V2.5 Released – CJ, Create-A-Feed and WordPress Shortcode Support

Toy Shopping Cart

I am pleased relieved (!) to announce the release of Datafeed Studio v2.5.

WordPress Shortcode Support

Lots of new goodies in this new version, but my favourite has to be WordPress shortcode support.

Huh?

Well, you may remember the last release included the debut of a WordPress datafeed plugin, allowing you to display the products stored within your Datafeed Studio database inside your WordPress page, i.e. for a displaying a price comparison box (example).

All well and good, but a bit clunky as you had to edit your WordPress theme to include one line (to include the box) and then add two WordPress custom fields to each post to actually display the box.

Well, it’s got even easier, by using the power of WordPress shortcodes, you can now alternatively include Datafeed Studio powered price compare boxes anywhere within your WordPress post or page, just by using the following syntax when writing your content within WordPress :

[ds query='+pleo']

The above example would search your database for products matching the word ‘pleo’ (now sadly extinct, sob!) and display them within a price comparison content unit on your page.

There’s a few other options available, check out the WordPress plugin documentation inside the extra/wordpress/dstudio for more detail. Note that by using the shortcode approach you can also display multiple price compare boxes on one page.

New Parsers

V2.5 also sees the introduction of two new parsers. First up, Datafeed Studio now supports the new Create-A-Feed type feeds that Affiliate Window is pushing heavily (against most affiliates will!).

This was trickier than anticipated as Affiliate Window don’t offer an option to download the new Create-A-Feed files in uncompressed format, just gzip or Zip.

Rather than code custom parser behaviour just for Create-A-Feed files, I’ve added a new “Post Download Script” option to parsers, where you can specify a script to run against a file after it has been downloaded.

99% of users wont need to go near this, but be aware this this option is there if you need it, and for the new Create-A-Feed parser it will call a script that will gunzip the downloaded file prior to import.

Also, a new parser is now built-in for Commission Junction datafeed files (CSV format, tab separated). Unfortunately CJ do not offer direct download URLs for their feeds so you will have to use manual (i.e. uploaded yourself) feeds with this parser. Watch this blog for a tip / script for getting around this in the near future.

Affiliate Store Changes

There’s a few new settings for the ‘store/modern’ theme, including the ability to enter a contact e-mail address for your site, override the ‘Today’s Hot Deal’ text and change the footer HTML without hacking the templates.

Note that the store/modern theme, and the updated WordPress plugin now include the product image when displaying the price compare content units. If this isn’t to your taste then you can change the default template as appropriate (or better copy the default theme to a custom theme so you don’t have to make the change if you upgrade again).

Also included is a new ‘Share Code’ option allowing you to include your own social sharing widget from the likes of AddThis or Share This on your affiliate product pages.

Download / Upgrading Instructions

For a full list of changes (over 25) for V2.5 check out the full CHANGELOG.txt within the distribution, which is available to download from here.

If you are upgrading from a previous version, see the (updated) upgrade instructions within the README.txt file.

New Update : WordPress Plugin, Affiliate Future support and Click Reference tracking

43711CB7-805C-4F3A-AC30-767FC6F1863E.jpg Datafeed Studio V2.4 has been released and contains some nice shiny goodies :-)

New for this release is the introduction of a handy WordPress plugin so you can display ‘price compare boxes’ (content units) within the pages or posts of your WordPress blog using products that are in your personal Datafeed Studio product database.

See this Wii Mario Kart page for an example of a WordPress blog using this feature.

(Currently your blog must be on the same host as your Datafeed Studio installation – Javascript versions will follow).

Of course, unlike other content unit solutions, with Datafeed Studio you keep 100% of your commissions ;-p

For more information on this new plugin see the the new ‘extra/wordpress/studio’ folder included in the Datafeed Studio distribution zip file.

The other major feature of V2.4 is click reference tracking. Yes, you can now give each of your sites a unique tag which will be passed through to the affiliate network for tracking purposes. You can also, with the new snappily titled “$INCLUDE_PRODUCT_ID_ON_CLICK_REFERENCES” configuration setting opt to append the product key to this reference so you can tell exactly what site and product generated the commission for you!

I’ve been using this on my sites for the last week or so and I’m already wondering how I managed without this feature – no more guessing what page generated a sale.

This release also sees the addition of support for the Affiliate Future affiliate network which has been requested by a number of users.

Other changes in this release include increased flexibility of boolean product title searching. Note that the Admin site now no longer implicitly adds a ‘+’ prefix before each word allowing you to build more complex queries with AND (+), OR or NOT (-) prefixes yourself. See here for more information on how to construct boolean searches.

