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Google Adwords – how to sell books and publications using online search

October 12, 2010
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Google Adwords - the research rigour in making them effective is crucial to success

With the millions being spent on search each year, one of the major problems is failure of articulacy.

Google Adwords offer publishers considerable ability to attract new readers via search, yet so often the tactic fails. Why?

As we know, readers who are searching tend to search for specifics. Yes, search begins generically – e.g. books on mechanics but, sooner or later, the reader gets fed up with what this throws up on Google: a generic results table. This is when the reader then starts to hone the search down. Books on mechanics becomes books on engine mechanics becomes thermodynamics of car engine blocks etc.

The most effective Google Adwords copy therefore needs to be written not to target the top search query, or even the second, but the last. This sounds like common sense and simplicity itself, until you realise that in publishing few marketing staff have the time to find out just what it is a given book is about. And if they don’t know what it’s about, what it does, and how effectively it delivers, they will not be able to produce an effective Google ad.

Any copywriter worth their salt will tell you that they charge more for advertisement copy and headlines than they do for brochures and sales letters. This is because the hardest copy to write effectively is the shortest.

So how can this problem be overcome? Of course it is difficult for marketers to devote specific attention to a given book if they have to cope with 50 new books a year. But is is equally no excuse to use volume as an excuse: “I did my best but I don’t have the time”.

This is where authors have a part to play – assuming they are any good. And many authors aren’t, I’m afraid to say. Over the years I have sat in many meetings where you have had to drag out of an author exactly what his or her book actually does and why anyone would buy it. On one occasion, and I kid you not, an author confessed “I have no idea why anyone would buy this book“. And, wait for it, publication still went ahead because the machinery of publishing in those days was like that! Er, right…

So publishers must press authors for the reason and not give up at the earliest sign of an easy way out. Authors, if they can, will get away with what they can to avoid the embarrassment of commercial exposure of their idea. But, readers, better to screw an author down before publication than deal with the remainder shelf later…

It is therefore crucial to ask an author three questions:

  1. Who will read this book?
  2. Why will they read it?
  3. Why will they buy it?

When you get the answers back, you then need to ask these questions:

  1. Of the people you listed, who will REALLY read it because they have to?
  2. Why do they HAVE to read it?
  3. How will they justify to themselves the book’s worth the money?

When you get these answers back, you then need to ask a final set of questions:

  1. What will these readers use the information for?
  2. What will happen if they don’t have this information?
  3. Can they get the information elsewhere?
  4. Why now will they buy this book?

It is important that these questions are not all sent to authors at the same time but in a sequence. A barrage of questions merely creates an angry author and the vaguest of answers. It is important, therefore, to let the authors know that you are finessing the marketing message to maximise sales in given niches. Do not let them get away with vague answers or the dreaded “n/a

This then brings us to the question of the marketing. With digested answers to the questions given above, a good marketer will be able to finesse a simple advertisement which will be effective:

  1. A relevant headline for the target market
  2. A “starter for ten” hot-button top line for the ad
  3. A “tipping point” closer line to get the reader to click through

But the answer lies in having good marketers who can spot the traits and write the story. Even with all the information successfully delivered, it’s still a hard task to create the right message but at least you have a fighting chance. Not every marketer knows how to sell. Not every marketer is a master or mistress of the language. So hire the best you can – writers who know what it is they are writing about. Copywriting is a skill worth its weight in gold.

And it’s worth saying that you cannot rely on niche alone to help – and I speak from the experience of writing for some highly niche products. As with all products (books or otherwise), there has to be a need from a given group. Academic rigour and quality is not reason enough to publish – consumer demand, pitched at the right price for the value offered, is what will drive sales.

If a product cannot be described and “sold” in a few short words – an “elevator pitch” in the right rail of the Google screen – then don’t do it. A Google Adwords campaign cannot sell the unsellable. In the end, like anything, a book needs to have a value to a profitable group. And if that doesn’t exist no amount of sweet words can help it.

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