Subcategories: A Users Guide

Subcategories: A Users Guide

Back in 2009, a guide to AOM Categories was rolled out, and gave a general overview of that feature. Since then a great number of people have struggled with setting up custom sub-categories. It probably hasn’t helped that the system for creating custom subcats has changed numerous times since then, as Amazon has allowed more leeway into what can be done from a coding level. Here at last is the long-awaited guide to Subcategories, with special emphasis on how to create your own custom ones.

When you go to the Subcategories tab of your AOM control panel, you will see that ‘Subcategories’ is also the first section on the page. This is where you set up your subcats, in a method similar to the way main categories are created. However, there are some notable differences, so let’s explore each parameter in turn:

  • Parent Category – For each custom subcategory, there will be a pulldown list of all your main categories. This allows you to select which main category a particular subcategory will be associated with. Any custom subcats you’ve already set up will also appear on this list, so you can create sub-subcategories (or as many levels as you want – see example at bottom of page).
  • Parent Node – If the main category uses a node, it will appear here. If creating a sub-subcategory, the applicable node of the subcategory you select will appear instead. If your main category is an ASIN category, this box will be greyed out.
  • Subcat ID – Just like the Cat ID for main categories, this is a unique identifier for your subcategory. AOM will automatically generate a five-digit number by default. You can replace this with a mix of letters and/or numbers as you prefer (no spaces or symbols).
  • Subcat Name – Enter the name of your subcategory here.
  • Subcat Mode – This allows you to determine the nature of your subcategory. There are several options to choose from:
    1. Node – This means you plan on using an existing Amazon node number for your subcategory
    2. Blended – This uses a keyword in the ‘Subcat Content’ box to display product across a range of Amazon categories
    3. ASIN List – Use this if you plan on entering a list of ASINs from a specific category in the ‘Subcat Content’ box
    4. ASIN File – Use this if you have an external file containing a list of ASINs
    5. URL – Allows you to use an URL in the ‘Subcat Content’ box as your subcategory
  • Subcat Node – If you use an existing Amazon node for your subcategory, enter the node number here.
  • Subcat Content – What you enter in this box depends on the setting of the Subcat Mode (see above). If it’s set to ‘Node’ then you would enter the Amazon node number. With any other setting, the box will tell you what must be entered (keywords, ASIN list, ASIN file name, URL).

Below is an example of what you’ll see with the various modes:

Subcategory Mode Examples

 Note that as you add subcategories, new blank ones will be created automatically. You can also add up to ten blank ones at a time.

The next item on the page is ‘Subcategories Box’. This determines where or when to display the Subcategories box on your site. You can control the border and background colors, border thickness, box location, order, and which page(s) to display the box on. The subcategories box is unique in that it can be displayed at the body top or bottom as well as the left or right columns:

Subcategories - Body Top Location

With ‘Subcategory Descriptions’, you can enter text or HTML to display at the top of any specific subcategory (similar to the ‘Category Descriptions’ for the main categories). This is useful if you want to include some original text describing each subcat. Simply select a subcategory from the pulldown list, and enter the text/HTML into the Description box. Note that if you double-click on the Description box, it will enlarge. You can also grab the arrow in the lower-right corner with your mouse to manually resize the box.

Again, a new box will be automatically added, or you can choose to open multiple boxes (up to the number of available subcategories).

Following that is ‘Subcategory Types’. This lets you zero in on a particular aspect of a category (but it may not always apply to some). When you can use it, however, it can allow for even more fine-tuning of your category results. For example, if we use the ‘Sock’ subcategory as shown in the examples above, we might decide we want to show only ‘Fruit of the Loom’ socks. But if we use Fruit as a keyword, we also get fruit smoothies and baby food, which are misfiled by Amazon into this node.

So under ‘Subcategory Types’, we select ‘Socks’ from the pulldown list, and then ‘Manufacturer’ from the Type list. Our subcategory now only returns items that have Fruit in the Manufacturer field.

Subcategory Type Keyword

The ‘Subcategory Preference’ option lets you decide which mix of Amazon and custom subcategories you want to display in your AOM store. There are four options available:

  • Only Amazon Subcategories – As the name suggests, this displays only the automatic Amazon subcategories (if any) for all main categories. Custom subcategories are not shown.
  • Only Custom Subcategories – The opposite of the previous option, showing only any custom subcategories you have set up. No Amazon subcategories are displayed for any main category.
  • Both (Listed Together) – This combines the automatic Amazon subcategories with any custom ones you have set up. Both types will be shown, if applicable.
  • Both (Either/Or) – If a main category has Amazon and custom subcategories, the custom ones will overrule the Amazon ones and be the only ones shown. If there are no custom subcats set up for a category, then the automatic Amazon ones will display.

It should go without saying that if a main category has no subcategories (either Amazon or custom), then none will be shown.

The final item is ‘Subcategory Columns’. If the subcategory box is set to Body Top or Body Bottom, then this determines the number of columns used to display the subcategory list. You can select up to eight, although most sites should need no more than three or four. This has no effect if the subcategory box is set to display on the Left or Right sides.


Lastly, let’s use some of the information above to create a sub-subcategory, in case there’s any confusion about how to do it. Earlier, we created a ‘Socks’ subcategory that displayed only ‘Fruit of the Loom’ items. Maybe now we’ve decided that we want to keep the original ‘Socks’ category, but give it a sub-subcategory with ‘Fruit of the Loom’ product. So in the example below, we’ve got our ‘Socks’ subcategory, but now we’ve also created a sub-subcategory named ‘Fruit of the Loom’. You can see how we created the sub-subcat just like the parent subcategory by selecting ‘Socks’ from the Parent Category dropdown list, then used the Subcategory Type to fine-tune our results:

Sub-Subcategory Example

This then allows us to display Fruit of the Loom as a subcategory of a subcategory. You can repeat this to drill down as many sub-levels as you want.

Finished Subcategory of a Subcategory

One last point is that you cannot mix categories. So Baby Socks can’t be a subcategory of Computers, for example. Items in a subcategory (or sub-subcategory) have to be from the main (parent) category as well.

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One thought on “Subcategories: A Users Guide

  1. Richard

    Thanks for your clear directions on subcategories. Very helpful!

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