Fake Amazon reviews. You know about them, you might have even bought a few or considered them. It really doesn’t seem that harmful initially, you’re just trying to get the ball rolling by having some reviews placed on your product, and besides, you know that it’s that great, so what harm is there in placing a few reviews? Well, according to the latest lawsuit from Amazon, those fake reviews could be really hurting the company and its integrity. Not only is Amazon stepping up its measures to ban fake reviews, but they are suing sellers of reviews to stop this practice dead in its tracks.
This lawsuit targets all fake reviews for all products. From vacuums to HDTVs, fake reviews have been a cancer that some sellers have used to boost their sales. While we will largely focus on how these reviews affect Kindle and paperback books, this lawsuit is against fake reviews for every product.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon expressly says that fake reviews are a method by which some sellers attempt to improve their competitive advantage by making their product seem better than what it really is. This is done by creating inauthentic and often inflated reviews that exalt the product as the savior as a genre or the best thing you can possibly buy, but the truth is that the product might be substandard or not worth all the fanfare. This also makes consumers more willing to buy the product based on the glowing reviews, though they may not really like it after they read it.
This also creates distrust in the Amazon brand, as many consumers will wonder if those five-star reviews are real, and they will understandably doubt the integrity of both reviewers and Amazon in general, which leads to reduced sales for everyone involved.
Yes, these reviews can be misleading and they do create distrust in the Amazon brand, but let’s examine the truth of these fake reviews. First of all, it’s usually easy to spot the fake review. Most five-star reviews will either be short and sweet (ie: “really did the job, loved it!” or “this book is great, recommend it to all my friends!” or “I’m going to read this book again and again.”) or they give a very detailed look into the product to saw who it’s for and why it’s great.
Fake reviews, on the other hand, will be glowing beacons, espousing just how amazing the product is and glossing over any shortcomings. The grammar and tone will seem mechanical, like it’s not coming from a consumer, and it will use persuasive language to try to get people to buy the product. While there are certainly fake reviews that do the job and come off as consumers, the majority are fairly easy to spot.
There are also some people who wonder how serious this lawsuit is because Amazon recently had an expose about how bad their working conditions are, and they might be using this lawsuit to both distract and to shine light on how consumer-friendly they are. While it’s hard to tell for now since Amazon really is going ahead with this lawsuit, their intentions might be less than pure.
Do Fake Reviews Really Work?
As stated above, most fake reviews are easy to spot, so you might think that these authors don’t get any rewards for their unethical (and possibly soon illegal) behavior, but you’d be wrong. Take the case of John Locke (not the classical writer, but a make-money-fast and novelist modern writer) who used fake reviews to gain his way to the top. For example, his book “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months” contains a number of fake reviews, and you can find them in many of his other books. Several of his books were bestsellers.
There’s also smaller cases like Dagny Taggart’s “Learn Spanish in Seven Days.” There are a significant number of five-star reviews, however a truly impartial review found a number of accent marks that don’t exist in the Spanish language, numerous grammatical errors that were likely made by poor online translations and very basic conversations that wouldn’t help you much in the real world. The only way to get so many great reviews with these many issues would be by buying them (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/10/21/how-an-industry-of-amazon-entrepreneurs-pulled-off-the-internets-craftiest-catfishing-scheme/).
According to Amazon’s own internal memos, they know that at least 60% of reviews are fake, and they also understand that stopping this flood is close to impossible. While finding authors who have used these reviews to skyrocket to the top can be difficult, you can find a list of unethical authors here who have used or are suspected of using fake reviews: https://zonalert.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/onlie-ratings-and-reviews-are-fake/.
Effects on Writers
So, even if they aren’t as serious as they are pretending to be, what are the effects on writers? First of all, I hope you never bought any fake reviews or planned to. They rarely have a lasting effect (often causing more harm to your brand than good due to the associated distrust), and more than likely Amazon will be taking stronger methods to remove and block these fake reviews. They might even, though it is quite unlikely, start penalizing authors who use these tactics with harsher punishments.
It might be long and arduous, but the best thing you can do is try to coax good reviews out of people by offering an amazing product. It isn’t as instantaneous as buying one, but it’s the best and more fruitful method as these reviews will be trusted and they will help build your brand. If you have bought fake reviews, then all you can really do is wait it out and see what Amazon does with this new lawsuit. You might be safe, but it’s best to rethink your marketing strategy.
While this might just be a ploy to get attention away from the darker sides of Amazon, this is still a real lawsuit and Amazon is currently planning to go after sellers of these fake reviews to punish them and to show authors (and other sellers) just how serious they are about removing these reviews and restoring trust in the Amazon brand.
Regardless of their intent, it’s best to steer clear from these fake reviews. Hopefully you haven’t bought any yet, but if you were planning to, now is definitely not the time.
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