If you MUST use PayPal...PayPal Magic: PayPal Storefronts & Shopping Carts


Would you ever play Russian Roulette? Probably not. PayPal is almost like this deadly game: with each transaction that you make, it could be financial life for another day, or financial death now. PayPal, as a service is arbitrary and unpredictable. However, if for whatever reasons you might have, you want to continue using PayPal (or open another PayPal account), this section is for you. PayPal Magic is a tutorial of tips and tricks that will help you decrease the chances of PayPal limiting or flagging your account. If you can avoid making some of the common "errors" that a lot of people make when using PayPal, you can learn to survive the Paypal trap another day!

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Modify Shopping Cart Buttons

Change code from the PayPal Button Factory to provide flexibility for your Shopping Cart.

PayPal's Shopping Cart allows merchants to provide the ability for customers to purchase a basket of goods rather than buy one item at a time with Buy Now buttons. The Shopping Cart system is ideal for stores with many items, but it doesn't make sense to use the PayPal Button Factory to create each and every button for your store. Instead, you can create a single generic Shopping Cart button and then use the HTML code as a template for all your items.

To generate the code for a simple Shopping Cart button, follow these steps:

Go to http://www.paypal.com, log into your account, and click the Merchant Tools tab.

Click on the Shopping Cart link under the Website Payments section to open the PayPal Shopping Cart Button Factory.

Create a basic Shopping Cart button by entering any information for the item name and item number.

When you're done, click Create Button Now to generate the code.

The resulting code for the Add to Cart button should look like this:

<form target="paypal" action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post">

<input type="image" src="https://www.paypal.com/en_US/i/btn/x-click-but22.gif"

border="0" name="submit" alt="Make payments with PayPal - it's

fast, free and secure!">

<input type="hidden" name="add" value="1">

<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_cart">

1. <input type="hidden" name="business" value="sales@screw-paypal.com">

2. <input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Widget">

3. <input type="hidden" name="item_number" value="Wid-001">

4. <input type="hidden" name="amount" value="1.00">

<input type="hidden" name="no_note" value="1">

<input type="hidden" name="currency_code" value="USD">


Lines 2-4 contain the three variables that define the details of the individual product, such as the product name, item number, and price. All the other variables remain the same for all of your products. Make sure to specify the email address for the account you want to use on line 1, although any button you create with the PayPal Button Factory includes your email address by default.

The Button Factory also provides code for a View Cart button:

<form target="paypal" action=

"https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post">

input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_cart">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="sales@screw-paypal.com">

<input type="image" src="https://www.paypal.com/en_US/i/btn/view_cart_02.gif"

border="0" name="submit" alt="Make payments with PayPal - it's

fast, free and secure!">

<input type="hidden" name="display" value="1">


Place this second block of code, as is, on all the pages of your web store to allow your customers to display the items they have added to their cart, as well as initiate the checkout process when they have finished shopping. The only variable you'll need to customize in this example is business, in which you specify your email address.

Make Shopping Cart Links

Convert Shopping Cart button code to single-line URLs that can be emailed or linked to images.

Although you can create Shopping Cart buttons at the PayPal web site, you can also create buttons off-site. This gives web page designers more flexibility and gives programmers the ability to create buttons dynamically with programming code. One of the simplest and most flexible approaches involves creating URLs instead of HTML forms.

The Code

The HTML code for a simple Add to Cart button looks like this:

<form method="post" action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr"


input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_cart">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="pay@screw-paypal.com">

<input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Screw PayPal ">

<input type="hidden" name="amount" value="24.95">

<input type="submit" name="add" value="Add to Cart">


The equivalent button in the form of an Add to Cart hyperlink looks like this:

<a href=https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_cart&add=1&business=


target="paypal">Add to Cart</a>

This link opens a window and displays the PayPal Shopping Cart with one item in it: Screw PayPal for $24.95.

In both examples, note the presence of the important target="paypal" attribute, which causes the Shopping Cart to open in a new browser window. Without it, the cart will not display a Continue Shopping button. Always include this attribute in your Add to Cart buttons and also make sure paypal is all in lowercase.

