By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
Alex Strathdee is a surfer based in sunny San Diego in California. He also runs a business called Advanced Amazon Advertising. In the latest episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, he talked about how he helps entrepreneurs get noticed by helping them advertise their books.
Running Ads on Amazon
When you search on Amazon, you will see a “Sponsored” tag underneath some products or books.
According to Alex, Amazon is a different ad platform than Facebook or Google because people are there to buy things, to begin with. When you place an advertisement on the platform, the conversation rates are often much higher. You’re going to get a lot more engagement with your ads. And through Advanced Amazon Advertising, he helps authors get noticed on what is considered the largest bookstore in the world.
There are a lot of similarities between Amazon’s main products page and their book category. However, the former has richer content. In the latter, what Amazon really cares about is the book’s relevance to the consumers. The biggest difference between the two is the varying priority goals when it comes to placing ads for the items being sold on the platform. But there’s a lot of overlap in terms of targeting and the overall maintenance of what you’re targeting.
The Best Time for Advertising Your Book
I’ve recently published a book called “The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.” And everyone talks about how launching a book is really just the beginning — not the end. The question is, should people be marketing in advance the book that’s going on Amazon?
As we currently live in a click-ready society, Alex doesn’t personally recommend running an ad until the day that you actually launch your book.
If you have an extra budget, you can feel free to go for it and run it beforehand. But keep in mind that people want their stuff now. If you’re running those ads on Amazon early and they go there, you might be building awareness prior to your launch but people aren’t going to be buying your book out of those ads per se. So it’s a lot harder to track the exact return on investment (ROI).
While it will help you build some longtail marketing, he recommends you to get your ad up and running upon your book’s launch. You can do the social media marketing in advance but the sponsored ads for your book should be done once it’s launched.
Keyword and Product Targeting on Amazon
One of the best ways to figure out what you should be targeting is to look at what Amazon is saying other people are buying.
When you look at your product page and scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see that people who bought a certain item also bought this particular book. You can also do this with your competitors — you can go to their product pages and browse through the bottom part.
This is how you begin building your targeting list. You have assurance because Amazon offers real data on which items people bought together.
While geography affects targeting, what you want to be doing is to target customer search terms. This is what’s called keyword targeting on Amazon. You should also do product targeting, which is targeting Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) or the codes for ebooks and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) or the codes for paperbacks. You’d want to have different campaigns running for each of these.
For customer search terms, you can get these by searching into Amazon’s search bar. For example, if you type “business books,” you can see what else people have searched for. If what you’re searching for is a competitive niche, he wouldn’t recommend sticking to just one search term. You can backward-engineer Amazon to find your perfect target.
Alex advised thinking about customer search terms as a different kind of targeting than targeting books that are related to yours.
You have to find customer search terms that people are searching for in Amazon when finding books that are similar to yours. Then, generate a list of 200 or 300 of these keywords. For example, for “The UnNoticed Entrepreneur” book, I can use keywords such as “building a business,” “growing a business,” “small business,” and “small business for people in their 20s.”
The key is to think of all the different possible ways that people could be searching for things on Amazon that are related to your book. This is how you can build up your keywords. The goal is to target searches that people are actually searching for.
This is different from the product targeting that you do on Amazon.
Product targeting is where you go out and find other books in your niche. To do this, look at your category. Know that not all of the books in there are going to be relevant. So place a filter to identify which books are going to be relevant. Then, build a list of the books’ ASINs and ISBNs and target those.
Ads on Amazon show up differently. They don’t show up on the customer search page, but on the actual product page. If you scroll down to the bottom of your product page, you will see a bunch of sponsored listings and that’s where you’re trying to show up with your ad placements.
The Importance of Book Codes
ASINs and ISBNs are important because these are essentially Amazon’s tags for the products that you want to target.
When people go to Amazon and look for a specific book (for instance, they type in “Rich Dad Poor Dad”), what they do is click on that book on Amazon. If you targeted the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” which gets tens of thousands of searches a month, it’s actually a chance for you to bring that reader to you because your ad will be placed on the book’s product page.
