A data feed is basically a database of products that is put together by a merchant. For example, a merchant that sells bridal/wedding related items will create a database with all of the products they sell. This database will include item numbers, item names, descriptions, etc. It will also include a tracking link for each item. This tracking link is routed through the affiliate network which records you as the referrer. If the visitor buys the item through your link, you get a percentage of the sale.
So why use data feeds? Because they are a huge time saver and offer free content you can use to build out a web site quickly and easily. A good data feed allows you to offer a huge variety of products for sale. More products means more pages and more chances for you to make a sale. Think: instant e-commerce store.
You’re not going to get rich from putting up data feed sites, but you can make some long term income. Some niches/sites will be winners, some will be dogs. This is a numbers game. Once you get it down, these sites are easy to throw up. So put up a bunch in a variety of niche. Then, continue to build out more sites in the niches that are working for you.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest downsides to putting up data feed sites is finding quality feeds. Many merchants do a poor job of creating their feeds. The feeds will lack proper categorization, have poorly worded or non-existent descriptions, have missing images, etc. This means you will have to take the time to scrutinize each feed a bit before you can use it.
The other big downside of using data feeds is that other affiliates are using them too. This can lead to issues with duplicate content. Google in particular has gotten really good at detecting duplicate content and can penalize your site in the SERP’s. We’ll look at some ways to help avoid this problem a bit later.
Selecting a Feed
There are a few places to get feeds: Linkshare, Shareasale, Commission Junction, etc. I favor Shareasale for a couple of reasons. First, they make it simple to see what merchants offer data feeds. Second, they don’t charge for the feeds. Linkshare charges $250 just to be able to use feeds. The only way to get around this fee is if ‘you have been active in the network for at least 3 months and you generated at least 50 orders in the most recent calendar month’. As far as I know, Commission Junction also charges. Shareasale wins.
When you pick your feed, make sure you evaluate it for quality. Download the CSV file and pop it into Excel. All of the items should be properly categorized. As I already mentioned, many merchants are lazy or stupid and leave everything under a single category. Move on to the next merchant if you see that. You should also take a cursory look at the product titles, descriptions, and photos. Make sure they look OK. Also check out the merchant’s site itself. Does it look like a place you might buy from? If the site you’re sending visitors to is hard to navigate or just plain retarded— pass. You don’t want to waste time sending them traffic that won’t convert. Just use your best judgment.