Review Hijacking Puts Your Brand at Risk

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Review Hijacking Puts Your Brand at Risk

Fierce competition is a hallmark of the Amazon marketplace. Hundreds of millions of products from countless sellers are listed for sale, and they are all striving to be among the top results when a customer begins their search for a product. As we’ve mentioned before, one of the things that can push a product to the top of Amazon’s rankings is a significant number of positive reviews. 

Reviews improve the chances of landing on the coveted first page of search results, and substantial and credible reviews also increase a seller’s ability to convert potential customers. Since volume and sales velocity are vital factors for Amazon’s A9 algorithm, a steady supply of positive reviews is a great way to double-dip listing optimization efforts. 

So it should not come as a surprise, then, that some sellers may seek shortcuts to boost the positive reviews for items that might otherwise struggle to compete. Fake reviews, left by individuals or companies that didn’t make a purchase, is the underhanded approach most retailers and shoppers are familiar with, but it’s not the only tactic. Review hijacking is a more recent problem that is growing, particularly on Amazon, where it recently attracted the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. 

What is review hijacking?

Unlike phony reviews, which are invented and posted to give the appearance that a product is more popular or of better quality than reality would show, review hijacking shifts genuine reviews for one product to a completely different item in an effort to mislead consumers. 

Review hijacking can be accomplished by nefarious sellers who target dormant or out-of-stock listings with positive ratings. Then, counting on the fact that little attention is paid to these detail pages, savvy sellers with bad intentions will attach an unrelated product to these pages or sometimes combine several listings through Amazon’s listing variation options to capitalize on as many existing reviews as possible to prop up their own product. 

In other cases, sellers will change their product listings so that an existing page can be used to sell a newly-launched product. The reviews for the previous item will remain and appear to be reviews for the new product. However, on closer inspection, the comments from buyers will clearly reflect an entirely different purchase. 

As mentioned above, the FTC levied its first fine for review hijacking in February 2023. The penalized company abused Amazon’s listing variation system after its newest supplements failed to meet sales expectations as standalone listings. By changing the new supplements’ status to a variant of more established products, despite completely different formulations, the poor-performing supplements received a boost in sales. Of course, many of these purchases were likely due to the quantity and quality of reviews on the product detail page. Shoppers were misled to believe that positive reviews for older supplements were also relevant to the newer ones. In addition, as variations, the new items could capitalize on the “#1 Bestseller” and “Amazon Choice” badging that the older products had earned. 

Why do retailers target customers with review hijacking?

Why are reviews so attractive to sellers that they would risk running afoul of Amazon’s policies or even federal law? Well, one study found that product reviews are trusted 12 times more than the product descriptions written by brands. Even more notably, the same survey found that customer reviews can grow sales by 18 percent

For Amazon sellers, this results in new buyers to the brand via the theory of social proof. Consumers understand the purchase of a product by others as an indication of the item’s desirability and value. Similarly, shoppers with knowledge or expertise about a product can exert a lot of influence by recommending a particular purchase via a positive review. This means the more people prospective buyers see buying or praising a product, the bigger the impact it will have.  

Beyond its impact on buyer behavior, review hijacking also gets products backed by these fraudulent but persuasive reviews in front of more Amazon shoppers. Obviously, relevancy and availability are at the top of the list when it comes to influencing the algorithm. The more closely an in-stock product matches a search term, the better the chances it will appear among the top results. However, the quantity and quality of reviews matter as well. That’s why many Amazon sellers try to encourage reviews and do everything possible to provide a positive customer experience. 

Whether it’s an outright effort to deceive customers or a legitimate ignorance of Amazon’s rules, review hijacking is never worth the severe consequences it can bring to a bona fide business looking for long-term growth. 

The dos and don’ts of Amazon variations

Just because listing variations play a role in many attempts at review hijacking doesn’t mean you should avoid this powerful Amazon tool. On the contrary, the platform encourages sellers to use variations appropriately due to the convenience it provides shoppers. Furthermore, pooling reviews for actual variations of the same product is an effective way to optimize your product listings. 

Where it makes sense or is required by Amazon, utilize these parent-child relationships to offer multiple buying options simultaneously. Creating product listings that combine options such as color, size or flavor into a single encounter improves your listings’ discoverability and conversion rate.

Determining valid variations isn’t always as apparent as size or color. In those cases, it can depend on several factors. Primarily, the key is ensuring that variations are limited to products that are essentially the same but vary in a single way that doesn’t affect functionality. Use these dos and don’ts to help guide your parent-child families. 


  • Keep variations limited to products that are fundamentally the same and could share the same product title
  • Use variations when customers would expect to find them under a single product page
  • Describe each child product appropriately and identify the variation correctly in the ASIN’s title
  • Stick to the variation themes that are approved for use


  • Exceed Amazon’s limit of 2,000 child ASINs per variation family
  • Create variations that include different brands or product types 
  • List more than one feature as a variation attribute
  • Include price, quantity or variation characteristic in the parent product

Benefit from an experienced Amazon partner

Working with a qualified Amazon agency won’t guarantee your business avoids legal problems. Still, it can make it easier to ensure all of your listings are set up in compliance with Amazon’s Terms of Service. In addition, experienced Amazon partners already know the mistakes that novice sellers are most likely to make and can help their clients navigate or avoid pitfalls that can lead to a loss of selling privileges, fines or worse. 

Amazon is constantly evolving, so staying informed about the latest policy changes, newest tools and fluctuating costs without help is nearly impossible for most businesses. Retailers who try a do-it-yourself approach can struggle to develop a consistent strategy for their brand. This can lead to unpredictable sales rather than steady growth.

A successful partnership with an Amazon agency can minimize surprises and help companies anticipate what lies ahead for sellers on the platform. They will also be able to set up your listings and respond to customer inquiries or negative product reviews promptly and courteously. In other words, an agency can take the fundamental tasks accompanying selling on Amazon off your plate and likely complete them more efficiently. And because most effective agencies are plugged into Amazon’s current trends and deeply understand the status quo, they can make your brand’s experience on the site much less volatile. 

Amify is ready to help

The pros at Amify know that the Buy Box is just the first step to winning on Amazon. To be successful, a business needs an integrated and interconnected approach. That’s why we operate as your business partner, providing comprehensive strategy and execution throughout the product life cycle on Amazon. Whether it’s warehousing, listing management, or data analytics, Amify helps you drive growth with a proven, long-term strategy. Schedule your Amazon Account Consultation today.

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