Attention has diversified. From consumers focusing on different retail sites and social media platforms, to streaming platforms and online communities, everyone gets their news (book or otherwise) from different places. This makes it a lot harder than it was even five years ago to say, "I want to target X market, and here's how I do it."
So, what does this mean for marketers, specifically in the book industry? There needs to be a push toward diversifying marketing opportunities and leveraging organic growth through strong SEO. The problem is those things tend to be time-consuming, especially for book marketers, who are effectively promoting a completely different product each time, compared to someone who is marketing the same goods or service over and over again.
Publishers have many books to work on each and every season, which leaves very little time to organically grow your presence online. This means that paid advertising is a vital part of the mix.
As you can see above, nearly 30% of traffic comes from paid advertising. That number stands to go up due to these companies having an incentive to not only curate their audiences but also keep those audiences exclusive to their platforms. Couple that with the fact that AI is a growing interest for many companies in the advertising space, and paid advertising only stands to grow.
A mixture of paid advertising and organic growth is the best approach for reaching different corners of the market.
With that said, what’s a good balance between the two, and how are publishers leveraging this formula for success?
We at Ingram Marketing Advantage (IMA), Ingram's distribution publisher consumer marketing agency, like to think of campaign metrics in terms of someone walking into a bookstore.
It's important to remember that all these metrics matter, because an impression or a click could still lead to the sale of a book well after the conclusion of the campaign. If a friend says, "I heard of this book" and you think, "Oh, I saw an ad for that book, it looked great," you might finally have the motivation to buy the book. Keep that in mind when you're wondering if you're wasting money on impressions or clicks. Even if they don't immediately convert, they're still incredibly valuable.
There are a bunch of different ways to reach people online these days. Even several years ago, advertisers were almost wholly focused on Facebook and Instagram, but these days you can't get away with that. The most important thing to remember is that every book and every audience is different. Even if a target audience feels the same, you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to reach them with the same strategy. Try to avoid cookie-cutter campaigns where you just run the same type of ads, servingto the same general audience. Think about the platforms that are available and which might help you reach the target readers.
What goals do you have for your titles?
Asking this question is essential when selecting the right platform for your books. And, of course, each platform has its own ways of tailoring campaigns towards awareness, traffic, engagement, and conversions, though some lend themselves more particularly to those goals than others.
Let's walk through some of the different platforms recently mentioned.
With Meta, Facebook is generally considered the top-converting ad platform, but there are a few things to be mindful of, especially asMeta will often serve your ads almost exclusively to Facebook, instead of Instagram.
It's important to be aware that Facebook audiences generally skew a lot older. If you're looking to reach Gen X and above, Facebook can be a great platform to focus your marketing efforts, but if you're looking to reach millennials and Gen Z, you likely won't find them on Facebook at all.
For targeting users on Instagram, it's best to set your placements up manually to make sure that your ads are serving on the platform. Instagram ads are typically more expensive than Facebook (in terms of Cost Per Click), but if you're reaching the right people and they're going to purchase the book, then obviously, it's still more than worthwhile.
When setting up campaigns, it's helpful to include as many different ads as you can initially. We typically run about four ad sets (or audiences) for one title campaign, and then include four to six ads per ad set. These would be different kinds of creatives that we are testing out for each audience, such as static graphics, lifestyle images, animations, etc.
This results in around 40 ads per title, plus all the infinite caption copy variations. We then narrow the ads and audiences throughout the campaign so that we're gearing towards the lowest cost per click and the highest click-through rate for all those variables.
We recently ran ads for Spiegel and Grau's book: Go as a River. As you can see below, we used the different kinds of creatives mentioned above. Of course, if you had an author video or a trailer, it’s always great to loop that in to see how it performs. But it's fascinating to include all these options at the start of the campaign and see which ad performs best for which audience throughout.
Over the course of your campaign, you may end up tweaking the daily spend. Changing it by more than 19% will send the campaign back into the learning phase, which means the ads won't be performing optimally. To avoid this, you can set up a rule where Facebook will adjust the daily budget every 24 hours (or whatever you decide). This is very useful in making sure your ads are constantly performing the best that they can.