Shortening the Link

Many PayPal URLs can be shortened, which can be useful (and sometimes necessary) when sending links in emails, because it prevents them from getting cut at the end of a line. The short link for the Shopping Cart begins with https://www.paypal.com/cart/. Just append all the fields you want to use to the end, as in this payment link:


This works for displaying the Shopping Cart as well:


Change Shopping Cart Window Sizes

Control the size and other aspects of PayPal Shopping Cart pop-up window.

PayPal's Button Factory generates Buy Now and Shopping Cart button code based on form inputs. In the case of the Shopping Cart, the target for the form defaults to a new window named paypal. Because this is submitted by a form, the size of the window defaults to the customer's browser's default. This default size can be too large and take up the customer's entire screen, obscuring your store's pages. Or, even worse, the window can be too small, forcing your customer to scroll around to see all the information for his cart.

With some simple HTML and JavaScript, you can specify the size of the Shopping Cart window PayPal opens.

The Code

Here's the code for form buttons:

<form method="post" action=

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr target="paypal">

<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_cart">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="pay@screw-paypal.com">

<input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Screw PayPal ">

<input type="hidden" name="amount" value="19.95">

<input type="submit" name="add" value="Add to Cart" onClick=




And here's the equivalent as a hyperlink:

a href=# onClick="window.open('https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=



resizable=yes,status=yes')">Add to Cart</a>

While you can experiment with the height and width to get the window size that works best for you, 780x500 is a good size, because it accommodates the size of PayPal's web pages fairly well and works with most customers' screens. Note some of the other attributes in this code:


No preset window size will be right for all your customers, so you'll most likely want to allow them to resize the window. Set the resizable attribute to no only if you want the window to be a static size. This option can be useful if the window is to accompany a static-sized web site or if it will be used with some sort of kiosk system.


Set this attribute to yes if you want scrollbars to be displayed in the window (when appropriate), or set it to no to disable scrolling and really frustrate your customers. Be careful not to disable scrollbars if the window is not resizable.


Use this setting to turn on or off the window's status bar. Turn it off for a more tidy look, or enable it if you want your customers to see the little yellow padlock that tells them the site is secure.

Dealing With Design and Layout Issues

Embed the Button Factory code in a table to maintain the appearance of your web page's layout.

Browsers interpret HTML forms in different ways that can affect the appearance of your web page. Most browsers create unwanted spacing where HTML forms are inserted, similar to the effect of a line break tag (<br>). If your web page's design and layout is very precise, it can be negatively affected by PayPal's code, throwing your layout off by a few pixels. Avoid this effect by embedding the button code in an otherwise empty table.

Make a backup of your original file before trying this modification. It is easier to start from the original if you make a mistake.

Here is the familiar button code, generated at the PayPal site, surrounded by the table markup. The width, border, cellspacing, and cellpadding variables are all set to zero:

<table width="0" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">



<form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post">

<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_xclick">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="youremail@yourisp.com">

<!-- Other input elements here -->





However, this code will still cause shifting in the design. Avoid this shift by moving the opening and closing form tags outside of the opening and closing table data tags:

<form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post">

<table width="0" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">


1. <td>

2. <input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_xclick">

3. <input type="hidden" name="business" value="youremail@yourisp.com">

4. <!-- Other input elements here -->

5. </td>




Now, when the page is viewed in a browser, no shifting appears where the form has been inserted.

To perfect your table spacing, make sure to eliminate any extraneous spaces or line breaks between the <td> and </td> tags. For instance, if you put lines 1 through 5 all on one line, removing all spaces between the tags, you'll remove the last of the unsightly gaps from your tables.

Put Cart Buttons in One Form

Overcome the limitations of some web development tools by combining the Add to Cart and View Cart buttons into a single HTML form.

If you're using a web page editor that prefers or allows pages to contain only one form (such as some versions of Dreamweaver), or if you're a Microsoft .NET programmer, you might need to combine both Shopping Cart buttons into a single web form.

Fortunately, PayPal relies on the names of the buttons, not on the post URL or other details of the HTML form, to correctly interpret the buttons.

