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Getting The Most From Amazon Advertising: AskALLi Members’ Q&A Podcast

Getting the Most from Amazon Advertising: AskALLi Members’ Q&A Podcast

Our usual AskALLi Members' Q&A is taking a break for this month and being replaced by a special salon on Amazon advertising. From understanding the customer journey to the benefits of sponsored products, this ALLi podcast is for authors who are getting started with Amazon advertising and want to learn how to set themselves up for success.

Joining ALLi Director Orna Ross is Darren Hardy, Amazon’s UK manager for Kindle Direct Publishing, and his colleague Suzanne O’Kelley, senior manager, advertiser experience.

You'll learn:
  • Why should indie authors advertise?
  • How to reach existing and new readers.
  • What are sponsored products?
  • Best practices and common myths.
And more!

Listen to the Q&A: Amazon Advertising

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Watch the Q&A: Amazon Advertising

On a special edition of the #AskALLi Q&A #podcast, @OrnaRoss invites special guests from Amazon to discuss Amazon advertising for indie authors. Click To Tweet

About the Host

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcript: Amazon Advertising

Orna Ross: Hello everyone. Here we are for another ALLi Member Q&A, where our members ask their most pressing questions about self-publishing, but you will have noticed that it's not Michael La Ronn sitting there this evening.

We're having a super special, and we're very excited about it, Member Q&A all about Amazon advertising, because we know that is something that a lot of you are thinking about, and we're absolutely delighted to have Darren Hardy from Amazon UK and Suzanne O’Kelley from Amazon advertising to tell us everything that you need to know, everything you want to know.

And we have asked our members to send in their questions, which they have done, and we got absolutely loads of questions. So, we have had to limit them and just choose the ones that we thought would be most useful to most people, but just want to say at this stage that if you have more questions, anyone who did send the question in already, that question will be answered.

And if we have more questions that are coming up as a result of the talk that we have this evening, then do feel free to send them and we will make sure that all your questions are answered.

For which, thank you very much, Amazon. So, hi, Darren.

Darren Hardy: Hello! Hi Orna, it's lovely to see you again, virtually this time.

Orna Ross: Yes, always good. Always virtual at the moment, which isn't so good but, yes, nothing we can do about that. And hi Suzanne, thank you for coming in all the way from Seattle today. It's bright and early over there, right?

Suzanne O’Kelley: It is. Well, it's noon. Yes, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me, Orna.

Orna Ross: Not at all. It's wonderful.

Why should indie authors use advertising?

Yeah. So, Darren, do you want to just do a small introduction where you tell us a little bit about Amazon ads for those who are completely new and may not know anything about it? And then, I know Suzanne has a presentation for us.

Darren Hardy: Yes, that's right, and I'm very grateful for Suzanne joining us today, because she's actually going to do all the work in this session, and I have just the pleasure of doing a brief introduction.

Just to thank everybody for coming along and for your time, as well. I know Amazon advertising is something that many authors are very interested in. In my role in Kindle Direct Publishing, I work in the KDP team in the UK. You'd normally find me at somewhere like London Book Fair on the KDP stand there or visiting Orna at the Free Word Center. Obviously, this year has been a very unusual year and a very strange year, and we haven't done so much of that in 2020, but hopefully everybody is safe and well in the ALLi world, and we'll get back to normal as quickly as we can.

One thing that hasn't changed over this sort of very disrupted year is just the importance of reading and therefore, obviously the importance of writers. It's very striking, I think, in these very difficult times. And actually reading is something that many, many people have turned to, either in terms of wanting to read a book for escapism, to get away from their concerns in the world, or maybe to actually sort of help in their education and trying to understand what's going on around them.

And so, it means that, for many authors, this is actually a time of, of hard work, and authors are busy promoting their books to their customers, to their readers who are looking for something different to read. And I think as part of that, advertising has quickly established itself as a really important tool in the author's kit bag, as it were.

And obviously, as an indie, it's entirely up to you how you approach these things. There are lots of different tools and services that you can choose to avail yourself of and build a strategy around. And, as ever, in the KDP world, we have help pages, the KDP university, all sorts of webinars and things that are available to sort of guide you through the publishing process, the world that you find yourself in as an indie.

But today, delighted that Suzanne is here to actually give us the, sort of, experts view and actually talk us through, in this session, some of the key things about advertising on Amazon, some of the key learnings and top tips, and just walk you through the process.

So, that's enough of me, let's hear from Suzanne. I'll hand over. Suzanne, over to you.

Suzanne O’Kelley: Well, thanks so much, Darren. I'm really excited to be here today. I've been in the advertising space for about 10 years, most recently at Amazon, looking after what we call the books vertical. So, the group of folks who are either independent authors like yourselves or publishing houses, but generally making sure that books advertising is as successful and effective as possible within the advertising service that Amazon provides.

All right. Let's go ahead and dive in.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. So, we'll get your presentation up. I think I can add it in there. Can you see that okay?

Advertise online and on Amazon?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yep, great. So, my talk today is going to be about how authors can get the most out of advertising on Amazon. So, let's go through our agenda. First of all, why should you advertise online and why should you advertise on Amazon? How can Amazon advertising help you reach both your existing and your new customers in the most effective way? And then we'll talk about some best practices and some common myths and sort of misperceptions, and then we'll wrap up with a Q&A session.

