The Storeminator - product comparison plugin for Wordpress

The Storeminator WordPress plugin – FAQ

How does the Storeminator work?

The plugin can be inserted anywhere in your page/post content. It takes the search settings you have specified and uses these settings to search all supported affiliate networks (currently Commission Junction, Amazon and eBay – with more to come depending on demand) for products matching your search criteria. It then takes the results sent back by each plugin and aggregates them into the neat listing you see in the demo, sorted by price, lowest first. You earn commissions from whatever affiliate network your visitors buy from – tracking links work just the same as your regular affiliate links, so for example Amazon sales will show up in your Amazon Associates account. That’s the simple explanation, there is WAY more to it than that!

So what’s the big deal? There are other plugins around like this!

Actually, no there aren’t, not to my knowledge. I believe this is a first! When I first had the idea for Storeminator, 3-4 years ago, there was nothing like it, and I still have not found any self-hosted WordPress comparison shopping plugin that does not require subscription to some kind of aggregation service. It’s the first time I believe anyone has made a serious attempt to produce comparison listings entirely within a WordPress plugin! It means you retain full control over what’s going on and don’t pay for any additional services.

So there are no additional subscription charges to pay?

NO! This is the beauty of the Storeminator – everything is hosted on your site and the comparison listing is entirely created by the plugin. You DO need to sign up for the web services of each affiliate network (and/or Skimlinks if you are not a member of eBay Partner Network) and supply the plugin with the API key you are given for each. That only takes a few minutes and costs nothing.

Do you as the author take a cut of my commissions?

NO! As the author I earn only from the sales of the plugin. I do NOT skim off your commissions in any way. Provided you have put your own affiliate tracking IDs in the Storeminator options, all affiliate earnings go to you.

So does Storeminator auto-generate a site for me, is it a one-click solution?

NO! If this is what you are hoping for please do NOT buy the Storeminator, I don’t want to have to deal with the refunds! Firstly, you shouldn’t believe anyone who promises one-click solutions in Internet Marketing. Secondly, you may not know but product comparison is never done in a completely automated way! Even the big product comparison services at some stage need to use people-power to manually sort product data, there is no 100% reliable way of automating product comparison. Storeminator is a powerful tool for monetising your content. It takes a little bit of time to set up for each page so you get the results you want, and you still need to provide good content and targetted traffic if you want to make money. Google has been ignoring “auto-generated” sites for years now, and they are not a solution for a long-term online business. Also, products change, different models come out, others are phased out, you may have to maintain your sites by making sure they are still showing the products you want. Storeminator can help you with this – its built-in logging can tell you about any pages that are causing problems or not showing results, but you still need to put in some work to update them. This is true of any serious website, so again, PLEASE do not think of this as a “set up and leave” solution.

What are the steps to setting up a product comparison unit on my WordPress page

Once you have installed the basic Storeminator plugin and set up the essential options (API keys for the web services, target country, maybe a couple of others) then you can insert Storeminator comparison units in your content. The initial and simplest way is to put the [storem] tags in your content where you want, e.g.:

[storem]digital camera[/storem]

That will be enough to display a comparison listing. However, this will not give you very accurate results, you could end up with almost any product with “digital camera” in its title or description. The next step is to fine-tune your search criteria. You can tweak individual settings in the WordPress post/page editor for each specific plugin/affiliate network – use more specific keywords (using phrase searches or exclusion criteria, depending on the provider), or use a product code for the greatest reliability: an ASIN (for Amazon), or a UPC (CJ and Amazon) or an eBay PID. The more time and effort you devote to this part the better the results will be.

What are the requirements to run the Storeminator?

You need a self-hosted WordPress blog, updated to the latest version (4.3.1 at time of writing) running on half-decent UNIX/LINUX-based hosting (Windows hosting should be fine too, but I haven’t tested it and cannot support it). Shared hosting is OK, dedicated is always better. If you are already running WordPress then you should be fine.

Does the plugin slow down my site?

Here’s the short answer – despite its complexity the Storeminator plugin has several layers of caching to prevent your site slowing down and any delays will mostly not be felt by your visitors.

This is an important question, so here is the more in-depth explanation (if you are not remotely technical, just skip this): the Storeminator has a very complex task to do, which particularly includes fetching data from at least 3 different sources and aggregating it together. If, say, the Amazon web service is slow to respond and takes more than a few seconds to return data, and then so do eBay, CJ etc., then you would be looking at quite a slow page load time (although still usually acceptable in all but the worst case).

This problem was anticipated right from the start and Storeminator was built to take care of it with extensive caching. What this means is a page will only load with a slightly longer delay the first time it is published, or after it has not been refreshed for a long time, or while you are still trying out settings (every time you change settings and refresh the page it has to refetch all the product data to reflect your new settings). Otherwise, subsequent page refreshes trigger queries to product data providers in a staggered way (not from all providers on the same page refresh) and the data is cached in your WordPress site database. After that, until the results for a particular page and data source need to be refreshed again (only for that page and that particular affiliate network, because each will have a different cache time), they are fetched from the cache in your database which is much much faster. Additionally, as long as there are NO product data to update at all on the page, a flat-file HTML cache of the page content will be served to the visitor, which is even faster – virtually instantaneous. This means only the occasional visitor will experience a slightly longer wait time for a page to load, and even then this wait will usually be reduced to a minimum. Sites with very low traffic may, paradoxically, see longer wait times for visitors since pages don’t get refreshed very often. You know what the solution is there, don’t you – get more visitors, as it will not significantly increase load on your site ;)! Sites with a lot of pages and moderate to heavy traffic will have quick load times for individual page refreshes due to caching but may also find overall server loads increasing due to sheer volume. But if you are getting into that kind of scale then you probably need to think about dedicated hosting anyway.

