated data in. If true, then click cancel and go create more empty columns
to the right.
now see several new columns with the Sub-Category information in
them. You now have to assign field names to the columns,
so that WebMerge will have something to recognize the data properly.
We've used things like "sub-category1" and "sub-category2"
to name the new columns. These names can be anything, but it is
always a good idea to be consistent.
to Columns Operation:
Body & Fender > Panel Prep
> Sanding, Grinding & Fitting
After a successful
Text to Columns Operation (with field names (column headers)
Body & Fender
Sanding, Grinding & Fitting
cleaning up your feed, you should determine if you need all of the
fields included in the feed. If you don't need all of them, remove
them by clicking on the letter for the column you want to get rid
of and click on Delete in the Edit drop down
menu. This will make the feed smaller in size, and may speed up
the processing and creation of files.
feed contains a few fields that are blank, such as "ISBN"
and "Artist"; obviously, you can delete them. You may
decide not to use prices on your site; if this is the case, you
can delete that column. This will significantly reduce the size
of the file.
Also, in the
Eastwood feed, please note the KEYWORDS field contains our
internal keywords for each product and should be edited before use
in the Keywords meta tag on your site.
After you have
your templates, take a look at the fields you have
chosen to use. If there are other fields in the feed that
aren't used, go ahead and delete them.
You may also want to sort your data in order to look at it in a
more organized fashion. For example, you can sort by the category
you intend to use to build index pages. When sorting in Excel, be
sure to highlight everything except the field names (column headers)
at the top. Eastwood's feed is initially sorted in alphabetical
order. It is strongly suggested that you re-order the products,
since the first selection when the products are left in this order
is a wide variety of Torch Tips!
into detail, there are many things you can do to enhance the SE
optimization of your WebMerge generated pages. There are some nifty
ways in which you can format the descriptions included in a feed,
to give more value and a better look to your pages. These enhancements,
if done in the feed itself, can be more effective than simply making
your template look good.
In the Eastwood
feed, please note the KEYWORDS field contains our internal
keywords for each product and should be edited before use in the
Keywords meta tag on your site.
Alternatives to Using
a Data Feed
a wide range of tools that can work instead of or in conjunction
with the datafeed.
Showcase Creator and Dynamic
Product Showcase Creator - These tools create showcase tables
of products directly from Eastwood's datafeed - no programming
required. Customizing features allow you to specify the exact
products that you want in each display, as well as the format
and colors of the table. The Dynamic PSC has the added advantage
of automatic updates - similar to GoldenCAN, once you paste the
price updates or availability of products. Everything will update
dynamically on your site when it changes in the feed.
- CJ Product
Catalog - If you are interested only in a few specific products,
or a certain category of products from Eastwood's site, you can
pull individual product links out of the feed through the CJ interface.
Just choose "View Products" in the Get Links>Eastwood