- 1 Amazon Decides To Clean Up Their Act (Kind Of)
- 2 Seller Support Responds (A.K.A Amazon’s Finest)
- 3 Doing Detective Work In The Dark
- 4 Thank You, Sir. May I Have Another?
- 5 Where To Go From Here And Lessons Learned
~ 11 Minute Read
As I’ve mentioned previously in my posts here on TheMicropreneur, 2018 has been a struggle for my business. This is the first year since starting my business six years ago that I will see my revenues drop from the previous year. It seems that each time I turn something else is going wrong. But hey, this is what you sign up for when you go into business. This is the reason why most people stay in a job they loathe, but that pays the bills month after month. Thankfully, I’m still fine with income from the business and I believe that I’ll come out the other side of this challenge better than ever having learned some valuable lessons in the process.
Amazon Decides To Clean Up Their Act (Kind Of)
I’d heard recently that Amazon was making an effort to improve their review system integrity. It’s no secret that Amazon’s review system is flawed, allowing for fake reviews to permeate with aggressive sellers cheating the system and working to send their inferior products to the top of the search results. I was quite happy to read of this new initiative as I viewed it as a much needed change in policy that would help ethical sellers like myself see their sales improve as the blackhat sellers were dropped, all the while keeping Amazon’s brand image intact. Unfortunately, the execution of this new initiative left a lot to be desired as it seems Amazon decided to take the “bull in a china shop” approach to cleaning up their reviews, innocent sellers be damed.
About a month ago I started to notice something funny about the reviews on for Black Tie Grinders. Slowly, it appeared that Amazon was deleting the reviews for the product. At the time this began happening the product had just under 400 reviews. Every hour I watched helplessly as Amazon would delete a few more reviews each time I checked. Eventually, it seemed that the attack on my reviews had ended mercifully, leaving Black Tie Grinders with only 63 reviews. Others have had similar experiences.
Seller Support Responds (A.K.A Amazon’s Finest)
My anger grew as I had been given no explanation from Amazon as to why my product’s reviews were being deleted. I opened a case with Amazon Seller Support to get an answer as to why this was happening to my product while my competitor’s products retained their reviews. In regular Amazon Seller Support fashion, their response was not helpful or illuminating. Here is the canned response I received regarding the issue:
AmazonJul 27, 2018 12:43 PM
Greetings from Amazon Seller Support.
I understand that you are concerned regarding your request for missing product reviews under ASIN: B00RIGPI7E on your detail page.In this regards please be informed that we exert some editorial control over customer reviews and do not allow reviews that violate our Community Guidelines. The customer review forum is a place for constructive commentary and feedback.
**If any review does not meet the guidelines, it will be removed from the website.
However, to ensure that reviews are only deleted according to the policies and guidelines I have personally escalated the concern to our dedicated department.
Please be informed that there are several reasons why a customer’s reviews may have been removed. Here are some examples:
– The customer who submitted the review has deleted it.
– Our moderation team removed a review for not complying with Amazon Community Guidelines.
– We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site. .
– We detected unusual review behavior and are not accepting reviews for the item at this time or are only accepting Amazon Verified Purchase reviews.
Please be informed that I have forwarded your contact to the team that owns customer reviews.
The team that owns this feature is outside of Seller Support and does not use the case system. So your case will appear closed in Seller Central.
This team generally completes investigations within 24-48 hours, however, results of investigations are not shared. If this team needs additional information to complete their investigation, they will reach out to you directly.
Thanks for being part of the Amazon.com selling community. I wish you all the best in your future online sales.
Have a nice day!
Please let us know how we did.
Were you satisfied with the support provided?
Okay, based on what Amazon states in this message the reviews deleted did not follow the Community Guidelines. Now there are two reviews that Amazon deleted that were indeed not “real” in that I had my mother and mother-in-law purchase a grinder and leave a review. These were the first two reviews on this product, and yes I admit they did not follow the Community Guidelines. Based on the message I received from Amazon those reviews would be deleted and I can’t argue with that. But here’s where things stop making any sense.
Every other one of the almost 400 reviews posted on the product were completely legit and above board. These were left by real customers who used the product regularly. Why would you get rid of these reviews? And why have none of my competitors, some of which I know paid for fake reviews, not suffer a similar fate?