The Code

To implement this single-form design, simply include two submit buttons in the PayPal cart form. Name one button add and the other button display, like this:

<form method="post" action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr"


<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_cart">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="pay@biz.com">

<input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Teddy Bear">

<input type="hidden" name="amount" value="19.95">

<input type="submit" name="add" value="Add to Cart">

<input type="submit" name="display" value="Display Cart">


Naturally, this form accepts the additional fields and other customization afforded by the other hacks in this chapter.

The Right Tools for the Right Job

If you use an HTML editor such as Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver to create your web pages, you should consider trying out one of the PayPal plug-ins available for those tools. These plug-ins integrate right into the tool and can be called up while you're editing your pages. They step you through creating the button and then automatically insert the HTML into your web page.

Here are some links to plug-ins for popular page editors. Most of them are offered by third parties who have worked closely with PayPal to make sure they work properly:

Macromedia Dreamweaver


Microsoft FrontPage


Adobe GoLive


NetObjects Fusion 7.0 and higher (with built-in PayPal module)


Integrate Third Party Carts With PayPal

Pass the contents of a non-PayPal shopping cart to PayPal using the Aggregate Cart and Upload Complete Cart features.

Shopping carts have proven to be effective online selling tools and have become a standard on many eCommerce web sites. PayPal makes it extremely easy to add a shopping cart to your web site, because PayPal hosts all the functionality. All you need to do is add the Add to Cart button code to your pages.

In many cases, however, the PayPal Shopping Cart is insufficient for merchants who might need a more customized design, more sophisticated tax and shipping calculations, or other features that the PayPal Shopping Cart system doesn't offer. Fortunately, using a non-PayPal shopping cart system doesn't mean that you can't still accept PayPal as a payment option.

PayPal offers two ways to integrate your shopping cart: Aggregate Cart and Upload Complete Cart.

Aggregating Your Cart

Of the two systems, PayPal's Aggregate Cart has the advantage of being easier to integrate. Although your shopping cart system might save your customers' cart contents into a database, you don't need to send all this information to PayPal. All you need to do is send PayPal the order ID associated with your customer's shopping cart, along with the total dollar amount for your customer to pay in the amount field.

Since there is no dedicated order_ID parameter, pass the order ID to PayPal in the item_name field for the purpose of Aggregate Cart payments.

You can also add shipping, handling, and tax parameters. Here is the most basic code to do all this:

<form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post"

name="form1"> <input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_xclick">

1. <input type="hidden" name="business" value="you@screw-paypal.com">

2. <input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Order#21874">

3. <input type="hidden" name="amount" value="151.80">

<input type="image" src="http://images.paypal.com/images/x-click- but01.gif"

name="submit" alt="Pay Now with PayPal">


Specify the email address to which the payment should be sent on line 1, a reference to your order on line 2, and the total amount of the items in the customer's cart on line 3.

There are plenty of optional parameters you can include here. Here are some of the most useful:

<input type="hidden" name="shipping" value="9.00">

<input type="hidden" name="handling" value="3.00">

<input type="hidden" name="tax" value="21.92">

<input type="hidden" name="invoice" value="442">

<input type="hidden" name="custom" value="Screw PayPal Shirt ">

PayPal hides the invoice and custom fields from the buyer, so make sure not to use them to pass your order ID or any other information you want your customers to see during the checkout process. Instead, use item_name for this purpose. Also, don't use any parameters normally used to specify quantity with Aggregate Cart, because there will likely be multiple items in the cart and the quantity parameter would apply to only one of them.

You might have noticed that these parameters are the same as those used in a regular Buy Now button. The Aggregate Cart feature is essentially a glorified Buy Now button that processes the data for your entire Shopping Cart. It's not terribly sophisticated, but if that's all the functionality you need, this is all the code you need.

Uploading Shopping Cart Details to PayPal

Although Aggregate Cart is easy to implement, it sends only a total dollar amount to PayPal. By contrast, the Upload Complete Cart feature has the distinct ability to send a listing of all the items in the customer's shopping cart to PayPal. This means that PayPal will display a summary of the cart contents on the PayPal site and record those details within the customer's payment history and in your seller history logs and notifications.

