Amazon Account Reinstatement and Suspension Prevention

7 Ways Product Review Manipulation Brings Amazon Sellers Down

7 Ways Product Review Manipulation Brings Amazon Sellers Down


 

Despite many warnings and policy changes by Amazon regarding product review programs, there seems to be a lot of confusion among sellers about what they are and aren’t allowed to do to get more product reviews.

To recap, we are not allowed to use any product review service except Amazon Vine.  This has caused sellers to turn towards sales driving products like Snagshout and others – which Amazon likes.  They like sales just fine.

However, we’ve seen sellers try to skirt Amazon’s review manipulation rules through follow up emails.  Lately several sellers have been taken down by Amazon for using sales generators in conjunction with improper emails.  This last part is key because sellers are getting suspended not only for review manipulation but ALSO for manipulation of the buyer/seller system.  This is important because it is a new capability of Amazon’s mighty algorithm and because if you don’t address this violation in your appeal you won’t get back.  Like so many things that have been against policy for a long time, Amazon did not have an automated way to enforce the rules.  Very few people ever got suspended for buyer/seller platform abuse.  We believe this is about to change.  Amazon is now looking.

What exactly is abuse of the buyer/seller message system?

This includes things like sending sales messages or communications with other sellers through the platform.  It includes spamming buyers with multiple emails.  It includes trying to sell or upsell a buyer through email.  It includes marketing messages and – most relevant for today’s blog – improperly asking for positive reviews, discouraging negative reviews or some combination of the two.  The latest suspensions we’ve seen for review manipulation ALL had inappropriate language in the emails the seller was sending out.  In some cases, this email copy had been given to the seller by their vendor. Anyone who uses one of the sales generating tools AND who has used email copy from them, needs to examine it very carefully.  Really, everyone should examine their buyer emails in light of these new developments.

Here’s what sellers need to know:

  • Don’t ask for a review if the product was purchased at a discount or with a coupon.
  • Don’t ask buyers for a positive review.
  • Don’t tell buyers what to write, give them examples or hound them to leave a review.
  • Don’t ask buyers who leave you positive seller reviews for a product review. (That’s called selecting your reviewer)
  • Don’t keep sending sellers emails when they’ve asked to be removed.
  • Don’t ask friends or family to leave you reviews (it is still happening!).
  • Don’t pay for bloggers or other off-platform reviewers (Amazon will suspend you).

 

In short, you can only ask buyers for a product review ONCE and you must be very careful how you ask.  If you are using a sales generating program/campaign, then you need to exclude all those sales from your email campaigns.

Feedback Genius has an advanced setting you can click to automatically exclude products bought at a discount from getting an email.  Be sure that setting is on.  In addition, you can add buyers who complain about spam or too many emails to a “black list” so they aren’t emailed again.   If you have a difficult buyer situation, be sure to remove them from future emails.  Simple acts like this can help reduce negative feedback and are compliant with Amazon policy.

Some of the violations we’ve seen these past few weeks have been outrageous.  Some sellers gave buyers a review script to follow!  Another client gave buyers one link for a positive review (to leave a review) and another if they weren’t happy (back to customer service).  This may seem like a smart strategy, but in fact they were discouraging negative reviews and encouraging positives.  It is no longer allowed.

So how can you safely ask for product reviews?

Assuming your email is being sent to a buyer who paid full price for your product, here are some ideas to comply with Amazon requirements.  I suggest putting the “Handling Problems” links in the email you send to the buyer the day the product is due to be delivered.  To be on the safe side, your feedback email should ONLY ask for feedback:

Handling Problems

  • If you have any questions about our product or if your experience with us was less than perfect in any way, please contact us immediately at [insert link] so we can make it right for you!
  • We hope you love your new [insert product name]! If you have any questions or if your experience was less than perfect in any way, please let us know so we can make it right [insert link].
  • Sometimes when a product is delivered by mail it gets damaged in shipping. Or maybe it’s not quite what you wanted. It may not fit right. You may have changed your mind. We understand and we are here to help!  Click [here] for easy returns with Amazon or click [here] if you have a question.  We want to make it right for you.

Asking for Feedback

  • Please take a moment and share your experience with others! [insert link]

We use customer feedback like yours to continuously improve our products.  Other customers on Amazon rely on reviews to make informed decisions.  Thanks for helping to make Amazon a better place to shop!

