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How To Get Started With Amazon Ads: Reaching More Readers Podcast, With Dale L. Roberts And Holly Greenland

How to Get Started with Amazon Ads: Reaching More Readers Podcast, With Dale L. Roberts and Holly Greenland

This month on the Reaching More Readers podcast, Dale and Holly introduce Amazon Ads, including the jargon you need to know, the free accredited courses you can take to build your knowledge, key steps for quick and easy setup, and how to try out an Amazon Ad campaign even if you have a small budget to play with.

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Listen to the Podcast: How to Get Started with Amazon Ads

On the Reaching More Readers podcast, @selfpubwithdale and Holly Greenland tell you how to try out an Amazon Ad campaign even if you have a small budget to play with. Click To Tweet

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Show Notes

About the Hosts

Dale L Roberts black and white photo

Dale L Roberts

Dale L. Roberts is a self-publishing advocate, award-winning author, and video content creator. Dale’s inherent passion for life fuels his self-publishing advocacy both in print and online. After publishing over 50 titles and becoming an international bestselling author on Amazon, Dale started his YouTube channel, Self-Publishing with Dale. Selected by Feedspot and LA Weekly as one of the best sources in self-publishing of 2022, Dale cemented his position as the indie-author community's go-to authority. You can find Dale on his website or YouTube

Holly Greenland

Holly Greenland is a self-published author, content writer and strategic communications consultant. She has worked in marketing and communications for nearly twenty years, including at the BBC, UK Parliament, and award-winning agency Social & Local. Holly is currently completing a Publishing PhD with Kingston University in London, investigating the factors that increase the likelihood of indie author success. Find out more about Holly's writing on her website or connect on LinkedIn.


Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: How to Get Started with Amazon Ads

Dale L. Roberts: With the overwhelming options for marketing and promoting a book, what can indie authors do to get their books into more readers hands?

We explore the many faucets of book marketing in this new monthly podcast, relatively new because we're going on our what, third, fourth episode now? It's Reaching More Readers, brought to you by the fine folks over at the Alliance of Independent Authors.

I'm Dale L. Roberts, an award-winning author, self-publishing advocate, and YouTube creator with over 50 publications.


Holly Greenland: Hi, I'm Holly. I've worked in communications and marketing for, probably getting on for 20 years now, which is scary, but my real love is writing.

I've got a couple of self-published books and I'm also doing a PhD in self-publishing at the moment, looking at success factors, what helps people be successful, what we can learn from that for the future.

Dale L. Roberts: If anybody ever has the opportunity to get in touch with Holly, she is just a wellspring of information. I was just grilling her all about her thesis statement and everything, it's very fascinating to me.

But today we're going to be talking about amazon ads. It's often requested here through the Alliance of Independent Authors, about more information when it comes to Amazon advertising.

So first off, ALLi always recommends going wide for a variety of reasons, and we can link to some info on that in the podcast notes. However, we know how important Amazon eBook sales can be to indie authors, and advertising is such a big area for the community, that we are dedicating this one podcast to just that.

Holly let's start with your one big tip for approaching advertising in this way. What would you say to a new author?

Holly Greenland: I've been thinking about this. I think with advertising it's a bit of a mindset thing.

When I had produced my first self-published book, I put it out there, I'd done all the traditional things. I'd been speaking to people. I'd been sharing things on my own channels, and then advertising felt like this big leap. Like, suddenly I'm investing money in this. It felt like a big business step.

So, I suppose the first thing is that it is a bit daunting, and it may not work first time, which is something we go back to in marketing, is that you always have to test things out, and that's okay. That's totally normal. So, don't freak out if you try something doesn't work first time, but try and keep your expectations cool.

Also just think of this one key point, which is ROI, which is your return on investment. If you're just going to think about one thing, it's that what you're doing with advertising, as with all your marketing activity really, if you're spending money, is you want to be seeing a good return on the money you spend. So, more coming back to you than you're putting out. It's really as simple as that.