To create an Upload Complete Cart button, start with the same HTML code used earlier in this hack with the Aggregate Cart button. Then, for the cmd input value, replace _xclick with _cart, and add a new hidden field called upload and set its value to 1. (You can remove the item_name and amount fields, because they aren't needed for Update Complete Cart.) You'll then end up with something like this:

<form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post"


<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_cart">

<input type="hidden" name="upload" value="1">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="you@screw-paypal.com">

<input type="image" src="http://images.paypal.com/images/x-click-but01.gif"

name="submit" alt="Pay Now with PayPal">


Next, insert the details of the contents of the shopping cart. To add the first item, insert the following code somewhere inside the <form></form> structure:

1. <input type="hidden" name="item_name_1" value="Screw PayPal Tee-Shirt ">

2. <input type="hidden" name="item_number_1" value="Item#PPHKS">

3. <input type="hidden" name="quantity_1" value="1">

4. <input type="hidden" name="amount_1" value="24.95">

5. <input type="hidden" name="shipping_1" value="3.00">

6. <input type="hidden" name="shipping2_1" value="2.00">

7. <input type="hidden" name="handling_1" value="1.00">

The _1 suffix after each variable name gives every tag an item reference. So, these parameters describe the first item as one Screw-PayPal Tee-Shirt(line 1) with a product code set to PPHKS (line 2) and a per-item price of $24.95 (line 4).

The cost of shipping, $3.00, is specified on line 5. This is a per-quantity charge: if the quantity (line 3) is more than one, the same $3.00 shipping charge will be applied to each Tee-Shirt ordered. The exception to this rule is when you specify a shipping2 amount (as line 6 does in this example), this shipping amount will be used only for the first item and the shipping2 amount will be charged for each additional Tee-Shirt ordered (e.g., three Tee-Shirts would cost $3.00 + $2.00 + $2.00, or $7.00, to ship).

The handling cost, $1.00, is specified on line 7 and is applied only once, regardless of the number of items ordered.

Notice that the form method is POST (as opposed to GET). This allows you to post your data to PayPal without the size limit imposed by the fact that GET places all the form data in the URL.


Presumably, you'll need to store the contents of a customer's shopping cart in your database before sending the data (and the customer) to PayPal. This means that the Add to Cart buttons on your site will need to submit data to your own server, and then, at checkout, your server will generate the HTML code for the Upload Complete Cart feature. Unfortunately, this means that you have to include an intermediate page, on which your customer will have to click another button to submit the cart to PayPal.

The solution is to add a little JavaScript to the <body> tag, so that the customer's browser submits the form automatically when the form loads:

<body onload="document.form1.submit( );">

Depending on the speed of your customer's Internet connection and the traffic at the PayPal server, the page might redirect almost instantly or it might display momentarily for a second or two before the next page is displayed. For this reason, you might want to include some kind of "Please wait..." message on the page so that your customers don't interrupt the process out of confusion. Plus, you still need to include a real Submit button and a sentence of instruction just in case your customer has disabled the browser's support for JavaScript.

Customize Checkout Pages

Give your customers a smooth buying experience by changing the look and feel of PayPal payment pages to match your web site.

When you sell online using PayPal, you are selling to PayPal veterans and newbies alike. While PayPal represents online transaction safety to tens of millions of satisfied users, some less experienced buyers might find being sent off to another site to pay for their purchases rather jarring. And since you have gone to the trouble of creating your beautiful web site, why send people away from it when they are ready to buy?

Well, you send customers to PayPal so that Paypal can run the secure transaction and you don't have to. But your customers don't have to feel like they are being sent off to a foreign country when they go to the PayPal payment flow. By customizing the PayPal pages so they function more like your own web site, you can make all your customers happy.

PayPal's Custom Payment Pages feature lets you control key parts of the user experience on PayPal's web site. You can place a 750x90-pixel banner at the top of PayPal's pages and carry your site's color scheme through the payment process.

