Author Topic: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?  (Read 873 times)  

Offline Kathy Dee

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Preface: this is not a rant, and I am not whining. I know it's their sand pit and Amazon can do whatever they want - and I am okay with all of that!

However, here are three ways you can get rank-stripped and threatened with the removal of your KDP account:

1. Put a large number of KU titles on free promotion simultaneously
2. Post to a large social following on Facebook
3. Put an already popular book on free promotion and then advertise it on Bookbub

1. It happened to me. My main permafree was rank-stripped and I received what I now realise is a standard boilerplate email saying:

"We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank."

I have engaged in no underhand activity; I simply put a lot of my KU books on free offer simultaneously. As all my books are cross-linked in the back-matter, my popular permafree, which is usually somewhere between 1K and 2K BSR in the US store (higher in other stores) received some unexpected additional love. And that's my crime!

2. It happened to this guy ...

https://www.kdpcommunity.com/s/question/0D52T0000525iaW/problem-with-amazon-sales-and-purchases?language=pt_BR

What did he do? He posted about his book to his large social following (500K) on Facebook - that's all!

3. It happened to this author ...

https://davidgaughran.com/2018/01/02/new-year-old-problem-innocent-author-rank-stripped-for-third-time/

What did she do? She put her already popular KU book on free promotion and advertised it via Bookbub! I almost can't believe it, but you can read the full story above.

Obviously, we all know what rank-manipulation is: it is using nefarious means to get lots of people to buy or download your book with the intention of raising visibility in the Amazon store(s).

But, given the above evidence, my question is a serious one. Those three examples show that Amazon's automation can get it all seriously wrong. In Amazon's eyes, what exactly is the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
« Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 12:45:03 am by Kathy Dee »

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    Offline vagabond.voyager

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #1 on: July 30, 2020, 01:12:43 am »
    Rank manipulation? Smell?

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #2 on: July 30, 2020, 07:35:53 am »
    I am guessing the algorithm catches large spikes in orders and the red flags come out.

    The programming would look at historically data and a sudden exponential upswing suggest that something is amiss.

    Unfortunately, it catches honest promotions as well as the dishonest ones.

    Mark

    Online J. Tanner

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #3 on: July 30, 2020, 10:15:40 am »
    People have also done those exact same things and not been rank-stripped. Probably more often than not.

    My guess it's exactly what Amazon says it is. They track suspicious accounts rather than banning them outright because there is value in this insight for fraud detection. Those suspicious accounts sometimes congregate on particular books, sometimes books by innocent authors as cover, and, sadly, bad luck results in rank stripping those authors as collateral damage to make sure all the unscrupulous authors don't benefit. At some point they'll learn there's no benefit to this particular scam and the money will dry up for the scammers and they'll stop because there's no ROI. But until that time, there are unfortunate, occasional, side effects for authors behaving ethically.
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    Offline Michael Parnell

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #4 on: July 31, 2020, 07:31:47 am »
    Holy algorithms . . . every time I think I have a "reasonable" idea of what's going on in the indie/self pub world, I run across something like this. Thanks for the warning!

    Offline Jena H

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #5 on: July 31, 2020, 08:15:22 am »
    One of my freebies was rankstripped... months ago.  Rank was restored after a while, and now it's gone again, and has been for months.

    It's a freebie.  It has hundreds of ratings.  I have no idea who has downloaded it, or why, or how many copies have been downoaded over the past year.  Thing is, I have done NO ADVERTISING.  I don't do anything at all with that book--no ads, no marketing, no anything.  I've tried to tell Amazon that, and maybe that's why the rank was restored at one time, but now it's gone again, and I can't do anything about it.

    Maybe I should contact Amazon and ask them about it.
    Jena

    Offline Kathy Dee

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #6 on: August 02, 2020, 07:02:30 am »
    One of my freebies was rankstripped... months ago.  Rank was restored after a while, and now it's gone again, and has been for months.

    It's a freebie.  It has hundreds of ratings.  I have no idea who has downloaded it, or why, or how many copies have been downoaded over the past year.  Thing is, I have done NO ADVERTISING.  I don't do anything at all with that book--no ads, no marketing, no anything.  I've tried to tell Amazon that, and maybe that's why the rank was restored at one time, but now it's gone again, and I can't do anything about it.

    Maybe I should contact Amazon and ask them about it.

    Thanks for letting me know Jenna - I appreciate it.

    Quick question: is your permafree a first-in-series, with the rest of the series in KU?

    Offline Jena H

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #7 on: August 02, 2020, 02:17:41 pm »
    Thanks for letting me know Jenna - I appreciate it.

    Quick question: is your permafree a first-in-series, with the rest of the series in KU?

    Yes and no.  Yes to first-in-series, but no, none of the series is in KU.
    Jena

    Offline anotherpage

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    Re: What's the difference between advertising and rank manipulation?
    « Reply #8 on: August 02, 2020, 02:55:50 pm »
    I have run promotions with bookbub on free books and never got stripped. I don't think they have a problem with a one time boost ( once a year ) its when they see strange things happening often.

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