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Requesting reviews, offering rebates and black hat tactics STOPPED

Requesting reviews, offering rebates and black hat tactics STOPPED

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Black hat review and rebate requests 

 

Has Amazon removed any of your listings recently?

 

Amazon has recently removed listings for hundreds of sellers. If you are one of them, you have received an email stating the following:

We believe you may have offered some compensation for customers to write reviews on your products. As a result, we have removed certain listings, which you can find on your Account Health page in Seller Central.

Why did I receive this message?
Offering any sort of compensation for customers to write reviews is against our Customer Reviews policy. This violation has a negative impact on your account health; and, if left unaddressed, it may lead to account deactivation. Sellers are not allowed to manipulate customer reviews or ratings. Amazon policy prohibits activities such as:
— Offering a third-party a financial reward, discount, free products, or other compensation in exchange for a review on their product or their competitor’s product. This includes using services that sell customer reviews, websites, or social media groups.
— Offering to provide a refund or reimbursement after the buyer writes a review, which includes reimbursement via a non-Amazon payment method. This could be done via buyer-seller messaging on Amazon or directly contacting customers or using third-party services, websites, or social media groups.
— Using a third-party service that offers free or discounted products tied to a review. For example, a review club that requires customers to register their Amazon public profile so that sellers can monitor their reviews.

Amazon strives to maintain customer trust and provide the best possible shopping experience. We investigate and take actions when we detect any attempts to manipulate customer reviews. You can learn more about our “Customer product reviews policy” in Seller Central:
https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/YRKB5RU3FS5TURN

How do I address this issue?
Submit a plan of action that explains how you violated our policy and the actions you will take to remedy the situation. To be accepted, the plan of action must include all of the following information:
— A detailed description of all methods you used to post or obtain customer reviews that are prohibited by the Amazon Customer Reviews policy.
— Contact information such as name, email address, and website, of any third parties you engaged to obtain prohibited reviews or manipulate reviews.
— Identifying information for any customer accounts you or a third party used to post prohibited reviews.
— A list of any prohibited reviews you obtained. Please provide inactive and active review IDs or review links of those reviews. Review ID example: RVBTR9XXXXMM. Review link example:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RVBTR9XXXXMM.
— Documentation such as emails or receipts from any such third party confirming that you used their service.
— A detailed plan that explains how you will prevent customer reviews manipulation in the future.

Once you have gathered the information requested above, visit your Account Health page and follow the guidance in the “Next Steps” column next to the policy warning to submit your plan of action:
https://sellercentral.amazon.com/performance/account/health/policy-warnings

What happens if I do not submit a valid plan of action?
If you do not submit a valid POA, your listing will continue to be deactivated and this infraction will continue to impact your Account Health Rating for 180 days following the date on which it was posted to your account.

What happened?

In October 2021, Amazon took started implementing some of their policies seriously. They did two things, at the time. They updated their communication guidelines for all sellers and sent emails to that effect. Then they went on to remove service providers from the website who were offering rebate services.

If you’re not familiar with these practices, they have been used for many years by sellers to manipulate Amazon’s algorithms and to help them get more sales. It stands to reason that, if a product gets more sales and more positive reviews, the algorithm with favour that product and more customers will buy it. With that in mind, sellers have been using different black hat services to:

  • Get more sales and refund buyers
  • Get more positive reviews and refund buyers

If you were a seller in October 2021, you would have received a message from Amazon with the following:

This is a reminder that our updated communication guidelines for buyer-seller messaging will go into effect on November 6, 2020, for all sellers. They include direction on permitted message types, appropriate content, and style requirements. Please note that the templates available through the Contact buyer page in Seller Central, third-party applications, or API simplify the process of sending proactive messages. It automates the inclusion of order ID, language of preference translations, and compliance with critical message guidelines.

We have made the additional updates in response to seller and developer feedback that our communications-related policies can be more comprehensive and we have responded to our customer’s expectation.

You can find the announcement on the Changes to program policies Help page.

Amazon's Communication Guidelines

What does this mean for you?

If you are using a messaging service, such as Helium10‘s Follow-Up tool, they are compliant when it comes to the fonts and other parts of the policy that refer to the layout of emails. You will still need to go to your emails and check if any of your emails don’t comply when it comes to the wording. Click on the link with Amazon’s Communication Guidelines to find the full changes in effect since 6 November 2021.

On the other hand, if you only send emails so that you can request a review, there is an easier way that Amazon prefers. The “Request a Review” button.

Amazon: How to request a review

We don’t require you to request reviews because our systems already do that on your behalf at no cost to you. If you would still like to request a review for a specific order, we recommend that you use the Request a review feature on the Order Details page instead of asking the customer via email or Buyer-Seller Messaging.

When you request a review using this feature, we ask for both a product review and seller feedback for the order in the same email. These requests use standardized language and are automatically translated into the customer’s preferred language.

You can use this feature to request reviews once per order between 5 and 30 days after the order delivery date. This ensures that customers receive relevant, recent review requests.

When you request reviews on the Order Details page in sellercentral, you have to click on the link next to each order individually making it a cumbersome job. There are tools, however, that automate this task and make it faster to complete. Helium10 has created an automated tool with this functionality in mind. Find the tool here: How do I request customer reviews?