Here's how to get started:

  1. Log into your PayPal account.

  2. Click the Profile link and select Custom Payment Pages from the right column.

  3. Click on the Add button to add a page style. Give the style a name (you can store up to five named styles), add the URL to your banner, and select appropriate colors for the page background and the header

Press the Preview button to see what PayPal's pages will look like for your buyers. When you like the result, save the style.

Press the Make Primary button, and all your customers will be treated to this new style. You're done.

Using Multiple Custom Page Styles

Setting a primary style makes that style the default for all the existing payment buttons on your web site. However, you can save up to five different custom page styles on your PayPal account and apply any of those page styles to a particular payment flow. This is particularly helpful if you have more than one web site or if you use visual cues to distinguish particular areas of your web site.

Simply name your styles appropriately (e.g., electronics or marys_crafts) and then select which page style to associate with each button on your site by including the style's name in the button HTML, like this:

<input type=hidden name="page_style" value="marys_crafts">

Specifying a page style in a GET link is easier; add &page_style=marys_crafts to the end of the PayPal URL.

Getting the Most from Custom Page Style Banners

Header banners allow you to continue your site's look and feel through the payment process, so PayPal has ceded you a 750x90-pixel area at the top of all their payment pages. That's great for brand awareness and all, but what else could you do with 67,500 pixels?

How about presenting your site's message of the day? Or advertising your best-selling accessories? No problem. Create a custom page style and point the image URL to a location on your site (e.g., https://www.mysite.com/motd.jpg). Then, you can put any image (as long as it fits in the banner space; PayPal clips oversized images) in that location. In today's banner, you can push overstocked product: "scratching posts—Frisky loves them!" When the posts are sold out, you can fire up Photoshop and replace the banner with an advertisement for catnip mice.

Change as often as you like without logging into PayPal at all. If you want to get fancy, you can write a script that rotates through a set of banners so that customers always see a fresh message.

PayPal Etiquette

PayPal has the ability to review the contents of custom page styles and can remove styles that violate the company's guidelines. Repeated violations might bring other sanctions too. Sorry, no nekkid ladies or gents on your banners. You can't sell already-detonated airbags either.

For a full list of the company's guidelines for appropriate content (not to mention some good laughs), see http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/gen/ua/use/index_frame-outside.

Here are a few more tips to remember when you are customizing your payment pages:

Display the Merchant Transaction ID on Your Return Page

Because the transaction numbers issued to merchants and buyers are different, you need to provide the merchant ID to customers.

As a merchant on PayPal, you will undoubtedly have occasional post-sale questions from your customers. If your customers give you the transaction IDs they see in their PayPal account history, you will quickly realize they don't match the transaction IDs you see. This is because PayPal generates two unique transaction IDs: one for the merchant and one for the customer. This makes it difficult to track orders for your customers because they do not have the transaction ID you are using. Some simple scripting can head off this problem by giving your transaction ID to your customer.

The PayPal Button Code

To make this modification work, you'll need to employ the return variable in your purchase buttons. This variable specifies the URL of the page to which customers should be sent when they complete payment. Insert it into the standard PayPal-generated button code between the opening and closing <form> tags. Set the variable to the URL of the return page on your web site:

<form target="paypal" action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr"


<input type="hidden" name="business" value="youremail@yourisp.com">

<input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Widget">

<input type="hidden" name="item_number" value="Wid-001">

<input type="hidden" name="amount" value="1.00">

<input type="hidden" name="no_note" value="1">

<input type="hidden" name="currency_code" value="USD">

<input type="image" src="https://www.paypal.com/en_US/i/btn/x-click-but22.gif"

border="0" name="submit">

<input type="hidden" name="add" value="1">

<input type="hidden" name="return" value=



Your customer sees a Continue button on the Payment Sent confirmation page after making the payment. Clicking the button takes the buyer to the return page.

Creating Your Return Page

The return page is where you display the merchant's transaction ID to the customer. You want to display your ID; if your customer needs to contact you, he can give you this ID, and you can use it to look up the transaction in your transaction history. This is the easiest way to know for certain which order the customer is talking about.

