How to get more reviews on Amazon? It’s the age-old question. There’s no easy answer, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
There’s no need to remind our readers that reviews are vital in the world of Amazon. They affect conversion, keyword ranking, sales, and Buy Box eligibility, as well as the ability to qualify for the Amazon’s Choice badge.
Let’s look at what Amazon has to say, how some sellers go about it, and how to get reviews on Amazon without getting into trouble.
What is Amazon’s policy on asking for reviews?
Your options for getting more reviews on Amazon reduced drastically in October 2016, when Amazon announced a ban on incentivized reviews. Half a year later, the message opt-out policy was introduced so buyers could choose to stop receiving unsolicited emails from sellers, making it harder still.
How did it come to this? Confronted with a rise in fake reviews, Amazon sued over 1,000 writers and sellers in the year before the review ban. From then on, it sought arbitration with other sellers. But the overall reliability of reviews continued to drop anyway.
Based on current review policies, it seems like almost every way that you could ask for reviews could be seen as review manipulation. Delegating isn’t a solution either. A seller is responsible for any violation that benefits them, be it on their part or on the part of their employees, business partners, consultants, relatives, friends, etc.
Ultimately, deciding what constitutes a violation is up to Amazon. And decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. It’s up to every seller to figure out how to get reviews on Amazon without breaking the rules.
The 7 most common transgressions
- Using your account or that of a competitor or customer to post, edit, or retract a review.
- Offering compensation of any kind to facilitate reviews.
- Requesting a positive review, rather than any kind of review, either directly or through packaging and box inserts.
- Engaging with fake reviewers, even if the need for a review is never mentioned but rather implied (closed social media groups, review websites and clubs, etc.).
- Contacting a negative reviewer to offer compensation, even if there’s no mention of retracting the review in return.
- Asking buyers to contact you before posting a negative review, but encouraging positive reviews to be posted.
- Creating product variations to accumulate reviews from existing products.
The Review Q&A Summary on the seller forums has more to add.
Sellers who notice suspicious reviews are urged to write to [email protected] to report it. Your competitors have a strong motivation to report you, so don’t make it easy for them by abusing the reviews system.
Also read the Community Guidelines, which explains to buyers what they are and are not allowed to do in their reviews. By knowing these guidelines, you can help ensure that you don’t ask customers to do anything that would get them into trouble.
How to get more reviews on Amazon
There is no silver bullet for getting more reviews on Amazon. As explained above, there are many practices Amazon bans outright, as well as the more general Seller Code of Conduct to consider. This means that you don’t only have to stay within the exact wording of Amazon policies, you also need to act fairly and honestly in general.
Finding the balance between strategies that actually result in more reviews while staying on the right side of Amazon is hard, but not impossible. All businesses and products are different though – what might work well for one seller might not make sense for another.
So, we have tried to think laterally about how you can safely generate more reviews on Amazon. Some of these ideas are direct and practical, and some are more indirect but may still help encourage buyers to leave reviews. Take a look at each one, think outside the box, and try to figure out if there is a way to make it work for you.
In late 2019, the order details section in Seller Central changed, removing much of the buyer’s contact information. It now displays only the buyer’s first name and location, so sellers will find it much harder to contact buyers outside the Amazon system.
However, the order details do include the buyer’s availability for review requests. When delivery is confirmed or the estimated delivery date has passed, you should now see a Request a Review button. Once it’s shown, don’t hesitate to use it. It’s built into the Amazon system, so there is no danger from requesting reviews this way.
2. Use an automated review solicitation tool
You’ll find review solicitation applications on our list of Amazon Selling Tools & Services. Some are standalone apps and some are browser extensions. They can help time your requests so that they’re likely to go out ahead of Amazon’s automated emails.
But since they outmaneuver Amazon and might get review request buttons to come through faster, they can be seen as review manipulation. So, use review solicitation tools with care to comply with policies. Don’t be tempted to use them selectively, by cherry-picking orders that you think are more likely to lead to a positive review. That is specifically against Amazon’s policies.
3. Sign up for the Vine program
Current review policies have more to say about violations than they do about acceptable ways to get reviews on Amazon. But there is one long-running and completely safe way of getting reviews, and that is the Amazon Vine program. It used to only be available to vendors, and had a hefty price tag.
But after a federal investigation in 2019, Vine was also made available to sellers who sign up for Brand Registry. To use this, sellers need to give away products to Amazon’s reviewers. Of course, there is no guarantee of getting positive reviews.
Participating reviewers are known as Vine Voices. These are experienced and vetted Amazon users with no prior record of review bias. They review products for free and keep them, and instead of the “Verified Purchase” badge, their reviews come with a “Vine Voice” marker.
Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program, which provided up to 5 reviews for $60, was closed in April 2021, but the Vine scheme is similar. The major difference is that the Early Reviewer Program did not require sellers to give products away.
4. Tell buyers that reviews only need a star rating
As of September 2019, buyers can leave a star rating for a product without adding any comments. This new “one-touch” type of rating is included in the total displayed under the product’s title, and also in the ratings distribution table at the top of the reviews section.
This new and easier way to leave ratings should encourage more Amazon buyers to leave reviews, and may work in favor of sellers.
To help educate buyers, include a diagram on your product insert or packing slip. Show them that they only need to click a rating, and don’t need to write a lengthy review. Don’t fall foul of Amazon’s policies by drawing too much attention to positive ratings, but recognize the power of suggestion that comes from illustrating what to do.
There is a downside to the new one-touch ratings. When you scroll through and read all the reviews for a product, you won’t see these ratings and won’t know why a buyer left a low rating. It may have been down to the delivery rather than the product itself, for example, which would normally be grounds for removal. But without seeing what the customer had to say, there’s nothing you can do to fix it.
