Amazon Reviews Now Require a $50 Minimum Customer Spend

NEW $50 MINIMUM FOR AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEWS

Customers used to be able to write a review at Amazon as long as they had made a purchase.

Amazon now requires customers to spend a minimum of $50 using a valid credit/debit card before they can write a customer review.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730

This is one of several steps that Amazon has made over the years in an effort to improve the customer review system.

Amazon strives for organic customer reviews.

Organic reviews are the best reviews you can get.

For years, Amazon has effectively blocked reviews that are posted by friends and family of authors.

Verified purchase reviews now have an advantage over non-verified reviews when it comes to visibility on Amazon.

Amazon uses machine learning to help determine how prominently a review will display on a product page.

This new $50 minimum customer spend is another of many steps in the right direction.

Amazon’s customer review system has never been (and may never be) perfect, but Amazon is working to make it better.

Remember the days when you walked into a bookstore, and the only reviews you saw were glowing reviews on the back cover and front matter?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What to Do about Reviews Disappearing from Amazon (Proactive Solutions)

Review Removed

REVIEWS REMOVED FROM AMAZON

It’s a well-known fact: Amazon blocks and removes numerous four- and five-star reviews, but almost never removes a one- or two-star review.

You have two choices:

  • Get upset about it.
  • Find a proactive way to make the most of it.

I have proactive suggestions for:

  • Customers who have had their reviews removed.
  • Authors who have seen reviews vanish without even so much as a puff of smoke.

Suggestions for customers are first. If you’re an author, just scroll down to your section.

If you’re concerned about the WHY, I’ll address this at the end of my post.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CUSTOMERS WHOSE REVIEWS DISAPPEARED FROM AMAZON

(A few customers think that when they click the star rating at the end of a Kindle book that they are reviewing it on Amazon, when instead they are rating the book on Goodreads. A few customers think they’ve submitted a review, but what they’ve actually done is just reach the intermediate page where they check their review before submitting it. The first step is to make sure that you’ve properly and fully submitted a review.)

Why did you write the review in the first place?

  • You felt strongly about the book.
  • You felt that the book deserved recommending.
  • You wanted to help other customers make wise shopping decisions.

So, you typed up a review and submitted it to Amazon, but discovered later that the review was gone. (Wait a minute. No, wait a day or two. Sometimes, when you post a review, there is a delay of 1-2 days before it shows up.)

That doesn’t prevent you from accomplishing your original goals.

Here are some proactive suggestions:

  • Recommend the book to people you know. Word-of-mouth recommendations are like GOLD. They can be better than writing a review on Amazon. If your goal was to recommend the book, nothing is stopping you from doing so.
  • Review the book on Goodreads. It’s the next best thing to reviewing it at Amazon.
  • Contact the author. Not to complain about the missing review. Authors appreciate feedback and hearing from fans. Offer to let the author use your positive comments on his blog, in the front matter, or anywhere else the author might be able to benefit from a review snippet. Reviews have many other potential uses besides sitting on the Amazon product page.
  • Do you have a blog, Twitter account, or Facebook account? Share your review with your followers. Since Amazon DIDN’T publish your review, they can’t prohibit you from sharing it.
  • Follow the author on Amazon. Just visit one of the author’s books, scroll down to the author’s biography, visit the author’s author page at Amazon, and click the big yellow Follow button on the top left. If you liked the book, you might appreciate having Amazon send you an email the next time the author publishes a book.
  • Follow the author’s blog, social media, or email newsletter. You can be one of the author’s fans.
  • Review the book on Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or other retailer where the book is sold.

Although you could contact Amazon to ask why your review was removed, this really isn’t proactive. You’re probably going to get a vague response, if any. You’re probably not going to convince Amazon that they made a mistake and reinstate your review. Most likely, you will waste both your time and Amazon’s.

(If your review violated any of Amazon’s guidelines, before posting your review elsewhere, you should first read the other site’s review guidelines to ensure that you’re not violating them.)

