My Amazon Review DisappearedJanuary 19, 2018
— Amazon removing book reviews has been a significant issue for many authors and reviewers. Our recent video has triggered a huge debate about the root causes of such removals and how to avoid them.
Our recent video on the topic of Amazon book links gave rise to a lot of discussions. If you have not watched it, you can click on the image to do so:
Amazon Reviews Terms of Service and Datamining
Reviews by family and friends, paid reviews, author review swaps—in short, reviews that are biased or posted in exchange for compensation of any kind—are a violation that can lead to reviews and even the entire accounts being removed.
The issue is, Amazon has been ruthless in cracking down on reviews from "people you know." Moreover, a lot of legitimate reviews are getting caught in the crossfire.
So how does Amazon make the connection? - Datamining combined with human intervention. Amazon representative Julie Law said in 2015: "We have built mechanisms, both manual and automated over the years that detect, remove or prevent reviews which violate guidelines."
Data mining and artificial intelligence are the dominating factors. Why? Because Jeff Bezos is not going to hire 15,000 people to monitor reviews for 3.5 million Kindle titles, more than 15 million print books, and the 200 million other products in its arsenal. That is why, last year, Amazon officially rolled out a new machine-learning platform it developed in-house to surface newer and more helpful reviews and surface review manipulation.
What Is Likely To Get Flagged?
The points about the Amazon URL and link structure used to promote an e-book that we discussed in the video represent one but certainly not the only factor in Amazon's fight against illegitimate reviews. So what is likely to get flagged?
- Reviewer account shows obvious connections to the author (e.g. address, last name, phone numbers)
- Too many reviews from the same IP address (i.e. your town, office, etc.)
- The same review posted by same user multiple times for one or many authors
- Highly likely, FB and Twitter connections. Have a look in your social settings in the Amazon account: "Connect your Facebook account to use features across Amazon websites, devices, and applications that require access to your Facebook account. This includes sharing with friends, accessing your Facebook photos, and discovering new products based on your Likes." So if the reviewer is the same author groups as you are and likes similar posts, a connection can be made.
And this shows in practice: Your Facebook friends can now see your Amazon reviews if you want them to.
- The same search time stamp (QID) clicked by many different people who are already linked to you (this is what was discussed in the video)
And there are probably a dozen more factors in Amazon's scoring algorithms.
Two Big Questions: Keywords And Amazon Associate Link
The many comments following the discussion about the use of the Amazon Super URL from a search result or a "stripped-down" version of the book link raised two big questions.
1) if one strips off the additional parameters and words in the book link, how can I rank for my keywords? — This question stems from the belief that by using the link resulting from a search for your book you could trick Amazon algorithms into believing that the book is associated with certain keywords. However, the use of the extra words in the URL are probably not the most effective way to associate your book with certain keywords. In fact, it could even be counter-productive. Instead, you can define up to seven "formal" keywords for your book during KDP upload process and, on top, you should build relevant keywords into your book title, subtitle and book description, of course. The super URL is not a way of making Amazon's system believe that someone has put in the keywords into the search bar, found your book and clicked on it. It is precisely the search's time stamp (QID) mentioned in the video that prevents your link from being the result of a "natural" search by someone else at a later point in time.
2) Should I continue to use my own Amazon Associate affiliate link to promote my books? — It is not against the terms of service to do so. Given the factors mentioned above, you will have to way the benefits vs. the risks. No one is going to take the decision for you. In essence, your affiliate link does establish a direct connection between the link that was posted or clicked and yourself. So that adds to the risks mentioned above. On the other hands, promoting your book via the affiliate link can be an additional source of income. As always, there is no black and white. It is perhaps more important where and how you use the link. To use the link on your author page or blog is probably OK. To use such links in posting your book in many Facebook Groups where there are people connected to you or even in so-called review swap groups is probably very risky. Most authors will always ask people they know for reviews
Most Authors Will Always Ask People They Know For Reviews
As said, the factor we mention in the video is ONE of many factors that increases the risk of the review being pulled. And yes, there is some "non-academic" evidence pointing in that direction; but it will never be enough to make a claim in court. Whatever the case may be, the search result-based URL is a factor that makes it, from a datamining point of view, easier for Amazon to make a connection between the author and the reviewer.
We wholeheartedly object to any statement or allusion that the intent of our video was "fear-mongering." It was meant to have a debate and help authors reduce (not eliminate) the risk of losing reviews. Amazon has not been implementing its review policies in a way where the "accused enjoys the benefit of the doubt." That has been a problem for many authors if one followed the debates in relevant forums.
Most authors will always ask people they know for reviews; it has been a common practice ever since the beginnings of the publishing industry. We are all aware of how critical those initial reviews are for the fledgling author or book launch. I would do anything to increase the odds of protecting my hard-earned reviews. I hope this article provides some clarity.
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