So, first off, why should you advertise? Why should you advertise online, and why should you advertise on Amazon specifically?

So, millions of customers are interacting with Amazon throughout their day. Amazon is, of course, first and foremost, an online retail store, but it's also become much, much more than that. In the UK, we have 43 million unique customers who are visiting Amazon. And they're relying on Amazon, not just for, you know, discovering new products, but also to watch movies, to listen to podcasts, listen to music, reading their favorite books, keeping up with their shows, even shopping for groceries, and interacting with Alexa.

So, we think of all of these different engagement points that I mentioned, we call them ‘touch points' in the marketing space. And we'll talk about these touch points throughout this conversation today. It's all the different ways when you have an opportunity to, kind of, interact with your customers and find your audience.

So, customers used to visit Amazon just for the purpose of buying something really specific that they had in mind already.

And, as you know, shopping has evolved. We see customers coming to Amazon more for discovery purposes, for inspiration, and to find new opportunities, to find new things that are interesting to them, not just to kind of get in and out and buy the thing that they had in mind.

There was a survey that was done by a company called E-Marketer, and 51% of people surveyed, like one in two, had purchased a book in the UK online in 2018. Another survey from a company called Statista, asked where consumers have purchased print books specifically, and Amazon was ranked number one, with 70% of respondents answering that they had purchased a print book from Amazon.

So, you know, purchase activity is moving more and more online as people prefer to do their shopping in a place where they have access to a lot of different resources. But we need to think about the path of getting a customer from, thinking about buying a book all the way through to that purchase behavior and what they do after the purchase behavior.

We call this the customer decision journey. So, we'll talk a little bit about this at a few different points throughout this presentation. There's a lot of different ways for a customer to kind of learn about a book, and make a decision about the next book that they want to read, either through browsing a store, or noticing an ad, reading reviews, or even hearing about it from social media or in person or online, depending on, you know, whether there's a pandemic or not. We call these all touch points, as I mentioned, and it's really important for you, as authors who are in various stages of learning about advertising, to really think about the touch points that you have at your disposal for reaching your customers as they go through their process of finding out about your books.

So, we have awareness, and I will say this used to be more of a linear funnel, it used to be that you walked into a bookstore, let's say, and that was when you became aware of the books that were available and then you maybe picked out a few books. That was your consideration set, these are the books I'm thinking about buying, maybe browse, then read a few pages, look at the covers, and then you decide which ones you're going to purchase. It was very linear and in one way.

That's not how customers are buying books or any other products these days. They're kind of bouncing around and always at some stage of learning about and thinking about what they're going to buy next.

But we can talk about the awareness stage, you know, what are all the different books that might be of interest to me as I'm thinking about my next book? Which ones are in my short list, if you will? That's a consideration stage, and we think about the consideration set of the products that are in that, kind of, category. Then, eventually, I'll move into purchase, but it doesn't stop at the purchase point.

We think about advocacy in terms of telling your friends, or writing about something on social media, or even writing a review, and that can lead to customer loyalty, and loyalty is just simply going back and engaging with a product, or brand, or an author again and again.

And so, a really important and interesting exercise that you can do is to think about all the different stops in your customer's decision journey and think about where you might be strong. You know, you might have a blog, you might have something where awareness can be really high, and you have a lot of people who are aware of your name as an author, or your series, or your books, but maybe there's a point where there's a drop off. And that's where you can start to say, well, maybe I can target my ad spend specifically to places where I'm feeling like there might not be as much of a presence that I might have. And Amazon can really help with this process of making your work discoverable, getting your work considered, and then hopefully getting people to go ahead and buy your products.

So, the customer journey isn't just a concept. There's a lot of data to kind of back up this idea that, you know, it's moved from this linear model into more of a web of decision points. 67% of online shopping sessions end without a purchase, and this is because, on average, online shoppers are searching one to five times before they even buy anything.

So, they're going back and back and trying to make a decision. And 74% of shoppers are using multiple different channels to make a purchase. So, they're not just doing things on their computer anymore, they're looking on their phone, they might have a tablet, a Kindle; they have all these different places where they're gathering information and going from one point to the next on their journey.

And it's important to remember that all of these different touch points that you have at your disposal are influential to the customer's ultimate decisions about what they're going to go do, where they're going to spend their money, how they're going to spend their time and what they're going to promote.

So, even though, if you're thinking about in terms of advertising, not every ad might end up with a sale, each ad is going to play an important role in kind of helping the customer through their journey.

So, that's the high level, why are you advertising and how do you think about the customer's process.

Reach existing and new readers

Let's talk a little bit about Amazon advertising specifically. You know you have to reach your customers a lot of different times, and Amazon advertising can help you influence your customers as they go. So, before you get started, it's really important to think about your campaign strategy. So, here's some questions that can help guide you as you start to think about how you want to market and promote your book to customers.

What are you advertising and why? Obviously, this is, you know, step one and your personal journey. There's a lot of different things you might want to tailor your strategy to the type of title that you're promoting, right? So, if you have a new release, and you're an established author, then you might want to trigger more of a loyalty type of a play.

