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. In a minute, we’ll look at 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.
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.
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!