Amazon product reviews play a vital role in the purchasing decision process. According to the Spiegel Research Center, approximately 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. Another independent study by Fan and Fuel tells us the same thing. The credibility of these sources goes without any questions.
Having plenty of good reviews is important, and you might easily fall into doing everything in your power to pile them up. For this, Amazon has a rigorous product review policy. They have been working on it for the past few years and made considerable changes. Some of the things you do can fire back and get you penalized.
To help you out, we decided to put together the ultimate guide to Amazon’s product reviews. We will address the subject at hand from different angles and disclose all the things that Amazon deems unethical, or if you prefer, illegal.
We will also go through the best practices and give you some ideas as to what you can do to benefit from good ratings.
Amazon Guidelines In Seller Central
1. Amazon Prefers the Platform to Be as Neutral as Possible
For Amazon, customers come first. All information found on the website should help customers make a good purchasing decision. As we stated earlier, reviews are a vital part of this process, and Amazon wants to keep things neutral. Read - customers can share their experiences and opinions on products they purchase without anyone telling them what is ok and what is not ok.
If a customer is satisfied with a product, Amazon wants them to share their experience with the rest of the consumers on Amazon. The same applies if the customer is unhappy with a product, packaging, instructions, or other product-related things.
2. Shopper Experience Transparency Comes First
Amazon enables customers to add images to their reviews. The character limit is quite high, as well. Thanks to these two perks, customers can leave a very detailed review of the product they’ve purchased.
For Amazon, keeping things transparent is the way to go as it gives consumers all the information they need to make (or don’t make) a purchase. The platform will allow even the worst of reviews to be posted only if they are not insulting the seller or have profanities in them.
3. There Are Two Links To FAQs
Even some of the best products on Amazon have mixed reviews. This can confuse shoppers, and Amazon doesn’t want that. The platform recently changed the layout of the Terms of Service page.
Now there are two links to Frequently Asked Questions. The goal is to keep things clean and avoid confusing consumers and create friction in the customer funnel.
4. Amazon’s Community Guidelines Takeaway
If you already haven’t, you will probably notice that Amazon often directs you to its Community Guidelines. It’s of utmost importance that you comply with them. If you’ve never read the guidelines, feel free to stop and do it now.
In any case, if you don’t want or don’t have time to do it now, here is just one paragraph that really sums up the entire idea behind Amazon’s Community Guidelines:
“We take the integrity of the Community seriously. Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including by contributing false, misleading, or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited. If you violate our Guidelines, we may restrict your ability to use Community features, remove content, delist related products, or suspend or terminate your account.
If we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in any form of misconduct, remittances and payments may be withheld or permanently forfeited. Misconduct may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act, and can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties.”
For reviews to be helpful, they have to be authentic. And, to ensure authenticity, Amazon forbids sellers to develop and adopt review building strategies or manipulate reviews in any kind of way.
5. The Tricky Road of Promotions and Commercial Solicitations
Promotions and commercial solicitations are a tricky road to take as you have to know what you can and cannot do. Let’s make one thing clear right at the start. Amazon sees the following as promotions and solicitations (this goes for you, your competitors, or any other product listed on Amazon):
● Any advertisement on or off the Amazon platform that promotes products you are selling on Amazon
● Follow-up emails
● Product inserts
● Prints on packaging
● And here's where it becomes wild - any content that you serve to either current or potential consumer regarding an Amazon product
6. Creating, Modifying, or Posting Content Restrictions
Amazon goes one step further in its community guidelines to define what's forbidden. When it comes to creating, modifying, or posting content, there are a few restrictions that apply.
If your relative, close friend, business partner, or employer has any product listed on Amazon, you are not permitted to post any content regarding their products or services.
The competition is harsh and leaving a negative review on your competitor’s products can appear as a viable idea to undermine their efforts. Don’t do it! If not for ethical reasons, you should refrain from doing it because Amazon can easily suspend your account, and you can lose all your cash.
You probably know what you want to see in a good review in terms of the things it should highlight and what problems your product solves. But you are not allowed to offer to write it on someone else’s behalf.
In brick and mortar shops, business owners are allowed to use all sorts of incentives to entice people to write good reviews about products or mention their products and brands on social media. On Amazon, you should never offer compensation in exchange for a good review.
And, finally, you should never post solicitations or ads to push your products forward. Affiliate codes and referrer tags can seem like a subtle way to do some promotion on the side. However, their use is also not permitted and will result in a penalty.
7. You Are Still Allowed To Post Content
Where does the restriction leave you exactly? It can appear that your hands are tied, but honestly, they are not. Amazon may contact you with a request to post content. Customers can post reviews for the products they’ve purchased on Amazon. This also applies to products that arrived through the Vine program. As a seller, you will be able to answer the questions through Q&A.
Be mindful when using the Q&A feature. You can only write answers related to products and services you have a close personal or financial connection to. You must also disclose your connection to the customers before providing the answer.
As a seller, you don’t have to worry about it, as Amazon will automatically label your answers so that customers know that the seller or manufacturer is directly addressing their concerns.
You are not allowed to leverage your authority on Amazon and divert customers off the platform, which means that your calls to action, ads, special offers, and discounts should not direct customers to 3rd party websites and services.
If you are selling books as a publisher or directly as a writer, you can still offer free and discounted copies. But, you are not permitted to ask for a review or try to affect the review in any way.
8. You Can Ask Customers To Write Reviews
Many sellers are afraid to ask customers to write reviews thinking that it is forbidden by default. However, it is not as long as you abide by Amazon's rules.
