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How to create a proper DataFeed file for affiliate marketing


Many merchants or AM (affiliate managers) have asked me this question, "How do you create a good DataFeed file?" I have decided to create this thread to answer those questions and help increase datafeed standards awareness.

What is a Datafeed file?
A datafeed file is an electronic file containing products information from a particular store. The obvious purpose of creating this file is to share it with affiliates, vendors and advertising partners. Some affiliate network call this feature Merchandiser (Linkshare) or Product Catalog (Commission Junction).

What are the benefits for providing a DataFeed file?
1. Easily and accurately share your product data.
2. Allow partners (affiliates) to advertise your products.
3. Known to increase traffic and sales.

What are the disadvantages for providing a DataFeed file?
1. Competitors may use to help improve their product data.
2. Competitors may use to compare your prices.

What data should be contained inside my datafeed file?
I always suggest putting as much information as possible but not too much.
Most of the time merchants do not provide enough information which makes it difficult for affiliates and vendors to use the datafeed properly. Here are a list of fields which are ordered by priority from top to bottom.

2. Manufacturer Name (brand name)
3. Manufacturer Part Number (model / series)
4. Short Title (less than 300 characters)
5. Long Description (less than 1000 characters)
6. Store SKU (your own store SKU or Item Number)
7. Product Image URL (http link to the image file of the product)
8. Product Web Page URL / Target URL (landing page when shoppers click)
9. Category (tree / category number)
10. Price (selling price not list price)
11. Warranty Information
12. Shipping Cost
more fields (optional)

How can I share my datafeed file (how to upload or download)?
The typical way to allow others to download your datafeed is by putting the file on your server or your hosting company's server. Depending on your server's capability you can allow FTP and/or HTTP download. FTP (file transfer protocol) is preferred due to its error control and resume download capability). HTTP is easier for novice users because it can be downloaded straight from any internet browser.

How and which technology you should use must be discussed with your server administrator or hosting company support. Simply ask them this question, "I have a file at this location ______ and you would like others to download the file using FTP and/or HTTP. What do you need to do to enable this?"

After the location and technology has been setup, make sure you test downloading the datafeed file yourself several times using different FTP software and/or using different browser for HTTP.

I upload to my affiliate network, is that good enough?
It depends, many affiliate networks manage datafeed very well such as Linkshare, Commission Junction and ShareASale. Some cost may be incurred for datafeed delivery service (your must check yourself). Some networks are not as good, you should ask them the same questions I have highlighted here to determine whether they are well equiped or not.

Also keep in mind that affiliate networks may charge additional fees to affiliates to access / download your datafeed.

What interval should I update my datafeed file?
It depends on your industry. Merchants in the computer industry updates at least once per day because frequent price and availability changes. Other industries such as clothing and apparel can update once or twice per week. Basicaly you need to ask yourself, what kind of trouble would you get if you receive angry shoppers trying to order a product you no longer have or the price has changed. And how frequently can that situation happen?

For more information I suggest reading this very detailed explanation about datafeed file by my friend Carsten Cumbrowski:

I hope this thread will help answer some of these commonly asked question about datafeeds and help raise the standard of datafeed we all can benefit from.


Adding Affiliate ID to Datafeed

Hi - a fundamental question - how does an affiliate ad their affiliate id to my datafeed? I will be posting a feed on our ftp site next week and need to provide directions.

Is this network dependent? We use CJ.

Thank you.



Still Have a Question

Thank you for that information but I still have my question. If I host my own datafeed and allow affiliates to retrieve it how do they get their affiliate id imbedded into the buy url????



Linda Buquet

Sorry, I missed your question before.

So you are not going to add your feed to CJ? Or you are going to have both - a CJ feed and a private feed? That's best - to offer both.

Most of the programs Ive worked with in the past - we had programmers that would create a form where the affiliate just selected what file format they wanted their feed in, what fields they wanted, ie price or no price, pics or no pics then a place for them to add their PID and when they pulled the feed everything was the way the affiliate wanted it with their PID embedded into every link.

