Why you should still be skeptical of fake Amazon product reviews

After moving on from my last writing gig, and taking a two month break to get my head clear about the vision I want for deTeched, I found my passion for writing through my personal Amazon reviewer account again. I’ve enjoyed writing for several years now as I find it is a good way to improve my communication, but more importantly, it’s an outlet for me to share my views on things I think that matter.

During that two month break I wrote reviews on products that I purchased on Amazon. I read hundreds of reviews when I make decisions on products from Amazon, so I figured why not give back to the community who helps me too. Plus it’s a no pressure writing situation where I don’t have to meet deadlines or writing style guidelines. Prior to writing at AndroidGuys, I had written several reviews that got me into the top 10,000 reviewers on Amazon. Making the switch to a professional writer put my Amazon reviews on the backburner until the last two months.

My recent reviews have been getting voted as “helpful” which has moved me into the top 2500 reviewers in a matter of weeks. With that ranking has come an interesting amount of offers to subsidize new reviews of products by sending payment for items through PayPal. With that subsidy I am offered the full retail price of specific items, so I can purchase them on my own through Amazon, where I will then leave a review. This method skirts Amazon’s removal of free items for reviews, and then allows me to review items under the “verified purchase” tag. You can see my review of Amazon’s Goodthread’s brand shirt in the image below where it says “verified purchase”. The tag came as a result of me spending my own money on the shirt and my review is 100% honest.

Back in October of 2016, Amazon did away with free products for reviews unless users were apart of Amazon’s official review program called Vine. There were statistics that proved “free and honest reviews for products” were churning out higher positive reviews. Ultimately that method was hurting the credibility of real reviews which resulted in Amazon banning that method of reviewing. All that really did was hurt third party sellers who were trying to drum up more PR for their products. It boiled down to the reviewers who weren’t being honest and leaving fake reviews hurting the credibility of Amazon.

Most of the companies who asked for reviews on Amazon in exchange for free products are no different than how reviews are done online at media outlets. Companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, Bose, Sony, OnePlus, Google and others all use PR firms who contact professional reviewers to send them free items in exchange for reviews. No company ever asks that reviews be positive, instead they just ask for honesty. All PR is generally good, as it gives brand awareness and product exposure. With that said, there are way too many professional reviews of products that are biased and untrue, mainly because the unscrupulous writers want more free stuff to write about. The fear of writing honest and bad reviews are outweighed by getting free stuff, affiliate payments or sponsorships.

That doesn’t make companies bad for asking for reviews in exchange for free products – the responsibility of honesty falls on the writer, professional or not. This is why you need to be careful of the reviews you read on Amazon that say “verified purchase”. There’s a chance, higher if the reviewer ranking is high, that the item was paid for in exchange for a review. Use common sense when reading reviews – if it doesn’t add up, move on to the next review. Not all reviews are bad. In most cases, the reviews are actually honest and forthright, even if the item was paid for or given to the reviewer for free. You just need to know that the “verified purchase” tag doesn’t mean it was actually paid for with the reviewer’s own money.

Be more critical of the reviews you read online at media outlets beyond Amazon. A good and quick way to see if the reviewer is professional is in the quality of their images. There are way too many writers who get in and out of product reviews and you can see their lack of quality in their images. Bad product reviews are supported with poor images taken on smartphones. Most real reviewers use high quality photography to support their reviews and it’s a symbol of their commitment to quality so the reader gets the most accurate information so they can make informed decisions.

In many cases I receive items for free to review too. In no way does that incentivize me to write a specific way. I have a full time job as a chemist that pays more than enough, and I honestly believe if I wrote biased reviews that the readers would sort me out and stop reading my work. Plus it’s not the right thing to do and I like having a clean conscience.


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