Amazon Reviews: Dos and Don’ts
When was the last time you went to a new restaurant without checking out its Yelp reviews first? Or went to a movie before glancing at its Rotten Tomatoes rating?
Reviews matter. And they especially matter on Amazon, where those magical five-star ratings not only help you stand out in a crowded online marketplace—they also offer “social proof” of quality, when you can’t pick up the item and inspect it in person.
Perhaps more importantly, reviews influence Amazon’s bestseller lists and search rankings. Simply put, the more traction your book gets, whether sales or reviews, the more Amazon’s system will pay attention to it.
There are plenty of websites out there that will claim that there’s a way to “game the system” or even buy reviews. Our response is: Just. Don’t.
That’s why we encourage all of our authors to devote some time and effort to encouraging reader reviews. But you need to do it right. There are plenty of websites out there that will claim that there’s a way to “game the system” or even buy reviews. Our response is: Just. Don’t.
For one thing, that system you’re trying to game is always evolving and changing, and it’s getting more sophisticated at detecting ill-begotten reviews. If you get flagged, it will terminate those reviews from your listing, and even suspend future reviews. Unfortunately, every now and then, that system can get a little overzealous in detecting fraudulent review activity, and real, honest reviews will suddenly disappear.
So what’s an author to do? Read on for some valuable tips.
DO: Follow up with readers to ask for online reviews. Create a feedback loop with book purchasers by asking them to review the book on their preferred platform upon reading. Amazon doesn’t release buyer information, so you have to give readers a reason to give you their email directly. That’s we suggest offering an incentive to buyers (such as a free worksheet, toolkit, self-assessment, or white paper) that requires them to email you a receipt. This will provide you with the means to follow up with a request for a review.
DO: Add a note to all your channels about reviews. Put a friendly request to review your book in your email signature, your email newsletter, your social media bios, and in-person conversations. People often need a number of reminders before acting on a call to action. So don’t hesitate to repeat this messaging just about anywhere you interact with the public and your readers.
Sending too many people to a link that includes the same keywords and date can trigger Amazon to suspend reviews as it starts to look suspicious, even through no fault of your own.
DO: Share a clean link to your Amazon listing. When you find an Amazon listing through its search bar, the URL generated includes your search keywords, as well as information about the date and time of the search. When driving people to your Amazon listing, it’s important to ensure your link does not include any keywords or additional tracking information. Sending too many people to a link that includes the same keywords and date can trigger Amazon to suspend reviews as it starts to look suspicious, even through no fault of your own.
So how do you share a clean link? If you copy the URL for your book listing, you’ll see a 10-digit numerical code, followed by “ref=” and a bunch of gobbledygook. Anything after that 10-digit number should be removed from the link that you share with others.
DON’T: Encourage a large network of contacts to submit reviews all at once. This can also trigger Amazon to suspend reviews. If you have a large list, we recommend dividing your review team into smaller groups— perhaps by last name, location, or birthdate—and asking them to post on alternate days.
DO: Celebrate milestone achievements. When receiving Amazon reviews, share the news of your first 25, 50, and 100 reviews, and any five-star ratings, on your social media and in your email newsletters.
DON’T: Offer any incentives or gifts in exchange for reviews. Amazon explicitly forbids any attempts at incentivizing reviews, or votes on the helpfulness of reviews. This includes compensation of any kind, including:
- Payment (including money, gift cards, or other goods)
- Refund or reimbursement, including through non-Amazon payment methods
- Free product
- Entry to a prize drawing or competition
- Discounts on future purchases
- Other gifts
DO: Support your fellow authors! If you’ve recently enjoyed a book, take a moment to post a review on their Amazon listing!