Rebate sites and “search, find, buy”

In October 2021, the Amazon Facebook groups blew up with news that Amazon was suspending companies that offered “search, find, buy” and “review services” that were geared towards manipulating the algorithm to favour the products that used them. Various services using Facebook chat features were also banned. This was huge news in the community as there are hundreds of “gurus” who have been selling these services or are affiliates for them. As these services target the exact practices that are against longstanding Amazon policies, they had to either stop offering their services or work with Amazon to offer only compliant services. Amazon is currently suing some of these sites.

Some black hat sellers are even listing their competitors’ products on these sites. They know that Amazon is suspending products that are listed on Rebate sites so they are trying to have all their competition’s products deleted. If you are a victim of this kind of black hat trick, you will need to create a Plan of Action to appeal the decision to remove your product from Amazon’s catalogue. Contact the Rebate site to get your product removed from the list first.

How do you launch on Amazon now?

Not everybody uses black hat tricks to launch their products. Most big sellers today have built their businesses on Amazon by providing amazing products at great prices and making sure they stand out. This is done with great sourcing processes, photography, inserts, advertising and so much more that allow for a marketing strategy that works. If you are looking for a sustainable business that can be around long after launching your first product, you need to make sure that you aren’t doing anything that is against the law or against Amazon guidelines and policies.

If you would like to work with me to that effect, find ways to work with me here.

In the meantime, if your product is suspended for manipulating reviews, let’s get you up and running again now.

ASIN Reinstatement Appeal

To appeal your product’s suspension and have it reactivated, you need to check if you have done something wrong first. Many sellers that I have spoken to this week were swearing that they had not manipulated reviews. They told me that Amazon was wrong and that they were not offering compensation for customers to write reviews on their products.

After checking these sellers’ accounts, I was able to identify where these sellers were actually breaching Amazon’s review policies. This usually happens when a seller doesn’t know every rule in the guidelines or when they use language in their communications with customers that can be construed as being predatory.

So, to get your account back, you first need to know if you have inadvertently done something wrong and what that was.

Check your account for breaches

Familiarise yourself with the rules.

Click here on how to request reviews from buyers.

Click here for rules on buyer-seller messages.

Click here for the most recent communication guidelines from Amazon.

  • Check your social media posts. See if you have anything there where you are promising reimbursements, refunds, discounts etc. There is nothing wrong with telling a customer that you guarantee your products with a full refund if something goes wrong. There is also nothing wrong with offering discounts, coupons etc to first-time buyers. The problems arise when this is done in the context of requesting a positive review. Sometimes, the language used can be misunderstood. Make sure your language in posts is on point and that you comply with the communication guidelines above.
  • Look at your product inserts and packaging. Amazon is a place to sell products that are on the market and sell everywhere. If your inserts or packaging mention Amazon, Amazon reviews, or discounts and reimbursements made in exchange for reviews, this is a breach of the rules.
  • Have you ever used a search, find, buy or rebate service? If so, this could be your problem.
  • If you have ever offered your products for free in a Facebook group in exchange for a review, this could also be an issue.
  • Review your emails to customers. Do you send emails to your customers requesting a review, whether manually or through an automated system? If so, you might want to check the language of those emails. These days there is no need to message your customers to request reviews but, if you are, make sure that you are not asking for reviews only if the customer is happy with their purchase. Check if you are using the same email or paragraph to promise them a free product or refund. Sometimes sellers get overly excited about offering good customer service and don’t see their language as being a “bribe” for reviews. If you’re too close to your own emails, ask somebody else to read them to see if it could be mistaken as a bribe.

Are you a victim of a black hat trick?

Some sellers have reported that their competitors have listed their products on some Rebate sites that Amazon is suing just to get them suspended. Check on REBATETEST and other sites for your ASIN. You will still need a Plan of Action to reinstate your ASIN but at least you will know where the problem is. Contact the Rebate site to get your product removed from the list first. 

Plan of Action Layout

Once you have identified the issue that led to the suspension, write a Plan of Action. To do this, make sure you read the email that Amazon sent you and address every point they reference in their communication to you. Do not leave anything out.

Appeal – Product listing removed for alleged review manipulation

Subject: ASIN Reinstatement Appeal

Introduction

What has happened

We have reviewed Amazon’s review policy and checked our review request processes and we have come to the conclusion that…

  1. The method that we believe we used to obtain customer reviews that are prohibited by the Amazon Customer Reviews policy
  2. Name and website of third party software used to automate emails
  3. We have used/not used any customer accounts or a third party to post prohibited reviews
  4. A list of any prohibited reviews obtained

What has been done as a response to the product removal

As soon as we were made aware of the product removal, we reviewed our processes and review request emails and identified the issues.

  • Response 1
  • Response 2
  • Response 3

How will we prevent customer reviews manipulation in the future?

  • We will continue to…
  • We will implement…
  • We will reinstate…

Conclusion and Summary

Please also find this letter attached as a PDF.

If you are having trouble identifying the issue or writing your own Plan of Action, book me in here so that I can assist. There are no guarantees that Amazon will reinstate your listings but I have been assisting in writing these plans for many years and I have yet to come across a listing that has not been reinstated for this reason.

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