How many API calls does the plugin make to the various web services?

If you don’t know what this question is about, don’t worry! Storeminator makes the absolute minimum number of API calls needed to get the products for a particular page – ONE single call currently, for each time it refreshes the cache for a particular product and a particular page. It will only fetch results for a page as often as the cache time is set for the particular plugin. So if you set Amazon to cache for 60 minutes (recommended – that is also the maximum allowed) then the plugin will only fetch Amazon results for that page once an hour at most, no matter how many people visit it. If you have 100 pages, that will only be a maximum of 100 API calls in that hour for all the pages in total – Amazon allows one call per second for basic users, and increases your quota if you make enough actual sales. The eBay API allows 5000 calls per day, much less than Amazon. But with a reasonable cache time you can make these last even on a big site. Also you should know that the eBay plugin falls back to the RSS feed for product data whenever possible (which is actually most of the time currently) – that has no limitations on call numbers at all. Commission Junction’s API is hard to get accurate information on, but it seems you are allowed 5000 API calls per day, which again is more than enough – that would be say 200 pages per day if you set a cache time of an hour, and you could probably safely cache CJ products for even longer. So with Storeminator, API limits are only going to become an issue if you have a very large site or a large network of sites, in which case you need to consult with the relevant networks to get your allowance increased, which is an issue whatever affiliate solution you are using.

Why only Amazon, eBay and CJ? What about other affiliate networks?

Those networks have the most flexible and well-documented web services, allowing us to retrieve all this price data (actually, CJ’s is pretty bad – you need to know that up-front, but it’s just about useable). So that’s 3 different networks to do price comparisons with, but remember, all three networks have multiple sellers on them, so you can fetch several different prices from eBay and Amazon, and CJ has actual different vendors so you can have appear to have a product comparison from more than 3 different sellers. Also, these three networks are the ones I have initially coded plugins for. However, Storeminator was designed from the beginning to support plugins for additional product data providers and in future it will be possible to add more data sources, provided they have the right features. I am open to suggestions – the most obvious one right now is Linkshare, I have briefly looked at, and there may also be third-party aggregation services we can create plugins for (Skimlinks also has something like this which I am looking into). I will also consider a plugin for importing CSV product data, though those might need to be tailor-made.

Does the plugin comply with the TOS for all the affiliate networks used?

I have made every effort to comply with TOS of Amazon, eBay etc. web services. That includes product freshness/caching requirements (e.g. 60 minute price freshness requirement for Amazon products), link cloaking (I believe this to be OK for all networks provided users are not misled) and provision of a disclaimer. I will continue to implement any changes that are necessary to retain compliance with TOS and welcome reports from users regarding any necessary changes. However, it is ultimately up to the user to check for their compliance with the networks they are using, the author of Storeminator cannot be held responsible for any violations. In particular the user should formulate their own disclaimer text (some ideas are provided next to the appropriate setting in the Storeminator Display Settings).

Will Google like my Storeminator sites?

Don’t make “Storeminator sites”, make good quality sites that people like, and monetise them with the Storeminator. Look at a big site like CNET.COM – they have price comparison pages but you don’t see Google hating them, do you? Try to figure out why that is and you will be ahead of most affiliate marketers. Storeminator is a tool to help you in that, and there is some indication that Google DOES like product comparison where multiple prices/networks are listed, rather than just tonnes of Amazon links, say, because product comparison provides a service/value to visitors. However, big-name product comparison sites HAVE suffered in recent Google updates, and if you just produce spam pages with comparison product listings with no added value you will be producing low-quality content and Google will just ignore you. That’s one reason I am not widely releasing this plugin, as explained in the next question.

What’s with only selling limited numbers? It’s just fake scarcity, right?

Nope – it’s real scarcity:

  • I don’t want the Storeminator to be used on every site out there, creating a footprint and ruining it for everybody
  • I am commited to supporting existing users properly (ask users of my previous plugin, Wordbay), which I can’t do if there are thousands of new users coming in every month
  • I am not greedy, this is not some big take-the-money-and-run product launch – this is a serious product and I am in this for the long term

So I am sorry, for the foreseeable future I will be limiting sales, probably to 50-100 copies per month, and keeping pricing fairly high.

Is there an affiliate programme?

No, for the same reasons outlined above. Do I sell 20,000 of these in a week via the Warrior Forum, with 75% going to affiliates, take the money, buy the Ferrari and run, or do I take a long-term approach (note, I have no interest in Ferraris, only in earning an honest living)?

If you have any questions not answered here, please submit a ticket here and we’ll try to answer as soon as possible.

Author: Mark Daniels

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