Have you noticed any of your hard won reviews disappearing on you lately? Is lack of a verified purchase review badge the only reason for removal? Of course not, but let me count the ways.
Four Hidden Review Stops
There are some simple and obvious reasons Amazon may remove a review. Amazon won’t tell us what formula they use to remove reviews, and actually, there are multiple reasons.
- There are “Fiverr” style purchases of 4 and 5 star reviews.
- Any author review that could be viewed as biased–such as author swaps.
- Bloggers paid directly for reviews to Amazon.
- Friends or family members with or without an obvious purchase.
How Important is the Verified Purchase Badge?
It’s no secret that Amazon changes their algorithms in an effort to keep reviews true. With the exception of 2016 (a ripple somewhere?), Amazon began adding the “Verified Purchase” tag or badge to any review they could confirm was purchased through their own outlet.
The Amazon Verified Purchase review means they can verify the product was purchased at Amazon (without a deep discount). But that’s all it means. Amazon though obviously feels customers use this information to help them decide which reviews are most helpful (or legitimate?). Do you? Further, they’ve supplied filters to the search so that you can search only the five star reviews for coveted Verified Purchase badges.
Of course, Amazon is free to reinvent their own game rules from time to time and appears to feel that Kindle Unlimited subscribers or anyone else deemed to have received a discount does not qualify as a verified purchase.
Whenever you write a review, you can elect to mark your review as an Amazon Verified Purchase IF the box appears. It won’t offer the opportunity if they could not verify you purchased from Amazon. Of course, the real buyer (if they are as unsophisticated as myself), may have just failed to note and check the box. OR–they have gotten their product as a gift. (There are ways to legitimize “gifts.”) Amazon feels the label offers a “quality and relevance” of the product review. BTW, if you bought a product previously and neglected to use the tickbox, you are free to edit your review and add that little check.
So Why Should You Care About “Verified Purchase” Reviews?
If you are like most authors, self-publishing debut novels, you will launch your own marketing strategy. Getting those first few reviews are probably most easily attained by asking friends, relatives, or acquaintances for their review in exchange for your free distribution. Oops…Did you ask that they label their post as “an honest review in exchange for a copy” (or product). (Any item discounted at 50% or more will not have the badge.) A product review is still posted and the star rating counts toward the overall star rating.
Mike Michalowicz noted in his discussion of the Verified Purchase that it is the “gold standard” for reviews (although I’ve yet to see BookBub define a book’s five star reviews in verified counts or not in totals). You may still elect to buy your own book and “gift“ it to the recipient. And I don’t think that means hand it to them–means you must go through their little gift book channel so that the recipient “claims” the book. Then, when (if) he/she posts their review, you will have your gold standard review.
The badge goes a long ways to offering “social proof” of the veracity of your favorable reviews. Amazon provides incentive for the badges by including those “verified purchase” badges on your first page of reviews. (Any reviews not so designated are then dropped from page one in favor of their VP badge reviews.)
Of course, verified or unverified, highly reviewed products are going to set higher in search results.
You are always free to use a source such as Kirkus Reviews or Publishers Weekly. These are reviews written by companies for publicity and allowable by Amazon as the author posts them in the section Amazon specifically provides for “Editorial Reviews.” No stars involved.
Slightly Off Topic But Interesting
Dave Chesson explains that it is important not to use your book’s common URL in your communications with potential sales.
Can Amazon really distinguish where your reviews are coming from? Of course. There are some ways to connect with possible reviewers that won’t set up a red flag. When you search for your book and click on it, saving that URL to send, you’ll leave a tag that attaches your account to the link. Amazon will know that you sent the link and may alert that you have a connection to that person.
If your book has a 13 digit ISBN, Amazon will assign their ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) as a 10-digit version of your ISBN, making the ASIN and ISBN interchangeable, according to Chesson.
If I send you a link to Grandpa’s book using the searched URL, it includes a lot of information you may not wish to share. For instance, my grandfather’s book Sole Survivor: Short Story Adventures is identified by ASIN: B0166HQPNG, or long URL:
**https://www.amazon.com/Sole-Survivor-Short-Story-Adventures-ebook/dp/B0166HQPNG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1513100067&sr=1-1&keywords=sole+survivor+by+stanley+mcshane**(link connection number)
However, you can also search (or send) using only the raw link that includes the title and the ASIN and you’ll get the book without the identifying connection. (Amazon will identify as a verified purchase.)
Sole Survivor by Stanley McShane/dp/ASIN: B0166HQPNG
One other little tidbit Chesson shared I thought of interest and wish I’d known prior to publishing the digital-only book for McShane he called Busters of Bitter River: If you publish your book on CreateSpace first, the CreateSpace book will rule–that is–it will show up first on an “all categories” Amazon search.
If all else fails, read up on their Terms of Service (TOS). We have books out there–we must play nice with Amazon. The gorilla continues to get bigger–and he will win.
Some of my older reviews have been removed, so perhaps they are working their way up to date. Maybe you’ve noticed a few of yours have gone missing as well. I’d be interested to know if you noticed or wondered about it. Or, did it affect your ratings and stats? ©2017 Virginia Williams