What else? Hmm…corrected scaling images on the admin search results page, and you can now sort the result columns by clicking on the column title. On the Amazon side, you can now import multiple Amazon products at once, and the application will also check if a product has already been added to prevent duplicate Amazon products in your database.

Apart from this, there’s a few minor bug fixes here and there, including 404 error codes for missing products (you’ll find a new 404.html template page for you to customise in the folder of the theme you use).

For more complete details see the CHANGELOG file in the distribution.

As usual, you can download the latest version from the download page and installation / upgrade instructions are available in the README.txt file.

2.3 – The Valentine Release

2.3 Release

Well, it’s nearly the big V-Day itself, so what better way to show my appreciation to Datafeed Studio users than a new version all ready for download?

Mainly just a few bug fixes and cosmetic changes this time around that I wanted to make public before working on some new features.

Without further ado, the changes for 2.3 :

  • added simple file locking mechanism around the feed import process to stop simultaneous imports (a bad thing!).If you areĀ upgrading you *must* add the following line after the first mention of $DATAFILE_FOLDER in your main config.inc file (inside admin/includes).

    $LOCK_FILE = $DATAFILE_FOLDER . “/import.lck”;

  • corrected scaling (aspect ratio) of images when displaying products
  • cosmetic change – moved top pagination links below category blurb when displaying categories
  • opened up analytic tracking so you can insert your own tracking script (e.g. Mint, Piwik), instead of a Google Analytics ID on sites. Note – you will need to enter the script code for any existing sites you have that are just using the Google Analytics ID in the Site Editor settings.
  • changed store modern theme display product pages to have anchored titles, best price link and review headers for increased SEO.
  • fixed bug where upper pagination page value was incorrect for dynamic categories
  • improved automatic cleanup of feed descriptions

Too upgrade from 2.2 you can just extract this Zip over your existing installation of you haven’t made any custom modifications. Otherwise backup your custom changes before unzipping.

Datafeed Studio v2.2 – Automatic Price Compare/ Amazon Lookups

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A new month, a new release of Datafeed Studio.

2.2 has a host of new features to make your affiliate life easier, and a few back-end fixes to make things tick along faster, especially if you your product database comes in at around the million product mark.

First of all, let’s get on to the good stuff. Affiliate store sites created with Datafeed Studio now have a new “Auto Price Compare?” option.

If you enable this option then the software will attempt to build and display an automatic price comparision ‘box’ for the product currently being viewed based on its title.

Obviously, this isn’t as accurate as manually defining the matching criteria yourself via the ‘Price Compare’ field of a product but in my tests it does a pretty good job, and is a great help if you quickly want to get a store off the ground (or using it as a test of a niche before you devote further time to it).

Naturally, if you have defined the ‘Price Compare’ field already on the product, it will override the automatic price comparison feature.

Pretty cool, huh?

But wait – it gets better :-)


As Chris Tarrant says before he quickly whips the cheque away, “we don’t want to give you that!“. v2.2 also sees the introduction of the similar ‘Auto Amazon‘ feature that can be set at store level.

If enabled, Datafeed Studio will do a web service call to Amazon to get the closest matching product in Amazon’s database – and will add it to the list of matching products when a product is viewed.

This, in combination with the aforementioned ‘Auto Price Compare’ feature makes it a doddle to display products without you manually having to define the exact price matching criteria, or manually adding Amazon products to your Datafeed Studio database via the existing ‘Amazon Search / Amazon Products’ tabs.

Essentially, these two features save a lot of time – and that’s one thing all of us are short of. Previously my Hulk Toys test site was a one product, one display price type site for 90% of the products as I never had the motivation to enter price compare details for ALL the products, but now with the two new Automatic checkboxes ticked, far more products have more than one price automagically showing. Result! :-)


So, what else, Mr Studio?

Well, v2.1 has already made the whole shebang a lot faster with its fancy page caching, but v2.2 also ups the stakes with a far more efficient feed import mechanism.

Why? Well, I began noticing that even though the size of my product database wasn’t growing by much, database queries were slightly longer as the weeks and months went by. Investigating this I found that it was due to MySQL really not liking database tables that have frequent amounts of database inserts and updates as it results in fragmentation (which basically slows everything down).