Let us remind you that Amazon values neutrality. So, how do you get authentic reviews? You only ask for a review. Don’t, by any means, ask buyers to leave a positive review. This rule applies to all communication channels, even those outside of Amazon.
The reviews posted by your customers are set in stone. You should never request or suggest a customer delete or edit a review no matter how bad it is.
The typical scenario goes as follows. A customer leaves a bad review. You manage to solve their problem, and then ask them to edit the review. This is not allowed. You will have to place your hopes in customers editing reviews by themselves after getting their problem resolved.
9. Sellers and Manufacturers Review Restrictions
Sellers and manufacturers on Amazon are always looking for opportunities to get ahead of the competition. Manipulating reviews is not the way to do it. Sellers and manufacturers are not permitted to leave negative reviews on competitor’s products.
Manipulating reviews is not the way to win the Amazon race. If you are interested in some best practices on achieving success on Amazon, you can read our guides on how to build the perfect product listing page, how to optimize amazon advertising cost of sales, and how to supercharge your seller reputation on Amazon.
10. Incentivized Reviews Banned By Amazon
Whether you want to call it scandalous or not, the article published on Forbes called out fake reviews and informed the consumers that reviews on Amazon are not as trustworthy as people used to believe they are.
As a result, Amazon reviewed its terms and conditions and made drastic changes banning all incentivized reviews on the platform. As the news spread, all sellers and manufacturers, including Amazon itself, were forced to adjust their strategies.
This was also the end to so-called “review clubs,” which were places where you could get products at lower prices as long as you'd leave a positive review.
11. Creative Ways to Get to Positive Reviews Are Sanctioned as Well
If there is one thing that sellers don’t lack at all, it is definitely creativity. After the incentivized reviews ban, many sellers stepped up their game, trying to get as many positive reviews as possible. However, Amazon keeps a tied knot, and many of the creative ways to get positive reviews are now banned.
Using any third-party service to offer rewards, discounts, and freebies is off the board. If you get caught doing it and trust us, you will, you will get penalized.
The follow-up emails that appear only to ask customers if they were satisfied with a product or service are also prohibited. Why? Because sellers insert links behind the “Yes” and “No” buttons. The “Yes” link conveniently gets buyers to a product review page, while “No” takes them to customer support. This type of tunneling is a bad practice, and it will be sanctioned.
You are not even allowed to ask for a positive review if a customer reaches out to you first, telling you that they are satisfied with the product.
The absolute champion of creative ways to get positive reviews and boost star rating is creating a relationship between products that are not related at all. Let’s say you are selling pencils that have an abundance of positive reviews and a 4+ star rating, and you list notebooks for the first time. This could potentially boost the sales of your notebooks, but Amazon doesn’t allow it, and you will be penalized.
12. Product Packaging Tricks Are Not Permitted
Product inserts are a common thing in the world of retail and online shopping. You are free to deliver inserts in your packing as long as they are not inviting buyers to leave positive reviews on your products. Neutral language on product inserts is a must.
Amazon is also monitoring this behavior. The penalties could be potentially devastating as you can get your account suspended. As you might have guessed, some sellers were creative with inserts, trying to go around the rules but not breaking them. Be advised; Amazon will still penalize you if you do something funny and insert an image featuring five stars on it. It counts as a “hint at product reviews.”
It is not permitted to build a background story and make customers feel good about leaving a positive review. For instance, you should not specify that you are a small family-owned business or say that you donate a portion of your profits to charities.
What can you do with product inserts review wise? You can ask for a review. Simple as that. Do it in a neutral language, and you are in the clear zone.
13. Leverage Bad Reviews to Build Better Reputation
Instead of asking customers to modify their reviews or delete them and risk your operation, you can leverage bad reviews. A bad review of your product detail page is a chance to establish communication with a frustrated customer and build better relations.
You are allowed to reply to your customer reviews, but make sure to invite them to contact you through the Buyer-Seller Messaging feature. If you reach out to buyers who left bad reviews by any other means, you are at risk of being penalized.
Amazon’s Product Reviews Summary: DOs and DON’Ts
We know that memorizing all those rules can be hard. That’s why we’ve summed up the entire guide in a skimmable list of Amazon’s product review DOs and DON’Ts
Amazon Product Reviews DOs
● Comply with the specific guidelines posted by Amazon.
● Post listing content.
● Feel free to ask customers to leave an unbiased review, but make sure that they’ve actually purchased a product.
● Pay special attention to customers who leave complaints regarding the product or services. Reach out to them, offer a solution, and invite them to
contact you via Buyer-Seller Messaging.
● Feel free to use discount websites as long as there is no “must leave a review to get a discount” trade mischief going on.
● Regularly check your inbox for emails from the Amazon team. If they ask you to make the changes, don’t waste time. Head to your Amazon account
and make changes as soon as possible.
Amazon Product Reviews DON’Ts
● Never post feedback and reviews on the products you are listing.
● If you have competitors, and the chances are that you do, don’t post reviews/feedback on their products.
● Don’t bring your family or friends in to boost your listings by posting positive reviews.
● Never ask your customers to leave a positive review.
● Don’t get tempted by “positive review” services. Never pay anyone for positive reviews and don’t offer your customers money in exchange for a
● It’s forbidden to insert incentives or a review request in your packaging, including affiliate codes, ads, and URLs with referral tags.
● Don’t ask your customers to remove a negative review or to change it in any way.
● Don’t contact your customers via any other channel but Amazon’s buyer-seller one.
● Refrain from leveraging wordplay to make customers feel sorry so that they should leave you a positive review.