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The text below about Amazon operating a massive review sweep has been taken from a post uploaded on a Facebook group on May 29, 2018 – source is missing, if anyone knows what group or has the link, please leave a comment with it:
Some sellers are reporting losing hundreds of reviews overnight. Looks like Amazon is currently doing a review sweep. According to a seller who posted on a Facebook group:
“Amazon has done a massive wiping out of reviews” I just got off the phone with a U.S. based associate. She was extremely knowledgeable and explained the following to me: This review sweep just went down yesterday, it is the largest review sweep Amazon has done since the other big one in October 2016 (some of us remember that one). There has been so much customer backlash about fake reviews that Amazon had to take action to make sure reviews are legit. They are looking at each product, but seems like they are looking at the newer products first, under 1 year old seems to be where they are starting… but I am sure they will continue on to older products after that […]
There is no one to appeal to, so no point in hiring a lawyer (I asked specifically on this). The sucky part is that when you are being reviewed, you not only have your reviews stripped, but no one new can review your product either. It’s not like that customer is going to try to come back and review later. I also asked if we will be notified if we are not going to get our reviews back… she could not say. I asked if we are denied our reviews, will we be able to accept new reviews after… again, she could not say. This is all so new that they have not been informed on what the protocol is for this yet. She said this is the largest review sweep they have ever done, it is on a massive scale. I asked if the people that have 5,000 reviews on frying pans for their beauty products will be looked at and she laughed and said you bet they will”
Why Did it Happen?
We all knew it was going to happen (again). The amount of fake “real” or incentivized reviews is constantly growing, thanks to the huge communities of Amazon reviewers and to the specialized agencies that provide verified reviews on Amazon and other kind of black hat tricks to the most reckless sellers, and in my honest opinion this is a very good thing.
Is it happening only now because Amazon is sweeping off potentially fake reviews to get ready for the Prime Day and to have a more appealing face to the investors?
For sure, this is something that was going to happen sooner or later, and it is just the second big review sweep of the year (the first one was in February). You can be sure that there is going to be more in the near future.
“On Friday, more than a dozen users confirmed to Business Insider that their accounts had been reopened after being shut down for several days. Many of these people said they had never broken Amazon’s terms of service or that if they did so, it was not intentional. Some of the shoppers who spoke with Business Insider about their accounts being closed, however, seem to have knowingly or unknowingly violated the company’s terms of service in regards to writing reviews. The mysterious account shutdowns, it seems, could be related to the company’s effort to clamp down on this subculture and the type of reviews it breeds.” Full article here.
Is it Only Underground Culture?
But there’s one kind of community that Amazon will have big troubles in cracking down, and I’m sure these kind of communities are helping to get a lot of (il)legitimate reviews: the WeChat communities. The service is provided by Tencent, in China, so it would be pretty hard for any US based company to crack it down.
We have talked in the blog post about the Secrets Behind The Success of Chinese Amazon Sellers of many elements, but we did not get into the details about the huge communities of Chinese nationals who live in the States (workers, students, etc), who make extra money by actually receiving products and reviewing them in exchange of the product + sometimes a small fee (5$ to 10$).
Let’s take a look at what happens in these groups:
These are very particular groups, where very seldom there is any interaction between users. The groups are completely saturated (500 is the max number of users in any WeChat group) mainly by 2 kind of users: the reviewers and the sellers. The job of a sales manager in a Chinese Amazon seller company includes getting review for the products they sell, in any possible way – doesn’t matter how. And as you can see in the examples below, it doesn’t even matter what kind of products they are selling, they just need as many reviews as possible. Somebody will eventually pick a product:
Image coming from a WeChat Amazon reviews Group
Other Image coming from a WeChat Amazon reviews Group, same seller
Why so many different product in the same image? As we said in another post, the products selection doesn’t really need to make sense, as what really matters at the end of the day is the final sale. The same seller will throw as many products as they can into the same account, hoping for the best ones to generate sales at some point, because there’s nothing to lose in this game.
What makes it even worse for the sellers, and better for the reviewers, is the fact that some products don’t even need a review: at this point the sellers are looking for the initial sales, just to show Amazon that somebody is actually buying their products. The buyer will get full refund via PayPal or WeChat.
What if it Happened to You?
If instead you are in the unfortunate situation where a lot of your reviews have been removed for apparently no reasons, you might find useful this video from Seth Kniep:
Seth lists 6 ways to respond to this issue:
Amazon uses automatic programs to wipe off reviews, sometimes the algorithm might be wrong (in that case I suggest to contact Amazon via customer services or Account Manager).
Promote your product and get reviews faster (using white hat hacks).
See if you’re actually breaking the terms of services of Amazon.
Understand the order in which you get reviews.
Balance your risk/reward – get used to the fact that Amazon is still constantly changing.
Understand that the problem might not be in the reviews but in the product itself.