Amazon Reviews: Strategy
If you have an internet connection, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point in time you’ve ordered something from Amazon. Amazon is great for retail consumers, it’s great for sellers, it’s great for software developers (Amazon Web Services), it’s great for affiliate marketers, it’s great for people who love instant gratification.
Point being that everyone uses Amazon, but not everyone uses it purposefully. A few months ago I happened to stumble across a few articles about Amazon Top Reviewers and the perks that come with having that title (the perks mostly include getting free things to review). After some hard-hitting research (read: clicking around Amazon) I found Amazon’s ranking criteria:
How ranking works
We are proud of all our passionate customer reviewers and grateful for their investment of time and energy helping other Amazon customers. We rank customer reviewers based on the opinions of customers like you. Each time you indicate that a customer review was helpful or not, we use that vote, along with votes from other customers, to determine how helpful a review is. A reviewer’s rank is determined by the overall helpfulness of all their reviews, factoring in the number of reviews they have written.
We want our top reviewer rankings to reflect the best of our growing body of customer reviewers, so we look at these factors:
- Review helpfulness plays an important part in determining rank. Writing thousands of reviews that customers don’t find helpful won’t move a reviewer up in the standings.
- The more recently a review is written, the greater its impact on rank. This way, as new customers share their experiences with Amazon’s ever-widening selection of products, they’ll have a chance to be recognized as top reviewers.
- We ensure that every customer’s vote counts. Stuffing the ballot box won’t affect rank. In fact, such votes won’t even be counted.
How often are rankings updated?
The top reviewer list is updated once every two days. New reviews and new helpfulness votes are factored in to each reviewers rank and the list changes accordingly. Since rankings are relative, it is entirely possible that someone move up or down the rankings because of other reviewers’ activity.
This isn’t really ranking criteria as much as it’s telling us what anyone could already figure out – your rank is based on number of helpful votes*, number of reviews, and recency of the reviews.
*Helpful votes are given when you click that “is this review helpful” button on reviews. If you click on that button it’s completely anonymous and the reviewer will love you forever (I’m super grateful to these random strangers that click this button)
I looked at this ambiguous ranking system and thought: Challenge Accepted
This is a four step plan:
- Figure out what’s most valuable in the eyes of the algorithm (aka data tracking, yay)
- Decide what strategy is most effective for getting votes and saving my wallet
- Set up a blog and Instagram account to not-so-subtly support these endeavors (to drive traffic to the products and pages)
- Execute plan, modify plan, and repeat until I’m in the top 10,000 reviewers
Step 1: What does the algorithm want?
I’ve been tracking the stats daily for a month and a half now and this is what I’ve found out:
- The jump from ranking 7 million to 1 million was pretty easy
- After you get under the #100k mark it progresses a lot slower
- Helpfulness votes matter way more than the number of reviews
- Rankings seem to be updated every 3-6 days, not always every two days
- There are a lot of factors that go into getting a “helpful” vote: whether people look at the product, whether they look at the reviews, whether they’re the kind of person to click “yes, this was helpful” and you can’t control any of those.
Using the above graph I’ve been able to guesstimate when my ranking is about to change, but it isn’t foolproof. I suspect the closer I get to ranking #1 the more helpful votes will be required to jump in the rankings.
Step 2: Strategize
At the beginning of my strategy I’d written maybe two Amazon reviews in my entire shopping career so I had a ways to go. I’m not making a six figure salary so I knew I’d have to come up with a strategy to use the algorithm to my advantage (which means data gathering, yay) so I wouldn’t go broke trying to review random things.
Here is my general strategy:
- Find sellers who have products I like, but the products themselves have less than 10 reviews on them
- Purchase products that are generally less expensive (I don’t like buying a lot of stuff I don’t need, especially expensive stuff I don’t need)
- Up my game by adding photos to all of the reviews and try to make them high quality/good photos. Lots of top reviewers include photos but they seem to often be poorly lit and not that high quality.
- Associate this with a blog to try driving more traffic towards these products and taking away the “random” factor of people deciding to look or not look at them
Step 3 & 4: Set up a blog and social media account to support the review profile
Thus far this has worked and had some surprising advantages –
- A seller contacted me directly via Amazon because they liked my photos and asked me to review another product for them
Photo by: Matt Holmes
- A seller found me on Instagram and asked if I’d be willing to review their product (this is still in the works and I’m pretty excited about it)
- A small business in California contacted me via Instagram and arranged for me to do photos for their merchandise (I was nervous so didn’t ask for money initially, lesson learned)
- Another business in the UK contacted me for photos (it didn’t work out because of the whole “other continent” thing)
What I’m getting from this is that even though I’m not on Amazon’s published list of top reviewers, sellers notice when people give them quality reviews – and Instagram is definitely helping me out with this even though I have a minimal follower count.
Step 4: Modification and Next Steps
Now that I’ve started I just have to keep going. I’m going to focus on upping my social media game with this account and building up the blog – currently I’m at 150 followers and the goal is to see what it takes to get 1000 followers in the super-saturated market of fashion/reviews and beauty bloggers. Improving the social media presence is more in my control than votes on Amazon, and it’s also already proven to provide me with more product leads (leading to more opportunities to review things without spending my own money).
Goals for the next two months:
- 1000 Followers on @ZoraFloraSays
- Build the blog out to look like a legitimate website and not just five pages of advertisements (10 hits/day)
- Passing the #50k ranking on Amazon