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Adding the Final Polish

Adding the Final Polish

Recently there was a post in the forum with the questions below. I thought I’d expand a bit on the answers and include them here for the benefit of anyone who might have missed it the first time around. These are all questions that have to do with adding the last little bit to a nearly completed AOM site.

What is a favicon, and how do I get one?

A favicon is the little graphic you see at the top of the browser, next to the web address. On this site, it’s the small green box with the black asterisk (looking like this: ). It’s a holdover from the early days of the web, and really serves no useful purpose other than as an identifier for your site. Often when you bookmark a site, the favicon will appear in your bookmark list next to the site name. It’s a particular kind of image file that must be named favicon.ico in order to work (technically speaking, that’s not true, but in order to keep this simple, we will assume that’s correct). Not all graphics programs can create .ico files, but you can get simple favicon design programs as shareware or freeware online. There are also sites that will allow you to upload an image in a more typical .jpg, .png or .bmp format, and convert it to a favicon.ico graphic. The image is then uploaded to the root of the directory where you want it to appear (where  the AOM shop.php and admin.php files are). You can then add a line of code to your site to let the browser know there is a favicon available, but it’s not required. Most will automatically load it once the cache is updated.

But as noted, a favicon is  not required. It’s just a nice way to finish off your site, especially if you’ve put a lot of work into the graphics. Think of it as the hood ornament to your store.

How do I add custom descriptions to each category?

Under the Categories tab, look for Category Descriptions. You can select a category you’ve already created and then enter text and/or HTML which will display at the top of each category (first page only). It’s very similar to a custom box.

Once you finish adding text and save, it will appear like this on your page:

What is a Google webmaster code and Yahoo’s y_key – where do I get them from and where do they go?

Both of these are ways the two big search engines have of verifying your ownership of a web site. You can then submit a sitemap, use their tools to see how your sites are performing in terms of indexing, and other neat tools. It’s a better process than just ‘submitting’ your sites to be indexed. With Google you do this through their Webmaster Tools, and with Yahoo! it’s their Site Explorer. Both services are free, but do require you sign up and create an account. And both allow you to use two different ways of proving you control the websites you want to submit:

  • File verification – With this method you are given a filename. You must then set up a text file with this name in the root directory of the site you want to submit. With Google, the file can be blank; Yahoo also supplies a line of characters. When the file is set up, the search engine will check to see if it exists where it’s supposed to be. If it is, then this proves you must have access to the site, and you are verified (note this does not automatically mean you’re indexed, but it’s a step in the right direction). Once these files are in place, you cannot remove or change them. If you do, the search engine will pick up on it, and if not corrected, could lead to being removed from the index.
  • Code verification – Similar to the file verification, except you’re given a <META> tag to place in the header of your site. As long as the code is there, the site will be deemed verified.

A sitemap is a list of the URLs (links) on your site that you would like search engine spiders to explore and index. At one time Google and Yahoo had different requirements for sitemaps, but you can now use the same one for both engines. The file is usually named sitemap.xml and can be generated from many online sites, or you can download shareware/freeware to generate your own. There are two schools of thought on how big a sitemap should be. Some say it should include every possible item that can be featured on your site. With AOM that means almost everything Amazon sells, so a sitemap can be several GB in size. I prefer a simple, leaner approach, and just include the home page and the category pages. I do not include the View Cart, Advanced, Checkout links or any Contact, Shipping information or Privacy policy pages, since they don’t contain any product and could nudge you towards a duplicate content penalty. I also don’t include subcategories. The spiders will find them on their own.

How/where would I get a logo?

A logo is of course, a graphic that represents your site. It’s a good idea not to include copyrighted images in your logo without the express permission of the copyright holder. Any halfway decent graphics program such as Paintshop, Photoshop, even Microsoft Paint can let you create some kind of logo. There are also many online graphics programs online such as GIMP which you can try out. A few basic suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple – don’t clutter up the top of every page with an overly ornate logo that nobody can read. Often just the name of the site is plenty.
  • Not too big – The bigger your logo, the less real estate you have on the screen for what the store is about: selling. If the logo pushes all the important stuff off the bottom of the screen, many visitors will leave rather than scroll down. Don’t waste the space. Also a larger image may take longer to load.
  • Match the theme – If your site is all done is blues and greys, don’t have a pink and orange logo – it’ll just look out of place.
  • Avoid gimmicks – An animated Flash header may look very impressive – if you have the Flash plugin to support it. Otherwise, you may be losing visitors who just see a big grey square, or a link to download Flash. Believe it or not, some people just don’t want to.
  • Use the ‘ALT’ tag – If you build a custom header file, please put something useful in the ALT tag. This is the text that displays when the image does not load. Even if it just has the name of the site, it’s better than nothing. And it’s more W3C compliant as well.

How/where would I get a contact form?

There are probably a jazillion contact forms available online. Some are very detailed and complex, some are amazingly simple. You may have to preview and audition a few before you find one you like, and can easily edit. I would recommend one that does not just send you an email, as it will be a magnet for SPAMbots. And a CAPTCHA code can help deter automatic submissions. A PHP form that I like a lot is this one. It’s very easy to customize and configure for an AOM custom page (I’ve used a very old version of this program, so if you try their current version and have trouble, please contact them, not me).

So, as stated at the beginning, these are a few things you can add to ‘top and tail’ your Associate-O-Matic site and make it appear even more professional or search-engine friendly. If you’ve put a lot of work into your site, these suggestions will only enhance it, and hopefully help nudge a few more sales to happen.

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