SUGGESTIONS FOR AUTHORS WHOSE REVIEWS DISAPPEARED FROM AMAZON

Very often, the author doesn’t even know that it happened. Amazon automatically blocks many reviews, such that they are gone before the author has a chance to see them.

And if the author “knows” that a review was blocked by Amazon, chances are that the author has some connection with the reviewer and Amazon “knows” of this connection.

Here are some proactive steps that authors can take regarding customer reviews disappearing from Amazon:

  • If a customer informs you that they posted a review, but Amazon blocked or removed it, you can offer the suggestions that I listed above (like posting the review on Goodreads).
  • If the reviewer has any authority, experience, or expertise relevant to your book, you may be able to include it in the Editorial Reviews section on your Author Central page.
  • With the customer’s permission, you might be able to use a review snippet in your front matter, back matter, on your blog, etc.
  • If the reviewer is an author in a related genre, they might be willing to write a foreword, for example.
  • If you were able to see the review before it was removed, or if the customer contacted you directly, you may still benefit from the feedback.
  • Thank the customer for trying. Thank the customer for contacting you. THANK the customer if he or she does any of the alternatives that I suggested in the previous section.

Contacting Amazon to complain about it probably won’t be helpful. Amazon will only offer an explanation to the customer, not to the author, and the explanation given to the customer will probably be vague. You’re probably not going to convince Amazon that they made a mistake and get them to reinstate the review.

Arguably, the best way to get reviews is to (a) write the book as well as you can, and polish it as well as you can (b) learn how to market your book effectively. The more sales you earn through marketing, the more likely customers will leave the variety of genuine reviews typical of Amazon customers, and those are probably the best reviews that you can get. You might only get about 1 review per 100 sales, on average.

(Friend, family, and recruited reviews invite their share of problems, aside from potentially being blocked and removed by Amazon. For one, if you have a lot of reviews, but the sales rank and publication date don’t suggest many sales, this may look suspicious to wise shoppers. For another, reviews that just praise the book without offering explanations or examples tend not to carry much weight. Yet another reason is that it may seem suspicious if there doesn’t seem to be any balance to the customer reviews.)

WHY DOES AMAZON REMOVE FIVE-STAR REVIEWS

Friend and family reviews (and worse kinds of reviews) plagued Amazon several years ago. Things got so out of hand that there were prominent articles featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. This prompted Amazon to take action. It’s estimated that millions of reviews were removed, and many more have since been blocked.

It’s much better now, from the customer’s perspective, than it had been just before Amazon began blocking and removing suspected customer reviews.

Yes, there are a few casualties, i.e. reviews that shouldn’t be removed. In order to market their books effectively, indie authors must interact with customers online and offline, and those online interactions occasionally confuse Amazon into removing a review that they really shouldn’t have removed.

Another perspective comes from sales, both short-term and long-term sales.

Amazon doesn’t want recruited reviews to FOOL customers into buying BAD books, as that would cripple long-term sales.

Authors seem to think that they need more GOOD reviews to sell more books in the short-term, but this may not actually be the case. Amazon has the real DATA. Maybe, in general, Amazon not only sells more books in the long-term, but even sells more books in the short-term with their current block-and-remove suspected favorable reviews policy. We can speculate. Amazon has the actual data. And Amazon is highly effective at selling books. Amazon is highly effective at selling indie books, too.

But again, it doesn’t help to get upset about it or complain about it. Find something proactive that you can do instead.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (now available)

Amazon Improves the Integrity of the Customer Review System

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

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.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/nov/05/amazon-removes-book-reviews

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.

Examples of reviews that Amazon doesn’t allow.

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.

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Tech/article1621058.ece

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. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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Changes to Amazon Customer Reviews

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEW CHANGES

Amazon is implementing changes to the customer review system in the US.

News of this change was recently announced in this c/net article.

The new customer review system uses a machine learning platform.