  • It has been a few days since your [insert product name] was delivered and we hope you are enjoying our product.  As a small business, feedback from our customers means the world to us.  We rely on people like you to let us know what we are doing right and where we could improve.  Would you mind sharing your experience with others? [insert link] Thank you!

 

These are just a few ideas, we would love to see what other sellers are using to drive product reviews without violating policy!

The bottom line?  If you send emails to your buyers, today would be a good day to check them for compliance. The rules have changed and you don’t want to be suspended for something that used to be OK but isn’t now.

 

Where is the eGrowth team now?

We love meeting with our clients and readers when we travel!  Like last year we will be hosting get-togethers when we are in town and hope that you can join us.  Here’s a few of our upcoming conferences and trade shows where we will be speaking/attending:

ORLANDO – The Un-Conference (it has no name so…) by Kelly Loach and Elisabeth Thompson Feb 23-26.  Please join Cynthia for brunch at Hash-A-G0-Go on the 26th if you are in town!

NASHVILLECatalyst March 6-8. Cynthia will be attending. Come say hi during one of the event happy hours!

PHILADELPHIA (CANCELLED) – The Seller’s Conference (formerly SCOE) March 7-10. Lesley Hensell will be speaking again.  Dinner will be at the Panorama Wine Bar again. Last year’s was THE BOMB and Lesley hopes to see many of you there!

LAS VEGAS – ASD and PROSPER March 18-24. Cynthia, Peter and Lesley are hosting a special meet and greet for our clients, colleagues and friends on Monday the 20th at the W Resort bar:  The Living Room from 5:00-7:00 PM.  For those of you going to other parties, join us for your first drink of the night!

FORT LAUDERDALEMay 18-20. Steve Chou’s private label conference Seller’s Summit.  Stay tuned for dinner plans while Cynthia is in town.

LONDONSept 6-7. Year two for our UK Seller’s Conference! We will be hosting a get-together the night before the event starts at a local pub or restaurant.

Cynthia Stine is the founder and partner of eGrowth Partners, the industry’s leading firm dedicated to helping Amazon sellers resolve problems with Amazon and grow on the platform.  She can be reached at:  http://egrowthpartners.com or hello@egrowthpartners.com or 972-432-6398.


37 Comments
  • Maxim
    Posted at 08:38h, 14 February Reply

    What if customer left product review as a seller feedback. Can i ask him to copy and paste his feedback into product review? Is it against amazon TOS?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 16:36h, 15 February Reply

      It would be risky. I’m assuming you are asking him to post a POSITIVE review, right? I’d leave it alone.

      • Maxim
        Posted at 22:54h, 15 February Reply

        He has already left a positive product review but in a wrong place. Is that not fair ask him to move his opinion to the right place (product review instead of seller feedback) ? This is not asking him to left a positive review but asking him to move his opinion to the right place

        • Cynthia Stine
          Posted at 23:07h, 15 February Reply

          Logic would say it is OK but Amazon could also see it as selecting your reviewer based on their past behavior (i.e. super reviewers, reviewers who usually leave positive reviews, reviewers who gave you a great seller review…). We’ve seen people get in trouble soliciting buyers who left positive seller reviews to write product reviews. They aren’t big on nuance. I don’t see them saying “oh wait, this guy left a product review as a seller review already.” That’s why I say it is risky to do that.

  • Bryan
    Posted at 04:55h, 15 February Reply

    Good article on being conservative. On this theme, I wonder how Amazon views Lightning Deals in terms of whether or not a review solicitation is allowed? Either way, I’m not sure that an autoresponder like Feedback Genius could filter out such orders…?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 16:35h, 15 February Reply

      You can set Feedback Genius to NOT send emails for a specific ASIN (like the few days after your lightning deals) and you can filter it not to send emails because the product was discounted.

      Amazon will send an email to your buyer later asking for a review. That will have to be good enough in the case of a discounted product.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

    • Maxim
      Posted at 22:48h, 15 February Reply

      He has already left a positive product review but in a wrong place. Is that not fair ask him to move his opinion to the right place (product review instead of seller feedback) ? This is not asking him to left a positive review but asking him to move his opinion to the right place

  • Bob
    Posted at 17:00h, 15 February Reply

    “you can only ask buyers for a product review ONCE” Can you share a link to an Amazon resource page that explicitly states this?

    Also regarding not leaving a review for discounted products if possible. I’m genuinely interested!

