In this installment of creating an EPN affiliate site from start to finish, we’ll cover configuring PHPBay. Much of this is going to be pretty self explanitory, especially if you’ve done it before, but there are a few crucial steps that you may be surprised to learn about.
Most of the PHPBay configuration magic happens on the Settings page in your WP Admin area. Click on Settings, and find the link for PHPBay, you’ll be taken to the main PHPBay configuration page.
First and foremost, you’ll need to enter your PHPBay license key. You’ll also need an eBay Campaign ID. You can generate a new eBay campaign ID by logging into your eBay Partner Network account, clicking on the Campaigns tab, and then Create Campaign in the menu below. It should only take you a second. You should definitely be creating a new Campaign ID for every different site you have. This is obviously key for tracking which sites are performing well. You really shouldn’t need a Custom ID, so you can leave that field alone. Once I’ve entered my license key and campaign ID, I always like to update the options right away to make sure that info is all cool. Occasionally there can be issues with the PHPBay license key, and you can easily find out how to get that working in one quick step by visiting the PHPBay forums.
Next, you’ll be prompted to select your default country. This is pretty self explanatory. Moving on you’ll see all the Basic Options next.
The first field in the Basic Options area is an important one – “Use SEO Friendly URLs”. You’ll definitely want to check this. You’ll also need to update your .htaccess file once you do. Updating your .htaccess file is pretty easy. Once you’ve saved your configuration with this option checked, PHPBay will give you a code to insert into your .htaccess file. Just open up your file, copy the info from the settings page and paste into the .htaccess file, then upload. If you don’t have a .htaccess file on your site, just open up a notepad, copy the code and save the file as .htaccess, then upload.
The next options in the Basic Options section should look something like this:
I generally leave these all unchecked, however you can use your own discretion. For certain types of products and sites some of these may be more applicable than others. I have used Mod Rewrite on Images before, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t produced any amazing results, so I usually don’t bother. I don’t like displaying Buy it Now auctions only in most cases just because I like to have the largest selection possible, and regular auctions that have a lot of time left may have a low bid making it appear with a lower price which may entice visitors on your site to click. Display items with images only – I could definitely see where you would want to have this checked in most cases. I’ve found that these days there are very few auctions without images, so I’ve never encountered a problem with not checking it. Checking Search Titles and Descriptions could be helpful if your niche does not have very many products listed in eBay, but in most cases it will probably just add irrelevant auctions to your product pages so I would generally not use this option unless you’re desperate for more auctions. Last, the Only Show Auctions with Free Shipping option is a nice idea but may not be a great choice. If you’re in a niche with a great deal of products that offer free shipping, like cell phone cases, for example, you could actually try this out. I could only see benefiting from this option if you were to heavily promote on your site the fact that all items have free shipping. It could be something interesting to try, but in most cases I would leave it off.
Visual Display Options
This is a key area where you will really need to follow my settings if you want your product listings to display the same way as mine. You’ll probably see most people setting these up differently, but I have a very specific way I like my product pages to look. Here’s a screenshot of my settings (you’ll need to click to enlarge):
First off you see “Display Ebay Logo” and “Display Sort Options”. Some people really like to use these, but I think they make your listings look a lot less genuine and more cookie cutter. If you’ve ever seen BANs sites before, I feel they pretty much all look the same, and I don’t believe visitors will be as interested in browsing a site that looks blatently like an affiliate site. PHPBay has a lot more flexibility than BANS as far as formatting, in my opinion, so I like to take full advantage and leave both of these unchecked.
Next you’ll see the Display Altrenate Row Colors and A Hover color options. I always use both of these. It’s been one of my favorite additions to PHPBay since the original and I think it really helps break up the listings and give the page a far superior look and feel. Also, the default A Hover color will work with the WP Commerce Steel theme, and I find works well with almost any theme regardless of color scheme, so I usually don’t change the color, but you can if you like.
Last, another important option – number of columns. I really like this feature a lot, and I think the 4 column layout is great for the WP Commerce Steel theme. If you’re going to build a site with straight product pages, I strongly recommend going with a 4 or more column layout. Alternately, if you’re going to be inserting a few product listings within content on your blog, I would go with 4 or less columns.
It’s nice that these options are available, however I think in most cases you will not need to alter these settings. I’ve seen people who create these kinds of sites promoting cars or motorcycles – large items that cannot be shipped. I honestly have no idea how well they work, but I’m not going to bother to find out. For strictly pragmatic reasons I would rather focus on products that do not have a location restriction attached to them, at least until I find out some reason why promoting location specific products is a great idea.
There are some cool things in here, but nothing too major.
Select Sort Order – this is kind of a cool option. I generally go with Best Match, but there are some other interesting options – particularly Newly Listed and Price + Shipping: Lowest. Both of these would be great because your product pages will be showing the lowest priced items first which will hopefully give visitors increased incentive to click your ad. Remember that our goal is simply to get a visitor to click an ad and continue on to eBay. It makes no difference how much time a visitor spends on your site as long as they click through, so you want to be optimizing your product pages so that you give visitors as much incentive as possible to click your product listings.
Items Priced – This is a nice feature too. I use this, but more often as a parameter in the tag, not specified on this page. You probably won’t need to raise the minimum price ever. The only reason I could see would be to filter out auctions start at a low price. Otherwise you shouldn’t need to mess with this. I don’t see any real reason to globally set a max price in most cases. The main use I could see for this is if you wanted to have a themed site like – “Everything under 1.00” or “$30 or Less MP3 Players”.
Number of Bids – I can’t really see any great applications for this feature, I would always leave it blank.
From Specific Seller – I could see this potentially being useful, but I’ve never used it.
Use Paging – This is a nice feature that I have used in the past, but in most cases I do not use paging. For one thing, I like to find very specific niches that generally don’t have enough products to really merit paging. Plus, going through pages is just another action your visitors perform, and could potentially turn them off to browsing your site. I hate to do anything that even gives the slight risk of turning visitors away.
Items within…zip code – I don’t ever use this, for most general applications I strongly recommend leaving it off.
PHPBay Pro Affiliate Settings
Last but not least, you can pretty much always just delete the link in the text box and leave it blank.