Fake reviews. They’re one of the biggest problems on Amazon. They hurt buyers who are looking for legitimate feedback on products, and they hurt honest sellers who are targeted by disreputable competitors.
Although Amazon claims that 99% of its reviews are legit, a Washington Post investigation found that in some popular product categories, over half of all reviews appear suspicious.
How the Scam Works
Shady sellers and their partners use two tactics:
+ Post lots of fake 5-star reviews for their own products
+ Post lots of fake 1-star reviews for competitors’ products
Why do they do this? To artificially inflate the ranking of their products. Cracking the top ten results for an Amazon search can mean thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in sales PER DAY.
Yes, Amazon will ban your account if they catch you doing this. But the truly crazy thing is, many of these dishonest sellers factor that into their business model.
It’s ridiculously easy to create an unlimited number of seller accounts. And since it takes Amazon an average of six months to ban these sellers, each account can easily last long enough to make a sizable profit.
It’s not too hard to find one of these fake review networks. Find some questionable reviews, do a little digging, and you’ll often find your way to a parent company that owns dozens of other seller accounts, all selling the same exact product, all brimming with fake reviews.
Even if Amazon shuts down ten of their accounts, there’s at least 10 left. And they can always make more.
How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon
The easiest way to find fake reviews is to use ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes reviews and checks for suspicious patterns. Just plug in the URL for any Amazon product, and in a few seconds you’ll receive an updated product rating based on legit reviews.
When I looked up one of the top results for “bluetooth speaker,” it showed that nearly 900 of the reviews were suspicious.
These are some of the red flags ReviewMeta checks for:
All the Reviews Sound Similar
Some sellers will simply copy and paste the same review over and over. Sellers that are a little more savvy will hire people off Fiverr, Craigslist or similar sites to post reviews for them. But they’re still typically asked to use a particular type of language. So if all the reviews for a product say some variation of “Love this product, I’m definitely buying more,” they’re likely fake.
All the Reviews Are Vague
It’s a lot easier to copy and paste a non-specific review across multiple product categories than to actually mention the product or any of its features in each review. Real reviews contain language that applies to that specific product. If it’s vague and non-descriptive, it’s probably fake.
Many Reviews Are Posted in a Short Time Frame
Hardly anyone actually takes the time to post a review. Make 100 sales and you’re lucky if you get 5 reviews. So when you see products that are racking up dozens of reviews a week with only a few orders per day, you know something’s fishy.
Shady Reviewer Profiles
Click on a reviewer’s name to see all the reviews they’ve written on Amazon. If they’re suddenly posting tons of reviews over the course of a couple of days, that’s a red flag. You can also check some of their reviews to see if they’re using variations of the same vague language (copy, paste, copy, paste, copy, paste).
What is Amazon Doing to Stop This?
Fun fact: Amazon found that the more reviews a product has, the more the product sells – whether the reviews are fake or not! It doesn’t matter. More reviews = more sales.
Since Amazon gets a cut of each sale, they’re all about getting as many reviews as possible. So deleting the massive backlog of fake reviews on the platform is definitely not high on their list of priorities.
Amazon only focuses on deleting reviews when it starts affecting the buyer’s experience. They do not care about the seller’s experience.
Comb through the Seller Forums and you’ll find story after story of sellers who saw their business tank due to review manipulation. They report it to Amazon via Seller Support, but are often met with canned responses and zero results.
Amazon’s product rating system is broken, and unless they make major changes, it will only get worse.
What Can You Do?
You can try contacting Seller Performance. But they’re understaffed, sometimes poorly trained and often powerless.
Some people think you can email email@example.com to get a quick solution from the Amazon god himself. That’s not the case. Your email just goes back into the queue with all the other Seller Support emails.
The only real solution is to expand to channels outside of Amazon, like Shopify or BigCommerce. You can still take advantage of Amazon’s kick ass logistics. But you don’t have to worry about review manipulation or disreputable sellers.
We’ve released an in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to expand your Amazon business to Shopify. It teaches you everything you need to know to quickly get your own store up and running with all of your Amazon products.
And once you get your store set up, it’s simply a matter of marketing it. We help power thousands of stores, so we’ve had an inside look at what works and what doesn’t. The guide features our advice along with that of some of our most successful sellers on how to market your store and start building your own brand.
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About the Author
Gennifer is the Marketing Manager at ByteStand, where she lives and breathes customer service education while sipping coffee in her pajamas.
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