So from v2.2 does things differently. Essentially when an feed is now imported, the existing products table is copied to a fresh new table and the import is performed against that new table. Finally, the old table is dropped and the new unfragmented table takes its place. This has had a significant effect on performance, and has even cut import times by around 40% for me.

v2.2 also has a new ‘Clone Product’ feature. Regular readers will know that my preferred way of using Datafeed Studio is to create ‘custom products’ with your own unique content, and then set the price compare field on the custom product to show prices from the feeds (many advantages – including your custom content will not disappear if a merchant suddenly drops a product).

The new ‘Clone Product‘ feature is a quick alternative to creating a new product, it will create a new product based on the content of the product you are viewing, with the description, images, price, etc. all copied over for you to customise as you see fit. Just a nice touch, really.

Another nice touch is the ‘Price Compare’ field of a product can now accept standard search phrases such as ‘+xbox +elite’, instead of the full SQL to generate a list of matching products.

Wow, this post is getting far too long and my two young nippers are hovering around me so I better end this quickly, there’s a few other bits’n'bobs, including WebGains parser support, see the full ChangeLog in the distribution for full details.

Grab it here.

(If you are upgrading, you will need to run admin/bin/patch.php from the command-line, or upload and execute ‘patch.sql’ via phpMyAdmin after extracting the zip file to get the full v2.2 experience.)

Datafeed Studio v2.1 – The ‘Meep Meep’ Release!

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Whilst building my latest affiliate store for console bundles using Datafeed Studio I decided to add some new features to the application.

The main new feature is cache support across all the affiliate sites and pages created by Datafeed Studio. By setting the $CACHE_TIME_IN_SECONDS value in the main configuration file you can specify how long a page should be cached for. Personally for my sites I have set it to the number of seconds in a day.

Once a page is cached, any subsequent visit to the page will require no database calls whatsoever until the cache time has expired.

That’s not all in the performance stakes though. From v2.1 the SQL used when displaying categories and products has been optimised. Previously when displaying a page with say ten products, this would have required 21 (yes, twenty-one!) database calls. One for the initial product selection, and then two more for each product to gather additional meta information about the product.

From v2.1 a similar page will require just one database call. This, coupled with the new caching feature, should result in much faster response times for your customers.

Apart from that, there are a few presentation changes with themes. First, store themes have a new ‘Buy Now’ button which should increase conversions, secondly themes now include both the main stye.css file and the local CSS file.

Previously the local style.css was a complete copy of the main style.css file and this was the only CSS file included in a page view.

From this version pages load both the main style.css and the local style.css, with the local style.css being empty by default, but loaded after the main style.css so you can override or apply any new customisations you want to the presentation.

This is handy if you have several affiliate sites all using the same Datafeed Studio database and theme type as you can make a “global” change by changing the main style.css file, without having to update each of your sites individually.

For full details of all the changes in v2.1, see the ChangeLog within the Datafeed Studio distribution.

You can download v2.1 here.

Upgrade Notes : If you are upgrading an existing installation note that for this release you must run the patch.php command-line tool located in admin/bin to upgrade your database (alternatively you can import the patch.sql file manually into your MySQL version or using a tool such as phpMyAdmin).

Datafeed Studio V2.0 Released

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Ch-ch-ch-changes!

From V2 there is no PHP code in the Datafeed Studio templates!

This should be great news for template designers, as it is now much easier to modify the templates in an HTML editor of your choice without worrying about accidentally altering the obtrusive PHP code.

Technically Datafeed Studio now uses the great PHPTAL template system that gently nudges you down the path of W3C compliant HTML/XHTML designs. For more information see the PHPTAL manual if you are thinking of getting down’n'dirty with the Datafeed Studio templates.

It’s all pretty straight-forward, although it might take a few minutes to understand the changes from previous releases. Essentially, for store and price compare sites, the main layout for a page is now defined in the ‘layout.html’ file within each theme.

Every page within a theme will use that layout, so you can make major structural changes to the theme just by editing that file (in combination with purely presentational changes in the accompanying style.css file).

In the main layout.html file there is one special “div” element with an ID of “content”. The content of this element will be magically replaced depending on what page is being viewed, be it a product page, a content page, blog post, etc.

Each of these pages (product, content, blog, etc.) still has their own specific page which you can customise to your needs, but you only have to worry about that particular context, not the overall layout, as that is “inherited” from the main layout.html.

Enough of the positives, we need some negatives!

There’s only one really, and that is that any custom templates created in earlier versions are no longer compatible. They will have to be migrated to use the new template system. Unfortunately this step was unavoidable, and could mean some short-term pain, for long-term gain.

