“Shua Dan” – Also known as order “brushing” is a potent black hat methodology currently popular amongst Chinese sellers. The premise behind order brushing is the creation of fake orders so as to boost your sales numbers or give yourself the ability to review your own products. The idea is to send a cheap trinket or junk item in place of your product, whilst boosting your product’s listing.
Historically, sellers would ship these fake order packages to phantom or fake addresses, but Amazon’s detection metrics have clamped down and this would quickly earn the fake buyer account a ban. Nowadays, when a customer makes a purchase on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, or any other large marketplaces, weeks to months later, they begin to receive small envelopes addressed to them. The packages will contain small junket items worth mere pennies that were never ordered. In short, the seller has taken the customer’s legitimate information to create fake orders on behalf of the customer so as to boost whichever of their product listings they desire.
Here’s an example of how a seller can utilize order brushing to boost their own product by utilizing some portions of a legitimate customer’s information, such as their shipping address whilst notifying the original customer that they’re receiving free gifts:
This is illegal to do in China, but there is little recourse and risk when the tactics are applied overseas markets. This is mostly done to give more prominence to high-volume sellers with good track records, but anyone can benefit from this trickery.
However, the amount of work needed to maintain this facade is not for the faint of heart. Lots of work, maintenance, and patience goes into setting up the necessary systems for a successful and undetectable brushing scheme. For starters, maintaining a stable source of buyer accounts with varying information, such as account age profiles, shipping addresses, payment methods, IP addresses, buyer habits, and operational behavior is daunting for any small operation or those who not fully understand Amazon’s detection metrics. A misstep in any of these metrics and you stick out like a sore thumb to Amazon’s advanced detection algorithms. For example, when giving your product a review, did you type the review, or copy and paste it from a collection of prewritten reviews? Why would a normal buyer copy and paste a review? This is a red flag to Amazon’s systems.
As such, a misstep in any of these mentioned metrics and you stick out like a sore thumb to Amazon’s advanced detection algorithms and systems. Moving too quickly and without the proper knowledge can easily land you in hot water, as is typical, slow and steady wins the race. Most sellers or providers do not have the patience or knowledge to maintain this operation successfully. Succumbing to the quick nature of requests and expecting expedient results;”50 reviews now!”
For the typical Chinese seller running their own brushing campaign, using the local workforce is typically not easy to maintain due to the poor English and patterned writing in respect to length, content, and style. In reality, this would be difficult even for a native English speaker to maintain.
Speaking of patterns, your fake buyer profiles must also contain diversity. This does not simply stop at simple factors like the age of the account, the pattern of reviews, the frequency of reviews, or even the content of the reviews. It includes things such as the method of payment, click patterns, wish list behavior, and numerous other varying and vague metrics.
In regards to payment types, some Chinese brushers find they can use a certain type of gift card or VCC (Virtual Credit Card) to pay for fake orders and utilize this as a blanket solution for 50-150 reviews or more. However, a single review from this type of account can very easily trigger an Amazon detection metric and get shut down immediately. This is of course assuming the brusher even has the ability or access to purchase these types of payment methods for their brushing campaigns.
For these types of devious sellers and competitors, the question becomes how effective or long lasting these results can be expected. The options are also not limited to the previously stated product boosting. You can also use brushing to tie up a competitor’s inventory, suspend individual listings, keep a seller occupied with bad reviews, get a competitor’s account suspended, or even post negative reviews on competitor’s listings.
Brushing is just the tip of the iceberg and a very small portion of seller review fraud. Other undesirable methods include, but are not limited to:
- Review Hijacking
- Manipulating FBA Ratings (Clicks,Wish Lists, Etc.)
- Copyright Claim Fraud
- Tricks to Win Buy Box (Grey/Black Hat)
- ASIN Piggy-Backing
- PPC Click Fraud
- Custom URL Queries
- Vendor Powered Coupons
Many of these will be elaborated on or discussed in future posts. Stay tuned.
This article was written by the Professor of Amazon who has been writing about Amazon since 2009. This is an alias used to protect the author from any unwanted complaints or inquiries. Please be aware that much of the existing and future information can be construed by many in the industry as an attack on their business models. As such, the Professor of Amazon has chosen to protect himself from any action.
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