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.

Usually, the 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).

Search and Replace:
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.

Original Field (Before Search and Replace):

  Pinstriping/Custom Art > Paints

New Field (After Search and Replace):

  Pinstriping-Custom Art > Paints

Of course, 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.

TIP: 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).

Text to Columns:
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.

Original Field called "Category" (Before Text to Column Operation):

  Body & Fender > Panel Prep > Sanding, Grinding & Fitting

Your initial 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?

Well, first 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.

Here's the procedure. 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 column.

Once accomplished, 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.

You should 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.

Before Text to Columns Operation:


   Body & Fender > Panel Prep > Sanding, Grinding & Fitting

After a successful Text to Columns Operation (with field names (column headers) added)):




 Body & Fender

 Panel Prep

 Sanding, Grinding & Fitting

Other considerations:

Before finishing 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.

The Eastwood 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 built 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.

TIP: 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!

Search Engine Optimization

Without going 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

Eastwood offers a wide range of tools that can work instead of or in conjunction with the datafeed.

  • Product 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 line of Javascript on your site, you never have to worry about 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 Company section.