Book promotion on Amazon is important, but it’s more important to do things right, otherwise you’re just losing money and getting discouraged. Ever since Amazon opened up their ads to everyone, we’ve seen a flood of authors start up ad campaigns and, sadly, most of them fail.
There are a lot of reasons Amazon ads don’t do well – not the least of which is that Amazon ads aren’t easy. They take a lot of effort to both set up and manage, and aside from that, there’s also the ever-changing Amazon landscape. And with books being added to that site daily, the metrics are always changing.
I’ve managed thousands of ad campaigns, pretty much ever since Amazon started to offer ads.
And based on my experience I’ve pulled together the top reasons that ads fail to attract readers, don’t do well, or wind up costing you a lot of money. So let’s dig in!
You Don’t Have Enough Keywords
This is a big one. Many authors start Amazon ads with five keywords just to see what happens. In order to gain traction, you absolutely must start out with a higher number. My recommendation is 300-400 and if that number made you gasp, then consider this:
I don’t need you to find 400 unique keywords, I need you to find 100-150 and save them as different match types. So, you’ll be saving them as broad, exact, and phrase match, which will allow you to watch and see how the same keyword does under these different match types.
You’re Running Too Many Ads
There’s a somewhat popular theory out there about running lots and lots of ads – but I can tell you I’m not a fan of this. The reason is simple: when you run a lot of ads you’re going to wind up reusing lots of the same keywords. This means that your ads are cannibalizing each other, and you’re literally bidding against yourself for placement and your book promotion on Amazon is actually working against you.
I had a call once with a Google Adwords representative at Google, and he talked about how people use this methodology for Google Adwords too (which is where the idea comes from) – and he said there’s no faster way to lose your money than to run a bunch of ads.
In fact, if you’re just starting out with Amazon ads, start with one ad – pick either a keywords-based ad or a product-based ad – don’t start one ad with the automatic ads. I don’t disagree that those seem easy, but they can cost you a lot of money. Sometimes they do very well, but automatic ads really require much more handholding than product or keyword-based ads do. That’s been my experience anyway.
You’re Using the Wrong Keywords or Keyword Blends
Whenever I pull together keywords for an author’s ad campaign, I do so with keywords I find right on the Amazon site. I don’t use software or shortcuts. Why? Because finding keywords that are trending on Amazon is a great way to dip into consumer trends, too – something that software often doesn’t capture.
The other issue is the blend of keywords vs. book title and author names. If I’m working with a fiction book, I’m doing 80% book titles and author names and 20% keywords. If I’m working on an ad set for non-fiction books – the numbers are reversed – so, 80% keywords and 20% book titles and authors.
The reason for this blend is simple. A consumer searching a non-fiction book is always searching for benefits and/or a specific topic. A reader looking for their next great fiction read is looking at genre (and this is where your product placement ads can really do well), but they’re also looking for authors similar to ones they’ve already read.
Your Bids and Budget Are Too Low
There’s a theory out there that underbidding on your keywords is the key to Amazon success, and I can tell you, it’s absolutely not. That’s not to say that sometimes lower bids don’t get clicks, and I’m not suggesting that you go with the highest recommendation each time. But lowballing the Amazon’s suggestions each time won’t move the needle on your ads.
By the same token, don’t start off your daily budget too low. I recommend you start it off with at least $20 a day and know that you won’t spend all of this (though you might, depending on the popularity of your genre) – and if you’re managing your ads correctly, your daily spend should drop the longer your ads are running.
The Final Key is Your Amazon Retail Page
I’ve saved the biggest one for last, because not enough people are talking about it. Your Amazon book page must convert a potential reader into a buyer, and often they don’t. One reason for this is the book cover. Does it match your market? Are you sure? What about your book description? Does it lead with an outstanding review or great teaser?
Is your book description long enough to be compelling, complete with spacing, bolded words or sentences (where appropriate), italics to call certain aspects of your book out to the reader? Bullet points if you write non-fiction?
What about your author bio and picture? You do have one, right? A lot of authors forget to even add an author photo to Amazon – don’t be a grey box! And yes, your bio is important, and depending on what you write, readers might be wanting to know what gives you credibility to write that money book. Or what inspires you to write romance or hard-boiled detective novels. Have fun with this!