What does a machine learning customer review platform mean?

  • The system will gauge which customer reviews are most helpful.
  • The customer review system will be dynamic.
  • The average star rating will be weighted by helpfulness.
  • Verified reviews will have an edge toward helpfulness.
  • Newer reviews will also count more toward helpfulness.
  • Customer voting still impacts helpfulness.

So, exactly, how is this different?

  • Average star rating may change, since it will be weighted by helpfulness. The most helpful reviews will carry more influence.
  • Customer voting isn’t the only factor that affects helpfulness. Newer reviews and Verified reviews will carry more weight. There are probably other factors entailed in the “machine-learning.”
  • Reviews deemed most helpful will have greater visibility on Amazon.
  • The placement of reviews and average star ratings may change more frequently with the new system.

It will probably take time for the new Amazon customer review system to fully roll out and for the machine-learning to make an impact.

Amazon hopes to make the customer review system more useful through these changes.

The emphasis on newer reviews is to keep the information up-to-date. For example, if a product is improved to reflect criticism, newer reviews may reflect those changes, and thus should be more visible.

The emphasis on Verified reviews is in-line with Amazon’s recent lawsuit against alleged fake review websites. Amazon is striving to sustain customer trust in the review system.

KINDLE REVIEWS ARE SPECIAL

Machine-learning may have far-reaching consequences with regard to Kindle book reviews.

That’s because Amazon has more data to analyze:

  • How many pages did the customer read?
  • How much time did the customer spend reading the book?
  • How does the customer’s behavior with this book compare to the customer’s behavior with other books?
  • How many customers return this book?

Changes to customer reviews and to sales rank may both be related to recent changes announced for Kindle Unlimited.

Kindle Unlimited will now pay royalties based on how many pages customers read, effective July 1, 2015.

Royalty reports for Kindle Unlimited will show the number of pages read instead of the number of borrows.

Kindle sales rank may soon be impacted by the number of pages that customers read.

Similarly, machine-learning may look at the number of pages read and related data to help judge which reviews are more helpful.

If so, this would affect all Kindle e-books (not just those in Kindle Unlimited).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

One-Word Reviews at Amazon Now?

Reviews 1 Word

I saw a one-word review at Amazon today. So I’m guessing the 20-word minimum has been removed.

You might recall a couple of months ago that Amazon was testing out both ratings and reviews on print books. Those ratings disappeared after a few weeks, so perhaps the compromise was to remove the minimum word count.

The review forms have changed (but there is a tiny ‘here’ link below them that you can click if you prefer the old way).

My guess is that Amazon is trying to encourage more genuine customers to leave reviews. So now there is no ‘imposing’ 20-word minimum.

(In reality, what had been preventing a customer from writing the same word 20 times consecutively?)

We’re short on time now, so give me a one-word summary of the last book you read. 😉

Amazon’s Top Customer Reviewers

Stars

Amazon’s Top Customer Reviewers

Amazon ranks customer reviewers:

  • Click here to see the top 10,000 customer reviewers ranked in order.
  • Click here to see the Hall of Fame reviewers and their accomplishments.

The numbers are impressive. On the first page of the top reviewer rankings, I see:

  • Most have written 1000 to 2000 product reviews.
  • 10,000 to 60,000 helpful votes on their reviews.
  • 94% to 97% of the votes deemed their reviews helpful.

Amazon takes steps to help ensure fair play. For example, suppose you write 100 reviews and get your friends to vote Yes on all 100 reviews. Your friends’ votes won’t count toward your top reviewer rank. If someone votes Yes on most of your reviews, they are considered to be a Fan Voter and their votes don’t affect your reviewer rank.

Amazon Customer Review Badges

Top reviewers earn badges, which are displayed on Amazon.

