Previously, on Part 1: Forums, Groups, and Blogs, Guest Blogging, Blog Tours, and Endorsements.
Several writers, having learned about book promotion Web sites and email lists, think that’s the sum total of any and all promotion they can or should do. It’s not; it’s a small slice of available advertising. But once you get past that extremely specific targeted market, you have a whole lot more learning to do. Advertising design and search engine optimization are entirely different fields from writing, with their own lingo and learning curves.
Search Engine Optimization & Display Ads
You’ve probably heard that term with reference to getting a high google page rank on a search return, but there’s a whole lot more to the field than that. This covers not only how to have your web site found by searching fans, but also how to target your market with google adwords advertisements, Project Wonderful banners, Facebook ads, and Amazon Sponsored Product ads, and how to come up when people are looking for something they’d like in Amazon’s internal search engine.
Two notes of caution before you jump in feet-first. One, this stuff is not the minor leagues. You are literally competing for the same eyeball space as Nike shoes, Red Bull energy drinks, Ford trucks, Coach purses, and NFL football. (Not kidding; I’ve checked ad space I was outbid on to see who won, and found Ford advertising its new truck model.) You’re competing for space and attention with people who have entire ad agencies designing their advertisements and targeting their audience, with lots of market feedback. This can get really expensive, really quickly – and I mean thousands of dollars, not hundreds.
Two, people are pretty good at tuning out spam and advertising. We DVR shows to avoid ads, install adblock to cut out the sidebar advertisements, popups, and popunders, and use news aggregators rather than go to ad-heavy sites. This means people are pretty good at tuning out your ads, too. While advertising on your mailing list hits an audience that is all engaged enough they sought you out and gave you their email address, internet advertising is one step above sticking flyers under windshield wipers. The average click-through rate (CTR) of display ads across all formats and placements is 0.06%
This means you’re fishing for, on average, 6 out of 10,000 people to click on your ad – not to buy, just to click on it. Click-through to buy ratio is a whole ‘nother filter. This is where you really need to focus on two fronts: correct targeting to try to only show your ads to people likely to be click on it, to drive the ratio higher than 0.06%; and simultaneously increasing the number of eyeballs on it. If you targeted enough to drive your CTR to 0.09%, but only 4,000 eyeballs saw it (impressions)… that’s only statistically 3-4 people.
Amazon essentially walks you through a crash course in search engine optimization when it has you pick keywords and categories while uploading your works. “How will the readers find you? They’re likely looking for colonization, or genetic engineering, or vampires, or regency romance, or legal thrillers, so pick from this listing of keywords (otherwise known as search terms), uploaded into your metadata, and it’ll help us put you in categories, and customers find you when searching.”
Google has its own manual, which I strongly recommend you pick up and study, before researching more on the topic – it’s pretty helpful to read what the actual company has to say about their search engine optimization before reading what other people say on what they interpret google as meaning.
This is where knowing your audience becomes extremely helpful – in order to target new readers for your story, you need a pretty clear, short understanding of your books, and a demographic understanding of your audience. If you’ve ever looked at the “how magazines/newspapers/websites sell themselves to advertisers”, it’s often something like “Metrosexual Hub has a circulation of 15,000 subscribers, and 6,000 average daily visits on its website. 85% of subscribers are 18-35 males, with an average income of 40,000 – 80,000, and an interest in fashion, lifestyle, grooming, and music.”
In fact, I strongly encourage you to go to Garden & Gun Magazine’s advertising page, and click on their media kit and digital media kit. If you don’t understand terms, now you have a place to start googling and learning. http://gardenandgun.com/article/advertise See how clearly they’ve laid out their audience, and segmented it? It’s in a site’s best interest to provide advertising that’s relevant, and in an advertiser’s (that’s you) best interest to only spend their money, time, and effort in places where they’re likely to net a good return. Figure out your audience, and you’ll have a much better chance of estimating whether a site is a good match or not.
Facebook ads are an offshoot of SEO; they require both an image, and text. They also require not just good search terms, but narrowing down who your audience is likely to be based on things and communities they’ve liked on facebook, and interests they’ve indicated. This is best done by folks who use facebook, and understand its layout and terms (i.e. have already gone through the platform’s learning curve.
Facebook will push you to give up your mailing list “in order to find the fans already on facebook, and better target similar people.” This is an extremely BAD idea. Sure, it’ll help you target users. It’s also handing the email addresses entrusted to you by fans over to spammers, and to people who will sell them at a profit to other spammers. Don’t do it.
Also, facebook presents a distraction from your main goal (sell stories, make money) by providing alternate, illusory goals. You can pour hundreds of dollars into racking up facebook likes, and page visits, shares, or retweets. Those can be helpful in spreading word of mouth – but if you don’t actually sell more books and make more money, you’re wasting money. Don’t get focused on the false goals, and end up like the only-fanfic-published writer who snootily told NYT-bestselling-author Larry Correia that he was a nobody because she had more facebook likes than him.
Project Wonderful does Banner, sidebar, and button ads on a wide variety of webcomics. They’re a relatively low-cost place to learn and play with designing and bidding for banner and display ads and graphics; compared to Amazon Sponsored Ads or Google Adwords, they cost an order of magnitude less. There’s a basic targeting mismatch in that you’re advertising a book to someone there to read a webcomic, but on the other hand, you can find folks who enjoy Libertarian Science Fiction, Epic Fantasy, or Swords & Sorcery.
One unique drawback to Project Wonderful: because it’s webcomic-focused advertising, you may spend a fair bit of time reading webcomics to “see if they’re a good match.” Especially if the have deep archives.
Graphics: remember, most ads are just as much about the graphics as the keywords. Your audience has seen internet advertising for years, and they’re really sophisticated at detecting amateur efforts, even if they can’t explain why.
Here, don’t Just take my word for it: see this guy, who’s been really successful. http://johnellsworthbooks.com/2016/03/23/what-writing-success-requires/
Next week, Press Releases and In-Person avertising.