    Thanks!

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 00:40h, 16 February Reply

      Bob,

      Amazon states that we are not allowed to send “excessive” emails through the buyer-seller system and they are purposefully not specific. However, in practice they are shutting down sellers for sending multiple emails to buyers soliciting reviews.

      Here’s some of what Amazon says about reviews:

      Misuse of ratings, feedback, or reviews:

      Any attempt to manipulate ratings, feedback, or reviews is prohibited.

      Ratings and feedback: The rating and feedback features allow buyers to evaluate the overall performance of a seller, helping sellers to develop a reputation within the Amazon Marketplace. You may not post abusive or inappropriate feedback or include personal information about a transaction partner. This also includes posting ratings or feedback to your own account. You may request feedback from a buyer, however you may not pay or offer any incentive to a buyer for either providing or removing feedback.
      Reviews: Reviews are important to the Amazon Marketplace, providing a forum for feedback about product and service details and reviewers’ experiences with products and services—positive or negative. You may not write reviews for products or services that you have a financial interest in, including reviews for products or services that you or your competitors sell. Additionally, you may not provide compensation (including free or discounted products) for a review. Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited. You may not ask buyers to modify or remove reviews.

      Here’s what they say about emails:

      Request feedback

      You may request feedback from a buyer. However, you may not offer pay nor any incentive to a buyer for either providing or removing feedback. See Prohibited Seller Activities and Actions for more information.

      You can solicit feedback in the following ways:

      Using the Contact Buyer link in Manage Orders. Select “Feedback Request” for the subject.
      Messaging on your packing slip. For example:
      Thank you for purchasing our products on Amazon. We strive to offer you the best value and service possible. Please take a moment to rate us as a seller on the Amazon website.

      There’s more if you are willing to read through pages of Seller Central help. Hope this helps!

      Cynthia

  • Kevin
    Posted at 02:42h, 16 February Reply

    Hi, you mention towards the bottom, how to safely ask for product reviews. Below that is a bullet point that says ‘Asking for Feedback’. Is that where you suggest asking for product reviews, and if so, is that a separate email from the Handling Problems email sent on the day of delivery? And is that only to people who have responded to your initial Handling Problems email? Sorry about the confusion. Thanks.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 20:09h, 21 February Reply

      I recommend 2 emails and to separate “asking for product reviews” from “handling problems.” Handling problems is something you can do with every email EXCEPT the one asking for a review.

  • Freddy
    Posted at 23:03h, 16 February Reply

    What do you think about the following email:

    Hello [[first-name]],

    My name is XXX and I am one of the owners of XXX. I wanted to personally thank you for being a wonderful customer!

    Our records indicated your XXX should have arrived a couple days ago. I wanted to check in, make sure you received it, and that there were no problems.

    If you have had problems with your order, we will reship or refund you order. You can CONTACT US by clicking here <– Contact link

    We also greatly appreciate feedback. We are a small business and cannot survive without it. All feedback is both read and appreciated by our team.

    Leave product feedback <– Review Link

    We are always here for you! If you have any questions or need anything at all you can reply to this email.

    Take Care,
    XXX

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 20:08h, 21 February Reply

      I would separate your emails and not ask for a review in the same email where you direct them to get help if they are unhappy.

  • Nick
    Posted at 02:58h, 18 February Reply

    Of course I read this article *right* after I’ve switched my key follow-up e-mail to one with two distinct parts: the first paragraph directs customers who have any issues or problems to contact us through a link that takes them to the page where they can contact us directly through Amazon (which is exactly what we say it takes them to).

    The second paragraph asks recipients to leave a review at a link we provide to review form. I contacted Seller Support and sent them an exact copy of the e-mail, and of course they said it’s totally above board, but I’m sending it to a contact I have at Amazon corporate to see if he can forward it on the people who actually determine compliance/sniff out manipulation to have them check it out an ensure I’m not going to wake up to a suspended account.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 20:08h, 21 February Reply

      Your approach is risky. I recommend separating your emails so you have customer service emails first (let us fix it for you) and then a stand-alone, neutral email asking for a product review. The strategy you describe above has already brought down other sellers because it was perceived to be gaming the system towards a positive review. By separating your emails out, you have several chances for unhappy buyers to get help. By the time you send out the product review request, everyone with problems should be taken care of and you are more likely to get a positive response. Is this still gaming the system? No. That is fair. Amazon WANTS us to take care of the buyer.