Here is a list of badges that can be earned:

  • Top 1000 Reviewer. If you crack the top 1000 in review rankings, you receive a badge for it (for as long as you remain in the top 1000).
  • Top 500 Reviewer. This gives you an incentive to write more reviews once you crack the top 1000.
  • Top 50 Reviewer. It’s a large jump from 500 to 50, but puts you in elite company.
  • Top 10 Reviewer. Out of millions of reviewers, imagine being ranked in the top ten.
  • #1 Reviewer. At this moment in time, you are the very best.
  • Vine Voice. Amazon invites selected reviewers into a special program to review not-yet-released products.

Looking for Reviewers?

Many of the top reviewers allow themselves to be contacted by clicking on their Amazon handles. Click on a top reviewer’s name at Amazon and you may find an email address at the left side of their profile page. Many top reviewers make their email addresses publicly visible this way.

Why? Because they love to read books and write reviews. Books cost money. Publishers and authors want to get their new releases reviewed. So it’s a match made in Heaven. The publisher or author contacts prospective reviewers, politely asking if the reviewer is interested in receiving a free advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Here are some notes:

  • Browse through the reviewer’s product reviews at Amazon to see which kinds of books that reviewer likes to read. They are likely to turn you down if your book isn’t a good fit. You’re also more likely to get a critical review from someone who isn’t familiar with your subgenre, so it’s in your best interest to find reviewers who read books in your subgenre.
  • Top reviewers receive tons of requests from authors. If your book is a good fit and the nature of your request stands out in a good way, this may give you an edge. The higher their reviewer rank, the more requests they are likely to receive.
  • Be very polite. Be concise, yet provide all the pertinent info in your request. The last thing you want to do is offend someone who might actually read and review your book.
  • Don’t pester the reviewer with repeated requests, updates, etc. Make one polite request, send the free copy, and let it be. If they never review your book, let it go. (If that’s the case, you probably don’t want the review after all.)
  • What’s the best way to thank the reviewer? Vote Yes that the review is helpful. Ask your fans to vote on the review. (Some reviewers actually remove reviews if there aren’t enough helpful votes, and especially if the review draws unhelpful votes. Every vote of Yes is an incentive for the review to stay.)
  • The review may be critical. Expect an honest review. The reviewer just might not like your book. That’s the chance you take.
  • Read the critical reviews that the reviewer has left before making your request. See if any of that criticism may apply to your book.
  • If you’re a self-published author, see if the reviewer has ever reviewed other indie books, and, if so, if any are favorable.
  • When you give a free copy in exchange for an honest review, the review will not say Amazon Verified Purchase. Many of these may look suspicious.

Review Crazy

Amazon customer reviews are helpful in the sense that a large assortment of customer opinions can help shoppers decide which products may be right for them.

Unfortunately, people have abused the review system with both five-star and one-star reviews. Fortunately, Amazon has made great strides in preventing and removing suspicious five-star reviews, such as from close friends and family. However, many customers rightfully approach reviews with suspicion. Even one-star reviews, customers may suspect they were left by someone with an agenda.

An interesting phenomenon with reviews is that very often multiple reviews of the same product contradict one another.

Still, as shoppers, we do like to see an assortment of opinions, we like to decide which reviews to ignore and which to trust, and many of us have learned to check out the Look Inside before making the purchase.

Some authors have gone review crazy. If a book isn’t selling, the first thought seems to be that the book needs reviews. The reality is that if it isn’t selling, it’s probably something else:

  • The cover doesn’t depict the right subgenre or doesn’t appeal to the target audience.
  • The blurb isn’t engaging the reader’s interest and arousing the reader’s curiosity.
  • The Look Inside doesn’t look professional or doesn’t draw the reader in.
  • The book idea just doesn’t appeal to a significant audience.

If one of these reasons apply, recruiting several reviews isn’t likely to impact sales.

In fact, having several reviews on a newly published book that isn’t selling may look suspicious to customers:

  • Published 25 days ago.
  • 12 glowing reviews.
  • Sales rank 1,572,049.
  • Wait a minute: If the book hasn’t sold, how did 12 people review it? Must be friends and family.
  • (Now if the book has been out for a year, that’s different. Maybe it had sold well when it was first released.)