If an author comes to me and tells me that their Amazon ads (or Facebook ads, or Instagram ads) are getting lots of clicks but aren’t selling books, that tells me there’s likely a problem with their book page. As authors, we often upload our books to Amazon – sort of set it and forget it – and then move onto something else. That’s a mistake! Your Amazon real estate, and your Amazon book promotion across the board, is crucially important to the effectiveness of your ads.
Of all of the things I’ve mentioned here it’s the most important thing, so don’t overlook it!
Amazon ads are a great way to generate exposure for your book, and I love them because you only pay for clicks, you don’t pay for your ad showing up in searches over and over again – and yes, the idea is to get readers to click the ad, but it’s also to show up in more places on Amazon. If done right, Amazon ads can absolutely help you do that!
I’d love to know how well your ads have done as part of your book promotion on Amazon, so please leave a comment!
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Resources and Free Downloads
Check out our exclusive Amazon Keyword and Optimization program to help you with your Amazon promotions!
Be sure to download our FREE Amazon Cheatsheet to keep you on top of Amazon’s lucrative features
Take a look at our Blog post about learning how to launch your ads for your book promotion on Amazon
Read our Blog post about how to revamp your older titles on Amazon
Check out our Book Marketing Tips and Author Success Podcast
Visit ALLi’s Self-Publishing News, an excellent resource for industry news and author outreach
Also visit the NY Book Editors webpage here to get resources from award-winning editors
I found my mistakes after reading your informative post let me share it here, my keywords are high competitive and my budget was low that’s why my ads aren’t showing bundle of thanks to you for this informative post
HI! I’ve done quite a few updates since the St. Louis presentation. I’ve changed the book cover, description, and revised my A+ content.
Then, I focused on KDP Select (review hunting), not realizing I could also target authors of my same genre. Honestly, I thought that was a no-no, like trying to steal someone’s readers.
I’ve upped my keywords to 205 after reading today’s article in hopes of pushing physical/ebook sales. My KDP Unlimited is hitting 300+ pages read and climbing. (that’s thanks to your advice.)
I’ll be more than happy to update you on my revised-revised-revised campaign and see how it’s trending post new keyword revisions.
That’s 300+ *per day!
Christopher thanks for this – yes, please do keep us posted! Good luck, Penny
Hi, Penny, Thanks for your well-written & helpful Amazon Ads blog. Question: you heavy 80%title & name for Fiction, but since I have only 1 book & noone knows me, wouldn’t 80% keywords be best? Another critical question: if you look up my book ‘The Monarch of Tall Pines Pool’ on Amazon,.you will see it’s first listed on Goodreads, offering such limited access to Everything, that I lose Many people? Is there a way to put Amazon’s better listing First?! Thanks for your Help!
Frederick hi there, this might be a better question to answer in a coaching session – because I’d really need to spend some time with this issue. You can reach out to me at email@example.com. Thank you!
I think I have a common problem: my books span genres. I write ecological thrillers featuring the mycology of the Pacific Northwest. There’s hard science in each — but “Science fiction” tends to be for the Star Wars stories. I have some romance/sex but I think someone shopping for “Romance” might not be thinking of mushrooms. Finally “thriller” doesn’t really fit either as there are no FBI agents or ticking time bombs.
I like my world of dark forests. Not sure how to open the door to invite others in!
Ellen hi there, I think I’d actually have to spend some time on this – I mean in a coaching session because straddling various genres is often tricky and doesn’t work well for the majority of books – but this also depends on the book/genre, too because there are exceptions. Though for genre fiction and in particular sci fi, as you pointed out, you really need to be clear on your sub-genre or trope! Email me if you’d like to set up a call! firstname.lastname@example.org – Thank you!
Thank you for your helpful comments. I have never used Amazon Key Words because I don’t know how. After reading your comments, I need to research the site.
Good luck, Mary! Keep me posted on how you’re doing with it!
That’s great, Taylor – my pleasure. I really appreciate that you follow our blog! – Penny
What if you are getting lots of impressions but very few clicks?
It could be the ad you’ve written, or your keywords.