I write a lot about Amazon, some stuff is great – like the cool tools they secretly launch to help authors, while other stuff is more geek-related – like the Amazon Ads dashboard!
I’ve spent a lot of time writing and talking about Amazon reviews, and also, Amazon pulling reviews. Sadly, this problem of disappearing reviews isn’t going away, in fact it only seems to be getting worse. What I hope to uncover in this piece, is not a big scope solution, because there isn’t one (and I’ll explain why) but rather add some additional check marks to your already long list of do’s and don’ts, when it comes to Amazon reviews, and keeping the book reviews you’ve got!
Understanding Amazon’s Vetting System for Book Reviews
Amazon pulling reviews seems super personal. Like, they’re just going through and picking off your favorite book reviews and deleting them. And to add insult to injury, why isn’t Amazon pulling reviews that are negative and petty one-star reviews, right?
While this seems personal, it’s not. But that still doesn’t mean that this is correct, in terms of how and what book reviews they pull. Amazon uses a robotic system, based on several algorithms that they don’t share publicly. In prior pieces, I’ve talked about Amazon pulling reviews, and given different reasons such as your social media connections, whether the book was gifted on Amazon, or if the reviewer used a gift card you bought for them. All of this and more is why and how these algorithms are spotting potential problems and pulling book reviews. So now let’s take a look at a few additional ways, that might be triggering Amazon pulling reviews.
Amazon’s Disappearing Reviews: It’s Not Just You
As I mentioned in the paragraph above, disappearing reviews isn’t just a book problem: it’s everywhere.
And, as the algorithm keeps changing, Amazon reviews may disappear and then reappear onto your page. The problem is, as Amazon tries to find a happy middle ground for vetting book reviews (and product reviews, too), these issues of disappearing reviews (as well as other technical glitches) are going to keep popping up.
A couple of weeks ago, an author we’re working with discovered that overnight 20 Amazon reviews went missing, but within two days they were all repopulated onto his book page. This is Amazon’s (sometimes) glitchy algorithm at work. And it’s a problem for product vendors, service vendors — quite literally anyone with a product, service, or book on Amazon is dealing with disappearing reviews right now. So I’ll also address what you can do to protect yourself!
Amazon Book Reviews: The Surprising Reason Why Your Review Got Flagged
First off let’s take a look at something that, while it’s not been publicly commented on by Amazon, may have a bearing on whether your book reviews are getting pulled.
Here it is: What URL are you sharing with bloggers, readers, and potential reviewers? Because there’s coding in that URL, that could be flagging Amazon that it’s from your account. And yes, I know this sounds crazy, but remember: this is a robotic algorithm that’s trying to find similarities in unethical reviews and one of them might be the URL. Let me explain.
When you share a URL for your book on Amazon, you probably grabbed this long link off of Amazon:
This link has a lot of numbers in it, including a QID number and other coding, including the keywords you used to search. In this case, I pulled up my books using my name, and it shows up in this URL. Now, keep in mind that this URL also originated from my account on Amazon, so it’s possible that some of this coding identifies my account, too.
Why is this a problem? Well, it’s a problem in that if that URL travels, from one person to the next, the fact that it originated from your account, could become a flag that any Amazon reviews related to it are potentially compromised. Am I being too suspicious of Amazon’s review practices? Or maybe you think this is a bit overkill? Well, we know that Amazon looks at social media connections, in terms of reviews which already seemed pretty invasive to me. This seems like the next logical step.
As I said, there’s no solid confirmation that Amazon is doing this. But it seems like it would make sense. And the fix, fortunately, is pretty simple. All you need to do, is strip out the code.
But if you really want to take this a step further, just go “incognito” on any Chrome browser and find the link that way. Then there’s no chance that you’re logged into your Amazon account, but you’ll still have to strip out the coding as I mentioned above.
And while you’re in the zone to share your book, you should also work on highlighting the stellar reviews you already have, make the most of what you’ve got! I wrote on piece on this that has five simple recommendations you can’t afford to miss.