If it's the first book from a new author, then you're going to be looking to establish, you know, a name for yourself and get awareness of your existence. A backlist title, something that's older versus something that's new and trending. These are all different considerations and can really lead to different strategies of advertising.

Next, you want to think about, who are your customers? How would they discover your book? How are they finding books that are like your book? Do some research, talk to people about how they're reading, how they're shopping. This is all going to help inform your strategy of targeting, which is all about reaching the audience of people who are the most likely to engage with your book, not just the biggest audience, but the highest quality audience for what you're actually going to be promoting.

Next, you want to think about, what's your budget? This is a really important consideration and there's lots of different strategies that are going to work for different types of budgets. But if you have a very small budget, don't be turned off to advertising, but you might need to be more clever about the type of inventory and the type of keywords that you might be targeting.

You don't want to target the things that everyone else is targeting, because that's going to drive up the price. You can be clever about, you know, where is my audience going to be searching that maybe is unique to them, that other people won't be trying to also bid up.

When should you start advertising? You could advertise before a book is published. You could advertise before some sort of big holiday or some big event. So, that's something to think about. How long do you want to advertise for? We recommend at least four to six weeks, because that's going to give our systems time to learn what works and to, kind of, home in on your audience.

And then, what ROI do you need to achieve? ROI is return on investment. In the advertising space, we talk about return on ad spend, making sure that you're getting something back in exchange for the dollars that you're putting into advertising. You know, you should think about what the price point of your book is, and that can help you think about the return piece.

But you might be looking at the whole journey and not just, did I get someone to purchase a book with that specific ad? You might be thinking, how can I create a relationship with this customer or this reader, and hopefully create something that's more of a loyalty to you and to your books or your series. And your advertising can fuel that, and that's a little bit harder to quantify, but it's something to think about in terms of return.

What are Sponsored Products?

Alright, so, with Amazon advertising, the ad type that you have available is called Sponsored Products. When customers are discovering books on Amazon, think about they're walking down an aisle and their favorite bookstore. You can think of Sponsored Products as a way to kind of purchase promotional real estate within that bookstore. So, it might be what's called the ‘end cap', that shelf at the end of the book aisle that displays some really you know, fancy titles, prominently.

That's what you're doing when you're buying Sponsored Products, you're saying, hey, you're in my aisle, here's a book that might catch your eye. So, you can advertise individual products throughout the Amazon shopping experience, both on the list pages that return when they're kind of in a discovery mode, and also on the product detail pages when they're kind of investigating this book or that book, and it's really easy to get started.

So, you choose which of your KDP titles you want to promote. You can select the books that you want to advertise, and it can be anything from pre-release to backlist titles. Keep in mind that Sponsored Products is a pay-per-click solution. So, you're only going to pay when your ad is actually clicked by a customer, which is nice. As an advertiser, you're going to be able to track, not just the clicks, but also impressions, which are the number of times that your ad was actually displayed even though you don't pay per impression. You're going to be able to track your clicks, what your click through rate is, which is how many clicks happened per those impressions that were displayed. You can track, obviously, how much advertising spend is accruing and you can see sales through Amazon and also Kindle Unlimited page reads, if you're a participant in that program. So, lots and lots of metrics and ways for you to understand what's working and maybe what's not working so well. You can start with as little as $1, £1, €1 a day.

Most campaigns that have a daily budget of about $10 per day will stay live throughout the day. You can choose between a keyword targeting campaign, which reaches users based on what they're actively searching for, or you can target based on products. So, there's a lot of different opportunities to tailor your strategies within the Amazon product.

What are keywords?

I've talked a lot about keywords, I'll just zoom in quickly to the keyword concept because it is really, really core to the Amazon advertising service. So, what is a keyword? It's a single word or a combination of words that you can add to your campaign. For example, novels, romance novels, best-selling romance novels. These are all considered keywords.

How do they work? Keywords are basically going to trigger when your ads appear. So, you enter in keywords that you think are relevant to the product that you're selling, and then our ad system is going to match your keywords that you're targeting to the search queries that our shopper is entering in as they're going through their discovery process. We do learn, based on what's actually relevant to the shopper, and so you're going to want to make sure you're really thinking hard about what keywords are going to be the most relevant.

What if you don't know which keywords to use? We have, in the product, you can see a list of suggested keywords, and we're always improving those. So, you can kind of learn what's going to work based on those. We have something called automatic targeting, which is hands off, let the algorithms do their work. That's a really good way to get started and you can pull reports based on automated targeted campaigns. You can start to see where the performance is and use that. And we have some best practices, guides that you can find on our website as well, and those give more details about different types of keywords.

Okay. So, I'll do a couple of deep dive sites into keywords. There's a couple of different buckets of keywords that you can consider, and each of these kinds of buckets, as we've called them, map to a different strategy, which I'll talk about on the next slide.

So, figuring out the right keyword targeting helps your titles appear in search results for the right readers. So, there's a lot of different ways that you can choose your keywords from broad to specific. So, the most general, let's say we're advertising a book, let's go with Wuthering Heights, let's advertise that book. If we wanted to do a general keyword strategy, then we would look for really broad terms that were describing books at a high level in your overall category. So, you could say eBook bestsellers, you could say classic authors. If we wanted to get a little bit more specific, we could talk about niche genres.

