The Great Google Book Ad Experiment

(aka Can a Google Ad Sell Books)

Week 1

Cover of Nightfall by Andrew J Harvey

I have previously blogged about the failure of online advertising to sell books. My most recent blog on this was in September 2015  and entitled: “Does online advertising work for books?” This blog was based on an IBPA survey, and our own experience in 2014 with a series of blog-ads that cost us $330. For this we got 86,000 views, which gave us slightly over 43 click-throughs, and which in turn resulted in two sales. Given other examples quoted by the IBPA it was clear that online advertising doesn’t work for books.

About two weeks ago, however, I received a phonecall from an individual working for Google to inform me that because I had registered Hague Publishing as a business on business.google.com  they would be providing technical and artistic assistance to me for three months to develop and tune a Google advertisement.

That generated a conversation that went for 1.5 hours as John and I tried to work out what products Hague Publishing produced (Science Fiction and Fantasy books), and what type of advertisement might actually result in us selling more books (probably none). However, during that conversation it occurred to me that online advertising of non-Fiction books such as self-help and DIY might result in some sales if the search terms were narrowly focussed on those areas the books were about. And then flowing on from that perhaps people searching for ‘alternate history’, which is a pretty niche genre, might be interested in an alternate history book. And so I agreed to advertise my most first book “Nightfall”, published by Zmok Books.

The first thing was to come up with the search terms that would be used. This is set by a combination of the ‘business’ and the services/products being sold. This was the first problem as describing the business as a ‘publisher’ gave terms that focussed on ‘printing’, not ‘books’. Changing the business to ‘bookseller’ created more useful categories, although even here terms such as ‘new books for 2016’ isn’t going to get your ad in front of the right people. Luckily Google lets you turn search terms ‘off’ which resulted in me turning off all 221. It was more useful however when I listed the services/products as ‘alternate history’. This gave me 20, very specific search terms.  

As the advertisement links direct to the paperback listed on the Hague Publishing site, and postage overseas is a real killer I set the advertisement to initially only be offered in Australia. A further restriction is that the advertisement will only run Friday-Sunday, hopefully putting itself before people who are in the mood to whip out their credit cards. In an effort to increase conversion rates, however, I also updated the listing to include links to eBook distributors, including Kobo, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

So will this advertisement actually appear before anyone, and if it does – will it result in any sales? I’ll keep you informed.

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