What’s the deal with Amazon Ads for authors these days?
Are Amazon ads for authors? Um, yes. In the fall of 2018, Amazon redesigned its ad platform, now called Amazon Advertising, and consolidated ads to two types for authors: Sponsored Product Ads and Lockscreen Ads. Sponsored Product Ads lets you target products or other books in your genre and categories in addition to keywords and phrases. Lockscreen Ads are the ones you see when you open your Kindle or Kindle App to start reading. These allow interest-based targeting. Amazon continues to test and tweak its algorithm and that has caused a bit of havoc in the book world. Information below is anecdotal, as Amazon doesn’t release sales numbers, and based on author research over the past six months.
Amazon uses a bidding system for its advertisers. However, it seems to have changed from a straight up “bid the most to win the keyword” to a “bid the most on a keyword with a relevant ad.” In other words, just because you bid more than the other guy on your keyword doesn’t mean you’ll win the bid. Amazon wants to make the ads shown to potential buyers as relevant to the buyer as possible. That means if your ad isn’t relevant to the customer, you’re not going to win the bid. It’s also why a lower bid might be more successful for you than a higher bid on a different ad.
Relevancy? What’s relevancy?
Relevance is the probability of the ad getting clicked. If you’re trying to sell psychological thrillers and the information you provide in the ad copy or product description or even what people write in reviews make it sound like your book is more relevant to a shrink’s office than in the Jason Bourne section, your bid won’t win. Amazon defines “relevancy” as what people purchase after they search for something. According to Amazon itself, “Items are ranked according to how often the keyword appears in the description, where the keyword appears, and how often customers purchased the products they found using the keyword.”
Before the algorithm shows your ad to a customer who searches for your keyword, it scans your book information (ad, description, reviews) and compares it to a customer’s purchase history. If all of that marries up, Amazon shows the ad to that customer. Basically, Amazon is trying to get the ad clicked on. It’s doing that by offering customers ads Amazon feels are more relevant to that particular customer based on their history.
For example, if I always buy Lay’s Potato chips. The algorithm is more likely to show my Lay’s chips when I type in “chip” to the search bar. It won’t show me poker chips or Fritos.
Huh? How do I create relevancy in my ads?
There are a few ways to help your ad be more relevant.
- Correct category placement is crucial. Your psycho thriller needs to be in fiction, not nonfiction. No kidding, Jen. What I mean, is make sure the Amazon placerbees actually categorized your book in the right place. Don’t just assume they did after you clicked Send. And make sure you use as specific a category as possible.
- If you can put the keyword or phrase you’re targeting in the title, do it. This may be easier for nonfiction authors than fiction authors. But romance writers are the best at this. Bridget Barton and Abigail Agar use “Historical Regency Romance” in their titles as almost like a subtitle. Others put the category in parenthesis.
- Product description.
- While organic reach is pretty low, a solid product description that uses your targeted keyword or phrase is still a best practice. But make sure it’s readable and not just a pile of keywords. That’s not going to cut it. Check out your competitors. How are they doing it?
- Solid book cover.
- Yes, covers sell books. The higher a click-thru rate you can get, the better your ads will do. Yes, the human race is shallow. We click book covers we like. Simple, clean easy -to-read. That doesn’t mean “without graphics or beautiful people.” It means readable and attractive.
Amazon ads for authors – a word on Reviews
You can’t control what people write in their reviews. You can make an effort to get reviews, however. The more reviews you get, the higher your social capital, even if you have 3-5 stars on average. Amazon wants to see you can sell the book. Do I think this is absolutely necessary? No. I don’t. Scrambling for a 100 reviews probably isn’t going to help you much, according to new data available from authors using this new system. But I do think having some reviews will help you but their weight compared to other aspects of ads is lower. That being said, if you can get reviews on Goodreads ahead of the book launch with your street team, Amazon will take that into account. If you can do it through promotions: KDP Select (free 72 hours) or 99 cents the first week, then I think you should. But for the sake of your ads, concentrate more on the product description and categories over stressing to get a million reviews. (Yes, I know that’s blasphemous!)
So, what now?
With all this new stuff happening at Amazon, authors need to remember this: Things will change again! Be flexible. Be patient. Always test. Then test again. Keep learning and paying attention to how Amazon tweaks its algorithms. Do that by watching and studying your own data. It will show you what’s working and what’s not.
For a more in-depth look at this, check out:
- Chris McMullen’s Amazon Ads for KPD Authors in 2019
- Big Commerce’s blog post on Putting Theory into Action
- AMZFinder’s Amazon Optimization