So, then we could, you know, move into 19th century authors. We could talk about women authors, classics, those types of things. Moving even more specific, you can talk about other books and other authors that are very similar to the one that you're targeting. So, this is for attracting very like-minded readers who might be reading similar titles. You can include keywords like Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, George Elliott, Middlemarch. And finally, you want to get into the most author and title specific. You could include Wuthering Heights, you could include Emily Bronte, Penguin Classics, the book's ASIN, which is a string of characters that you can find it by in Amazon, main characters, defining places or themes. Things that are very, very, very specific. Somebody who's looking for your book would see this ad.

So, how do you know which keyword strategy is going to be best? You can think about what your goals are for a various campaign, and then you can use that to tailor the keyword strategy. So, general keywords, like ‘classic novels', that's going to be the best for increasing your reach and your visibility if you're going to cast a very wide net. The downside would be that you might find people who are not very close to the purchase point, but you're going to increase their awareness by being present in a search for something very general.

Author and title specific keywords can help you make sure that you are going to be the top of the search results for that specific reader. So, that's kind of a way to protect your territory and make sure that you're getting that top spot, and then you can think about creating different campaigns for different strategies. So, you can have an automatic campaign, like I mentioned, that's going to be doing a lot of the work for you to identify, test and, sort of, refine keywords over time. You could use that for one campaign strategy. You could have a second strategy that's doing something way more specific that you've seen work with other books, or you've seen work in other times.

And you can think of about different measurements based on these different strategies. So, if you're trying to get someone to consider your book, and get into their consideration set, then you might want to measure impressions or click through rate.

Whereas, if you're trying to drive someone to a purchase and really get to that end conversion, as we call it in advertising, then you might want to measure something more sales related, like actual ad sales or potentially, pages read, if you're doing Kindle Unlimited and you have royalties based on that.

We'll talk a little bit now about the benefits. So, let's say you've got your campaigns all set up. Sponsored products, like we've talked about a lot, can help increase your discoverability, improve your visibility, and make sure that you are helping customers who are in the awareness and the consideration stages of their customer journey, help them move into the purchase state.

It can lead to a lot of opportunities and you'll be delivering highly relevant ads to customers who are shopping for products that are either similar to yours or, you know, they're otherwise very motivated to make a purchase once they get to Amazon. With Sponsored Products, you'll be able to measure your ROI, which enables you to measure your orders, measure your sales, and understand the effectiveness of your advertising strategies on Amazon.

How an advertising campaign can influence a reader

All right. So, we're returning to our friend, the customer journey. And in this case, I wanted to kind of close the loop and make sure everybody understands how an advertising campaign could be used to help influence a customer journey. So, in this case, let's talk about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

So, we have a reader and she has been browsing. She's interested in her next title and she loves classic books. So, she starts to search, classic books is her search term, and she sees a sponsored ad in the awareness stage of her journey. She sees the Sponsored Products ad for this title.

But then she’s interrupted, she goes somewhere else. She comes back. She's looking for books again, but now she's kind of got the seed planted in her mind, and now she's searching for Jane Austen. Okay, she sees another ad, and she goes ahead, and she purchases her book. So, she's now a onetime purchaser of a Jane Austen book.

A few months later, she's finished that book, she's getting ready to purchase her next book, and she comes across Emma. She wants to purchase that. She's now a loyal customer and she's come, and she's engaged with our products in a couple of different ways over the span of her, kind of, customer life cycle.

And so, you can see how she's becoming somebody that's really, really valuable beyond just that initial purchase. So, there's lots of different paths that a customer can take, and you can use Sponsored Products throughout the journey to kind of hit the customer when you need to.

What are the requirements for advertising with Amazon?

Alright, going into a little bit of tactics, requirements, if you want to get started with Amazon advertising. You have to be a KDP author. So, Kindle Direct Publishing needs to be your publisher. The title that you want to advertise needs to be eligible on your KDP bookshelf, and it also needs to be available in the country that you're advertising in. You need to have a valid payment method on file, and your campaign needs to meet the creative requirements that we lay out in a set of advertising policies, but I'll tell you how to find it in a minute. So, advertising, I mentioned that it has to be available for purchase in the country that you're going to advertise in.

Advertising is available in a select number of countries. So, you can advertise in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and, as of August this year, you can now advertise in Canada and Australia as well.

Alright, for those of you who are currently multitasking and trying to set up your campaigns now, or if you want a step by step guide so you can go build a campaign as soon as we get off the phone, you can log into kdp.amazon.com. Go to your bookshelf. You can find your book in the bookshelf, and there's a promote and advertise button that will take you to a page where you can go create a campaign. That will take you right into the advertising workflow and you can select Sponsored Products and go ahead and get things all set up there. Should be pretty straight forward.

Best practices, common myths and misconceptions

All right, now that you all have that overview, let's talk about a couple of best practices and some common myths and misconceptions that folks might have about advertising. All right. So, I mentioned this quickly, but you have to make sure that your ad and your book content meets the advertising acceptance policy for books.