      Also, some programs allow you to give the buyer a link to where the review is already set for 5-stars. THey can change it, of course, but many don’t. This is no longer allowed. Be sure to remove any links like this from your letters.

    • Freddy
      Posted at 22:22h, 21 March Reply

      Thanks for your response!

      I am going to edit it to this:

      Hello, NAME

      My name is XXX and I am one of the owners of XXX. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for being our customer!

      If you have a couple free seconds could you please do me the favor of providing feedback regarding your order . All feedback is both read and appreciated by our team!

      [[review link:]]

      We are always here for you! If you have any questions you can reply to this email.

      Take Care,
      -XXX

  • domenick
    Posted at 07:11h, 18 February Reply

    Cynthia, in your opinion is it OK to still use sites like Snagshout?

    • domenick
      Posted at 07:19h, 18 February Reply

      i guess what i mean is this, what if you get unlucky and a large percentage of buyers from snagshout leave a review? would i risk suspension in that case?

      • Cynthia Stine
        Posted at 20:02h, 21 February Reply

        As long as you do not ask them for a review IN ANY WAY, you should be OK. It can’t be implied either so check the language that Snagshout or any vendor uses to talk to people buying deals. Make sure there is no quid pro quo. You are offering products at a discount so be sure NOT to send them a follow up email asking for a review, either. Seller Labs’ Feedback Genius allows you to send ASIN-specific emails and to not include products purchased at discount. So you may want to send follow up emails that are of a customer service nature for ASINs that are being offered for a discount, but not those asking for reviews. Basically, if the reviews on your products are organic and not overly positive, Amazon will be pleased. What triggers the robots are a lot of reviews – above normal rates for organic reviews – that are all 5 star and very positive. Even happy buyers leave 4s sometimes and they rarely rave.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 20:03h, 21 February Reply

      Yes as long as the focus is on SALES CONVERSIONS and not product reviews. Amazon loves sales.

  • Dylan
    Posted at 22:19h, 24 February Reply

    hi Cynthia,

    What if someone left a product related Merchant Feedback and then we simply ask them to copy and paste it as a product review. Is that considered manipulation?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:48h, 05 June Reply

      Yes. That is against TOS. Sorry.

  • Karen
    Posted at 05:14h, 02 March Reply

    Cynthia,

    In this article you use the terms “feedback” and “reviews” interchangeably, but what if we are soliciting seller feedback instead of a product review? Do you still recommend sending that request in a separate email, or can a request for seller feedback go in the same email with the “handling problems” stuff?

    I want to be sure I get this right!

    • Troy Smith
      Posted at 00:54h, 31 May Reply

      Yes, excellent question. I am wondering the same thing.

      Is using a “yes” / “no” link no longer allowed when asking for Seller Feedback? The “yes” link leads to a perfiles 5 star Seller Review. The “no” link leads to an email.

      Thanks.

      • Cynthia Stine
        Posted at 21:00h, 05 June Reply

        Hi Troy and Karen,

        You are correct. The yes/no link is no longer allowed. I recommend that the review “ask” be in a separate email by itself with no mention of being unhappy or happy. It should be very neutral like “please share your experience with others!”

  • Charles
    Posted at 23:41h, 08 March Reply

    Would you say this is still fine? We don’t specifically talk about negative or positive reviews.

    If our product matched your needs and you are satisfied with our customer service leaving us a review would very helpful to our small company.

    [[product-review-link:I am satisfied]]

    If you are unsatisfied, before leaving us a review don’t hesitate to tell us what the issue is, we will do our absolute best to solve it.

    [[contact-link:I am not satisfied]]

    If I modified the “I am satisfied/not satisfied” to “Leave a review” “Contact us”, would it be okay then.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:42h, 05 June Reply

      Charles,

      I would not use if/then statements in your emails at all. In the review “ask” have it be by itself in an email. What you want to do with your previous email is take care of the dissatisfied buyers and place them in your black list so they don’t get future emails from you (less likely to leave a negative review that way).

      Good luck,
      Cynthia

  • Nadia
    Posted at 13:46h, 17 March Reply

    Dear CYNTHIA

    We can’t pass the registration.
    Amazon suspended us because:

    “You did not provide a government-issued national identity card.
    We were unable to verify the identity document you provided because it was not a national identity card. We do not accept other types of identity documents, such as passports or driver’s licenses. ” (c)

    We don’t have ID card. We have sent Passport, The Companies Act, but we don’t have any other ID card, unfortunately.