5. Do giveaways, if you sell books
The one category where Amazon still allows reviews to be requested when products are given away is books.
Some publishers ask not just for Amazon reviews, but also for shout-outs on social media. You’d do well to follow suit if you sell print media.
6. Offer products for testing, in person
Let people know how to get your products free for testing purposes. Create a pool of reliable testers who you can turn to time and again.
Urge them to promote them to friends and relatives through word of mouth, so that they don’t feel as if they’re being forced to review your products. Push too hard and they might feel less inclined to leave a review, and turn you down in the future. This is a risky approach online, but in person it can still work.
7. Go beyond your close friends and family
Ask random acquaintances to give their friends your products to try or to keep. If they know you, testers need to disclose this in their reviews. But people who have no connection to you don’t have that obligation, whether they bought the item or not.
8. Go to trade shows and give out freebies
You can ask people you meet at expos and trade fairs to test and review your products. It doesn’t matter if they’re testers, reviewers, influencers, or other attendees. Because you don’t know them personally, you are allowed to ask for reviews.
Bear in mind that like all Amazon reviews which are not connected to an order on Amazon, these will not be “Verified Purchase” reviews, and so might not carry as much weight in the review ranking algorithm.
Find organizations like charities, clubs, and community groups that need your products and are willing to share their members’ experiences online. For example, local gardening clubs, playgroups and sports teams all need equipment and resources that might be a match for your products.
Donate products to them to generate goodwill, and make it known that your products are available on Amazon and that you need more reviews. If appropriate, you can also ask them to request more of your products through public wish lists on Amazon and other gift registries that they use.
10. Tell reviewers about common pitfalls
If your products are clothes, shoes, cosmetics, toys, kids’ items, etc. ask people to blur out faces and names from their photos before submitting reviews. Otherwise, Amazon will reject them with a vague email, but give no option to actually edit the review. Most people will not try again if their review is rejected.
When requesting a review for a paid order, explain the difference between a product review and seller feedback on Amazon. Product reviews should only be about the product, not the ordering or delivery experience. Seller feedback should only be about the seller’s handling of the order, not the product itself.
So, briefly explain that Amazon will reject reviews if they mention fulfillment, delivery, packaging issues, price comparisons, or availability issues. This can help prevent some of the most common reasons for negative reviews, and is less hassle than asking Amazon to remove them after the fact.
Comment on existing reviews offering a solution. Don’t use a template so that it’s a generic reply, but directly answer the specific points raised in the review. This can help encourage the reviewer to edit or delete their review.
But, to comply with policy, don’t directly mention review editing or deletion, product replacements, refunds or discounts here. Instead, ask the reviewer to use buyer-seller messaging. And promise you’ll look into it.
12. Make sure your listing is accurate
Many negative reviews are due to the buyer’s expectations not being met. Those expectations are set by your listing details, so that should be one of the first places you look if your product gets a negative review.
What might be wrong with your listing? It could be something as simple as uploading clearer images or adding a bullet point with product dimensions. Preventing just one negative review might be worth a lot more to your business than generating several new positive reviews.
What do black-hat sellers do to get Amazon reviews?
Some sellers would go to any lengths to gain the upper hand. Anecdotal evidence points to nefarious activities like hijacking listings and hacking accounts. It’s also not unheard of for sellers to make bogus infringement claims and even resort to bribing Amazon employees.
But most sellers engage in less ambitious – though just as damaging – activities. Some are caught off-guard by recent policy changes, while others know full well that they’re violating seller policy. Here are 13 classic examples of product review manipulation:
- Reviewing your own products, or even several variations of the same product with the same user account.
- Merging listings so that a product with few reviews can piggyback on a more popular product, taking credit for its reviews.
- Using Facebook chatbots to recruit buyers looking for freebies.
- Asking closed review group members to test products.
- Ordering reviews through content mills (companies that sell website content written by freelance writers).
- Hiring freelance writers and people who sell five-star reviews on sites like eBay.
- Leaving irrelevant reviews for competing products, either to disparage the products or to discredit and embarrass the brand owner.
- Upvoting fake reviews with the “Helpful” button or misusing the “Report” link for competitors’ reviews.
- Upstaging genuine verified reviews with biased ones that have images and videos.
- Asking top reviewers from Amazon’s leaderboard to review products.
- Bribing or harassing buyers who left negative reviews to take them down.
- Using 2-step URLs or super URLs to boost sales and review numbers.
- Flooding a competitor’s Q&A section with negative or irrelevant comments.
The risks of using black-hat tactics
Amazon operates a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to review manipulation. So expect to have your account and listing suspended permanently, to be banned for life, and to have your funds frozen. In very serious cases, Amazon may also resort to legal action and public shaming.
From time to time, Amazon will have a purge of suspicious reviews and helpful votes, so don’t assume that a fake review has been accepted just because action is not taken immediately. When there is a purge, the deleted reviews cannot be restored. Honest reviews and helpful votes may become victims as well, and the customer’s reviewer ranking will decline.
Amazon will also consider litigation against those who abuse the reviews system. Amazon sued over 1,000 sellers and reviewers in the year leading up to the incentivized reviews ban in October 2016. Since then, it has entered into arbitration with many sellers.
But it’s not just Amazon who can sue for biased reviews. The FTC brought its first successful case against an Amazon seller who bought fake reviews in 2019.
The key takeaway is this: sellers trying to get more reviews on Amazon have the option to comply with policies or to ignore them. But the choice between right and wrong is a moot point. The consequences of violating review policies are dire.
This article was first published in March 2020, and updated in March 2021.