If you want to geek out further on this link, check this out:
The QID number, (see orange arrow below) – is the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 – so every single search on Amazon is time stamped. Don’t believe me? Then do a search on your book, wait ten seconds and do it again. You’ll see the QID increase incrementally, by 10 seconds.
At the end of that, string, or almost to the end, you’ll see: sr= and that’s where the book was found on the page, so the sixth book down. That’s highlighted below.
This isn’t breaking news, and you’ve maybe seen this all before. But since we’re discussing URLs, I thought it was important to mention that these aren’t simple URLs, there’s coding and tracking in each of these, so be careful.
Sharing Amazon Reviews Using Bitly Links
A lot of authors create custom Amazon reviews using Bitly links, and while I love the Bitly platform in general, it’s been inundated with spammers and so, the links are less credible than they were. And this isn’t an Amazon reviews issue per se, but these links often get flagged as spam, and readers/buyers may never see them, so just be cautious there.
Amazon Reviews and Super URLs
There was a time when authors would create super URLs and share them with fans. These super URLs were “super” because they contained a ton of keywords. For example, I went onto Amazon and searched: re-release your book and this is what the link looks like:
At some point, authors began sharing this like crazy, thinking that if enough people plugged in those, specific search terms, it would boost the book on Amazon. But much like the tracked/coded URL, be careful using keywords like this, because Amazon will flag it, especially if it’s getting used a lot.
Keywords Flagged in Amazon Reviews
The next piece of this, are the keywords “in exchange for” – this is typical of reviewers who get a book for free and, per the FCC guidelines, need to mention that they got the book for free. Now
I’m not asking reviewers to break FCC rules, but they should not mention the word “exchange” in their book reviews because the Amazon system views that as a potential problem. Instead, consider using this terminology: I received a free copy of this book, this review posted was done so voluntarily. Because Amazon isn’t saying that you can’t give away your books, they just want to make sure that it wasn’t a ‘bribe’ in exchange for book reviews.
What You Should do to Protect Yourself and Your Book Reviews
First off, while this may seem annoying, until this all smooths out (and that may never happen, actually) I’ve talked in prior pieces about the importance of your Amazon Author Central page, now I’m going to recommend that you dig into this again in regard to your book reviews. My suggestion to you is that you screenshot or somehow save all of your Amazon reviews. And you can do this by going into the backend of your Amazon Author Central page and capturing them from each book. All of your Amazon reviews are listed there, so it’s easy to track them. And if you keep them somewhere, you know what’s being pulled.
When to Contact Amazon About Your Disappearing Reviews
Should you ever reach out to Amazon if your reviews are being pulled? The short answer is: yes. The long answer is only if you can do so calmly and professionally. Because Amazon will help you, if they can. In the case of the author I mentioned earlier who had a bunch of book reviews pulled. They did explain to him that there was a glitch and sure enough, his Amazon reviews reappeared.
If you have a list of Amazon reviews that have been pulled, and you’re keeping track as I mentioned, then getting in touch with Amazon can be pretty easy. Because now you can ask about specific book reviews, rather than saying: “Two of my Amazon reviews got pulled” and you aren’t sure which ones.
A Workaround, If Your Amazon Reviews Get Pulled
If your book page is suffering from Amazon pulling reviews, take heart because there is a solution and it’s via your Author Central Page. That’s where you can add book reviews for reviewers who maybe didn’t post it as a reader (sometimes the bigger publications won’t post book reviews on Amazon) or if a review got pulled. You can simply add this to the “Book details” by each corresponding book. It’s that easy.
I recommend that you keep track of the Amazon reviews you have (screenshots work nicely for this) and when any book reviews get pulled, add them to your Author Central page.
And here’s another must-have list of tips for optimizing Author Central to ensure you’re not missing out on any sales opportunities as part of your Amazon book promotion.
If you’re already spending a lot of time optimizing your Amazon page, and tweaking your book page sales copy and categories, take it a step further and guard your Amazon reviews carefully!