    Could you, please, tell us what to do.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:36h, 05 June Reply

      Nadia,

      I’m sorry. Verification cases are the most frustrating. We are no longer taking on failed verification cases because we are unable to get our clients a second chance. They want a national identity card. You could get one, perhaps?

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Marina
    Posted at 05:38h, 24 March Reply

    I have already send a few mails to my customers which include words like “Positive Review” before I read this article and get to know the policy. What should I do? Do I just need to wait or admit my mistakes to Amazon support team? Please, guys, I need help

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:31h, 05 June Reply

      Just fix your emails and wait and see if they come after you. If they see that you’ve stopped the behavior they may leave you alone. At the very least you can tell them “I stopped as soon as I realized I was doing wrong.” There is nothing else proactive that you can do.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Ed
    Posted at 11:15h, 30 March Reply

    We send email 1 after purchase with an informational e-book for the product purchased.

    We send email 2 17 days after delivery asking for an honest review.

    We also offer a free product (related to the product purchased).

    We state “there is no catch or obligation on your part, this is just a thank you form us”….

    Do you think we should abandon this practice or at least reinforce the wording to explicitly state, this is available whether you leave a review or not?

    It works incredibly well but I am not sure how close to the wind we are sailing.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:20h, 05 June Reply

      You are in violation of Amazon’s terms of service by giving away a free product as a “gift.” It will be seen as an inducement to a positive review. Sorry.

  • Guy Shaham
    Posted at 06:57h, 17 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia,
    Thank you for the very informative post.

    What would you say to a Product Insert like the following:
    https://yj4dfcucm3mswcd2nbkkg14m-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Product-insert.png

    This asks the buyer if they are happy and if yes to leave a review and if not to contact the seller through Amazon. your thoughts?

    Thank you,
    Guy

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:30h, 05 June Reply

      Guy,

      This is against terms of service. I would suggest that instead of asking for a review on Amazon, you ask for feedback in general and then include symbols for twitter, facebook, instagram, amazon, etc. Also, make the ask neutral like “we love to hear from our customers! Please share your experience with others!” Asking for feedback rather than a review is safer.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Dan
    Posted at 08:28h, 17 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia,

    Would you be willing to give a quick critique on my follow up email, I want people to upvote/downvote whatever review they want (not just positive nor negative and sending this to all shoppers)

    ========
    Hello,

    My name is Jack and I’m one of the owners of BRAND NAME and I want to thank you for your recent [[product-link:order]] of BRAND NAME [[product-name]]

    Please take 7 seconds to rate your experience as I will personally see it…

    You may write a product review

    AND/OR

    Vote “Yes” or “No” to existing reviews you found helpful by following these 3 quick steps:

    1) FIRST:
    Go to the [[product-link:Amazon product page by clicking HERE]]

    2) THEN:
    Scroll down to the reviews section

    3) FINALLY:
    Vote “Yes” or “No” to any review you found helpful
    (Under each review you will see the question “Was this review helpful to you?” as well as “Yes” “No” buttons)

    Once again you can do this by going to the [[product-link:Amazon product page by clicking HERE]]

    Thank You,

    Jack
    Owner
    BRAND NAME

    PS: Your feedback is very important to me so please tell me about your experience by writing a product review AND/OR Voting “Yes” or “No” to existing reviews you found helpful by following these 3 quick steps:
    FIRST ==> Go to the [[product-link:Amazon product page by clicking HERE]]
    THEN ==> Scroll down to the reviews section
    FINALLY ==> Vote “Yes” or “No” to any review you found helpful (Under each review you will see the question “Was this review helpful to you?” as well as “Yes” “No” buttons)
    Once again you can do this by going to the [[product-link:Amazon product page by clicking HERE]]

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:06h, 05 June Reply

      Dan,

      This approach is against Amazon terms of service. You can’t ask buyers to leave you a positive review and you can’t ask them to up/down vote reviews either. That’s manipulation of the platform. If you would like our help editing your letters for compliance we can quote you a price based on the number of letters you have. Our minimum fee is $500.

      If you are one of our Get Clean Stay Clean clients at the $500 a month level or higher, we will review your letters as part of the service.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

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