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Amazon Will Ban Paid Reviews to Improve Your Buying Experience

linsaythomas profile picture
Linsay ThomasGuest Blogger
October 22, 2016 · 4.8k Views

amazon reviews

Source: Entrepreneur

What do you do before buying something online, especially something you’re not too familiar with? If you’re like most of us, you look at the reviews. The reviews – or lack thereof – can tell you a lot about a product or seller. This is especially helpful if you’re buying from a marketplace such as Amazon or eBay.

But can you trust these reviews? There are people who make money writing positive reviews that are nothing but lies. Sometimes merchants reward good reviews with money, free products, and other incentives. This skews the product ratings and could lead to a bad decision on your end.

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The good news is that Amazon is doing its part to make things fairer for everyone involved. On October 3, the world’s largest retailer updated its Community Guidelines to ban reviews that are tied to discounted or free products.


orange arrow icon A long time coming

amazon reviews

Source: Consumerist

In an effort to make online shopping as helpful as possible, Amazon has tried for years to get rid of false reviews. The retailer has even sued the companies who pay for them as well as the people who write them. The only incentivized reviews allowed in the past were ones where reviewers were given a product to try out in exchange for an honest review. Sometimes the products were given away free of charge, while others may have gotten the item at a steep discount. This would have to have been disclosed in the review in order for it to be considered honest.

However, it didn’t seem like the reviews were fair. Most were biased and very favorable toward the product, even though the reviewer had the opportunity to write a negative review. This is likely because of two factors. First, companies may explicitly choose reviewers who were less negative to increase the risk of a good review. Second, reviewers may be inclined to write good reviews for fear of not being able to test any more products for free.


Source: Hip2Save

This has caused Amazon customers to feel distrustful toward these reviews. But in reality, this feeling is fact.

  • Out of seven million reviews, the ones that had incentivized reviews were rated better overall than those without these types of reviews.
  • The difference was 4.74 versus 4.36 stars, out of five stars. While this difference may seem minimal, it can boost a product’s ranking tremendously.
  • It can increase a product’s popularity from the 54th percentile to the 94th percentile, meaning that these false reviews are creating top-ranking products.
  • Incentivized reviewers were 12 times less likely that non-incentivized reviewers to leave 1-star ratings.

While writing reviews doesn’t make one rich – or pay any cash at all, for that matter – it can lead to hundreds of free or discounted products for reviewers. The average incentivized reviewer has written a whopping 232 reviews. A consumer who has not been compensated for writing a review has written an average of 31 reviews – a huge difference!


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orange arrow icon Amazon Vine

amazon vine review

Source: eGrowthPartners

Incentivized reviews are now only allowed to Amazon Vine customers. Amazon Vine is a program that allows select customers to review products. Not just anyone can join, however. Amazon selects customers who have written helpful reviews in the past and appear to have expertise in a specific category. In addition, the products selected for review are typically new products that haven’t generated a lot of sales.

Those in the Vine program do not receive incentives for writing good reviews. In fact, they aren’t even required to write a review. Plus, the number of Vine reviews for each product will be limited. That means you won’t see any products with nothing but Vine reviews.

Amazon has others controls in place to eliminate the bias that many products have seen with incentivized reviews. Vendors will not be able to communicate with reviewers, which means they can’t sway their opinion.


orange arrow icon What happens now?

amazon reviews

Source: Search Engine Land

According to the Amazon Community Guidelines, "creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else" is no longer allowed. Unless you are an Amazon Vine reviewer, you won’t be able to receive free products, cash or any other reward for posting a review. Companies who fail to follow these guidelines may have their Amazon account terminated. If the conduct is illegal, Amazon will not hesitate to take legal action, which may include fines, jail time and other criminal penalties.

All product categories – except books – will be affected by these changes. Reviews posted before the October 3 policy change will not be removed unless they did not comply with the prior policy. This means that you will still see these incentivized reviews for various products. However, they should be clearly identified so you can determine for yourself whether you believe them.

The goal of these updated guidelines is to instill honesty and fairness throughout the marketplace so customers will feel more comfortable making purchases without having to deal with competition between businesses. While every business wants to earn customers and make money, it needs to be done fairly, and Amazon is trying to help in that regard.

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linsaythomas profile picture
Linsay Thomas is a seasoned writer and editor who has written thousands of articles about topics such as saving money, healthcare, law, pets and education. She hails from California, where she lives with her husband, two children and a menagerie of pets. When she's not writing, she enjoys sports, breeding chocolate Labs and visiting the beach.
NateC523Jul 25, 2017
That's good news, but if I choose to get free products and I am honest, well, that's a part of the line I paved for myself.
CrystalloverDec 16, 2016
Well, i used to like read reviews. I realized that amazon already deleted some reviews that no Verified Purchase several months ago. Amazon didn't allow free code last month. But now amazon allowed reviewers leave 5 reviews without Verified Purchase per week.
Don't know what amazon will do next...
sharkgina183Oct 23, 2016
Nope would not change nothing because everyone has different feelings. But i blame the sellers for this they pressured us to put 3 or more stars. If not seems like no sellers wanted to work with me.

I never read reviews on amazon. if its a bad product just get refund.
silenc3xOct 25, 2016
Everything would change. Use your brain, Gina.

"Just get refund" --- And how would we know if it's a bad product if not for the trustworthy reviews? We have to receive it and then send it back? Yeah, okay. That sounds miserable.

Millions of us rely heavily on these amazon reviews before ordering.
I'm sorry the gravy train is over for you, and you'll no longer get your free shit, but think before you speak. You'll come off sounding smarter.
ReviewMetaOct 22, 2016
FYI the numbers you are citing (7 million reviews, .38 star rating discrepancy, etc) are originally from our research that we posted here: http://reviewmeta.com/blog/analysis-of-7-million-amazon-reviews-customers-who-receive-free-or-discounted-item-much-more-likely-to-write-positive-review/
flyarsocietyOct 22, 2016
I'm so glad they're doing away with this. You can never trust the reviews on the site that say "I got this review in exchange for... etc". Because I feel like no one ever truly gives their unbiased opinion when they get something for free... because they didn't have to actually pay for it. Good job Amazon.
sharkgina183Oct 23, 2016
dont trust reviews anyway. Some are paid to buy products and review with no disclaimer too still. I get these emails all the time. I see people hated the unbiased opinion but amazon need to stop reviews period. the paid reviews are still there .
silenc3xOct 25, 2016
Sounds like you're just mad that they are doing away with this. Good riddance. The paid reviews will be removed in time. There are millions and it will take some work to go through them all.

Doing away with reviews altogether is a terrible idea. How does that even make sense?

Reviews on amazon are very helpful since you aren't physically able to touch or see the product. They are extremely valuable. Amazon wouldn't be nearly as successful if not for their review system and their loyal consumer base. These "unbiased" reviews have been proven time and time again to be inflated. How is that fair? Why should my opinion be swayed because Susan from Chicago received her product for free and decided to write something nice about it?

How many times will you see someone write that unbiased disclaimer, and then go on to write a 2 star review? NEVER. You'll only ever see 4 and 5 star reviews. Which means they aren't unbiased at all. So you have shit merchandise getting artificially boosted up the product charts. It's deceptive at best, and downright criminal at worst.

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