So, trying to keep that always in mind, so you're not getting too confused by a lot of the words and the numbers, and all the things you've got out there on things like dashboards. Don't get too caught up in it. Really, when you go back to basics, it's about trying to find the point that works for you where, what you're putting out there in terms of your spend, you're getting more back in terms of your sales.

So, I suppose that's my top tip, just trying to really simplify things and calm down as you go into the process, because it can be a little bit scary, I think, when you first start off and you're thinking, God, I'm really actually investing some money here, this is a business.

Dale L. Roberts: It reminds me so much of approaching a casino, and this is a lot about any type of premium advertising that's out there is, you're sitting down at a blackjack table for the first time, and if you don't know the rules and how to play blackjack to where the odds work in your favour, you're at a greater disadvantage.

I think the main thing I'm just going to go ahead and say to anybody that's listening to this is learn first, because throwing money at the problem, thinking, oh, I've been told I got to do Amazon ads, so let me just go ahead and start throwing money into this and hopefully money will start raining down on me.

It just doesn't work that way.

You can't just sit at a blackjack table, because then it's 100 percent luck at that point. You can't be strategic about how you're going to play your hand based on what the dealer has and what you're being dealt.

I would just recommend this to everybody that is interested in Amazon advertising, or if you've tried it before with little to no results, is take their certification courses.

They're 100 percent free. If you go into your ads dashboard, the top right-hand corner, there's a question mark there. Click that and it says training courses. Left click on that. There is an unending supply of courses, as well as replay of webinars, and so much information that it can be overwhelming at first.

So, what I would recommend is stick to things that are related to KDP, as well as sponsored product ads. Those are going to be the biggest ones.

If you have the discretionary time, go back through and look at the other ones because it's going to teach you a little bit more about the Amazon Marketplace and how it functions.

Have you looked into those certification courses before, Holly?

Holly Greenland: Do you know what, I've never done them. That's stupid, isn't it? I've never done them. I think what I did originally, this is giving it away, I think I went on YouTube, I watched some tutorials, and then I went and fiddled around.

I love a little bit of data, that's my problem. So, I went into the dashboard, and I think what I did was I ran something with a very minimal spend just to test out the system, because I'm one of those kinds of learn by doing people. So, I was just testing out the system, what does that mean, what does that mean?

Having looked at that, I'd love to do one of the courses. So, that's a good tip because I think I'll probably go away and do that.

But before we go into the detail of it, is it worth just clarifying what you're buying when you're buying an Amazon ad? I know it sounds really stupid, but when I was starting out, I wasn't sure.

Are you making an image and then you're putting it on a page? When you think of a billboard out and about where someone's got an advert, or you're thinking of other kind of traditional advertising, a page in a newspaper, with Amazon ads, you're not buying that are you? It's like an auction. Is that a good way to describe it? You're bidding for space, and you're looking for keywords that mean that your ad will be picked up when someone searches, and it will appear by the magic of Amazon ‘s algorithms. Is that the right way to describe it?

Dale L. Roberts: That's actually a fairly accurate way of describing it, because it is real time, auction based. You're bidding against other people. Now, if you've never been in an auction before, it's a thrilling experience being at an actual auction. But unlike a regular auction, where it goes to the highest bidder, with how Amazon does it, they're not just looking at the highest bidder because obviously the wealthiest authors could just go in there and just stomp all over the folks that don't have that discretionary expense. So, it's a little bit more of a level playing field, not to mention that Amazon is very customer centric.

They want to make sure that customers are buying things and they're happy with the things that they're buying, because the happier that the customers can be the happier Amazon is, because then it raises how much money that they make, because at the end of the day they want to make customers happy.

Why do they want to make customers happy? Because they want to be a profitable business. So, when you're doing the auction-based system, how it works is, at any given point, your specific ad group is performing against somebody else's ad group inside an auction, and what they're looking at is based on relevance.

Now, relevance is a fancy word of what's related to search engine algorithms. How is it going to weigh on, let's say I've got this book, it's had 20 sales in the last 24 hours. Holly's got a book and hers has had two sales on it.

They look at who's selling more, who's converting to more sales in a given period, and who's specific ad group is converting better.

