Have you had reviews disappearing from your listing without warning?
You’re not alone. We’ve recently found that Amazon is taking a hard line on reviews, and have been deleting, removing and blocking reviews for a lot of sellers.
Read on to find out why this is happening, and how you can protect yourself.
What We Know (Amazon Deleting Reviews, Blocking Reviews, Limiting Reviews)
Exact details can be hard to find. With no official information from Amazon, you have to look to the community for first-hand accounts of Amazon deleting or blocking reviews for a product.
From what we’ve gathered so far, there are three common cases:
- Reviews for a product are blocked.
- Reviews are being “throttled”, or limited.
- Amazon is deleting reviews altogether.
For the first point, customers come to your listing and find they aren’t allowed to leave a review. The seller isn’t informed, and you’ll usually only find out when a customer reaches out to you.
Most of the time, the review block is placed for a short time, and eventually lifted. It may also be a block on unverified reviews only.
The block on reviews can also be in the form of a daily limit. If you’ve been getting a large number of reviews, Amazon sometimes places a limit on how many reviews you can get in a day.
Usually this will be around 3-5 reviews per day. This, too, can be applied for unverified reviews only, and is also temporary in most cases.
Finally, Amazon is also removing reviews altogether. This can happen even if you never did anything black-hat, which is the most troubling thing for sellers to deal with.
Knowing the “what” is the first step. The next is figuring out why, so you can work on protecting your account and all your hard-earned product reviews.
Why Is This Happening?
If your listings are experiencing any of these problems, you want to know why. The problem is, Amazon keeps most details under wraps, to avoid people gaming their system. So it’s hard to get a clear answer.
They do leave breadcrumbs, and if you follow the trail you may be able to get to the source of the issue.
“Unusual Reviewing Behavior”
“Amazon has noticed unusual reviewing activity. Due to this activity, we have limited this product to verified purchase reviews.”
The most common message given to reviewers trying to leave a comment on a listing with a review block is that it is due to “unusual reviewing behavior”. Very cryptic, but we can draw the conclusion that the listing has been flagged by Amazon’s software.
Many things can cause Amazon to flag a listing. Some reasons include:
- Too many unverified reviews (compared to the number of verified reviews).
- Suspicious wording in your reviews.
- A sudden uptick in sales or review velocity.
Getting an answer for what exactly “unusual reviewing behavior” is, is difficult. We’ve known sellers who contacted the Seller Support team about cases like this. The problem is, Seller Support often don’t know themselves.
There are two different departments of Amazon at work here. The Performance Team deals with suspensions and other disciplinary issues, while Seller Support is for day-to-day issues. As the two are not connected, contacting Seller Support isn’t guaranteed to bring you any answers.
So we’re left to take what information we know, and build conclusions around that.
If you find your reviews disappearing, it may not be anything to do with your seller account or your listing. Most often it is to do with buyer accounts. Many have had their past reviews wiped when found to have engaged in illegal review activity.
Part of this includes banning the account and/or removing all the reviews made by the account. Whether the review broke the rules or not.
That means even though you may not have done anything to do with incentivized reviews, some of your buyers may have done so, for a completely unrelated product. As a result, all their reviews are deleted, including those on your listing.
It may be tough to stomach, but it is an unfortunate after-effect of the shady underworld that is Amazon incentivized reviews, post-2016.
So, let’s take the information we have, and find a few reasons why your reviews could have been deleted (or blocked):
- You broke the rules (inappropriate wording when asking for reviews, paying for reviews, etc).
- Your reviewer broke the rules, and their account/reviews were wiped.
- You got too many unverified reviews in a short space of time.
- Your reviews/sale rate is too high (average review rate is around 1-2%, anything significantly higher may trigger a block).
- Your reviews contain suspicious wording or patterns.
How Can Sellers Protect Themselves?
It may seem like an uphill battle, right? How can you protect yourself, when you don’t even know what the problem is? Worse yet, you can end up losing reviews for something not even related to you.
Some things are under your control, however. While you may not be able to protect yourself 100%, consider your competitors are at risk too.
If you take appropriate steps to avoid risk, you’ll still end up ahead of the pack.
The first and most important step; play by the rules!
If sellers are being flagged for things they don’t know they’ve done, you can bet that you’re going to get caught for running grey or black hat tactics.
Paying for reviews (including offering PayPal refunds after purchase), trying to get negative reviewers to change or remove their reviews, and using suggestive wording in your email follow-ups are all things that are likely to get you in trouble.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with Amazon’s review policies and make sure you stay within the guidelines. You won’t be 100% safe from review blocks, but it’s a start.
Make Use Of The Early Reviewer Program
Reviews are harder than ever to get, so why not take advantage of an Amazon-sanctioned review service?
The Early Reviewer Program is an initiative in which Amazon offers small incentives to buyers to leave a review for a new product. The program costs $60, and Amazon will continue to ask for reviews for 12 months, or until you get five reviews through the program (whichever comes first).
Assuming you get all five reviews, $12 per review is a very fair price for your first, 100% legitimate Amazon reviews. (Illegally buying reviews will cost you more than this).
The program is only open to Brand Registered sellers, and there is no guarantee that you will get all five reviews, or that they will be positive reviews. As such, it is still imperative that you have a good product.
Space Out Review Requests
A lot of sellers use Amazon autoresponders, email or Messenger to ask customers for reviews.
With increased review velocity believed to trigger Amazon’s unusual review activity algorithm, it may be best to avoid a short-term spike in reviews.
Though it might sound great to get a ton of reviews all at once, this is a suspicious signal to Amazon. Thus, it can result in an automated block on your listing.
If you’re running a short-term, high-velocity promotion, such as a product launch, try not to send all your review request emails at the same time. For example, if you sell 30 units in a day, instead of sending 30 follow-up emails at the same time, send 10 one day, 10 the next, and 10 the next.
If you’re using LandingCube, you may want to consider setting a daily promo code limit to effectively space out your coupon claims, and subsequent review requests.
Mitigate Risk – Drive Your Own Traffic, and Sell On Multiple Channels
What is clear is that Amazon can be a fickle mistress. It’s a great platform to sell on. But it also comes with headaches.
It’s not to say you should abandon Amazon – we’re big advocates that if you’re selling online, you should be selling, at least in part, on Amazon. But putting all your eggs in one basket is risky.
However unlikely, you should consider the possibility that your Amazon listings take a big hit in one day. Or even worse, you may get suspended from Amazon.
Whether it’s a week, two weeks, a month, that’s a lot of lost revenue if you have no other sales channel.
If you have your own store, set up with a platform like WordPress or Shopify, you have the option to focus your resources on that channel and keep making sales, in case Amazon goes south.
Additionally, learn how to drive your own traffic, through avenues such as email marketing, Facebook ads or other social media platforms. That way you make your listing less reliant on reviews and have the option to increase your focus on external traffic if organic Amazon traffic takes a dip.
Amazon Review Blocks And Deletions – In Summary
The world of Amazon reviews is scary, as more and more sellers are beginning to realize. You can do everything by the book, yet at any moment the book can change, or you fall victim to something that wasn’t in the book.
While many see Amazon’s aggressive stance as a problem, ultimately this is a positive thing. Dodgy grey and black-hat sellers are getting taken out, leaving more market share for people who play by the rules.
Amazon is such a massive beast, and is still growing, so it’s not worth giving up selling on Amazon. Just take smart steps to mitigate risk.
Follow the rules, try as much as you can to avoid suspicious activity, and have other channels to sell on should the worst happen.
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