So, you can go to your favorite search engine, and you can enter in the search term, ‘Amazon books ads creative acceptance policies', and you'll find that list of what's acceptable and how you make sure that your ad passes through our process of moderation. Once you're covered there, we talked about lots of different targeting strategies, but complimentary and popular keywords are a really good place to start, and then you can also target similar books, similar authors, et cetera, and you want to target at least 30 keywords in each campaign. Some authors target way more than that, but get started with at least 30 if you're doing manual targeting. If you're unsure where you want to start with your keywords, launch your first Sponsored Products campaign using automatic targeting. This is going to let the system do the work for you and you can use the results to build out your campaigns using manual targeting. So, this will help you understand your readers, understand what's working and what's not working, and tailor your results without having to start from a totally blank page.

Then you'll want to use separate campaigns for different titles or different genres, so that you can focus your advertising strategy and get organized. This will help you identify trends and quickly make changes in a more granular way so that you're not just relying on one kind of broad, big campaign to do all the work for you.

More best practices. It's important, we talked a couple of different times about the customer decision journey, it's really important to work backward from the customer experience to think about how to target your ads and how to create relevant ads and content for your customers. So, spend some time there, think about how your reader is going to discover your book, what their interests might be, and how you make sure that your ad is going to be relevant to the reader and their journey.

You're going to want to launch your campaigns in advance of big events or big holidays that you might be targeting and run them for at least four to six weeks. This is how you can start to see what's going to be working and what isn't going to be working. If you were seeing things work really well, you're seeing really high conversions and high click through rates for certain ads, with certain types of strategies, then you're going to want to invest more in those strategies.

And if you see something that doesn't seem to be working as well, then you can taper off your budgets or you can lower your bids and lower your spend for things that, you know, may not be the most effective strategies in your playbook.

This is also why we recommend running campaigns without an end date, and you can pause as needed rather than ending a campaign. This isn't something we've talked about but, as your campaign goes and runs and serves and finds customers, it's learning, and it has historical understanding of what the relevant search terms are. You want to continue to keep those learnings alive. If you end a campaign, then you can sometimes lose those learnings. So, that's something that's important to know about.

Being flexible, you know, something that you think might work may not actually end up resonating, or something that you're not sure about might really hit the nail on the head for your customers. So, it's really important to approach advertising with a flexible mindset and always be learning about what's working and what's not working with your campaigns. And you remember to take into the actual end result criteria, like impressions, click through rate, sales, all of these different metrics that we provide. And we recommend that you start with high bids and then you lower your bids as needed, and this is to ensure that you're getting impressions and that you're being considered by the system as much as possible. That's how you're going to learn, by showing your ad and seeing what works.

Okay, getting close to the end, but a few myths and misconceptions that we wanted to make sure that we covered. So, first of all, Sponsored Products are too expensive. These ads are cost per click. So, somebody is clicking on your ad, that implies a high intent to go and at least learn about your product, if not to go purchase it. You're only paying when shoppers are clicking on your ad, and you get to choose how much you want to spend and you can choose if you, again are clever with your keyword strategies, you can find keywords that are not necessarily going to be very expensive if there's not a lot of other advertisers who are targeting those same keywords. So, that's something that you can learn as you go.

Second misconception, creating a campaign is hard. We've covered a lot of territory in this talk. Some of these concepts are really, really simple and basic, an automatic campaign is very easy to get started and we see really high levels of success in terms of effectiveness with those types of campaigns. And there's a learning curve, you'll learn as you go and you can become advanced if you'd like, but it's not hard to get started and it's not hard to get good results.

You can't measure the results. There's a lot of old sayings about, I know advertising's working, I know half my ads are working, but I don't know which half, is sort of an adage. And, in digital advertising and online advertising, you have very granular results that you're able to measure. You really can tell which campaigns are working, which campaigns are not working, and you can tweak them and tailor them as you go. So, that's no longer the case.

And then, Sponsored Products can't help grow my business. Sponsored Products make it really easy for shoppers who have a high intent of making a purchase, who're actively browsing, actively discovering. It puts your product right in front of them, puts it right into their consideration set and does make it possible to find loyal customers and grow your business.

All right, finally, before we get to the Q&A portion where we take questions from the audience, we're going to tee up some top questions that we hear a lot, to get these sort of out of the way.

Do I need a new login for each marketplace? You don't, you can use your KDP credentials. You don't have to create a new account or anything like that on Amazon. You just log in through KDP and that gives you access to all the different countries that we mentioned.

Second, can I advertise books that are not in the language of the marketplace or the country that I'm advertising in? The answer is, yes. Foreign language books can be advertised in any of the languages that are supported.

Third, can I advertise more than one title? Again, the answer is yes. You can add multiple different products to a Sponsored Product campaign. We do advise that folks consider grouping different formats of the same title together. So, if you have an eBook and a print book, putting those into the same campaign enables you to track sales for both titles together, and only one product appears at a time when the ad is shown, and it's going to be the one that has the most relevance.

Finally, what forms of payment are accepted? You can use a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit or debit card to run sponsored ads. So, super easy to get your payment set up an added.

All right, and with that, I'll turn it over to our Q&A session.

Amazon Ads Q&A

Orna Ross: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Suzanne. That was a really fabulous introduction and made a lot of things very clear.

