Self-publishing has a lot of advantages over traditional publishing; you have more creative control over your work, you’re not confined to deadlines, and you can push the boundaries of the industry. However, the lack of a publisher has its downfalls as well. Namely in the fact that all marketing and sales falls on you, the author.
One inevitable element of marketing is advertisements. Over the past several months I’ve seen a lot of indie and self-published authors condemn the practice because they haven’t seen the results they want. On my various social media platforms, I see comments like “Facebook ads are useless because, [insert reason]” or “Twitter ads are a waste of money because …”
I can sympathize with these people because, as a self-published author myself, I know marketing budgets are tight. If you don’t get a return on investment (ROI) that puts you in the green, it can often feel like you’ve just wasted money. But as someone who has maintained some very successful social media marketing campaigns in my ten-plus years of marketing, I wanted to share my two-cents on how you can improve your ads and get more sales.
(hint: the answer to why your ads fail is in your analytics – and ususally that tweet you sent in anger)
Whether your trying to push ads on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or some other platform, the most important tool at your disposal is going to be your analytics dashboard. Each dashboard is different but the terminology is typically universal. Here are some of the key terms you’re going to want to look out for:
- Impressions: this is how many people your ad was served to
- Cost-per-impression (CPM): how much you’re being charged per 1,000 impressions
- Clicks: this is how many people clicked on your ad
- Cost-per-click (CPC): how much you’re being charged per click on your ad
- Conversions: this is how many people purchased your product from your ad
In this post, I won’t go into much detail about what each of those mean, but if you’re interested, drop me a note in the comments and maybe I’ll make a post dedicated to that content. Instead, let’s break down some of the most common complaints I see about ads and what the analytics are trying to tell you.
Low number of impressions
If you ran an ad campaign and you’ve noticed you’re not getting a lot of impressions, that means your ad is not being served to very many people. The likely cause for a low number of impressions is that the audience you’ve created for the ad to pitch to is too narrow.
When I say audience, I mean your demographics, things like age, sex, interests, etc. If you set your audience to target a niche or hyper-specialized group of people, your ad is not going to be seen by many people. To remedy this process, try broadening your audeience.
For example: if your book is about a small town in Alabama and your ad is only targeting people in that town, try expanding it to include the entire state or maybe even some of the neighboring state’s too.
High impressions, low clicks
This is one of the biggest complaints I see. An author has created an ad, lots of people have seen it, but no one seems to be clicking on it. The reason for this could be one of a few reasons:
- your audience is too broad
- the ad doesn’t relate to your audience
- the ad doesn’t make people want to click it
your audience is too broad
A complete 180 from the previous problem, you may have set your audience to include too many people. For example, if you wrote a science fiction novel and you’re targeting anyone who likes books, your ad is going to be served to people who have no interest in the subject matter.
When choosing targeting keywords, try to find a nice balance between broad an narrow. In this example, even science fiction might be too broad of a keyword. Instead, think about your book and what it’s closely related to. For my book, The Probability of Time, I know people have compared it to Doctor Who so in my ad set, I used some keywords that would target Doctor Who fans.
The ad doesn’t relate to your audience
Okay, let’s look at my book again. If you do a search on Amazon for The Probability of Time, you’re going to get results that include my book and a whole bunch of science and mathemetics books. It may be tempting to use probability as a keyword since it’s a common word that may be used in a lot of searches. Unfortunately, the probability (see what I did there?) of the people using that search word are most likely looking for information on those other subjects.
As such, an ad where I use that search term may yield a high impression rate, but will have a rather low click through rate (CTR). So, how do you fix this problem? Take a look at your audience and make sure the keywords you’re targeting match the group of people you’re really trying to target.
the ad doesn’t make people want to click it
If you’ve checked your demographics to make your audience is the right size and you’ve double-checked your keywords to make sure they relate to you audience, but you’re still not getting clicks, the likely reason is that the ad itself just isn’t well designed enough to make people want to click on it.
A good ad will have an eye-catching photo and ad copy with a hook and strong call-to-action (CTA). If you’re not getting clicks, take an honest look at your ad graphic and the text you’re using. Does it make you want to click on it? Try expiramenting with a couple other designs and ad copy to see if your CTR improves.
High impressions, high clicks, low sales
This may be one of the most common complaints I see and it’s probably the most frustrating to deal with. Why? Because your ad is working but you’re not making any of that money back in sales.
The reason you may be having this problem is simple: you have a successful marketing campaign but a failing sales funnel. But Tim, isn’t marketing and sales the same thing? They’re similar and often lumped together in small businesses, but the reality is that sales and marketing are two different things that you – as a small business owner – need to worry about.
I like to think about it like this: marketing is what gets people in the door (think billboards and advertisements) and sales is what makes people decide to buy (think cashiers and associates at a brick-and-mortar store).
So, how do you fix this problem? Well, the good news is you don’t have to change a thing about your ad because it’s working exactly how it’s supposed to. Instead, what you’re going to have to look at is where the ad is directing people.
First, check to make sure the link you’ve provided your ad is accurate. It’s a tough mistake to swallow if this is the problem, but a simple typo can easily derail even the best marketing campaigns.
Second, take a look at the page your ad directs to. Whether its Amazon or a personal website, something on there is making people rethink their decision to check out your book. Some things to consider are:
- Is it priced too high? Unless you’re a fairly popular name in the business, you need to be wary of how you price your book. You don’t want it to undersell the hard work you put in, but you also don’t want to charge $30 for a 150 page book (yes, I have seen this happen)
- Is your cover professional (yes, people judge a book by its cover)
- Do you have reviews? This can be tough to get if you’re just starting out, but even a book with five reviews will look better than one with none.
- If so, what is your rating? (anything above a 3.5 star rating shouldn’t deter potential buyers)
- Does your blurb make the customer want to read more? (the blurb on your page should not be the same as what’s on the back of your book. This needs to be an elevator pitch. Amazon only displays the first few lines before customers need to click the see more option. If you haven’t hooked your reader by that point, you may have lost them
I wish this blog entry was a cure all for your ad woes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that marketing involved a LOT of trial and error. But it also requires enough data points to make an educated decision as to what needs to be fixed. Let your ads run for a couple weeks to get good data, then make a decision on how to improve.
Marketing can be frustrating, but once you nail down your target audience and get a hang of keywords, graphics, and ad copy, you should see those ads start to give you an ROI that puts you in the black.
What do you guys think of this post? Is there anything I missed? Did this help you improve your ads? Let me know in the comments!