Understanding Amazon’s review policies, and this ever-changing mechanism they have for ferreting through book reviews can take time but it’s well worth the effort if it means making sure your Amazon book page is a solid foundation for book promotion!
Think your Amazon presence could be better? I’d love to help!
What’s your experience been with the issue of Amazon pulling reviews? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!
Resources and Downloads
How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon – 2020 Updated Edition!: Learn how to turn Amazon into your 24/7 sales machine!
However, the URL can be shortened even more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C6V6NRF
Hi Kathy, thank you for pointing this out. You are absolutely correct, and this is great if you’re looking to get it shortened as much as possible. I appreciate your feedback!
Great discussion Penny. I added this to the new post on Presari about the Update on the Amazon Product Review Policy changes and what authors and publishers can do to stay on top of their game. https://presari.com/more/article/update-on-the-amazon-review-policy-changes.html
I had also heard about using alternate wording than “in exchange for” when reviewers received an ARC. I mentioned it to a blogger I know and she was a bit defensive, saying she was told to state that specific wording and preferred it. I suppose that until Amazon is clear and cuts all reviews with that wording, reviewers are going to use it.
I know a reviewer who buys her own copies and is a Vine Voice who got her reviews removed because Amazon felt she had a personal relationship with the author. However, the reviewer is also an editor and has included the author in her anthologies, so there is a small but clear conflict of interest. So it should be no surprise that her review was pulled—their names were on the same book, even if it wasn’t the book she was reviewing.
Suzan, what an interesting conversation that must have been! Thank you for sharing…it will be very interesting to see how this all pans out down the road.
I’m putting on my once-upon-a-time attorney hat to offer the following comment and perspective. A lot of what Amazon is doing is to clean out the fake reviews. But the FTC’s Truth in Advertising requirements at 16 CFR 255 also require that when anyone who receives an interest clearly and conspicuously identify that financial interest, even with free review copies. Amazon has to abide by that requirement and has great difficulty doing so. This is one of the primary drivers to their policy changes and actions behind the scenes. If a reviewer discloses an interest as in “in exchange for an honest review”, it may be legally correct, but it nonetheless raises a question of objectivity and violates “no incentivized reviews” Amazon policies. If one simply states, I received a free review copy from the author or publisher, then the quid pro quo is not stated. The Amazon policy exception allows for free review copies and ARC’s.
Paul, that’s excellent feedback, and an interesting perspective. Thank you. Regardless of how reviewers identify themselves, I definitely still recommend that authors track their reviews, so that should any get pulled, they can easily track which ones and get in touch with Amazon accordingly. I am interested to see how it all plays out.
Before Amazon removed the forums, there were many reviewers who helped me by steering me to the TOS. Many current issues are fallout from the “coupon clubs,” which gave (and still give) items away in exchange for 4- and 5-star reviews. Book reviewers need to be careful, and my usual line (which matches Paul’s advice) is “My thanks to for a complimentary copy of this book.” This has worked and kept me in Amazon’s good graces. That said, it is amazing that authors do not make themselves aware of Amazon’s TOS…not a week goes by that I don’t receive at least one query stating the author will send me their book “…in exchange for an honest review.”
Dee, thank you so much for your input. I think what you do is a great plan and very much appreciate your own experiences, both in terms of what your practices are, and what you see from authors.
Hi Penny, As a reviewer, I use something like “My thanks to the author for a complimentary ebook of this title.” Very clean, stays away from the “in exchange for” and also my favorite phrase to hate: “in exchange for an honest review.” The word exchange implies a trade, something Amazon expressly states cannot happen. You can give a book to a reviewer, but unless the reviewer uses what I said above or your suggestion of “offer the review voluntarily,” the review faces removal. I see some reviewers having reviews removed or the reviewer getting purged, both of which will affect the author. And you are also correct, some reviewers become angry if you try to help them out and point this out to them. More authors than ever now email me with wording indicate they do not expect a review…I am sure they hope that sentiment travels to the review page.
