Setting up an AOM store is not rocket science; but to some people it seems that way. And to be fair, unless you’ve done something a bajillion times, there may be aspects of a process that can be confusing. Driving a vehicle, cooking, learning a musical instrument or how to operate a cash register can be similar examples of tasks made up of small steps that must be done in the right order, or at the right time. Nobody is born knowing how to do any of these things. And you may only have to ever set up a handful of AOM stores in your life. There are plenty of missteps you can make during that short time, never mind the difficulties involved in dealing with a quirky server or an unintuitive website control panel.
This month we’re going to look at some very common newbie mistakes. If you are planning to set up your own Associate-O-Matic site, perhaps you can learn to avoid following in the footsteps of those who have gone before you.
Uploading the whole folder:
When you first unzip the AOM download file, it will create a folder named Associate_O_Matic_v5.x.x (with 5.x.x being whatever the current version happens to be). Inside this folder will be the AOM files and folders:
Many people make the mistake of uploading the Associate_O_Matic_v5.x.x folder instead of the contents. This adds another subdirectory layer. So instead of your site being http://www.mysite.com/shop.php it will be http://www.mysite.com/Associate_O_Matic_v5.x.x/shop.php. Avoid this by opening the folder and installing the contents instead, as shown in the bottom half of the image above.
Paying For AWS Keys:
Amazon can be a confusing mess once you get into their system. Basically there is the free AWS signup that you can access from your Associate account page. This lets you sign up and then get your AWS keys. There is also a paid AWS service that gives you access to ‘back-door’ development tools so web application designers can work with the API, Amazon’s cloud services, and the like. It’s apparently very easy for users who want their AWS keys to make some sort of wrong turn in Amazon and come across a page requesting credit card or other payment information
IF YOU ARE ASKED FOR PAYMENT INFORMATION, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG AREA!
The link to access if you want the free AWS keys is: https://aws-portal.amazon.com/gp/aws/developer/registration/index.html
You can also click the blue ‘Product Advertising API’ tab at the top of your Amazon associate page. If you are asked for payment, start backing up. Anyone who has inadvertently signed up for the paid service by mistake should contact Amazon directly to get it sorted out.
The ioncube encoder will install without a hitch on many servers. On some servers, it’s already installed, and therefore not needed with AOM. With a few servers (Bluehost is a good example), it’s installed, but needs to be implemented. In such cases, the host will usually have a tutorial or FAQ describing the process. If in doubt, ask your host.
But with some hosts, such as GoDaddy, quite a bit more tweaking needs to be done. Many people installing Associate-O-Matic will encounter an ioncube error message. Or they may get a blank white screen with no information. What they may not know is that ioncube comes bundled with a wizard that can help guide you through the install process if required.
You access the wizard by pointing your browser to your /ioncube folder, then the loader-wizard.php file. So if your site is www.mysite.com and you have ioncube installed in the root, then the file would be at http://www.mysite.com/ioncube/loader-wizard.php .
The file will ask you for some very basic information, then give you some instructions to follow. This usually entails downloading a loader zip file, unzipping it, and uploading the contents to the /ioncube folder. There will also be a ‘zend-extension =’ line that needs to be inserted into a php.ini file (php5.ini for GoDaddy) in your root directory. It’s usually a good idea to make a copy of this file and put it into the /ioncube folder as well.
This procedure is covered in much more detail here, if you’d like to read more about it.
Missing Header Information:
Many times if a user is unsure about a particular function in the AOM control panel, they will either ignore it, or misinterpret the meaning. One of the most commonly misinterpreted functions is the Site Header box, found under the Site tab of the control panel. If you are using a custom header file for your store, then you would paste the URL to the file in this box. A custom header would be a file containing the opening <html> and <body> tags, along with the entire <head>…</head> section, etc. People who need a custom header will often have specific reasons for doing so. There are PHP snippets you can add that will extract the Title, Meta Keywords and Meta Descriptions information from the control panel.
It is not the recommended option if you just want to display a header image. That can be done with the Logo box found under the Images tab. It is also not where you enter the name of the site, the site slogan, or the site URL. If you enter anything in this box, AOM will assume you have a custom header file with all the required information, and shut off the built-in header. If you don’t have a header file that’s set up correctly, your site will be missing several important SEO features.
So unless you’re actually using a custom header file, don’t put anything in this box. The same thing applies to using a custom footer file with the Site Footer box as well.
Too Many Keywords!:
When creating categories, users will often assume that they need to enter every keyword required for the program to search inclusively, or to include in the results displayed. When in fact, category keywords are used to filter by exclusion, or not including anything that doesn’t match the search terms. You might think these mean the same thing, but they don’t. In the example below, the user has added all the items they want to appear in the Computers category:
However, the program will not look for items that contain some of these terms. It will try to find products that contain all of them. Which of course will be none. Leaving the keyword box empty will give you the widest possible range of items to display. Generally speaking, the more keywords you include for a category, the fewer items you will end up with. It is strongly suggested you never try to use more than two keywords. If you want to selectively remove some items from category results, you can use as many negative keywords as you would like. A negative keyword is a search term with a dash in front of it. So if you wanted to display Apple items, but not Samsung, you could have Apple, -Samsung in the keyword box.
It may take a certain amount of experimentation to find the right mix of keywords to get better results. Other factors, such as the sort mode and the node level (Tablets instead of Computers, for example) can also play an important part.
To sum up, Associate-O-Matic includes a large number of options, and so there are plenty of opportunities for something to go wrong. Listed above are some of the more common ones. Most of the mistakes you can make are not ‘fatal’ ones; most are just little ‘whoops!’ moments. We’ve all had them, and you soon learn not to repeat them. Generally the more experienced someone is, the more mistakes they’ve made. The trick is to learn from them when they happen, and to not let them discourage you.