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Beware Amazon Associate Program's Native Shopping Ads - NOT Mobile Friendly - A Cautionary Tale

Amazon Associate Program's Native Shopping Ads are convenient and look great... but beware they have usability issues. And just a reminder to web developers to always vet third party additions... even if they come from big companies like Amazon.


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Dave Parizek

3 months ago | 2 min read
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Amazon Associate Program's Native Shopping Ads Are Easy to Add to Your Site, Look Great, and Can Be Programmatically Customized

So I have a website with collections of quotes by topic and by author. I thought it would be a win-win - for my visitors as convenience and for my site as an extra monetization strategy - to provide affiliate links to an author's publications on Amazon - or to publications on the particular topic - for each quote collection page.

Researching and adding potentially multiple publications for thousands of authors and topics would obviously be a long time-consuming task — one that would keep me from creating content — so I wanted to find a programmatic or other speedier to implement solution.

Enter Amazon Affiliate Program's Native Shopping Ads. They seem wonderful, you can modify them programmatically - my web site is a statically generated site - and they seem to look nice and be a perfect solution to quickly add customized book suggestions to all of my quotes pages, like this one for my Quotes by Albert Einstein page:

and it responsively adjusts for mobile displays:

All you have to do is add a little bit of JavaScript to your html wherever you want the widget to be located:

But… There is a Catch

So I add the Native Shopping Ad script to thousands of pages on my site, I'm pleased, and I move on to other tasks. A couple of weeks later I notice in Google Search Console that many of my pages are getting flagged as having Mobile Usability issues. Google is saying my text is too small for mobile and that clickable elements are too close together for mobile. Oh no!

I search through my CSS and inspect my pages thoroughly trying to debug the issue to no avail. Finally I look at the live site and notice that on Amazon's Native Shopping Ads the text is indeed rather small. And this is generated by Amazon so I cannot really fix or modify it in that sense… I can programmatically change the search terms but not the CSS.

I removed the affiliate ads and went thru a weeks long verification process in Google Search Console and it was indeed Amazon's Native Shopping Ads that were the culprit.

Why would a company like Amazon with a huge budget publish such poor design? I mean it looks nice but if it is not so usable, who cares if it looks nice?

Anyway, a cautionary tale, just because something comes from a huge company with all the budget in the world doesn't mean it doesn't still suck. Hopefully they will fix them and I can try them again in the future.

#HeyJeffBezosPleaseFixThis (-:

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Dave Parizek

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Software engineer @ University of Arizona

I am a 50-something father of two wonderful sons, divorced, enjoying life. I work for the Center for Biomedical Informatics & Biostatistics at the University of Arizona.


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