Dee, I absolutely love the way you’ve worded this. I always appreciate your input and wisdom!
Thanks so much, Penny for this article! It is all true. I had half a dozen reviews disappear from my book even though I don’t any of the reviewers. It began with three reviews gone, then three more. Shame on amazon. They’re over the top.
Thanks again. Greatly appreciated and will share with others. Do you mind if I put this article on my blog, noting its source, of course. Thank you.
SJ, thank you so much for reading. I’m honored that you’d love to share the post, but I’d prefer you post an excerpt (just the intro paragraph or so) and then link your readers to this page so that everyone has the benefit of the continuing conversation. A lot of people have a lot to say about this topic, so it’s really interesting to hear everyone’s experiences and see them shared in one place.
I went to my author central page on Amazon (“The crazy Life of a Kid From Brooklyn”) and instead of ‘Editorial Reviews’, ‘Book Detail’ came up. I could not add any reviews. I have contacted Amazon and they are reviewing why their dropped 20 (all Five star) of the reviews to my book.
Other than that I have found that AME blog to be the must useful and the best author’s blog (and I’ve seen most if not all of them). I thank you and you are to be congratulated.
Bill, thank you so much. That is a huge compliment and means a lot, because I think there are lots of great resources out there. Please do come back and let me know what happens with your Amazon reviews. It helps me keep a finger on the pulse of things when I hear people’s experiences.
Amazon pulled all of my reviews of others’ books in general without explanation. This included books I reviewed with the FTC notice on the review and verified purchases I chose to review.
Surprisingly, they also pulled reviews of batteries, ice molds and other items I bought and reviewed. The vast majority of things I review are items, including books, movies and songs, that I’ve bought through Amazon. When they both removed my reviews of batteries and sports drinks and prohibit me from posting new ones, they’re definitely shutting me down as a reviewer / reviewing customer.
After multiple attempts to contact customer service and I haven’t heard back from them.
Tamara, that’s so discouraging. I am sorry to hear it. I’d recommend you keep contacting them to follow up. I wish you luck — and I’d love if you let me know how it works out for you!
My Amazon reviews were restored after I brought up other issues / services I was having problems with, and I think that routed the issue to a human who reviewed the situation.
I learned of a book I thought my granddaughter would like, and purchased it. The author is an acquaintance. I loved the book and wrote a review accordingly. Amazon told me my review had been published, but it has never appeared, after about two weeks. I followed their guidelines completely, so they certainly have no legitimate reason not to publish it.
How do I contact Amazon about this?
Authors work hard, and sales often depend upon the honest reviews of readers. I did my part. Now Amazon should do theirs.
Robin, hi there. If you’ve still got the email that Amazon sent you telling you the review was published, then be sure to reference that when you contact them, which you can do as a consumer by going to help>>need more help>>contact us. Let me know how it goes!
I don’t go to my author page everyday, but I know the number of reviews I have and last week I found 3 reviews were gone. Who do I contact about this at Amazon? Can you email me an address for them?
When my lst book was published, early on I got a one star review from a former employee of my daughter. She had been fired by my daughter (and other employers) and was depressed and angry. She took it out on me to AVENGE my daughter firing her. She admitted when we contacted her about it that she didn’t read the book and a few comments to her under the review from others who read the book told her she needed to give the book a fair chance. I contacted Amazon about this but they didn’t pull the review. It is the only one star I ever got and I was devastated as it came soon after publication. It pulled my % rating down–which was quite high with 5 and 4 star reviews. I was shocked by this deliberate meanness. It is hard enough to get reviews even by those who read and love a book since Amazon NOW requires everyone to buy at least $50. of their products before they are “eligible” to write a review. I’ve had several would-be reviewers complain about this to me! You’d think Amazon would love to see a book reviewed well and by many. It only helps them sell books, too.
CJ, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! In order to contact Amazon, go directly through their Author Central support. That’s really the best way to go about it. I hope you get good results – please do let me know how it goes!