Doing Detective Work In The Dark
I began looking at all the ways in which I could have been breaking the Community Guidelines for over 350 product reviews, and in the end I could not find a single answer.
I had a couple hypotheses but nothing made sense for a single reason. While the reviews for Black Tie Grinders got smashed the reviews for it’s sister product, Pink Bow Grinders, remain unaffected to this day. I used the EXACT same methods to obtain genuine reviews for both products. The text on both product pages is very similar, and the follow-up emails I send from Feedback Genius for both products are identical. How can Black Tie Grinders have reviews removed and Pink Bow not? I also sell Black Tie Grinders on the Amazon.co.uk marketplace and use the same marketing strategies there as well. Do you think the reviews were deleted from the UK marketplace? Nope.
This inconsistency from Amazon’s team has become a real pain in the ass when it comes to selling on the Amazon marketplace, and I’m far from the only person who feels this way. You can go to the Seller Support forums and you’ll read countless stories of Amazon abusing their leverage to damage the reputation of sellers and ruining small businesses left and right without explanation or an appeal process.
At this point I had no choice but accept where things stood with the 63 reviews I had left and hope that my product continued to sell at similar levels. And for a few weeks it seemed that the soul crushing review massacre was finally over. I saw that sales were the same and moved on.
Thank You, Sir. May I Have Another?
But then, while vacationing in Michigan I checked the product page to see that Amazon had gone ahead and deleted the other 63 reviews leaving my product with zero reviews. I guess a few weeks later those reviews also didn’t fit the Community Guidelines? After building my brand for 4 years Amazon decided to eliminate every review my product had earned in that time. To be clear, I never paid for reviews and other than the two reviews mentioned above the reviews were completely genuine.
Where To Go From Here And Lessons Learned
Don’t Rely Solely On Amazon
I think it is pretty clear that an issue with the Amazon private label business model is that you are playing on Amazon’s turf, and as such may find yourself with a big arrow that stretches from A to Z up your ass. If you are going to sell a physical product online do not simply sell on Amazon. Go the extra mile and set up a brand website that allows for purchases, this is easy using WordPress Plugins like Woocommerce and Shopify. With your own website shop be sure to include a way to leave reviews as you will have total control over these reviews. As of this writing, I’ve collecting 28 legitimate reviews for the Black Tie Grinder on BlackTieGrinders.com that Amazon can’t touch.
Don’t forget about other marketplaces, namely Ebay and Etsy. I don’t get many sales from Etsy, but I do get a consistent stream of orders from Ebay making it worth the short amount of time it takes to set up a sales page on the site.
In the week since the last of the reviews were deleted I’m happy to announce that my sales have not been affected. This could easily change in the coming weeks, but I’m cautiously optimistic that the effort I put into brand building and marketing will help keep the quality reputation of the Black Tie Grinder brand in tack even without the Amazon reviews.
If I’d simply tried to win the Amazon keyword race without putting time toward branding and marketing away from Amazon, I think that my product sales would have seen much greater declines from the review removal. The fact is that many of my customers are finding my products from other articles, reviews, and typing “Black Tie Grinder” into the Amazon search field.
Simple Private Labeling Is Dead
The competition for private labeled products being sold on Amazon has become much harder in the last few years. It has gotten to the point that I’d argue that the days of slapping your label on a generic product and selling it on the Amazon marketplace are gone.
What’s this mean for aspiring sellers? It means you need to add-value and offer something new that the competition doesn’t. Basically, be a legit business. There are no more shortcuts.
Is It Time To Move On?
I’ve been doing the same thing in regard to my business for about six years and while affiliate marketing and e-commerce have treated me well I’m ready to transition into a new venture. I’m not going to sell what I have as it should help support us while I make this move. I’ve got a few ideas for offline businesses that I’m interested in pursuing.
My experiences with this business has helped me learn about myself and what I want in life. I’m a person who has a huge thirst for learning and I love new challenges. I also like to make people happy and feel that I’m serving others. So, my hope is by next spring I’m beginning the process of starting a new business that leads to new opportunities. I’ll continue to write here on TheMicropreneur to keep everyone up to date with what I’m doing and I’ll still offer tips on how to maximize affiliate income as I’ll still be actively in this space. I’m also planning to create an affiliate marketing mastery course to give you all my best tips on how to create a successful affiliate income stream that you can scale into a full-time business.
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