Monday, 2 June 2014

Status update: I just had to create two new free tools for Zazzlers

What an eventful two weeks it's been on the tools front!

Good News

First, the really great news: Zazzle's RSS feed mechanism seems to be behaving itself properly again. Yaay, happy dance!

The Rest

Since completing Ausome (ok, still have to do a slideshow tutorial specifically for the paid-for version) and the first version of MySets (collections of Zazzle products all fitting a theme) the new things I learned meant there were a few more things I could easily achieve, that have wide appeal and could be free to use, supported by donations.

The two tools discussed here are:
all links include your (or the promoter's) referrer id and tracking codes

Collections for the Zazzle Forum

For example, I really liked the idea of being able to post sets of related products on the Zazzle forum. So much better to see people's ideas of, say
  • bedroom collections
  • spring-themed wedding stationery or
Relevant observations I've made that went into making the tool include these major ones:
  • Often the forum is just a stream of product after product - albeit often in themes. 
  • I know from past research that you see entries from the Zazzle forum in search result from Google, Bing and no doubt others.
  • I also know from the forum that many storekeepers who also do a lot of promotion of others' work do go through the ShowMe forum to get products / designs to promote. I know because they've said so in the forum.
  • Some who promote others products don't like posts in the ShowMe forum to have referrer ids included in the links
  • Quite a few who post in ShowMe don't know how to post linked images properly
  • People really like the concept of a single link for people to click to see related products
So I took the fully automatic / scheduled posting tool MySets as the starting point and created a new tool from it called Zaps - Free Zazzle Forum Collection Creator (Zaps because, even though it's free, it's still part of the Zaps toolset).

The constraint of exactly four products in a collection still applies.

I removed all the scheduling aspects and made it produce BBCode instead of HTML. I liked the template aspects of MySets so included the same facility in the new tool.

Stream of product after product...

It amazes me that such a creative bunch as the artists on Zazzle are happy to see product after product in a centred single column. Some take the trouble to make the layout pretty but the vast majority don't. I must say, formatting options are sorely constrained with Zazzle's implementation of their forum.

So I've given 3 templates for different forum post layouts. They're fairly pretty but there's only so much you can do with the limited formatting options available and four products to display. Ah well.

Respect the search engines!

Because of the fact that search engines can find Zazzle forum posts, it's important that the links include both referrer id and tracking code. If the link is displayed in the search engine and someone clicks it, you will get credited with sales because your referrer id is included. You'll know where the sale came from when you see the tracking code in your Referral History Report on Zazzle.

For others who want to promote the posted collection

But it's also important that someone who wants to promote the collection should be able grab the collection, in one click preferably, but also easily make it use their referrer id and tracking code instead.

So there is a link in the generated BBCode that does exactly that. It uses the other related tool I haven't mentioned yet, that creates a collection in the same way but produces html / email body as output. The various aspects of the collection as generated for the forum are passed to the other tool so the promoter only has to put in the referrer id and tracking code, all else is copied over.

Related Products page

I added a related products page feature. By this, I mean that the generated BBCode includes a link to a page that displays products related to those in the collection.
The person setting up the collection gives a search term or phrase that will be used to pull related products from their store. A few other options for the related products page include limiting products for the related products page to a particular department.

My return stack deepens

(That's a phrase that sprang to mind from my student days, when we covered programming languages!)

Of course, during all this, one of my Zaps licensees asked a question that helped me to discover that you can pull from Zazzle's feed mechanism using dp={a department id} and that there is one for every product type variation, you know, like down to coin purse or chubby business card.

This is so useful and the answer to an often-asked feature for the full Zaps that I had to park my Collections work and make the changes to the various relevant tools in the Zaps toolset. Once announced on the Zapsters community, I managed to untangle my mind and reduce the return stack by one. Just in time! ;)

Unexpected Bonus

BBCode is a standard for certain forum applications so I shouldn't have been surprised that the code generated for the Z forum also works on other popular forums. For example, I tried it on the ZUG and it worked just fine :)

Collections for websites / email body

Before the mad dash into the Collections for the Zazzle Forum I created one (again, no scheduling, just gimme the code) for normal promoting purposes.

It's main purpose is to produce a collection (of exactly four products) using an output format that can be used on websites, on blogs or shared. So I've built it to produce:
  • HTML code for the collection
    The html uses responsive (aka fluid or liquid) design so that it looks as good as it can on whatever device is being used
  • Something that can be copied and pasted into an email body in those email systems that allow it (such as gmail)
  • Something easy to screen-grab, just to cover as many options as possible
    (that makes me think of an enhancement. For anyone going the screen-grab route, it would be good to build a link that they can copy to go with it)
Like the Forum equivalent, it has templates that produce different layouts. This one has five.

It doesn't include support for a related page feature because a) many people who use it won't want my website to display their related products page and b) I don't want to give away my website bandwidth for general purpose use like this. I don't mind with forum posts as I'm not expecting many to click through to the related products pages.

Anyway, that's pretty much it for this status update. Time to catch up on many lost hours of sleep over the last couple of weeks! (oh yes, and those household chores!)

Happy sharing / promoting everyone.

comments, likes, +1s, tweets are always welcome! :)

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