So, there's so many factors that they take into determining, at any given moment, who is going to be placed where in a hierarchical system, because obviously, just because you didn't get the number one bid doesn't mean that you're completely out, because you're going to get placed a little further down, maybe in search or through things like sponsored brand ads, things like that.

So, there's so much to weigh in on, and I see a lot of video content creators that, God bless them, they're doing the best that they can, but unfortunately, I think sometimes they believe that if you just bid higher, that's going to solve the problems.

A lot of the times it has to do with conversion, and if you're not converting your customers, or your potential customers that are clicking on your ads, into buyers, Amazon's going to look to somebody else who will be able to do that.

Can you control that factor? Not really. There's so many vital aspects to it, and this is one of the things I say, don't just 100 percent rely on Amazon advertising to do all the work for you, because if you want to start winning those real time auctions, you're going to need to start driving traffic beyond that.

Bring your own audience, get them to start buying your book, get them to start leaving reviews. Those things are going to be small indicators that are going to help out the search engine algorithms, as well as that real time auction determining, okay, this ad is going to be worthwhile. This one, it's going to probably be second best.

It gets so much fun. I love talking about relevance and search engine algorithms because there's so much to it.

Now, Holly, I know there's going to be someone going, Dale's throwing out a lot of really big words. Search engine algorithms. Algorithm is a sophisticated mathematical formula that predicts what a customer is going to do based on their previous browsing history, as well as their buy history.

So, they try to figure that out, and then they lump them in with other people who have similar actions to theirs and try to predict, ooh, this book is going to be something you're looking for, so we're going to go ahead and put this ad in front of this person.

Oh, it didn't convert? All right, let's try something different.

So, it's so much fun. I know, like I told you, we could literally do six months of just talking about Amazon advertising because it is such a huge thing, and it's always changing.

For instance, did you hear the news over the past week that for more recently sponsored brand ads, you're actually supposed to put in customized images now? Originally, you would just choose your product, it'd show your book cover on there, the title and the sponsored tag on it and all that type of jazz. And of course, if you ended up doing customized text with sponsored brands, it typically is taking the very top, the banner ad, then search, and it'll have usually three or more books being displayed for this. It creates a landing page of some sort.

Apparently now they're wanting customized images. Now, I haven't been able to dig too much further down on that, but apparently from what they're saying, these customized images are getting better conversions over on mobile, more importantly.

So, they were like, here's the data, 48 percent of customers are doing it through mobile and anytime they have, the customized images can be there.

The other big change is now, apparently, that video ads are available to authors, which I'd been hoping and praying for that to be rolled out, because unless you actually had an Amazon seller account or a vendor account of some sort, it wasn't available to you. You couldn't put up any type of video ads of some sort.

A good friend of mine, and someone to check out, I highly recommend everybody check out her channel, April Cox. She has a channel called Self-Publishing Made Simple. She goes nerd level on that type of stuff, but she'd actually shared with me that she prefers doing video ads versus the normal static ads because she's discovered that, I can't remember and I'm sorry this is anecdotal, I think she said she had a 300 percent better conversion rate with video ads versus the static ads that we're normally used to.

Holly Greenland: So, they would pop up where you would have had just your image of your front cover, a sponsored product image, is that right? There'd be a video there instead then?

Dale L. Roberts: So, I'm not sure if the video ads have any correlation with sponsored brands.

Holly Greenland: It might be a totally different. Okay.

Dale L. Roberts: Right, completely separate. The customized image thing is what's regarding sponsored brand ads. The video ads is totally separate and I'm not sure how it's functioning yet, and so that's why I feel like I'm a little bit premature, but what I would recommend is, dig into your dashboard. If you haven't been into your Amazon ads dashboard lately or have been into one, I highly recommend that you do it.

If you have a KDP account, it's just as simple as going into your marketing tab, scroll down, you'll see Amazon advertising and you'll be able to get everything set up. Before you can start running ads, you're going to need to put in your credit card payment and all the banking information that you need to, so that way you can start to run those ads.

