You can do a lot to promote books online for free. So why would you pay for ads? Because they’re cost-effective - and they work. Pay per click (PPC) marketing is the most common form of advertising online. You only pay when someone clicks your ad, can limit your spending and target your ads. So you can reach niche audiences for niche books without spending a fortune.
But since books (especially e-books) are rarely high-priced, be careful when setting budgets that you’re not spending more than sales are worth. However, direct sales aren’t always the real prize. Even a few PPC clicks can boost a book’s Amazon sales ranking - which will lead to higher visibility and increased organic sales. Think long-term. Ads can also be used to grow social media followings and email lists. But with so many options, where do you begin?
PPC for search works because your ads are shown to people who are actively looking for what you’re selling. They ‘capture intent’ when people are ready to buy. They don’t care who you are: only the search terms you use.
1) Google. Google is the biggest PPC platform. Google Ads are triggered by the keywords you choose, plus the relevance of your ad, and the cost per click is determined by a live auction: the more competitive the keyword, the more expensive. Choose niche keywords for niche books: they’ll be cheaper and more effective.
2) Amazon. You can also use PPC on the world’s largest search engine for books. There are three options available: sponsored products, headline search and product display. The first two appear in Amazon search results, targeted by keyword. Product display ads appear directly on product pages. Does your book have a strong competitor? Place an ad on their product page!
Social ads target people based on who they are: demographics and interests. They work because of this ‘microtargeting’. You can reach a small number of people cheaply - but they’ll be the right people. User intent is different here: people aren’t necessarily in ‘buying’ mode - so you’ll have to work harder to engage them, perhaps with a giveaway. Seasonal promotions also work well.
3) Facebook. Ads are more important than ever for visibility on Facebook. You can use them to ‘boost’ an existing post to reach a wider audience; or create an ad with a specific offer. Contests and giveaways work well, and can be used to gather data.
Don’t let the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal put you off: you’re not trying to undermine Western democracy - you’re just trying to sell some books! But do be careful how you handle data, particularly since the EU’s GDPR came into force in May 2018. If you collect email addresses in exchange for a download, or send people to a specific web page that has the ‘Facebook pixel’ embedded (a bit of code that tracks visits), you can use that data though only with explicit consent to show ‘remarketing’ ads to those people.
Go further with custom audiences and lookalike audiences. A custom audience can be built from a list of emails you upload to Facebook (many of whom will have Facebook profiles); or a group of people who have visited a specific page on your website (with the Facebook pixel); or engaged with your Facebook content. A lookalike audience takes this data and extrapolates it to similar, wider group of people, increasing your target audience. Similar tools are available for most social ad platforms.
4) Instagram. Facebook owns Instagram - so you just set these up in the same ads manager and tick an extra box. ‘Learn More’ tends to work better than ‘Buy Now’ as a call to action, as it sounds less salesy. Aim to make your ads feel like a natural part of your audience’s Instagram feed.
5) Twitter. The real-time nature of Twitter means you can reach people at just the right moment for a date or even time-specific topical promotion. Targeting works differently: you can reach people based on interests, but also on which Twitter accounts they follow. Want to reach people who follow a competitor? Target them with an ad!
6) LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an essential place to be if you publish business books - but also books aimed at any professional group. It’s also good for lead generation. It tends to be the more expensive option - but also has a higher conversion rate. Options include sponsored content, text ads and sponsored InMail (‘cost per send’ rather than ‘cost per click’).
7) YouTube. 18-34 year olds are the age group most influenced by YouTube - so it’s a good place to be if you’re trying to reach young people, such as students. Google owns YouTube, so if you’ve got to grips with Google Ads, it’s the same ad platform. The trickier part is creating video ads in the first place. But if you already have a book trailer, author interview or other promotional video, don’t leave it on your own YouTube channel: use it as a ‘skippable’ video ad.
Finally, measure everything you do, from cost per click to click-through rate to conversion rate. Use that data to refine, improve and optimize your next campaign. Use split-testing to improve your ad copy. PPC marketing is a dynamic medium. Start small, think long-term, and you’ll reap the rewards in awareness, audience growth - and book sales.