This article the first in a series of 4 will focus on illustrating to the reader how Amazon is riddled with Citation Spam AKA paid reviews and reviews and reviewers for hire,Amazon’s affiliate program as well as their Vine Voice program which rewards reviewers with free product in exchange for a favorable review.
As previously reported Amazon has initiated legal action against two companies that offered “review services” and as mentioned the ruling on both cases should be interesting in that to this date and 20 years after the foundation of Amazon there are no legal precedences established in cases such as these
I must ask the following question from a researcher and observer’s perspective:
Could it turn out be that the true motivation for Amazon’s legal motivation(s) be both proprietary as well as obviously financial?
Will the courts find that Amazon is entitled to the exclusive right to control and manage a sizable part of their operations therefore granting Amazon the exclusive right to pick and chose what service companies and /or individuals they enter into 3rd party agreements ?
What will this agreements look like? and what mechanisms will be set in place to prevent AstroTurf and Spam?
For now though lets start having a look at how the current review systems are set up
An investigation here turned up a number of Phrases uniquely associated only with AS in the Amazon reviews as can be seen In the following graphic.
I would also like to mention that these phrases were all bias tested against competitors.
So delving deeper into the reviews we came across a significant amount of Amazon Affiliate spam some of which as an example is shown below
Taking the most Favored review, a compensated review we performed a search on the first line in the review.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best thermal compound on the market, December 21, 2008
Arctic Silver 5 is the best thermal compound on the market. There are other types that might be better for specific purposes (Arctic Céramique for example), but for cooling a CPU, this is the best.
7,770 is a lot of spam on a dubious review so following the links lead to a number of Affiliate sites after a few sneaky redirects (TOS violation?) you land on pages like the following.
Spam links start from the number 3 result on page 1
Also it should be mentioned that this is part and parcel to a technique called link building which I will talk about in further detail in a subsequent article.
So now looking at a daily or weekly search engine result looking for more affiliate spamming we turn up these links to YouTube a high value site foe SEO (search engine optimization)
Please keep in mind that “affiliate spam” could easily be considered Citation Spam
Once one follows the links to the respective channels these take you literally in some cases to 10-20K videos of different Amazon products posted on a daily basis. This kind of Affiliate spamming likely makes amazon in conjunction with their affiliate the largest spamer on the Internet.
Which brings me back to the legal questions have Amazon taken legal action to
- A) establish themselves as the exclusive agents of their own “online advertising” “promotion”?
- B) Have they had to take legal action as a preemptive measure against future lawsuits for unfair market practices thus attempting to “save face”?
- The paid reviewers get paid by the review so one indicator to look for is quantity vs quality
Which brings us back to Amazon’s Vine voice program and here is an excerpt from their very own FAQ /Help page:
“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.”
- However, we also found this:
“What if I don’t want my name included in the top reviewer list?
The top reviewer list is our way of honoring the individuals whose reviews help make Amazon.com a great place to shop. However, if you’d rather not be featured as a top reviewer or Hall of Fame reviewer, no problem. Just contact us with your request and we will be sure to remove your name from both lists
Which forces me to ask the following question(s)
Is it me or is this a bit contradictory?
are Amazon also profiting from youtube’s adrev program?
What boggles the mind is who has the time to produce such a voluminous amount of written reviews ?
Unless of course one is a compensated reviewer
looking further into it,even if the reviewer has allegedly been doing this over a span of years
who has the time to read and review 22 books in 15 days!?
Also, how does one become an “expert authority” on 3,418 products ?
In the next article we will reveal the age and gender demographics of these reviewers for “hire” and dive deeper into how and why both Amazon Top Reviewers or Vine reviewers
are motivated to remain in top the 1,000 reviewer list.