How to Fight Bad Reviews on Amazon

Amazon product reviews matter because no one can find you or your product without them. With low or no reviews, you’re lost in the Amazon marketplace wilderness. So, it’s easy to understand why so many sellers obsess over them to the point of sending policy-violating emails to their buyers, or worse, trying to buy reviews. Many sellers have lost their minds in the search for relevance among keyword search terms, boosted review efforts, and other kinds of review manipulation, from asking friends and family to leave nice ones to freebies paid for via PayPal. 

Why It’s Important to Follow Amazon’s Review Policy

But the problem is, these are shortcuts, and if they violate policy, you could be reported for doing it. Or, Amazon could use their own internal data to catch you doing it. If investigators opt to let you off with a warning, consider yourself lucky in the current climate of heavy-handed enforcement around reviews.  

You may have thought they’d never try to watch your offsite behavior, but once you get warned, you’re on notice. Sellers report illicit activity of competitors by submitting links, screenshots, and other evidence of review-padding to Amazon abuse teams. When it’s done with high volumes of mixed info, then Amazon may ignore it and the abuser goes free. When it’s reported properly with the targeted info presented clearly in an “easy to review” fashion for investigators, an action is taken, up to and including account suspensions. Many sellers suspended for “review manipulation” have come to me asking for help and advice.  

According to Review Meta, “Incentivized reviewers are 12 times less likely to give a 1-star rating than non-incentivized reviews, and almost 4 times less likely to leave a critical review in general.”

Creating a Plan of Action

Once the account suspension hits, you’re going to need a strong Plan of Action to go with a solid Amazon account appeal. Otherwise, you’re facing multiple denials of each Plan of Action, and a final word message that bans you from the site for good.

A POA, as its known in common seller circles, requires identification of the root causes of the behavior, first and foremost. Why were these tactics employed, and for how long were they used? Be specific, detailed and show them the info they can use about how you tried to game the system, including the third-party services used and for what reviews.  The Plan needs to include a series of proactive steps that lay out how you’ll prevent future errors in judgment around compliance. It needs to indicate the involvement on a managerial level of compliance officers who will test or audit your new processes. Make sure it’s credible and complete! Otherwise, you get it bounced back to you, asking for a better one.  

Do you have a sheet of reviews for Amazon to delete? Attach that to the Plan of Action. Don’t take big chances around Amazon account appeals, make sure you understand these types of review abuse suspensions and what investigator expectations are. Can you afford to lose the Amazon piece of your business? Unless that’s a yes, proceed with caution.  

Got any 5-Star Reviews to Boost My Sales Rank?

We’ve all seen sellers with stellar records, and hundreds of 5-Star reviews. But what are the odds of having all great reviews?

Sellers either record wonderful reviews from great products that generate positive buyer response, or they’re looking for shortcuts to fake it. There are numerous services out there that pitch easy ways to get dozens, if not hundreds, of 5-star reviews overnight. 

Example of review services on Amazon

They may even take fees for this without explaining to a seller that their work is 100% non-compliant with the Amazon Terms of Service, but does anyone really interrogate them on tactics or do sellers feel the need to reach as far as they can into the black bag of tricks, without worrying about anything other than getting caught? It’s not just a moral question.

Amazon sellers competing with each other often report each other to Amazon for reviews abuse, and make their cases with links to your website, Facebook groups you post in, seller forums and perhaps even direct message if you’re talking to “friends” who are really competitors.  You think Amazon isn’t looking off Amazon, but they are–on select occasions where they have actionable intel.

The Power of the Negative Review

Those seeking to take down a competitor, and even real buyers who dislike a particular product in droves, know the power of bad reviews. If you use the words “fake” or “counterfeit” or “not as advertised” or anything similar, Amazon scripts catch it, and investigators follow up with manual reviews and warnings. Not every time, but often enough that sellers need to worry about it.  

Some of your competitors know this, so they may create buyer accounts or try to buy new buyer account creation services that will upvote negative reviews and destroy your ranking. You’ll start falling in the searches fairly quickly once this becomes a trend.  

How to Look for Nasty Competitive Behavior

Look for clusters of reviews over a relatively short period of time, that appear to derive from “services” or all look and sound the same, or mass upvoting of your negatives or a quick upload of positive reviews. It may look and feel like bot buyer accounts left those reviews: that’s because they most likely have. If it’s been reported poorly to Amazon Abuse teams, then it’s also likely no action was taken. You can vet reviews for validity, and for the possibility of reporting abuse successfully to Amazon.  

Make Use Of suggests looking for similar keywords in multiple reviews, reviews that are positive without being too specific, and lots of reviews in a short time frame.

What Can You Do to Combat it? Is Amazon Even Paying Attention to Fake Product Reviews?

If you’re serious about helping Amazon fix a broken reviews system, then learn the main means of analyzing this bad behavior. Give Amazon solid information that they can verify, and if the links to sites selling non-compliant services are no longer live, then capture the info in screenshots so they can understand who the players are, and what they are up to. Beyond that, are there patterns within live reviews Amazon missed? Have they turned away from trying to track down fake negative or positive reviews?

The more sellers report it properly to Amazon and the more the public understands how widespread these practices are, the more Amazon will care. If it stays within Facebook groups and forums where sellers complain but refuse to escalate matters within the company, Amazon is much less likely to form teams and tools to fight these ugly acts. Make sure you don’t toss piles of unreadable, hard to follow info at Amazon. Investigators have no time to sort through pages and pages looking for what they can use. You have to do it.

Chris McCabe

Chris McCabe

Chris spent several years on Amazon’s Performance and Policy Enforcement teams and in recent times, has helped compose appeals in the reinstatement of hundreds of sellers. Chris is the founder of ecommercechris.com, who is hosting an Amazon brand conference in April 2018.

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