Zazzle RSS Feeds Explained

About the Zazzle RSS feed mechanism

Instead of your browser asking Zazzle for a product page, there is a way of asking instead for a whole bunch of products via this thing called a "feed" (short for RSS feed).

You can get your browser to request pretty much any bunch of products from Zazzle but (presently) only the Firefox browser is able to show in human-friendly form what it gets given back. Other browsers just show a bunch of gobbledegook (following a format called xhtml, if you're interested - nah, thought not!)

Before going any further, try out the following link. It's a request for a feed from Zazzle (opens in a new window). I hope you're using Firefox! Here it is:

Because we're not telling it to refine what we want, we get the default "most popular out of everything on Zazzle" (btw, that link is officially known as a "feed request").

The easiest, simplest thing about feeds seems to be the hardest to grasp - that is, they don't exist until you ask for them by using a feed request. Let me explain.

Product page recap

First I need to talk about how your browser shows you a product page, as that's something you'll be quite familiar with. You've probably never thought about it but here's how it breaks down:
  • Somehow or other you end up clicking a link for a product
  • The browser fires the link off to Zazzle, requesting the product page
  • Zazzle's website mechanism looks up the requested product's details in their database
  • Zazzle puts the products details through an HTML product page display template
  • Zazzle gives your browser that filled-in page display template
  • Your browser, knowing how to handle HTML, displays the page

This is important: the product page doesn't exist until your browser requests it. All that exists is a database entry holding the product's details, a product page html template and the link you followed.

Hey, I wanna get a bunch of...

Ok, now for this tricky-seeming thing called rss feeds. Notice how it's pretty much the same as above:
  • Somehow or other a feed request is made of Zazzle
  • Zazzle's rss feed mechanism looks up the matching products in their database
  • Zazzle puts the details of the matching ones through an rss output template
  • Zazzle returns that filled-in rss template to whatever is doing the requesting
  • The thing doing the requesting does whatever it's designed to do with the returned results

If you didn't before, see how your browser handles the results. Try clicking this feed request, which will make your browser send it to Zazzle's feed mechanism (opens in a new window):

Zazzle will do its stuff and return the results to your browser as an rss feed.

If you use Firefox you'll see something like this:

Others, such as Chrome, will give you gobbledegook instead, like this:

The moral of the story - if you don't want to see gobbledegook, use Firefox to play with feed requests.

There are many other ways that rss feeds get requested. Zazzle's store builder is all based around them. So are some plugins I've seen for WordPress. And so is Nifty Slideshows Maker and the slideshows it makes.
Remember, all you're doing with a feed request is asking Zazzle's database for stuff. Zazzle picks up the products matching the request and delivers them in a standard format to whatever is doing the requesting. What gets done with them after that is up to the requester.

Get this into your mind and all should make sense: the feed content doesn't exist until requested, just like product pages don't exist until requested.

Telling Zazzle what you want a feed to contain

Zazzle's feed mechanism recognises all sorts of ways you can tell it to pull products from its database. These are by any mix of:
  • a store id
    • example requesting results from my hightonridley store:
    • example without a store id (i.e. requesting results from the marketplace):
  • a search term or phrase
    • ex. search term:
    • ex. search phrase: (never use spaces, use plusses instead)
    • ex. with store id and search term:
  • a department
    • example requesting results from the marketplace stamps department:
    • example requesting floral results from the hightonridley store's stamps department:
  • a category
    • example requesting results from my Outer Space category:
      Note that you don't need a store id because a category id is unique across all of Zazzle, and is all that's needed to pin down that category in your store. 
    • example requesting from my Outer Space category just stamps matching the search phrase spiral galaxy:
  • a tracking code 
    • used for letting you see the tracking code in use on a link that ended up generating you a referral commission. Always used in conjunction with your associate id:

This is important: Do you see how every time there's something after the /rss it always begins with a ? (question mark) and every time there's more than one thing after the /rss then the first begins with a ? and the second (and subsequent ones) are preceeded by a & (ampersand).

Finding the id for the department you want

Zazzle has a helpful way of letting you find the department ids to use in feed requests. If you're logged in, this link will take you to it (opens in a new window, scroll up a couple of lines).

Finding the id for the category you want

From your store's back end, navigate to the store category you want. Look in the browser's address bar for the number that starts &cg=

Here's a screenshot of me getting the id for my Outer Space category for the examples above

More stuff you can tell Zazzle's feed mechanism

There are also ways of telling the feed mechanism in what order you want products pulled, how many to pull per page and which page of results you want.
  • Do you want the most popular or the newest?
    By default you get the most popular. If you want the newest, use _created
  • Do you want the results in ascending or descending order?
    By default they're in descending order (most popular first / newest first). If you want to reverse that order, use:
  • How many products per page?
    By default you get 30 products (if there are that many meeting the criteria you give) but if you want more or fewer, use: or whatever number you want
  • You don't have to get the first page of results
    By default that's what you get but if you want the second page, use:
 almost there...

...and how about earning referral commission?

Most importantly, it has a way of rewarding you for any sales arising from someone following a link that has your associate / referral id in it (follows Zazzle's cookie policy).


Here's how, you include at=your18digitassociateidthatisalsoknownasareferralid in your feed request. You can find your associate id if you're logged in to Zazzle by visiting:

Finally there's a way of telling it that you want the image background to be a colour you specify (doesn't work for images showing "in-situ" product views).

The way you do that is to include bg=thecolourcodeofthebackgroundyouwant

If you get the colour you want from Zazzle's product design tool it will be something like bg=EB8C1F or bg=FFFFFF (white) etc.

Where next?

Practice making up feed requests using the above examples to get you started. Paste them into the address bar of a Firefox window (so you get the feed shown in human-readable form).

Once you get fairly comfortable with it making up feed requests, try making a Nifty Slideshow, a promo tool for Zazzle products that lets you make slideshows for your blog or website. It uses the products returned by a feed request to display a slideshow of them.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, thankyou! Why aren't you on Zazzle's staff? This is much more helpful than their help page on this.


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