I don't know how to tell you how to do it, I just told the programmers what I wanted to happen and they made it work.

Here's an expample of a more sophicated datafeed app I helped work on.
Theres a demo for National Geographic Store which is on CJ so you can see how it works.

If you want the programmer to set this up for you, let me know and I can hook you up with him.



Thanks Linda. I already have CJ datafeed but wanted to offer another solution. I guess my developers will have some work!




This is an explanation of how to generate CJ links

This is the standard format of each CJ link:


All CJ links starts with one of the 5 different prefixes / domains:

The first 7 digits number is Affiliate PID.

The second 8 digits is the MID or merchant ID

Then followed by ?url=<the link to the merchant site you want to go to>

SID=(64 alphanumeric) this optional reference info for additional tracking.

Despite all this info, you still can not provide 100% turn-key solution download unless you can create one file for each affiliate to download at your FTP server.

Otherwise you still have to tell each affiliate to substitute the <affiliate_PID> filler with their appropriate affiliate PID from CJ.

Our company provide services to solve this issue if you are interested.


the sad part is data feed file does not have compatible feeds with SAS. For example each network asks you to create a feed in a different way, columns custom columns etc. Datafeeedfile has not yet managed to integrate the SAS feeds in their system efficiently!



On the contrary do import SAS product datafeed + SAS deals database automaticaly.
We could not manage yours efficiently because you provided data from 10 countries into one single datafeed file.



With your vast knowledge you should know that SAS doesnt allow you to host multiple files on ther server. Instead of working with merchants to make the process of datafeed integration easier you ask me to break down the feed for you, start an ftp server and host multiple files and they should put in the sas tracking code in them

Our feed is created with what SAS has asked us to create. You do not take into picture the custom categories that SAS advices merchants to use to make their feeds more efficient and easier for the affiliates to work with.

With the SAS makeapage feature it makes using a datafeed so simple for every partner of theirs. I have a strong feeling that the data feed file usage is going to drop drastically because of these points were sas clearly scores very well.

Their new make a page feature allows partners to easily create pages withouth forfiting their commission to a third party.



Datafeeds and SAS

Hi Clyde and Andrew,

Clearly you guy have two seperate systems going. It would be very helpful for you to each explain them ... seperately.

We have a lot of new to datafeed affiliates who are trying to understand what you two old pros are talking about.

It'd be great Clyde if you could explain what SAS is.

Andrew, I know you've got a knowledge base ... maybe you could direct us to a few pages that would help the readers to understand your system better.

I could be wrong here, but I'm guessing if you both helped to educate us here, you'd attract a lot more affiliates. ;) Most people do not understand how datafeeds work, and I think that's because there are these different ways of doing things. So, if you could more clearly explain each of your ways, then the affiliates can decide for themselves which they'd like to explore.

Thanks guys,

Linda Buquet

Words of wisdom from Bobbie!

I totally agree that instead of taking any type of offensive position, you guys should take this opportunity to educate affiliates and fill them in on the options and how they work!


Will do, I was working on this since yesterday am making a complete walkthrough on using Shareasales (SAS) make a page tool. So just hold on a bit ill get it completed!



Frankly I am quite surprise by your comment.
We do know and understand SAS sytem very very well.

I have spoken to you on the phone before and explained that both SAS and can only accept 1 (ONE) datafeed file per one merchant.

If you have datafeed for 10 countries then those need / must be separated.

What I mean by separated are physicaly separated, 10 different files.
Since SAS does not support posting 10 files then the only solution is for you to provide that on your own server so can affiliates can download them using HTTP or FTP.

Please understand your circumstance is rare. You fall under the 1 out of 100 merchants ratio with this 10 datafeed files issue. Most networks or tools will not support this rare case. Being upset about this issue will not solve your problem either.