In this chapter, we give a brief history of Amazon incentivized reviews. Amazon sellers have been trying to game the review system, and in turn Amazon has taken measures to keep its reviews trustworthy.
Gaming the System
There’s a perpetual cat-and-mouse game between Amazon sellers and Amazon when it comes to reviews. Reviews are so critical for products to perform well. So sellers have been trying to game the system from the beginning to garner more reviews, whether they are honest or not. It’s a calculated risk.
Amazon understands how important reviews are for online shoppers to build trust in products, and thus in Amazon’s platform. So the company goes to great lengths to protect the integrity of reviews.
“Customers trust that they can shop with confidence on Amazon. Reviews provide a forum for sharing authentic feedback about products and services – positive or negative. Any attempt to manipulate reviews, including by directly or indirectly contributing false, misleading or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited.”
Having trustworthy reviews is good for Amazon’s business. It keeps customers shopping, and is also good for high-integrity sellers.
But shady sellers definitely still try to rig the system. People still complain of fake reviews on Amazon. Luckily, there are sites like FakeSpot and ReviewMeta which give customers tools to spot fake reviews.
What are Amazon Incentivized Reviews?
Many savvy sellers used to give away free products or discounted products in exchange for reviews. It was a popular strategy until Amazon changed its Terms of Service in Q4 of 2016 to ban so-called incentivized reviews. Today sellers who violate this policy risk getting kicked off of Amazon.
But some still do it. In fact, in March I got a Facebook message from a new Amazon seller for an incentivized review. If he sent me free product and paid me some cash, would I leave a review?
Did he know that this tactic was illegal? Perhaps he did, but was willing to risk it. After all, it is very hard to sell products on Amazon without positive reviews.
Others simply don’t understand that this is illegal. For example, a new user of our Amazon landing page tool asked me this:
Q: Suppose I run a promotion offering free product in exchange for a review. Could the review still get the Verified Purchase tag?
Answer: No. if someone receives a free product (or a discount of 50% or more), any review they leave will not get the Verified Purchase tag. (We’ll discuss Verified Purchase more in chapter 3).
Giving away discounts (or free products) in exchange for reviews is against TOS. Doing that can get you banned from selling on Amazon, which will certainly not get you closer to your business goals.
What Amazon considers review manipulation
There’s a lot of uncertainty and mystery when it comes to Amazon. What you can and can’t do as a seller. But some things are very clear-cut.
- Offering discounts in exchange for reviews is against TOS
- Giving away free product in exchange for reviews is against TOS
- Paying people to leave you reviews is against TOS
- Asking your friends and family to leave you reviews is against TOS
- Asking people to specifically leave a POSITIVE review is against TOS
- Writing a review for a product that you have a financial stake in is against TOS
- Trading reviews with other sellers is against TOS
Amazon does not mess around when it comes to keeping their review system trustworthy. They have even sued sellers who break the rules.
Amazon Incentivized Reviews: In Summary
In this chapter, we discussed Amazon incentivized reviews, and how Amazon fights to prevent review manipulation.
The next chapter answers the questions: What makes Amazon reviews trustworthy? How to respond to negative reviews? What is the difference between product reviews and sellers feedback? And what are Verified Purchase reviews?