So, we have, as I said, we put a call out in advance for questions because we wanted to see what our members wanted to know most about. And we've weeded these out a little bit. We have a few questions that are also coming in during the talk. So, if we have time, we can't go over the hour, so if we have time, we'll get to those. But if we don't, as we said at the beginning, we will make sure that we answer them later on.

I’m new to Amazon advertising, how do I get started?

So, the first question we had, we got from lots of people, I'm new to Amazon advertising, and I don't know how to get started.

Now, obviously, your presentation has very much answered that question, but is there anything you'd particularly like to say to somebody who's new to this, new to the concept of advertising, who may not even know what pay per click is, or vague about what an impression means? You know, have you anything to add to the presentation?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah. I think I can reiterate a part of the presentation, which is just that, starting on a broad targeting strategy is typically going to be a good approach for somebody who's learning, who's just in the beginning of learning what's going to work for their work.

So, I really do recommend, and a lot of our authors take the approach of setting up these automatic campaigns first and that sort of, again, casts a broad net and tests a lot of things in a very automated way so that you don't have to do all the work of thinking of the keywords and refining them manually.

And then you'll get this search term report, which is available in the product that can help you understand what actually performed in that automatic automated targeting campaign. You can learn what's working and you can start to create manual campaigns based on what you learned from that initial automated campaign.

So, even very experienced advertisers find that this is a really efficient way for them to get an inkling of what success looks like, and then putting it into their own custom campaigns from there.

Orna Ross: So, it sounds like, at the beginning, you're investing your budget in learning and in educating yourself as to what's working, what's likely to please the reader.

Suzanne O’Kelley: Exactly. And it's nice. I'll add to that for one second, which is that it helps you really learn about your customers and your audience, as well as what's working with advertising. You'll be interested to find out what the folks that are actually clicking and engaging with your titles, what are they searching for? What other titles do they seem to be interested in based on what you can learn from the advertising reports? So, it's pretty fun.

Orna Ross: And how long do you feel like this learning phase typically should last?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, we recommend, I mentioned in the talk, like a four to six week phase of letting  the system do its thing and learn and gather those data points before you start making really, really big changes just because, you know, sometimes you have a niche audience and it does take a lot time for the system to get enough data to know really what's working, what's not working. So, it requires a little bit of patience, you can observe, but if you have the capacity to kind of let something just go and learn for four to six weeks, then you're going to really have a good sense, by the end of that timeframe, where you want to go next?

Orna Ross: And then one change at a time, presumably?

Suzanne O’Kelley: That's right, and think of it as a scientific experiment, you want to narrow down the variables, you don't want to change 16 things, and then you see performance improve, but you don't know which of those changes really led to the result that you wanted. Or you can also do that with different campaigns, try different strategies with different campaigns and see which ones work and which ones don't. You just want to take the guesswork, as much as possible, out of the process.

Orna Ross: So, it actually sounds like, what you're recommending is the opposite to what I've seen a lot of authors do, which is to start with a very low budget, just go on and say, okay, well I'm not going to spend much, I'm going to see how this goes, and if it goes well, I'll build up. You're actually saying, no, it works the other way around?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, I think if you have a very small initial budget, I think it's okay. I would start with the automated approach because it's going to be hard to decide which one of these very specific strategies is going to work best.

But, you know, that would be one way to start is, let's start with an automated approach. Let the system learn where to spend my budget. Then, I can see what's working and decide, you know, in a more granular basis, this next strategy is worth putting a little more budget behind and you can always adjust your automated campaign as well as you go.

Orna Ross: And as I move then from broad into narrowing the targeting, and perhaps from automatic into manual, and I'm adding more categories, you mentioned 30, you know, use at least 30 different search terms, keywords, I should say. What's the maximum? Because I know some authors put in a ferocious number. Is there actually a point at which it's diminishing returns?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Well, there's an absolute maximum you can enter in the system when it says, that's enough, which is a thousand. So, if you have the drive to put in a thousand keywords, you can. I think, from my experience, it's best to at least bucket those keyword strategies into smaller campaigns where you can really say, I have a hypothesis that this is going to work because, and you can say, I'm going to target this set of keywords that are related. Then you can learn if that sort of hypothesis, again, thinking like a scientist, if that hypothesis seems to be valid and you see performance that you want to see. If not, maybe take a different tack with your keyword strategy.

But I think the more keywords you are managing, the more work it's going to take to report out on what all those keywords ended up producing in terms of results and then, you know, tweaking and adding budget or increasing or decreasing bids for each one of those keywords. It's just a matter of how much time you want to invest in managing all of those different individual strategies.

How much time goes into managing an Amazon advertising campaign?