Your transaction ID is passed as the txn_id variable. Access it in the same way you access the values passed to any CGI. You can do this with whatever method works best with your server's operating system and scripting languages. Here is the ASP way:


Here is your transaction Id. Keep it for all future order questions: <%=Request.Form("txn_id")%>


And here's the PHP way:


Here is your transaction Id. Keep it for all future order questions:


echo $_GET['txn_id'];



Remember Your Customers

Track your site visitors, regardless of whether they made a purchase with PayPal.

As your eCommerce site becomes more advanced, you might want to begin tracking visitors as they move through your site. For example, you could create a membership system, encouraging users to register and then log in during each subsequent visit. Once acknowledged, your users might have access to special insider deals or premium content. Or, you could address your customers by name on your site's pages.

However, there's a downside. Designing, building, and maintaining a membership database for customers can be a lot of work, and some customers might balk at being asked for a username and password each time they visit. Using the techniques in this hack, you can identify your users by name and offer buyers-only content in minutes—no login required.

Tracking Buyers with Cookies

A popular way to remember your visitors is by using cookies. Cookies are small chunks of information that a user's browser remembers on behalf of your web site. They are handed back to your web site (if it asks) on a subsequent visit. By setting, then reading back, personal information for a visitor, your web site can remember your customers.

This modification sets a cookie when your buyer has returned to your site after making a payment to you with PayPal. Your site will look for this information whenever someone visits and, if found, use it to personalize the site by using the buyer's name and granting access to customer-only content.

You can implement this hack with any web scripting technology; the example code uses ASP with VBScript.

The Return Page

The return page is a page on your site that is activated after a payment has been made, when the buyer clicks the "Click here to continue" link on the You Made A Payment page. Set the return variable in your Buy Now button to the URL you want to use.

Use the return page to create cookies that record the user's name and the fact that the user is a buyer. You should also set the cookies' expiration times; if you don't set the cookies to expire in a set amount of time (such as about an hour, as in the following code), the settings will be lost at the end of the session (such as when your customer closes the browser).

Here's a simple ASP implementation of this:


'Set cookie expiration

'If this is a completed payment, set "paid" to "yes"

If Request.Form("payment_status") = "Completed" Then

Response.Cookies("paid") = "Yes"

'Set the expiration time of the cookie

Response.Cookies("paid").Expires = Now( ) + 0.042 'About 1 hour


Response.Cookies("user") = Request.Form("first_name")

'Set the expiration time of the cookie

Response.Cookies("user").Expires = Now( ) + 0.042 'About 1 hour


The user is identified by the first name provided by PayPal via the first_name variable. The paid cookie remembers that this user is a paying customer; user stores the buyer's name.

In addition to the cookie-handling code in this example, you'll want to have links to other portions of your site, such as your home page.

Cookies at Work

You can use the cookies you created on the other pages of your site. For example, you can greet your customer by name:

Welcome<br><%= Request.Cookies("user")%><br>

Or you can reward your loyal customers with inside information:

If Request.Cookies("paid") = "Yes" Then  
'They have paid, show secret text
We'll be having a <b>big sale</b> on all our exclusive monkey toys this  
Thursday! (Preferred customers only.)    
End If 

This code shows the secret text only to people who have completed a purchase using PayPal.

Also, remembering your customer for an hour might not be as long as you would like. Try setting the value to a year:

Increase Search Engine Exposure

Modify the PayPal button code on your selling pages to make search engines spider them more effectively .

The most difficult part of selling your products on the Web is getting people to find them. If enough people visit your web page, sooner or later you will make a sale, regardless of what you are selling. It is just a matter of how many people need to see it before someone buys.

One of the most popular ways people find their ways to web sites is through search engines such as Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. These search engines create indexes that categorize and rank web pages based on their content. Most web page developers focus on the web page's text and metadata (such as its description and keywords).

However, there is one powerful, though often overlooked, tool that search engines weigh heavily: the web page's alt tags. Alt tags are used by nongraphical browsers and browsers for the visually impaired to help navigate through web pages easily. They can be used for a variety of HTML objects, but they are most commonly used in place of an image. This modification shows you how to use the alt tag in your PayPal buttons to increase search engine exposure.

