July 31, 2019

Amazon 101: Sponsored Product Ads

by Kiana Marsan

Are you an Amazon author looking for a way to track your sales, connect with readers, and ultimately sell more books? You may think that once your book is posted, your work is finished. But think again! There is more you can do to manage and market your book. In our ongoing series, Amazon 101, we offer tips about how to use Amazon most effectively.

Here, we discuss Sponsored Product Ads.

As a self-published or indie-published author, you need to know about this service—Amazon Advertising.

An invaluable resource, Amazon Ads let you pay to push your title in front of people who wouldn’t see them otherwise. There are two kinds of Amazon Ads: Sponsored Product Ads and Lockscreen Ads. We’ll be focusing on what others have opted to use and found success withSponsored Product Ads.

What are Sponsored Product Ads? 

Sponsored Product Ads appear in search result listings and below product details, as suggested items related to what the person is looking for. Your book gets displayed when the consumer searches for a specific keyword, shops within a certain category on the website, or looks for a particular product.

This targeting towards keywords, categories, and products can be done automatically by Amazon or manually by the author. For most books, manual targeting is the better option because the algorithm can be easily misled. Books with straightforward titles such as “Easy Baking Recipes” are simple enough for Amazon to find matches for, but you might find fiction like “The Dragon of Faircastle” showing up next to children’s toys and strange t-shirts.

How do you set up a Sponsored Product Ad? 

Amazon Ads defines itself as working under a “cost-per-click, auction-based model,” an approach unique to their platform. Let’s break down step-by-step what this process looks like for sponsored products:

  1. You decide you want to work with Amazon, so you start a campaign that will run Sponsored Product Ads for your book.
  2. For each keyword, product, or category in this campaign, you set a maximum ‘bid’ of how much money you’re willing to give Amazon each time a person clicks on your ad.
  3. For each keyword, product, or category, you set a daily budget of how much you’re willing to spend on ads designed around this keyword.
  4. You can set how long you want the campaign to run. You will be able to pause it at any time you’d like.
  5. Amazon’s algorithm decides if your ad appears on a person’s screen based on: how competitive the bid you gave is, how relevant your product is to that person or search, and how much money is left in your budget for that day.
  6. A person clicks on your ad, and you pay your bid to Amazon.
  7. A person buys your book, and you get paid!

How do I pick what keywords, products, and categories to target? 

How you target your book to readers will be the make or break of your ad campaign’s success.

Unless your book falls into a niche, you’ll find targeting by category less than fruitful. Most categories are oversaturated with titles, so a self-published or indie-published book has little chance of winning ad space when the pool of authors bidding for it is so large.

Targeting keywords is the best option with Sponsored Ads. A keyword is a word or phrase a person types into their search bar, such as “baking recipes” or “love triangle.” It can be a book title or author name, too, like “The Joy of Baking.”

To select your keywords, start with common phrases that come to mind when you think of your book. Get in the mindset of a potential reader that doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for. Instead of entering in a title or author, they’ll search based on the genre, topic, or character dynamic they have in mind.

Then, try to narrow those keywords down. Type them into Amazon’s search feature, and look at what other suggestions come up. For example, a keyword like “YA fantasy” brings up additional ones like “YA fantasy series” and “YA fantasy romance.”

Use your competitors to your advantage, too: pick traditionally published books similar to yours, the names of authors who fall in the same genre, and titles that appear in the ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’ section of your listing. The more specific and deliberate you are with your targeting, the more successful you’ll be.

Be smart about how you advertise, as one blogger advises, “by avoid[ing] one-word titles and authors who write in multiple genres, as well as mega-bestsellers.” Keywords that are too generic have little chance of being able to turn impressions over into clicks and purchases.

Monitor how your keywords perform regularly, and change them if they don’t lead to enough clicks after several thousand impressions. Know that it will take a lot of trial and error to figure out what keywords work best for you, and be patient with it.

Let’s talk numbers—how much will it cost? 

Budgets—Your daily budget on each keyword, category, or product can be as low as $1 a day, and Amazon will normally spend less than 50% of this. For this reason, once authors figure out what keywords work for their books, they generally use $2 budgets. Anything that rises beyond this number is normally reserved for seasonal times of the year like Christmas.

Bids—Amazon suggests $0.25. But, users have noted that if their keywords are chosen wisely, less competitive bids starting at $0.10 will still be successful on the platform.

While these costs are low, you’re going to need to multiply your budgets by however many keywords, categories, or products your ad campaign will be using. Amazon recommends starting out with at least 100 keywords, while one blogger thinks authors need as many as 300 to get off the ground running.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming such low costs guarantee success. It’s exciting to see that your ad is getting lots of impressions and clicks—but, keep in mind that if those clicks don’t translate into enough purchases, you’re losing money.

Thankfully, Amazon provides users detailed analytics to assess how their ad campaign is doing. The most important one to monitor is the ACoS, also known as the Advertising Cost of Sale. As the blog Reedsy put it, this metric “tells you, at a glance, whether your campaign is making or losing you money” by dividing your spending by your sales. If this number is higher than your royalty percentage or the percent you profit off of each book, you’re losing money.

Do Sponsored Ads work? Are they worth it? 

Most authors using Amazon Ads have found success in boosting their book sales with this tool. But, it’s generally understood by the writing community that this success is hard-earned—it takes a lot of patience and careful attention to get to work. It’s a process to find the keywords that work best for you, one that requires a hypervigilance on analytics.

To shed more light on the subject, we spoke with Polly Letofsky, the author of the award-winning memoir 3mph: The Adventures of One Woman’s Walk Around the World, on her experience marketing with Amazon Ads. Here, https://www.blueinkreview.com/8-tips-for-amazon-ad-success-from-an-award-winning-author/, she told all.


Kiana Marsan is a second-year undergraduate student majoring in English & Literary Arts at the University of Denver. She is an intern at BlueInk Review.

BlueInk Review is a fee-based book review service devoted to self-published titles exclusively. For more news and writing and marketing tips, sign up for our mailing list. And be sure and visit us at https://www.blueinkreview.com.

One thought on “Amazon 101: Sponsored Product Ads

  1. Best article I have read on Amazon sponsored ads. Very clearly explained and informative. I feel more prepared to done now! Thanks

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