The marketing rule of 7 states that you need to show up in front of your audience multiple times before you can actually get them to buy your product. A book’s Amazon product page is basically just another place for you to show up along the way. And ISBNs and ASINs are your way to tell Amazon that this particular book is what you want to target.
These numbers can be found at the bottom of an Amazon product page. These are what you want to pull out and tell Amazon that you’re targeting.
Targeting Books Outside Your Niche
You can also target the ones that aren’t your category. For instance, Alex shared that there’s a spiritual book that they’re working on and it works well targeting alien books.
Sometimes, you have to think about what your reader is reading. It’s not just a matter of finding out who your avatar is but also thinking about what books they might be reading.
This will help you reduce the cost of running ads. If you target an entrepreneur and you assume that that person is also interested in fitness, then, you might also be getting them once they look for fitness books and you’ve previously targeted fitness books (or any other books outside your main category).
Fortunately, Amazon provides data in the form of click-through rates. If you have a click-through rate that’s above .36, then you know that it’s something that’s relevant. If it’s below that, it’s otherwise. It’s fine to test these things because, in the long term, you’d want to really focus on relevance.
A lot of people make the mistake of going after category ads, which is where you just target a whole category and run automated campaigns. If you have no sales history, Amazon is just going to take your money because they don’t know where your book is particularly relevant. You really have to build that yourself with the right targeting out of the gates.
Tools You Can Use
About 90% of the work will take place in Excel spreadsheets. Beyond that, a lot of work takes place in something called Amazon Ads. This is Amazon’s self-service portal that actually runs your ad campaigns.
Any self-published author can run these campaigns themselves. Alex and his team have worked with publishers such as New World Library and Morgan James Publishing. They’ve worked with these publishers’ authors and they’re able to set up ads accounts that are separate to themselves so that each author can run ads for their own books.
If you’re traditionally-, pseudo-, or hybrid-published, then you won’t have access to your own ads account. Your publisher will need to set up one for you.
However, don’t think that just because you are a self-published author, you won’t have access to this. Through your Kindle Direct Publishing account, you can access this portal even if you’re a self-published author. You just need to click on the marketing tab and you’ll find the directions to get there.
The Cost of Running Ads on Amazon
The cost-per-click on Amazon rose by about 50% over the past year.
Over the years, Alex has already worked with a lot of authors who make thousands of dollars from their books. However, he and his team don’t undertake authors who are simply after that because the cost of the ads is getting too high. Who they care about are people who see the value in a reader.
This is why a lot of authors that they work with will have coaching programs, courses, and speaking opportunities. What they’re trying to do is to help build their business with their books and not necessarily make money with them.
There are top 1 or 20% among authors who make a living out of their royalties. It shows how people can still make a whole living on their books on Amazon. However, Alex encourages clients to make sure that they have other opportunities for readers to go deeper with them. If you’re able to turn a reader into a $10,000-client, then your ROI on the ads that you run will be much better for you.
In this sense, the book becomes the biggest business card that you could ever have.
But how do you make a book into a sales funnel?
Alex said that it’s going to depend on what your branding is — who you are as an individual. Some authors have readers who are a bit more open to more spammy stuff. For instance, if you open up the front page of a book by Pat Flynn, you’ll get access to a complimentary video course where he will literally walk you through the book himself. What he’s doing is collecting email addresses.
Every author is different. Alex mentioned Mike Michalowicz who has a book called “Profit First.” He’s not spamming because his audiences are not interested in someone who’s just going to sell. He has a much more subtle approach to his book. In his book, it says that if you implement the profit first system, he’d want to hear about it — he’d want to be your champion so he gave his email address for you to reach out to him.
Putting free courses, putting out your email address, and including extra resources in the book are all different ways that can further drive traffic from the book. It really depends on you and your reader. If your audience is going to be very adverse to more direct marketing, then you have to take a more subtle approach.