But it should have at the very top of your dashboard where it does inform you about those sponsored product ad changes as well as the video ads. Again, I want to explore it just a little bit more before I go buck wild on something like this, but I will say that overall, the simplest way of doing Amazon advertising, especially for new authors, is start out with sponsored product ads at an automated targeting.

The reason is, it's a little bit simpler. Start out with a very low cost per click, which means anytime someone clicks on your ad, you're going to pay for that click. Anytime someone gets served that ad, it's called an impression. It does absolutely nothing as far as getting paid. It does give more visibility and does indirectly create some type of awareness, because if you get an ad served in front of you like six or seven times, after a while, you're like, okay, Dale, I get it, I'm going to go ahead and buy your stinking book, man.

But the clicks, keep those costs per clicks low, and then keep your daily budget low. That way you can learn the process. In fact, I've said this for a few years now, you could start it out as low as two cents cost per click and about a dollar budget per day.

Will it make you a millionaire? No, it won't, but what it will do is give you data, and Holly, I know you love some data. That's what it's all about.

You want to be gathering information, learning the system, tweaking things as you go along with an automated targeting sponsored product ad campaign.

Stick with one book iteration, don't try to do 5,000. I had this conversation with my wife the other day. She loves doing merch by Amazon and she does shirt ads, and she dropped in thousands of products on one ad group, and I was like, what are you doing? How can you measure that? And she said, I didn't know, I just was trying it out.

And that's cool. It's great to go and experiment because you're going to find, you're going to break a few things and go, Oh, okay.

But one thing I'm going to recommend and Holly, here's a scary story. I'd actually spoke with a gentleman about a few years ago, he'd reached out to me. He and his mother had put together this book, and it looked like a fun book. I think it might've been a children's book of some sort. They'd set their cost per click at a dollar. A dollar per click, by the way, absurdly high, especially for a new author like this person was, and they had set their daily budget, I am not kidding you, at $1,000. Guess how much they spent over three days?

Holly Greenland: 3,000 dollars?

Dale L. Roberts: Over 3, 000, and I think they had a total of maybe a dozen sales, which hardly made their money back. My heart hurt for them, and if that person happens to be listening here, it was a good reason why I didn't mention your name because I didn't get permission, but I want to make sure that I warn folks out there. Don't go into Amazon advertising, setting the bar so ridiculously high and, you know, oh, well I followed this YouTuber.

Forget what that YouTuber did. Start low, scale slow, learn as you go, plug into educational resources, direct from the source, go right over to Amazon advertising. They're giving you the information for free. You don't need to spend 800 bucks for a designer self-publishing course about Amazon ads when they're giving it to you on a platter.

Holly Greenland: Even if you don't want to do the big courses, just some of their webpages where it's, here's our top tips, they're really straightforward. They're really simple, and at its simplest level, then you pick your product, which is essentially your book. You've got one book. It's going to be that book. You go in and you choose, if you want to, choose automatic, which means that they'll do the targeting for you. If you want to make your own choice about what the targeting is, you go for manual. Think about your audience.

You set your limit, don't go crazy, because they will spend it all if it's going to do it, and then you keep an eye on it and you set your dates.

That's the other thing as well. Always remember to set your dates if you want it to be a campaign, and you want there to be an end date. You don't want it to continue forever because you will forget, or I will forget.

then the good thing about it, I find, because I like data, is that you can then go into your dashboard, and I'm sure this is the same with a lot of the other systems, but Amazon is the one I'm most familiar with at the moment, and you can keep an eye on those core bits of information and try and forget the other bits.

So, the core bits being, have you made any sales? What's your spend first off, keep an eye on the spend? The impressions, which as you say, is more about who's having their eyes on it. Are you getting your eyes on it? And then the clicks and then the click through rate. That's really important because that's about whether people are seeing it and they're going, oh, intriguing and clicking on it, because if you're finding there's loads of impressions and no click throughs, some things going on there. Either you're targeting the wrong people or what you're showing is not enticing them, even if they are the right people.

The other thing then is if they go through on that click through rate and then they're not buying, that's indicative of what they're finding at the other end. So, that might be something for you to think about in terms of there's loads of people seeing the ad, great, loads of people are clicking through. Nobody's actually buying it. Now why is that?