Orna Ross: I'm glad you mentioned time because obviously, for writers, time is extremely precious and there's never enough time to write. And so, anything that is done on the marketing side obviously is taking time away from writing. Typically, what sort of time goes into managing an ad campaign on Amazon?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, I think it would widely vary if you did a survey. We've talked to a lot of authors, all the time, just to make sure we know what folks want and everything, and we see, I think our more experienced authors do spend a decent amount of time on any given month looking at their campaigns and understanding what's working and what's not working. But they do develop, you know, there might be an initial upfront cost of time just to kind of do this initial work we've been discussing of learning what's working, develop your strategies, understand your audience and all of those things. But talking to more experienced authors, you hear a lot of, you know, I know what works and when I start a new campaign I, you know, you kind of develop a sense of where you should focus your efforts, what's going to be the most performant in the system. So, people do get very efficient at, you know, I'm not even going to bother with this idea I used to think was going to work. Now, I really focus in on these keywords and these similarities between us and other products. So, I think you can get more and more efficient as you develop that proficiency. And we have a lot of resources to help authors with that path to proficiency, which I'm happy to talk about.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. So, in terms of a range between exploratory and efficient, what are we talking about in a week, how many hours would people be devoting to it?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, it's hard to come up with an average, I would say, probably a lot of authors spend an hour or less a week. We have some stats on how often people are visiting the console, and there's a lot of authors who are kind of checking in on a daily basis to see if there's anything that needs their attention. So, it might just be part of your, you know, I've got my tea or my coffee and I'm just going to log in, make sure everything's going well, and then I'm just going to make any changes needed and go on with my day. So, I think that's a typical habit where it's just a quick, you know, a little burst of endorphins when you see sales starting to increase and then you don't have to babysit it, if you're not doing anything too dramatic in the system. So, hopefully it's not a very, very big commitment on a daily basis for anyone.

Orna Ross: Okay, great.

Darren Hardy: I think it's also fair to say, it's sort of down to the individual author as well to choose how much time they want to invest. I mean, we're very aware in the UK of some very well-established people that talk about advertising and spend a huge amount of time on it, because they really enjoy doing it. You know, it's something that they get a lot of fun out of as well as being really good for their business. And that's great, if you want to go down that route. There are others where, a little bit like writing in a way you, want to sort of practice the writing muscle to sort of get comfortable with it. And then you sort of just glide along without necessarily pushing yourself any further, and that's absolutely fine too. I think the great thing about this sort of model, as it were, is that as the author, you choose how much you want to invest and, as Suzanne was talking about, I guess you sort of get clear on what are your goals and then you work towards those goals. And if you're happy with how it's going, then you can stick at that and keep repeating. If you think to yourself, actually, I think there's something even more exciting here, I'd like to do more of it, then away you go. And that flexibility, I think, is a really important part of this process, just as it is on the publishing side as well, I think.

Orna Ross: Yeah. So, it's very individual, finding your own sweet spot as it were.

Is advertising the first book in a series a good strategy?

Orna Ross: Okay. So, a lot of our authors, as most indie authors, are keen on writing series, for all sorts of reasons, and when advertising a series, a lot of them use the strategy of only advertising the first book in the series. Is this a good strategy?

Suzanne O’Kelley: We do hear a lot of authors putting a lot of investment into the first book in the series, and it certainly makes sense, but I think there's not necessarily a one size fits all approach to a series.

What we do recommend is, with Amazon advertising, you can add multiple different products into a single campaign. If you have a series, it's a good idea to put all of the books in your series into your campaign and let the system figure out which one is going to be the best to show to a shopper at any given time.

And the benefit is, when you do take that approach, and you're not just saying, I'm only going to advertise this one book, I'm going to advertise all of my books in this series, you can see the results across all of those different books. So, we're going to show you the sales that happen from that campaign for all the different titles that you've got advertising in that series, set up for.

And so, you can see that's going to be important to inform your understanding of your customer journey. If you are advertising the first book in the series, but you've included the third book in the series in your campaign, and you can see that a lot of folks are clicking on your ad, and then they're going on to buy book number three, that tells you a lot about loyalty and how people are purchasing and remembering your brand and your series within advertising.

So, I think that would be my one suggestion is, definitely put all of your books into your advertising campaigns, and then you can increase bids and things like that if you want to, accordingly.

What should I do if my ads aren’t getting any impressions?

Orna Ross: Okay. Great. So, what does an author do, and we hear this a lot, you know, my ads just aren't getting any impressions. I can't spend my money, nothing's happening. I have tried increasing my bids, but there's been no effect. Why does this happen?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, so a lot of the time when we see ads not getting any impressions, one of the common causes can be that the keywords that are being targeted aren't deemed relevant by our system.

And so, we want to make sure, as Amazon, that we're finding, for somebody who's engaging in their shopping mission, that we're finding the right ads to show to that shopper at the right point in their journey. And so, sometimes authors really want to go for the broadest possible number of search queries they can, and so they'll target authors that are very popular, even if those authors don't bear a lot of similarity to the type of work that they're themselves producing. And sometimes that can lead to our system finding other more relevant ads then theirs to display to a shopper who's looking for that type of book, and that's based on a lot of different attributes. And so, it's important to be really realistic and be really thoughtful about what types of targeting you're putting in there, because we are going to make a decision about relevance and that's, again, a really common reason why ads might not be displaying.

I can talk about some recommendations if you'd like, Orna?

Orna Ross: Yes, please, recommendations are good. Yeah.

Suzanne O’Kelley: Okay. So, we talked a lot about automated campaigns, that would be a good way to start. And in that search term report that you would get for an automated campaign, you'd see where the keywords tended to get lots and lots of impressions.

