For many new users, once they get the Associate-O-Matic files set up and functioning, they log into the control panel and wonder: now what? For all the available options to customize and define their stores, many struggle with the most basic question of how to get started putting products into their site. This process starts with Categories, and this guide will hopefully define the steps required.
As you can see from the image above, this is a category row. It’s broken down into the following sections:
- Cat ID – This is a unique different identifier you enter for every category. It can be letters (abc), numbers (123) or both (cat12). You can use words, but stay away from any terms used in your mod_rewrite rules (such as home, page, etc.), and punctuation or symbols.
- Name – This is where you enter the name you want for a category. The default setting will be the main category name from the Amazon Category drop-down list, but you can enter anything you like instead. Whatever you put here will appear on your tabs (if used), search drop-down menu and category box.
- Amazon Category – Select the type of category you wish to use. The bulk of the list will be default Amazon main categories such as Apparel, DVD, Electronics, etc. These are considered node-based categories; the other types will be discussed later in this article.
- Node – When you select a node-based category such as Apparel, the default node for that category will appear here. You can override the node with a subcategory node, provided it’s from the same basic category. For example, you cannot put a DVD subcategory node (like Drama) in place of a main Book node. Default nodes have a green background, while substitute nodes have a gray background. If you wish to return to a default node, simply clear the box and either click outside of it, or save. The green default node will automatically return.
- SDK – If this is checked, the Site Default Keyword (from the Site tab of the control panel) will be placed in the Keyword box, overriding anything else that’s placed there.
- Keyword (Optional) – With a node-based category, you can enter keywords to filter your search results. Like Amazon’s search function, keywords do not use logical operators (like and, or, etc.). You can use positive (Sony) and/or negative (-Panasonic) keywords. The more positive keywords you use, the more you limit the search. So if you want certain brands of televisions for example, do not include all the ones you want: Sony Samsung Hitatchi Toshiba. You will get no results, as the system will look for items that contain all these words. If you just want Sony televisions, you could do this: Sony -Samsung -Hitatchi -Toshiba -Panasonic. The rule of thumb is, use as few positive keywords as possible, as many negative ones as you need. The keyword box will allow you to enter other information, depending on the setting of the Amazon Category box.
- T – Select this if you want the category to be included in your store tabs.
- M – Select this if you want the category to be included in the Search drop-down menu.
- B – Select this if you want the category to be included in the Category box (explained further down).
- S – Select this if you want the subcategories for this category to appear (depending on the setting of the Subcategory box from the Subcategories tab of your control panel).
- Order – You can select the order in which the categories will appear in your tabs or category box.
You can pre-select a number of category rows to appear in your control panel if you want to work on more than one at a time. Or as you finish a row and save, a new blank one will appear below it. Note that if you do not have all the required information (Cat ID, Name, Amazon Category), the information will not save. You will see an error message, and have to start over again. Difficult if you’ve just set up thirty categories and forgot one ID, as it will all vanish as soon as you try to save.
Once you have categories set up, product will appear in your store.
Below is an example showing some completed categories.
As mentioned previously, most of the selections in the Amazon Category box are node-based. However, a few options are not. They include the following:
- ASIN List – An ASIN is Amazon’s own stock number for an item. Everything Amazon sells has a unique ASIN. Books or other items may use a 10 or 13 digit number that corresponds to the ISBN or UPC of that item. Most however, are a mix of letters and numbers, such as B0011CV4E2. You can create a custom category by selecting this option and placing a list of ASINs separated by commas into the Keyword box (which will display ‘ASIN List Here’). Note the items must be from the same main category (books with books, DVDs with DVDs, etc.).
- ASIN File – Similar to the ASIN List above, but this uses a separate file containing a comma-separated list of ASINs. This makes the list easier to view and edit, if required. If you select this option, the Keyword box will display ‘ASIN Filename’. Enter the URL or file path to the ASIN file here.
- Blended – This will give a mix of items from all your other store categories (not all Amazon categories!), based on a keyword (the Keyword box will display ‘Keyword Here’). So if you have Apparel, DVDs and Toys, and enter Disney as a keyword, this category will display up to three items from each of the other categories. Note also that the system will treat all your categories as main categories, even if you override the node with a subcategory. Meaning if you have a DVD store, with Drama, Comedy, Music, Sci-Fi, etc. it will see all of them as simply ‘DVD’.
- URL – You can enter a web address here and it will show up in your tabs or category box. Useful if you have a store linked to a blog or forum, to give you a link back to that site. The Keyword box will change to ‘http://’.
Note that if you have a category already set up, a Delete option will appear at the top of the drop-down list, allowing you to remove the category. You can also delete a category by erasing the category Name field, then saving.
The Category Box (seen above) controls how a list of store categories is displayed. You can control various options such as the label (the name of the box when viewed on your site), border size and color, background color, location on the page (Left or Right), box order (if used in conjunction with other boxes), and which pages to display the box on. If you use tabs, you may want to set Display to No.
Category Icons are small images that you can display on your category pages, and next to the category if your Home Page is set to Mall. The default icons are located in your /aom/images folder, and all follow the format icon_[Category].gif. To use the icons, you rename the Category name to the Category ID discussed previously.
For example, in the second image above, the Apparel category has 01 for Cat ID. You would find the icon_Apparel.gif image and rename it to icon_01.gif instead. If the Category Icons are turned on, the image will display whenever someone goes to the Apparel category, as shown below.
If you want to use a different .gif image than the default one, simply replace the default with your own, renaming it icon_[Cat ID].gif as in the example.
The next section is Category Descriptions. This is a sort of built-in custom box that displays at the top of the first page of a selected category (every type of category except the URL mode). You can enter HTML or text. It’s very useful if you want to include a keyword-rich description of the category as an introduction, or give each category a mini ‘home page’. As with the categories themselves, you can either create several at once, or a new blank one will appear as you create them one at a time.
The final option available is Category Prices. This allows you to display only items that fall within a specified price range. This overrides the price settings under the Merchant tab. Note however that if you feature Marketplace sellers, and they offer an item at a price that falls outside of the range you set, it will still be available. Meaning if you only display books priced one dollar or more, clicking on the Marketplace link for a given title may still show books under that price. But they should not appear as the featured version of that item on your category page.
Once you have your categories in place, product will appear in your store. You can then adjust and fine-tune the results by using combinations of nodes and keywords or ASINs. Categories are at the heart of AOM, putting the merchandise in front of your customers.