When it comes to advertising through Google, we focus on search ads, display ads, and YouTube video ads. Google is great because it has a variety of powerful targeting options, such as keywords, topics, placement targeting, and demographics. However, keep in mind that you shouldn't try and use them all at the same time.
If you make your targeting too complicated, Google won't be able to serve the ad because it will be trying to find the exact users that fit the complex template you've set up, which generally won't work. A safe bet is to use one or two general target demographics (age, gender, location) and then add some keywords or topic targeting, which can be super effective. Or, you could try using Google “affinity audiences”, which can sometimes be very effective, or setting up a “custom audience segment” in the account audience planner.
Search ads and display ads serve different purposes, but both are relatively inexpensive.
Responsive display ads generally outperform standard (camera-ready) display ads in terms of Cost Per Click. Using responsive display ads, you upload several images, headlines, and descriptions that Google can use to pair with the suitable device, platform, and user. It's essential to think about the book and audience and test different options when starting out. Does your book have highly searchable content? Will the cover be eye-catching in display ads?
YouTube can be fantastic when you have excellent author content or quality videos.You won't get as many clicks on YouTube, especially if the ads are serving to TV, but I wouldn't let that stop you. YouTube can be incredibly cost-effective for creating broad awareness when paired with other platforms.
TikTok is a newfound whale within the advertising space, which we’ve delved into more deeply in this blog article. Here are a few broad strategies for using TikTok.
Your organic posts help you build your following and curate a positive brand sentiment. In our experience, showing the behind-the-scenes of the book industry in organic videos can help you grow your following and get readers on side. Being “fun” and informative as a brand is becoming more and more important.
Your paid placements are where you can broaden your reach as much as you can afford because you're paying for the views. Your content can reach hundreds of thousands of people through paid advertisements if you have the budget. You can even boost your own (or an influencer’s) organic content. If you post something and it doesn't get many organic views, you can then put some advertising money, similar to a boosted post on Facebook.
A huge retailer ad platform to note is Amazon, which allows for sponsored product brand ads, lock screen ads, sponsored display ads, and video ads. Amazon generally has a higher cost per click and a lower click-through rate than other social platforms, but you end up with a considerable amount of conversion data, which can be helpful when strategizing your advertising efforts on other platforms.
Make sure that your Amazon ads are optimized for conversions by:
Reviews and ratings are also crucial. If a book had a slow start in terms of Amazon sales, it might be best to wait a few weeks before you run ads on the Amazon platform. When people land on the product page from your ads, you want them to immediately be able to tell that other readers have enjoyed the book. Reviews and ratings will do this more effectively than almost anything else.
Let's review a few real-world examples of how we've pivoted our strategy in recent campaigns. We ran search ads for a single title and then decided to test a few display ads alongside it. It was the same book and virtually the same targeting within a few different mechanisms through Google.
For Meta, we had a campaign running with just static graphics, such as quote assets, blurbs, and cover graphics. However, the cost per click plummeted as soon as we added some lifestyle creatives. The CPC dropped from a 63-cent average for the campaign to 16 cents, demonstrating the importance of testing all the creative options available to you and seeing which perform best within a specific campaign.
We also added lifestyle creative to three different audiences while promoting the same book.
So obviously, these different audiences are reacting very differently to the same creative. With this data in mind, we would likely turn off the ad within the first ad set, since it's not as cost-effective as the existing creatives, and keep the ad running in the others.
Don't forget your campaign’s unique goals. Digital marketing campaigns are not “set and forget”. You need to do more than set them up and check on them in a month’s time to see how they performed. You need to be in there weekly, or daily if you can, optimizing towards conversions and cost per click and click-through rate to make sure your ads are always performing the best they can. Through the life of your campaign, your goals may change, and that's perfectly okay. Just make sure you're ready to pivot your strategy if and when that happens!
Ingram has several customizable consumer marketing services to help you reach and connect with book lovers searching for their next favorite book.
*Currently only available to publishers distributed by Consortium Books Sales & Distribution, Ingram Academic & Professional, Publishers Group West, and Two Rivers Distribution.