I’ve taken the leap into the world of Amazon advertising, or AMS (Amazon Marketing Services). I decided Star Riders‘ 8 reviews was close enough to 10 reviews, and that I would at least gather some data and knowledge from this first foray.
So let me start by explaining how Amazon Ads work. There are two kinds of book ads: “Sponsored Products” and “Product Display Ads.” Sponsored Ads appear when someone searches on Amazon, and get mixed in with search results. Product Display Ads appear on a specific book’s page, at the right under the ordering buttons.
For my first attempt, I went with Sponsored Ads, as these are recommended over Product Display Ads for new authors. The first thing to do when setting up a Sponsored Ad is to develop a list of keywords, which are the words someone may type into the Amazon search window.
Then, when someone searches for one of my keywords, Amazon mixes my ad in with the search results. Surprisingly, they don’t even charge me any money for that! They only charge when someone clicks on one of my sponsored ads, which brings them to my book’s page, and then it’s my job to get them to click the “Buy” button. Here’s what my ad looks like, with a shorter version of my “blurb”:
For an effective campaign, you should have at least 300 keywords. I came up with 443 for my campaign. You may be thinking, that’s a lot of keywords, how do you come up with so many? Good question. For the answer, I’ll give a shout-out to Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur site and his excellent (and free) video courseware on Amazon AMS.
The path to 300+ keywords starts with listing out 10 or so descriptive words and phrases that apply to the book. I started with “Science fiction,” “space opera,” “wormhole,” and so forth.
Then you start typing those words into the Amazon search window, taking note of what pops up in the auto-complete list below. Also type “a” after your word and see how it completes, then “b”, and so on. If anything in the auto-complete lists looks like your book, add it to your list. This got me from 10 to 40.
Next, take some of the best of those descriptive keywords, and type them into the search window, finally hitting the “Enter” key and actually letting it search. Check out the top 20 books that come up, and add them to your list. Title, author, and series name. The idea here is that if someone is searching for one of those books, they may be interested in your book, too.
Kindlepreneur sells a very popular tool, called KDP Rocket, which automates this process. I think that would be very handy for authors with several books, but for now, I’ll do it the hard way (it took me about 2 hours to build my list).
Once you have your keywords, you set them up in your AMS campaign, and choose a bid amount for each one. Amazon helpfully provides a range of bids which typically gets the ad seen. I chose a default of $0.25 each, then if the suggested range was lower, I adjusted my bid down to match. In a few cases, where I thought the match to my book was excellent, I raised my bid to $0.40.
Dave Chesson recommends having several campaigns for the same book, each one with a tailored “blurb” to appeal to people who used a subset of the keywords. For now, I just put all the keywords into one campaign, to gain some experience and knowledge.
Here’s my AMS dashboard, showing my one campaign (it actually started yesterday, Sept 21, despite what this says):
I set a maximum per-day spend of $5, so if things go crazy and people are clicking all over the place, I won’t run up a huge bill. You can see, in less than a day, they ran my ad over 1,000 times, with only one click, for which I paid $0.06. And that click didn’t result in a sale. Not to worry, they say not to trust the results for a few days, and that the sales information always lags the click information by 2-3 days.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from drilling down to a detailed window, where I can see the results for each keyword. There I found that my one click came from someone searching for the author Peter Hamilton: I’m not sure why they only charged me six cents for it, when I bid $0.40 for that keyword, but I’m not complaining. Notice that this one keyword resulted in about one-tenth of all my impressions. Not sure what that means yet…
By looking at my Amazon sales dashboard, I did sell an ebook today, after nothing all week, so maybe that was from this campaign, and it will show up on the AMS dashboard in a few days. Maybe it was that one click. Who knows? Buy hey, a sale is a sale, right? Woo-hoo!
The key metric from the campaign is ACoS, near the right side of the dashboard. This is the Advertising Cost of Sales. They calculate this by dividing the total advertising cost by the total sales that result. Since they use the actual sale price for this, and not what they pay the author (which is generally 70% for an ebook), you want this to be less than 70% to turn a profit.
The video course also stressed that you should not “set and forget” your ad campaign. You should be constantly evaluating and tweaking it. He also explained what to do if it’s not working, and gave three scenarios:
- low number of impressions: usually due to too few keywords, or too low bids
- good impressions but few clicks: usually due to bad keywords, unappealing cover, or ineffective blurb
- good impressions, lots of clicks, but few sales: usually due to a poor book description on the book’s page
I’ll post again after the campaign has run for several days, and we’ll take a look at the initial results.