How many of you have wanted to have your own store online, but thought it would be too much trouble to handle all the different suppliers, or you didn’t have the technical know-how to set it up? Well Chitika may have solved this with the newly introduced ShopLinc.
I have always thought that doing reviews and selling products was a bit of a conflict of interest. One would think that I would tend to give praises to products just so that I could sell more. Because of that I have resisted setting up any kind of store or shop. Now the situation has changed. I just signed up and got accepted to Chitika’s new ShopLinc program. This program dynamically builds a store around my reviews. This is good for several reasons. First, I am not maintaining the store so I don’t have to worry about suppliers and such, second I am not actually selling anything, the links are just like Chikia’s other ads, so I don’t have a monetary interest in what is being sold. In fact, from my perspective, this store does not act any different than the normal Chitika ads that I have on my website, but you the reader get the benefit of being able to read my reviews, compare prices and purchase all in one location.
The default template is a good one. At the top of the front page is a Featured Products section. Here you will always see three products listed. These products are directly related to the products you write about on your blog or website. For me they are related to my reviews. I found that they are usually about the latest three reviews. ShopLinc gets these from an RSS feed that you provide. This is nice because it ensures that people who visit your ShopLinc shop see products that relate directly to the content you’re writing about, keep in mind it will only get as specific as your RSS feed.
Below the Featured Products section is a “Best in …” section. This section houses a standard multi product Chitika ad. This ad shows products that are related to the current category that you have chosen.
Below the Best in Section is a Categories section. This section shows all the possible categories that Chitika offers. When I first saw this I was a little surprised at how messy it looks. With text of different sizes and the categories all mashed together it is hard to find anything and the big text over emphases’ certain categories. Categories include things like Camcorders, Cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 Players and Printers, but also include other products including Health and Beauty, Home and Garden and Clothing and Accessories.
Also on the right side is an experts section. This section is the most related to your site. On top is the “Expert Profile,” this is a small space for a picture of you or the logo of your site. Below that is the “Research from the Expert” section. It will display the three most recent postings about a certain topic. If you are looking up joysticks then it will show the last three postings about joysticks. This list is not generated by your RSS feed. Instead it is taken from blogsearch.google.com. So if you find that some of your postings are not showing up here you will want to make sure that they are indexed by blogsearch.google.com. Below that is the “Research from the Web” section. This is just a search of the web for related information and could even show competitors websites. Currently there is no way to filter this list.
The ShopLinc store gives you an unprecedented level of control over the look and feel. Chitika’s team of developers have made great efforts in creating a site that is almost completely controlled by CSS. This means you can change everything from the font of the text, to the location and text of each and every box. There is an admin panel that will help you get started, but the more advanced stuff, like moving boxes, requires that you know a bit about CSS. Your biggest hurdle will be browser compatibility.
I have been playing around with the ShopLinc code for a couple weeks and found that it is fairly easy to use. Most people will probably just use the standard template and just change colors and add a header or footer for branding. This is all accomplished very easily in the admin panel and with some custom CSS. I am much more of a tinkerer and I wanted to see just how far I could take the customization aspect. I first wrote Chitika and made sure I was not violating any rules by doing major customization. After they said I could, I went to work.
The last thing I wanted to customize for now is the title of the Categories that I mentioned before. Originally it said “ShopLinc Categories.” Again I am branding this to my site, so I wanted to remove the ShopLinc name. At the time the only way to accomplish this would have been to do a global search on the whole page and do a search and replace. Fortunately, I was able to get in contact with a ShopLinc developer and have them add an ID tag to the DIV. This made my job a lot easier because now I can just do a getElementById and I have the text. A simple reassignment of the name and it was all done. The Chitika Developer indicated that they will continue to add ID tags to the rest of the DIV’s. This will open up a wide array of customization options.
I am working on another major customization, I want to move the “Categories” to the top left of the page and make the page 3 columns, with a header. So far I have been able move it, I just cannot get it to work with Firefox and IE at the same time. The differences in how they handle CSS is proving to be a tough problem to overcome. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve and I am anxious to try them out. I am also going to try and filter out several of the categories that don’t fit my website, for example “Health and Beauty.”
If you are interested in customizing your ShopLinc page I highly recommend that you copy the template locally. This prevents you from artificially bloating your page views.
Another customization that you may be interested in, is using your own domain. This process is fairly easy. You must be able to set up a CNAME, if you can’t contact your host and they will usually do it for you, and point that CNAME to chitika.shoplinc.com. After that you need to go into the admin panel and under the “ShopLinc Domain” section you enter the CNAME that you created. In my case I set up Store as the CNAME for my domain justechn.com and I entered store.justechn.com in the “ShopLinc Domain” section. If you type store.justechn.com in your browser you will see that it works great.
So far I am really happy about the possibilities. I have not been using it long enough to see if it will be successful or not. Maybe all my changes have made it worse. I am interested in hearing your opinion about the changes. As things progress I will try and keep you informed. In the mean time please visit my shop and let me know what you think.
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