Modifying the PayPal Button Factory Code

By default, the PayPal Button Factory creates the button code with the image's alt tag information populated with PayPal's own message: "Make payments with PayPal—it's fast, free and secure!" That could be useful in search engine ranking if a buyer is searching for sites that sell your item through PayPal. However, you can refine this text to increase the effectiveness of the tag. You can change many aspects of the PayPal form code and still have the button function properly.

The item in this example is a widget that you are selling for one dollar. Combining that information with a few keywords increases the chances of having your web page spidered correctly. A better use for the alt content might be: "Buy a Thompson's widget here using PayPal for just $1." Here's an example in which the standard PayPal "Make payments..." message has been replaced with your own advertising:

<form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post">

<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_xclick">

<input type="hidden" name="business" value="sales@payloadz.com">

<input type="hidden" name="item_name" value="Widget">

<input type="hidden" name="item_number" value="Wid-001">

<input type="hidden" name="amount" value="1.00">

<input type="hidden" name="no_note" value="1">

<input type="hidden" name="currency_code" value="USD">

<input type="image" src="https://www.paypal.com/en_US/i/btn/x-click-but23.gif"

border="0" name="submit" alt="Buy a Thompson's widget here

using PayPal for just $1">

Applying the modified form code to your page increases the likelihood that when a person uses a search engine to look for a widget using a search engine, she is presented with your web page.

You should also try to include keywords and description tags in your web page head that use the same keywords as you use in the alt attribute. This will give you a higher chance of being ranked for that text. You can also create duplicate form buttons, or even duplicate web pages, that use different sets of keywords in the document data and for the image alt tag values.

Sell Digital Goods with PayLoadz

Deliver your digital goods automatically and securely without having to write your own application that relies on Instant Payment Notifications (IPN).

Using PayPal to sell goods from your web site allows your customers to make purchases without having to type all their financial information. Selling digital goods (documents, music, video, pictures, programs, etc.) affords the additional convenience of delivering your products over the Internet, rather than having to ship them, and comes as close to an ideal eCommerce scenario as you're going to get.

To sell digital goods online effectively with PayPal, you'll have to think about security and prompt fulfillment, both of which can be achieved with PayPal's Instant Payment Notification (IPN) system. The problem is that IPN requires not only an ability to write code, but full access to a dedicated web server on which to run that code. This is where a third-party digital delivery provider such as PayLoadz (http://www.payloadz.com) comes in.

PayLoadz is a web-based service that allows you to sell digital goods securely, without user intervention, and—most importantly—without having to develop your own IPN system. Much like the way PayPal provides the back end for a pretty slick shopping cart system, PayLoadz provides the back end for IPN.

Before you get started with PayLoadz, you'll need a PayPal Business or Premiere account, as described in Section 3.

Set up your free PayLoadz account by going to http://payloadz.com and clicking Sign Up. When the Edit Profile page appears, enter your business name and your PayPal email address (you won't need to provide your PayPal password). Specify URLs for your logo and for your cancel page, and customize the purchase email text.

With the Enable Price Checking feature, PayLoadz can check the amounts your customers pay to make sure they match the prices listed for your products. This works for mixed carts with your tangible goods as well.

Turn on the IPN feature in your PayPal account and insert the Payloadz IPN script URL (provided for you when you sign up).

Then set up your digital goods on the PayLoadz web site so that it can handle fulfillment and track your sales.

The PayLoadz system generates PayPal-compliant code that you add to your web pages, just like the code from the PayPal Button Factory.

While you can use your existing purchase buttons as generated by PayPal, the ones created by the PayLoadz system contain a customized return variable that allows your customers to download your products immediately after paying, which adds another level of redundancy to ensure proper delivery.

Finally, your customers click your special Pay Now buttons and are sent directly to PayPal to complete their transactions,

PayPal then contacts PayLoadz using IPN, and PayLoadz delivers your digital goods to your paying customers automatically.

Basic PayLoadz accounts are free, but for a monthly subscription fee (paid via PayPal, of course), you can store your files on the PayLoadz servers. This provides an enhanced level of security and means that you don't need to serve downloads from your own site. You can upgrade to the more robust paid version at any time.


Next Section: Managing Subscriptions



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