If you have developed some custom Datafeed Studio templates and would like help migrating them contact me and I’ll do all I can to help. From studying the already migrated themes that come bundled with Datafeed Studio you should be able to understand what’s required, but feel free to contact me if you run into problems.

V2.0 is available to download from here.

If you are upgrading, I strongly recommend moving your existing “templates” folder to “templates_old” prior to unzipping otherwise you will have both old and new template files in your theme folders – which I guarantee will lead to rapid hair loss.

New Admin UI, Integrated Help

It might only be a point release, but today’s release of v1.7.1 of Datafeed Studio is quite a major overhaul of the back-end administration UI, improving the usability and look’n'feel of the whole operation.


As well as the swish new UI, there are now integrated help links within the application that replace the need for the user manual (yes, there actually _was_ a user manual. You didn’t read it either, did you?).

The gory details for 1.7.1 :

  • improved usability and look and feel of admin site
  • default CSS for the store modern theme now uses a more neutral blue style rather than the old ‘Indiana Jones’ style brown
  • integrated help system into the admin site, the old HTML manual is now deprecated
  • fixed bug displaying content pages in side-menu using IE

Download it from here or click here to take it for a test drive.

Got Content?

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Today sees the release of v1.7 of Datafeed Studio.

“So what?” you cry.

Well, what about these killer features?

  • the ability to add static content pages to your stores with the built-in WYSIWYG editor
  • the ability to add a blog to your sites to keep your visitors informed with the latest news about your product niche / your site.

In effect, Datafeed Studio has morphed into a specialised affiliate CMS, combining datafeed driven stores with your unique content. It doesn’t get much better, does it?

The full changelog :

  • new feature – add a blog to your stores
  • new feature – add pages of content to your stores
  • added support for horizontal menu in default store theme
  • fixed various problems when installing in a subfolder of a domain
  • fixed bug displaying products with SEO friendly URLs when using default store theme

Download it here.

New Release with GUI Settings Editor

I’m very pleased to announce the release of v1.6.5 of Datafeed Studio.

This release comes with a major new feature – a GUI Settings editor for your sites, no more editing the PHP configuration files in order to get the site you want.

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To try out this new feature, log into the demo (http://olaxi.com/admin, username : demo, password : demo) and click on the ‘Setttings‘ action next to the registered site name.

(Remember that this is a read-only demo, any attempts to update values will result in warnings).

The full changelog for v1.6.5 :

  • new GUI editor for site settings
  • standalone ‘Price Compare’ pages can now only be created via the ‘PC Pages’ tab, not from the site screen
  • removed PUBLIC_URL from site configuration settings, this will now be taken from the registered site URL
  • removed PHP short tags from theme editor for improved compatibility with different hosts
  • renamed MyKey to ‘Product Key’ in product display page for consistency

I hope you like this new feature. Note, if you really still want to edit the configuration files manually, this is still possible,the configuration files still live in the site_configs folder as usual.

The latest release is available to download from here.

Datafeed Studio v1.6.4 Released

Yep – a new release!

This is a mix of some fairly minor bug fixes and usability improvements on the admin side.

The most useful addition are two new datafeed filters, that allow you to Prepend or Append your own content strings to any field in a feed, e.g. adding your own suffix to an affiliate URL.

  • added two new filters, prepend and append, that can prefix or suffix field data with content of your choice
  • added status message when filters are added / updated
  • fixed a big with the BuyAt stock checker that may have prevented other filters from working
  • added convenient accesskeys for the admin site tabs, based on the numeric position of the tab, e.g. 1 = Home, 2 = Datafeeds, etc.
  • added a test for the presence of the MySQLi extension during installation
  • now dynamically filters site themes based on the type of site selected in New/Edit Site screen
  • if you create a dynamic product category from your search results, any SQL limit clause in the generated SQL query is now automatically removed as it could previously break pagination of dynamic products
  • the products shown on store home pages can now be generated by a single tag, display_home_category(). This will now display manual / dynamic categories (formerly only manual were allowed), or if the store $HOME_CATEGORY is unset, or set to ‘random’, a random selection of products will be displayed from your database.
  • fixed Case 48 – extra spaces in user queries were returning no results
  • fixed Case 24 – if a product name is overridden, it now correctly shows in the “HOT DEAL” text of the Store modern theme

Phew…

It is available to download from here.

Information for existing Datafeed Studio owners – there are no database changes required for this release.

To upgrade it is recommended to backup your existing installation folder and extract this new version over it. You may then wish to copy back over any custom template modifications you made in previous releases (or simply copy the old “templates” folder completely).

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