Product review abuse and enforcement should be a topic that every seller familiarizes themselves with. I recommend that you surround yourself with people that understand what Amazon regulates. Also, make an effort to understand more about why they hunt down potential abusive reviewers, and what to avoid in case a competitor reports you for fake positive Amazon reviews. Any careless pursuit of reviews is tantamount to asking for a suspension from PRA (Product Review Abuse) teams. As time goes on, they’re harder to come back from, too.
Keep in mind, Amazon is under a lot of pressure to clean up unreliable product reviews. Think about things from their standpoint, for a moment. There is a lot of bad behavior going on, and various players understand the dark side of this game now. A growing number of savvy sellers, the media, black hat consultants and service providers, and of course any group that exists solely to break the rules in exchange for cash see and hear about these practices every day.
1. Still asking friends and family to buy and leave Amazon reviews.
Is anyone still doing this? Don’t do this anymore! If a buyer has any connection to you, they could show up as related to you in the online tools investigators use.
2. Paying reviewers via Paypal for Amazon reviews and arranging it via Facebook chats.
You don’t really know who you’re paying, or chatting with. Maybe they came recommended from a friend, and maybe they worked with you before. Are you sure they’ll be around tomorrow? Will Amazon sue them or shut them down with a Cease & Desist? Sure, you knew that could happen anytime back when you started this. But if there’s any connection between the service Amazon targets and your account, you have to expect it to fall. Nevermind for a moment the act of blatantly violating Amazon’s policies, wouldn’t you expect to have a competitor bait one of these hooks for you, in case you bite? They could have someone in a group you belong to make you an offer you cannot resist. Once you take it, they have all the info they need to send to Amazon to report your fake Amazon reviews, an abuse of policies. Did you prepare for that?
3. How Trustworthy are black hat sites, and can you risk your whole account on them?
Can you expect them to leave the lucrative field and not take your data with them? If Amazon sues these companies, they’ll likely ask them to name names to get lenient terms in a settlement. That means your black hat pals have to show Amazon which sellers paid them for services. If they get a subpoena, they have to hand everything over including their communication records, unless they’ve wiped those out. Either way, you cannot trust any of them to keep your interests in mind. They’re only ever looking out for themselves.
4. What is your buyer messaging sequence? Are you still using email solicitation to generate product reviews?
I still see sellers trying to segment their customers by likely to leave a positive review or needing customer support. In other words, the first email says “Hey, hope you like it, let us know if you don’t”. And the second email follows a few days later with, “Since it looks like you like it, can you leave us a review?” Previously Amazon suspended sellers for leaving both of those in the same message. You were only asking for a positive review, and if anything went wrong, you wanted the buyer to contact you for help. After several months and dozens of suspensions, word got out that you couldn’t do this in one message. So everyone put that into two.
Remember that any competitor can report you to Amazon on abuse of reviews policy. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to convince PRA to remove your positive Amazon reviews, or even suspend your account. This is the Amazon world we live in. If you leave an opening, they’ll plow an abuse report right through it.
5. What incentives are you offering buyers via your own site? On Facebook or anywhere else?
Be careful when running giveaway promotions, discounts, incentives that encourage Amazon customers to leave you a 4.5 or 5-star review. Amazon tracks offsite promotions more now than ever before., Even the appearance of impropriety drives them to seek out more info about your activities. A promotion on your site will lead to more buying by happy customers and you could see some buyers leaving a string of nice reviews on Amazon, too. But you can’t induce them to do this as a condition of such promotion. You can’t offer discount codes on your site just to get buyers back on Amazon leaving reviews, knowing they will likely be heavily positive. Again, you’re giving a competitor the perfect chance to take a shot at you if they receive messaging that encourages offsite, non-compliant behavior.
Please don’t give your competition opportunities to shoot you down. Amazon has a reputation to protect, just like you do. The more buyers that distrust the Amazon reviews they see, the greater the negative impact on Jeff’s prized buyer experience on Amazon. They would rather err on the side of caution and take aggressive steps to police even grey-area behavior than risk losing buyer trust. Remember that the next time you think you’re only coloring slightly outside of the lines. Amazon won’t humor debate or discussion from you if you’re warned or suspended. By then, your only option is laying out in a Plan of Action how you’ll never, ever do any of those practices again. It’s best to avoid being in that position! Learn how to suspension-proof your account.