Enticing Non-Amazon People to Buy Your Book
When asked about talking non-Amazon people to go to Amazon to buy an author’s book, Alex stated that it’s all about controlling the process.
Amazon takes all their customers’ email addresses but they don’t provide authors with those to help build their books. It’s no different from traditional publishing. If you’ve sold your books at Barnes & Noble, you won’t get the email address of the person who bought your book. Amazon works the same and they’re intentionally the bad guy. They’re just taking the place of traditional bookstores.
If you have the means and the right publishing resources, you can print on demand yourself, send traffic to your book, and even get higher royalties. But if you’re someone who doesn’t have those kinds of resources, then what you’d want is to publish on Amazon and let them handle all the distribution of your book. Most people in the US have Amazon. While Australia is a bit behind in sales, they’re slowly getting there. In the UK, Amazon is also a big platform.
On Building Your Amazon Author Profile
For Alex, promoting your book entails taking one thing at a time. The first thing that he advises to focus on is running ads; it’s going to be more important than building out your Amazon author profile through the Amazon Author Central.
Keep in mind that people are more interested in your book — they click on it, they read it, they hear about you through it.
There are people who put a lot of time into their author page. But, essentially, it’s the same thing as having lots of rich content that you want to put on your product page — you spend a lot of time on it.
Though he doesn’t have the data to tell which works or not, he recommends that if you have the time, feel free to build your author profile. When doing that, you have to include links to your social media and website among others. In my author page, I’ve included RSS feeds, which is an easy way to take your blogs and Medium articles to your author profile.
Putting himself in the shoes of the consumer, he posed the question: Have I ever clicked on an author profile on Amazon? And the answer is, no, he hasn’t done it. However, he made it clear that he’s not a representative of everyone else. There are other people who do visit an author’s profile, though they’re going to be a smaller percentage.
Personally, he said that he’d spend his time elsewhere rather than polishing his profile up. However, he didn’t discount the fact that the Amazon Author Central is really useful for marketing. You can look at your rank over time among other things through it.
How Much Should You Spend Promoting Your Book?
To determine how much you need to spend to promote your book, it comes down to your goals. If your goal is to drive traffic into the backend, you’re going to spend more. But $400 is usually what Alex recommends when you’re starting out.
If you’re an independent author and you want to take a more gradual approach, you can get away with $200 a month. However, it might take you a year to actually build up your Amazon advertising.
Clients who come to Alex want their book to be selling now. So they need to be able to aggressively test things. In the first month, they recommend a $400 starting budget. Over time, some authors tend to spend more (up to $3,000). In fact, they have an author who spends $6,000 a month because he has $10,000 in sales. If you have the sales to support it or if you want to accomplish your goals, it makes sense to spend more.
Often, authors simply want to break even on their ads. But, in the end, it’s basically the readers who want to go further with your book that will really give you value.
Getting His Business Noticed
To get his own business noticed, Alex said that getting on podcasts is a wonderful tool. So does having your own podcast.
When people ask him how to start getting clients, he answers that they have to interview and talk to them. So if you start a podcast with a focus on your prospective client, then you can get more clients.
For instance, Alex wants to work with authors. So he started a podcast interviewing the best authors out there. This is how he got connected with Mike Michalowikz who wrote “Profit First” and Michael Watkins, the author of “The First 90 Days.”
Interviewing your ideal client is a great help. About 50% of authors that he interviews end up becoming his client. During his interviews, he doesn’t talk about Amazon ads at all — he genuinely loves interviewing authors.
When promoting your business, you can’t just make it spammy. You have to genuinely enjoy what you do. In his case, it’s only by the end of the episode when the guest asks what he does, that he introduces he’s doing Amazon ads. Then he’d be asked if the guest could hire him.
This is how he gets clients and how you can, too: Start a podcast, interview your ideal client, and get noticed by the exact person who’s going to pay you for your service.
To learn more about Alex and running Amazon ads, visit https://www.advancedamazonads.com.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.