Associate-O-Matic version 4.4.0 is currently in Beta testing as I write this. So I thought it would be a good time to discuss some of the new features you can expect to see, and how they will help enhance the online shopping experience for visitors to your sites. Note that this will not be all of the new features, only a brief rundown of the most interesting.
Japan – At long last, support for Amazon.jp has been added. Many Western-style browsers may have trouble displaying Japanese characters correctly, and getting an associate ID from Amazon.jp may be difficult, to say nothing of actually getting the payment (none of which I have investigated). But if those hurdles can be overcome, there may be some very exciting possibilities for tapping into the Japanese market.
Home Page – There is a new Home Page setting, All, which as the name implies, displays results from all categories, even those you do not have in your site. It does require a Site Default Keyword (SDK), so results may be skewed to favor certain categories more than others. Results are displayed in category style, rather than blended mode.
Search – As with the Home Page setting mentioned above, there is a new All setting for search, which should display results from all categories, not just those actually in your store. This can certainly improve the results given, which has long been a criticism of the AOM search function. Also, I believe the algorithm used has been tweaked to give better results as well.
Sitemap – You will now be able to generate a simple sitemap from the control panel, which can be a SEO benefit. The map will include the main categories and any custom pages generated. A link to the map will appear on the search bar next to the ‘View Cart’ link.
Debugger – As some of you may already be aware, AOM‘s built-in error reporting mode can be turned on by adding a blank text file named aom_debug.txt to your store’s main directory. Now that can be generated internally, so adding the extra file may not be required, except in cases where the AOM control panel cannot be accessed.
Auto Parts Finder (US stores only) – Amazon has long had an auto parts widget that can be placed into a custom box. This is now built-in much like the MP3 clip player that was added a few versions back. You will be prompted to enter more information in order to narrow down the search for compatible parts. There will be changes to some of the Meta Description and Meta Keyword areas to accommodate the results, making these pages more SEO-friendly. Note that there will also be changes to the mod_rewrite rulesets as well.
In addition, there will be a new Getting Started tab for new users when a site is created and there are no previously saved control panel settings. Basically it includes elements of the Site and Categories tab into the Amazon tab. Once you’ve entered your Amazon associate settings, created a site name and at least one category this tab will disappear. Also the ioncube folder has been streamlined, with a new ‘wizard’ that will automatically load the correct version required. If there is a problem, the wizard will display a diagnostic page with some suggestions to correct the error(s).
There are a few other new features, as well as the usual bug fixes and updates you find in every new version, including the latest edition of Amazon’s API. So upgrading will ensure that you are utilizing the most up to date data feed. We hope that users of AOM find v4.4.0 to be the best yet.