If many of your reviews are from top reviewers, it won’t be too hard for customers to deduce how you went about getting reviews.

Honest customer reviews can indeed be helpful. Just don’t go review crazy.

Thank You, Reviewers

Authors appreciate the time you take to provide honest feedback.

Other customers appreciate the time you take to provide honest feedback.

Whether you’re a top reviewer, or have just started leaving reviews, you are very much appreciated.

Thank You Pic

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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Ratings and Reviews at Amazon, Suddenly?

Ratings 2

New Ratings

I noticed a new ratings number at Amazon today: http://amzn.com/1480250201 .

Look closely at the top of the page, below the author name. Between the gold stars and the 34 reviews tally, you see the number 56 (well, I suppose it’s subject to change before you read this post).

When I place my cursor over the 56, I see a gray rectangle near my cursor that says, “56 customer ratings.”

When I place my cursor over the 34 reviews link, it pulls up a chart showing all 56 customer ratings, averaging out to 4.3 stars.

Scroll down to the review section and the chart is different. That chart shows 34 reviews, averaging out to 4.4 stars.

I only see the non-review ratings on my paperback books. I don’t see any non-review ratings on my Kindle e-books at this time.

(By the way, if you click on the Kindle edition, you can see that the cover is changing. Melissa Stevens, http://theillustratedauthor.net, designed the new cover.)

Author Central is still only showing the reviews.

In case you’re wondering, I have a book that has one rating, but no reviews: http://amzn.com/1467970727.

If you have print books for sale on Amazon, I know what you’ll be doing for the next few minutes. 😉

Now we can speculate. Is this here to stay? Is Amazon just testing it out? Will it be coming for Kindle e-books, too? Time will tell.

You may be wondering how customers gave those ratings. Keep in mind, these weren’t from the end of a Kindle e-book, as the ratings are only showing on paperbacks presently. I had to go to my account at Amazon and explore to figure out how to rate books without reviewing them. I won’t be rating any books though; I much prefer giving reviews.

Has it occurred to you that ratings are anonymous? I’m not ready to think about the ramifications of that…

~ Chris McMullen ~

Amazon Customer Reviews—Simple Survey

Reviews 3

I’m curious how you, as a reader, feel about customer reviews at Amazon. I made this simple survey hoping to find out.

Please answer how you feel as a reader (not as an author).

This survey is just for informational purposes only.

Here is your chance to review the review system. 🙂

Pros:

  • You can learn about experiences that other customers have had with the product.
  • The number of reviews give some indication of how much a product has been purchased.
  • Feedback often includes a variety of opinions to consider.
  • You get to express your opinion about products where thousands of other shoppers can read it.
  • Critical reviews can help to prevent the sale of products that really aren’t fit for sale (though returns and complaints could achieve the same outcome).
  • Honest customer feedback has the opportunity to determine the success of a product.

Cons:

  • Opinions are often contradictory, making it a challenge to judge what to believe.
  • The system can be abused, both with favorable and critical reviews (though Amazon has made it much more difficult to do this compared to a couple of years ago).
  • There are sometimes spiteful remarks in the review section. This is one feature that seems to contradict Amazon’s focus on creating a positive shopping experience.
  • Customers aren’t required to either buy or use a product in order to review it.
  • Reviews can be posted anonymously. This is a pro in terms of internet security, but leaves room for occasional reviews that abuse the spirit of the review system.
  • Some external advertising services require a minimum number of reviews and average star rating, providing an incentive to recruit favorable reviews rather than encouraging reviews to come about naturally.

Overall:

  • Do you feel it’s beneficial, as a reader, to have customer reviews on the product page? That is, do the pros outweigh the cons?
  • Do you like the comments, the ratings, or both?
  • Do you feel that you could improve the customer review system? If so, how?

Vote:

Publishing Resources

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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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