And those can be a good guide to make sure that your ad is going to be seen. Make sure you're including some of those high impression keywords in any manual campaigns that you're running. We talked about 30 keywords being your starting point for any given campaign, but if you're not seeing impressions, then one issue may be that you're targeting too narrow of a group, and there just aren't very many people that are, you know, searching or finding products that match the keywords that you're targeting. So, you can add more keywords, and that's a good way to expand your reach and make sure you have a good audience size. There are three different match types in the system, I didn't go into them, but there's broad match, there's phrase match, and there's exact match. And think about expanding beyond just, exact match, I want to only target people who are putting in these exact words in this exact sequence. The broader you include your keyword match, the more audience you're going to be able to reach. We talked about increasing bids, sometimes you’re getting outbid, especially for a really competitive keyword that probably has a lot of people searching and a lot of interest from other advertisers. You're going to want to make sure you're bidding within a recommended range in order to be eligible to win those keywords.

And there's also the ability, in addition to manual bids, where you're saying, I will bid this exact figure, we have some dynamic bidding options. Bid up and down is sort of how it's described in our system, that will adjust your bids based on the competition and other factors to make sure that you are eligible to win as many impressions as possible, which gives you the best chance of a click and a conversion.

How long does it take to start seeing results?

Orna Ross: Okay, great. How long does it typically take for a new ad to show a result?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, this is where that four to six-week guideline comes in. I think people get really eager to see results really quickly. If you're not seeing any impressions or any results within the first seven days, it might be time to take a look and make sure your bids are appropriate and make sure you have a good number of keywords set up and things like that. But if you're seeing some preliminary results, but you're not sure if it's time to make any changes yet, just check and see how long your campaign has been running and give it at least four weeks before you're making any massive changes, because you can really disrupt the process of the system testing things out and learning and those algorithms at work.

When should I switch from an auto-campaign to a manual campaign?

Orna Ross: If I've been running an automatic campaign for a while, got my results, now know my keywords and now I want to go manual and bring in my manual keywords, should I then turn off the auto-campaign?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah. So, one thing to think about is, any targeting that you have set up on multiple campaigns, both of those campaigns are going to be bidding for the same keywords or the same, impressions at auction. So, yeah, you may want to make sure that your targeting isn't overlapping, just for that reason, because one campaign might win every time, and then the other one would maybe not get any impressions. You wouldn't have the opportunity to learn with the second campaign. They won't both win. You're not going to bid yourself up with competition, the system is smarter than that, so you don't have to worry about that, but it can dilute your learnings if you've kind of got overlapping targeting. So, we do think, once you've understood what's going on, what's working well with your automated campaign, if you start breaking out additional campaigns for manual targeting, over time it can be a good idea to pause that automated campaign if it starts to feel like it's cannibalizing impressions from your other campaigns.

What other advertising opportunities does Amazon offer?

Orna Ross: Okay. We've time for only one more question.

So, I'm just going to ask, we've talked about the sponsored ads, but what about other opportunities? You know, there are other kinds of campaigns you can run and display banners and other stuff like that. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, I can talk a little bit about that. So Sponsored Products is our sort of self-serve opportunity for authors, and we've talked about all the ways it's really quick and easy to get started. There's also display media opportunities that are available through Amazon and display is like more of the banner ads and different types of creatives that you might be seeing, you know, across all of your online activity, and those are available through more of a managed service offering. So, you don't have to run those types of campaigns yourself. You can engage with our teams who do that professionally and you can learn more about the managed service and display opportunities at our website at advertising.amazon.com.

Where can indie authors get help with campaigns and advertising?

Orna Ross: Okay. And is that the general ad to go to for learning and getting help for your campaign?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yes.

Orna Ross: Okay. So, give it to the people again, just in case they didn't quite get it.

Suzanne O’Kelley: That's advertising.amazon.com.

And you can go to advertising.amazon.com/kdp-authors, and there's a lot of content in there that's really tailored toward the independent author audience. So, hopefully you'll be able to find everything you're looking for there.

Can I advertise my audiobook or traditionally published books?

Orna Ross: And just one final, final question, are authors eligible to, through their author advertising account, can they advertise other stuff? Is it just books?

Suzanne O’Kelley: Yeah, it's anything that's available, that's been published through their KDP portal account can be advertised directly on Amazon. We don't currently support, we get asked about audiobooks that might be published through a different service or traditionally published books, and at this time it needs to be in the KDP bookshelf in order to be eligible for Amazon advertising.

Orna Ross: Okay. That's really clear.

Okay, Suzanne, that was a fantastic introduction. Really, really brilliant. It cleared up so many questions that we've been asked so many times. So, thank you very much, indeed for that. And Darren, anything you'd like to say to wrap us up?

Darren Hardy: No, just thank you everybody for your time. And hopefully that's inspired some new creative ideas and you'll start experimenting using some of Suzanne's advice over the coming weeks.

And thank you again to Suzanne for sparing out the time for speaking with us today, I found that really use myself actually, I'm going to go and try a few things as well. So, thank you.

Suzanne O’Kelley: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Orna Ross: Thank you both. And thank you everyone for coming along. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll see you soon for another ALLi Q&A. Until then, happy writing and happy publishing.

Bye, bye.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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