How Many eBooks Am I Selling? Part 2 - Google AdWords

In November/December 2011, I experimented with using Google AdWords to sell my young adult novel A Class Apart.

In my (other) career as a technical writer, I’d been working with search engine optimization (SEO) techniques for customer websites. One of the things I looked into was Google AdWords.

A lot of companies have enjoyed a great deal of success using AdWords in order to put their product/service at the top of a search. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, but just in case you don’t - here’s an example.

What is AdWords?

Suppose you sell guitars in London. When someone types “buy a guitar in London” into Google, the search engine brings back a series of results that it considers to be the most relevant listings.

If you have only just started up your business and your website isn’t established, you’ll be highly unlikely to figure on even the first 5 pages of the Google search results. So you can pay for an advert to place yourself on page 1, possibly right at the top of the page.

You need to do research, of course. The Google Keyword Tool enables you to find out how many searches a month are performed for specific search terms. That will give you a clue as to what terms you should be targeting in your adverts.

So I wondered, can an unknown, unpublished author, sell a book using AdWords? In the UK at least, Google will give you £50 of credit when you set up your AdWords account.

Setting up your campaigns in Google is a bit tricky. When I registered my AdWords account, I got a call from a delightful lady in Google’s AdWords team. Although I was already familiar with AdWords, she offered to research my website/product, set up my campaigns and enter all the keywords that would trigger the adverts.

Now, I won’t go in to explaining the workings of Google AdWords in this article. Explaining that would take a large article in itself. You are probably better off letting someone from Google set up the campaign for you, explain how they’ve done it, and then you modify it accordingly.

I had a really positive experience from Google’s AdWords team, but of course I couldn’t promise everyone will get that. Fingers crossed you will too.

Selling my young adult thriller!

Ok. So I had my campaigns set up. They were grouped into different types of adverts.

Since A Class Apart is part science fiction, part fantasy, part thriller and part superhero book, I had distinct advertising campaigns that would each target appropriate search terms. For example “new fantasy book” for the fantasy campaign, and "exciting superhero novel”  for the superhero campaign.

It’s also worth saying that when you sell your product, you want to make sure that the price you are selling it at, is more than the cost per click of the adverts.

In other words, every time somebody clicks on your advert, you are charged for that click. Clicks will probably be roughly 30 - 90 pence per click. So if you are selling your ebook at 99 pence (or 99 cents), then obviously it doesn't make economic sense to run an AdWords campaign.

At the time, I was selling my book for £2.99, so it did make sense to take a gamble on running a campaign.

I set a daily budget for the campaign at £20. So once my adverts had been clicked x number of times to cost me £20, the adverts stopped running on that day.

How successful was the campaign?

Right. That’s the set up. What was the result?

Disappointing, to be honest. I set the campaign running, and within ten minutes, I’d had a sale! And then another!! Get in!!!  Break out your best champagne! Take that Amanda Hocking! I’ve made it as an author. Clever old me for setting up that campaign. I'm a genius!

Yeah. Umm. No.

After those initial, instant sales, it was an agonising wait for the next one. By the end of the 2 weeks that I had run the campaign, turns out I had only chalked up 5 sales. I had lots of clicks! Probably about 300 in total. But in sales terms, I was barely troubling the scorer, and it was no improvement on my results prior to using the campaign.

eBook sales at Christmas

I even repeated the trick at Christmas. I thought “people will be getting Kindles at Christmas. So advertise Christmas Eve through to 27th December, and see if people will be interested".

So I set my campaign running on Christmas Eve and bang - instantly a sale. Ha ha! Get jolly well in!!! This time it will be different, I reckoned. This time, my clever marketing will work. In your face John Locke!

And yes, I think I did sell 2 or 3 extra, on top of what I had been selling without AdWords. But it wasn’t exactly a campaign to make Saatchi sit up and take notice…

Should you run an AdWords campaign?

Well, obviously that's not for me to say. I'm not running a Ponzi scheme here! I'm not takin' money!

I spent nearly £200 on AdWords, with very little return.

But it was a good experiment. I got to see how many people were intrigued by which adverts.

When you set up adverts in AdWords, you create them in pairs. So, for a science fiction campaign, you would have two adverts with slightly different wording. Google then randomly serves up those adverts when people enter the appropriate search tems. What typically happens is that one advert will prove more popular. Often, one advert will garner far more clicks than the other. That gives you a clue as to what kinds of things people are searching for and what they respond to.

My adverts were being served up on Google search pages thousands of times, so thousands of people in the UK and US would have seen the name Class Heroes.

Would I recommend this strategy? Hmmmm. Maybe. In a different genre, a campaign might work. If you get free credit from Google for setting up your campaign, try it. You won't lose anything. If after your £50 has been spent and the adverts are returning poor results, then give it up.

But if they are selling, and certain adverts are getting loads of clicks, then maybe it is worth pursuing.

I decided to draw a line under the experiment.

In January 2012, I thought it was time to try something different. Like experimenting with price...

Next time: Book reviews and pricing my eBook.