So, don't get cross at the ad, maybe think about what you're offering up and go back to those basics again about how have you described it? What are the words you're using? Who are you targeting? Who's your audience?

So, that's why I found it quite useful actually for a wider than just advertising, to just get given some more data about what are you producing and what are you saying, and is it working? It's quite an objective way of testing it, something I thought was quite useful about it.

Dale L. Roberts: You said exactly what I always share. If you're getting a ton of impression but no clicks, there's either a targeting issue or there's a cover issue. There's something aesthetically not matching up with that customer that's appealing enough. You're getting those impressions, you're getting those clicks, but no buys, there's something that is not lining up with them, whether it be the book description or not enough reviews.

That social proof plays a huge part in it. In fact, actually the Amazon advertising certification course, I always like to rattle this one off, 91 percent of customers will look at the reviews before making a purchase. 91 percent. Of course, that's globally including books as well as other products. So, there might be a little bit of a difference as far as that 91 percent when it comes to books, but it can't be too much lower at this point. Just understand that.

The next thing they also recommend is to be retail ready, and that's to leverage advertising is having 15 reviews or greater at three and a half stars or greater as an average. It's so important.

I would say if you're doing the automated targeting campaigns, folks, is there's two specific avenues you need to pay closest attention to. Now, obviously there's many things, and I can't be able to go into it without us going into a three-hour podcast. But focus on your search terms report at the ad group level. So, if you've got an ad group, go into the search terms. This is going to tell you precisely how a customer was served this, what were the products or keywords that were used to get them, if they were able to convert. If they're able to convert, great.

Put that on a separate spreadsheet of high converting products or keywords or targets, if you will, and you're going to also see irrelevant keywords or products, or even low converting keywords and products. Take those, you're going to put that into a separate spreadsheet of bad words. You're going to suppress those in negative targeting at a campaign level, because campaigns can have numerous ad groups underneath them.

So, a lot of people are always like, what does that mean by campaign level?

we've got the big umbrella of a campaign. We have numerous ad groups that go underneath that.

A funny story is, I don't ever put an expiration date on any of my ads at all.

Holly Greenland: That scares me, I have to.

Dale L. Roberts: I know Brian Cohen, big shout out to Brian, good guy. He's really big about putting a deadline on his, but I've had an ad running for over three years now, and it's continued to convert at a pretty good return on investment.

So, it's just a case of, if you can get that automated targeting campaign trained enough that you have all the search terms. The ones that should be suppressed, you move it over to the campaign level. You build other ad groups off that. The nice thing is you won't ever waste any of your money on those poor converting targets or the irrelevant targets, because quite frankly, I don't want my book being served up. Let's say my book is Amazon reviews for books, I don't want it served up in front of low content books, like diary for authors. No, that doesn't make any sense. They're not going to want to have a diary. So, I suppress that irrelevant target.

You got me all fired up. I'm so darn excited about Amazon advertising, and I know that, if anything, we can always pull up data at a future episode.

So, folks, if you happen to be listening to this, make sure that you reach out to Holly or anybody ALLi, if you are interested in expanding on this, we would be happy to explore and dive deeper into this.

Holly Greenland: And we'll add some links to some of the other resources, both from ALLI and also from Dale as well, because I know you've got a lot of content that expands on some of these areas, but hopefully that's given a bit of an intro.

Fight the fear, have a go. It's not too scary once you know what you're doing.

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, for sure. I'll tell you; I can go into a casino now and I can sit at a blackjack table and not be afraid. I know how to play the game and I know that when I start to lose, it's time to go ahead and pick up my chips and go home.

All right. As we start to wrap up today's podcast, I just want to thank everybody for tuning in. It has always been a blast serving the community here at the Alliance of Independent Authors and those that are even just peeking in for the first time, we definitely appreciate it.

If you can do us both a favour, and all of us a favour, make sure that you're following or subscribing to ALLi in all their various aspects, as far as the podcast goes.

On behalf of Holly and myself here, thank you so much for tuning in and we will catch up with you next month. Same time, same channel.

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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