AMAZON IMPROVES CUSTOMER REVIEWS
What makes customer reviews helpful to other customers, and thereby also helpful for sellers, businesses, authors, and even Amazon?
It’s when other customers can trust the review system. Without that trust, reviews become utterly useless.
BOOK REVIEW CHANGES IN 2012
Amazon made its first major improvement to the customer review system in late 2012.
That’s when Amazon blocked and removed countless reviews from probable friend and family members of authors.
Whatever Amazon did in 2012 was highly effective—perhaps not perfect, but definitely effective. If you watch indie community forums regularly, you know that on a weekly basis new authors complain about missing reviews, and it almost invariably turns out that the reviews were left by friends or family members.
Prior to the Great Purge of 2012, Amazon’s customer review system had been getting out of hand, with the problems publicized in the WSJ and NYT. Starting in 2013, the customer review system improved immensely. But it took much longer for word of the improvement to spread.
It’s now fairly well-known that customers who are friends or family members of authors generally can’t leave reviews no matter how hard they try, and Amazon is very good at discerning probable relationships. Occasionally, Amazon is a little too good, blocking or removing a review of a stranger who proceeded to interact in the author’s social circles. A casualty of war.
AMAZON SUES FAKE REVIEW SITES
Amazon has recently gone a step further toward improving the integrity of the customer review system.
Now that friend-and-family reviews are very much under control, the next major problem is the paid review.
It’s a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service for authors to pay for reviews.
Unfortunately, unethical authors have done this anyway, which hurts the integrity of the customer review system for everyone.
Authors often feel pressured into seeking reviews. For one, if the book isn’t selling, an author’s first thought is that maybe it’s because the book doesn’t have any reviews. For another, many popular book promotion sites require a minimum of 20 or so reviews just to receive consideration.
The reality is that the best way to get reviews is free and low-cost marketing combined with compelling content. Nothing is better than the natural variety of reviews that you get from just getting sales. Drive sales and the reviews will come with them.
But since there are authors seeking reviews, there are also services looking to fill this need.
Including unethical businesses and people looking to sell reviews. Again, this is a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service. Both the business or person selling reviews and the author paying for reviews should fully expect to have their reviews removed, their accounts suspended, and to be at risk for a potential lawsuit from Amazon.
And that’s finally happening.
Amazon has begun the process by suing 1100 fake reviewers.
Who’s at risk?
- Companies selling paid reviews.
- People selling paid reviews thru sites like fiverr.
- Authors paying for reviews.
Who benefits from this?
- Customers will be able to trust the review system more.
- Authors who adhere to the review guidelines will benefit from this improved trust.
- Companies selling products on Amazon benefit similarly.
- Amazon benefits, too. It’s a win-win-win-win situation, with the sole exception of those who have been violating the review guidelines.
Write happy, be happy. 🙂
Copyright © 2015
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
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