I pasted my first 1-star review directly into Facebook, no product link, no nothing, with the comment that it didn’t sting as much as I thought it would.
Sales tripled for a few weeks. A handful of low ratings, especially personal attacks that are obviously not based on the book itself, can be good, making it look like not everyone reviewing is the author’s friend.
Revel in the poutrage. Let it fuel your creativity.
Here’s another recent article describing Amazon’s responses to pay for play reviews
I used to have 71 reviews for one of my books, most of them 4 or 5 star. Yesterday I glanced at my Amazon page and saw that it had dropped to 66. I can’t identify all the missing reviews, as I don’t remember them all in detail, but from the star breakdown I can see that the ones that have gone were all 5 star reviews. A quick check revealed that two of the oldest reviews have gone – reviews I really treasured because they were so detailed and the book had evidently had a really transformative effect on the readers’ lives. Those reviews had received dozens of ‘found this helpful’ votes over the years, so the readers evidently appreciated them too. I had no personal connection with either of those reviewers. I don’t know them. I’ve never met or even interacted with them online to my knowledge. Meanwhile, a review that was written by a friend who thought she was being supportive (a really pointless one that literally just says something along the lines of, “I know the author and she’s lovely. Buy this!”) is still up. Whatever algorithm they’re using needs serious adjustment.
Vicky, I know how frustrating that can be! I encourage you to reach out to Amazon and let them know. Additionally, if you can tell them more about any of the reviews that are missing (especially the two you’ve referenced), then you may be able to make a case with Amazon for getting them reinstated. Please keep me posted!
I think I’m even more puzzled now about why my reviews have disappeared. I started the week with 122 reviews of one of my books, and there are now 105 reviews. The book has been in print for 22 years now. I don’t share URLs to direct people to the book. I don’t have a social media presence to speak of. (My website might as well be wearing parachute pants it’s so out of date.) I don’t share my Amazon reviews on any platform. I don’t give away books in exchange for reviews (or anything else for that matter). So why in the world are they picking on me?
Patricia, that’s definitely frustrating, I know. And, I’d consider contacting Amazon about this. With that said, it might not be about you. I know of a few reviewers who have been flagged and ultimately had their reviews pulled — all of their reviews, even those not in question. It’s part of the reason I really recommend keeping track of reviews so that you can pinpoint the ones that are missing. I wish you the best of luck. Please do let me know if you get your reviews reinstated.
I wish I had known about this last year before I was banned from reviewing on amazon permanently because I started book blogging as a hobby. Guess it is too late for me but at least some other people can stop it before it gets to this point! THANK YOU so much for clarify some of the reasons why I got banned because Amazon would not email me back to tell me why I was banned. To be honest I wish they weren’t huge a presence for selling books, because I would buy from another place but everything most authors use is tied to Amazon, so I can’t just give up and say screw you to them! Again Thank you!
Thank you, this was an excellent article and I and many authors appreciate it. However, it isn’t feasible for me to capture all my reviews as I have over 100 of my own books out there and as a publisher, just as many. Any suggestions?
K’Anne-hi there, thanks for reaching out! Please contact us at https://www.amarketingexpert.com/book-marketing-services-contact/. We’d love to help you!
Interesting article, but you don’t talk about Bloggers and Monetizing, that’s another thing that gets people into trouble, especially reviewing books, on Amazon. If your reviewer is a blogger who has been paid to post your book, and they move from their blog to the Amazon book’s page, Amazon sees it as they have a monetary reason for reviewing the book well. The conflict of interest may or may not exist, but in the eyes of Amazon, and a lot of readers, it does exist. I’m in the top 500 reviewers on Amazon and my book reviews have only ever been pulled for two reasons – the book was pulled out of Amazon (whether for a re-write or whatever), OR I did what sometimes I do and say things like “Holy $hit” in my reviews. I get a polite form letter from Amazon telling me they can’t post the review at this time, and I go in and correct it.