$5 A Day Amazon Ads - Do They Really Work? [Case Study]

Amazon Ads can be a tough nut to crack, but once you do crack that nut, they can be a fantastic way of getting more exposure, sales and page reads for your books, especially if you layer them on top of Facebook Ads.

One of the main challenges with Amazon Ads is getting Amazon to take your money! There are various different methods/strategies that can encourage Amazon to spend your money, but these strategies can come and bite you in the proverbial behind if you’re not careful.

I also appreciate that whenever authors are testing a new advertising platform for the first time, that they don’t want to go all in until they’ve seen some results and evidence that it’s worth investing their time and money into.

So with this experiment I wanted to see just how far a $5 per day budget would go with Amazon Ads, would they actually sell any books, and is it worth an authors time and money, or do you ideally need to spend more than $5 per day to get any traction with Amazon Ads. 

What You'll Learn In This Guide

  • Is a $5 per day budget adequate for Amazon Ads
  • What are the best campaign types to run with a small daily budget
  • How to structure your Amazon Ads Campaigns
  • What you should be bidding with low budget Amazon Ads
  • What my results were with $5 per day Amazon Ads
  • My strategy for optimizing these Amazon Ads
  • Should you use Amazon Ads to advertise a free book
  • And much, much more besides, that you can bring to your Amazon Ads Campaigns

Some Background

The book I’m going to be using for this experiment is my free book The 7 Day Authors Guide To Book Advertising'; here’s the book cover and the book description to give you some context of the book and what readers will learn from reading it:

Advertising your books and building a successful author career comes down to 3 core building blocks:

Traffic > Conversion > Profit

You need to attract the right readers to your books on a daily basis (Traffic)

You need to turn those interested readers into paying customers (Conversion)

And ultimately, if you want to build a sustainable, long-lasting career as an author, you need to put some money in your back pocket (Profit)

The 7 Day Authors Guide To Book Advertising will guide you through developing these 3 core building blocks for your books and your author career.

Success Built Around You
The sole purpose of running ads is to sell books; that’s what you will learn in The 7 Day Authors Guide To Book Advertising.

There are many different routes to success, but success for one author can look very different to success for another author.

This book will help you build an advertising strategy based on what success looks like for you.

Do any of the following statements sound familiar:

  • Where do I start with ads?
  • How much should I spend?
  • Will I make my money back?
  • I’ve tried running ads before, but I just can’t seem to make them profitable
  • I don’t want to lose money on ads!
  • I’m seeing other authors succeed with ads, but I just can’t get them working for my books!
  • I’m an author - I love words, not numbers! 

If even one of these resonates with you, The 7 Day Authors Guide to Book Advertising is for you.

What You’ll Learn Over The Next 7 Days:

Day 1: Developing Your Advertising Mindset of Steel
Day 2: Building Your Foundation
Day 3: Facebook Ads Fundamentals
Day 4: Amazon Ads Fundamentals
Day 5: BookBub Ads Fundamentals
Day 6: Track, Optimize and Scale
Day 7: Building The Machine

Advertising isn’t easy, but it is simple and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

This is why I created the One Page Advertising Strategy For Authors; it pulls everything you learn and discover in this book together into a cohesive, one-page, personalized advertising strategy and a clear roadmap, outlining the major moves you need to make to really move the needle in your author career.

Your Bonus Resources
In addition to the 7 days of actionable content in this book, I’ve also put together several pieces of FREE, invaluable bonus content that will help you implement and take action on everything you learn:

  • Your One Page Advertising Strategy Template
  • Ads Tracking Spreadsheet
  • Audience Targeting and Tracking Spreadsheet

Start reading The 7 Day Authors Guide To Book Advertising today and just a week from now, your author career can be changing trajectory and reaching new heights, as you gain clarity on what you need to do to take things to the next level.

the 7 day authors guide to book advertising

Matthew J Holmes

This is a brand new book I’ve just released, so there are no reviews at the time of writing, which could potentially impact the results from my Amazon Ads, since the number of reviews and the overall star rating is displayed on the ad itself.

As I always do with Amazon Ads, I’m starting by advertising solely in the United States; it’s only once I have some solid data will I look to launch ads for this book into other countries; primarily, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia (in that order).

The book officially went live on the 4th of January 2021, but since it took a couple of days for Amazon to make it FREE (this is something Amazon have to do manually; you can’t set your book to FREE when setting it up in your KDP dashboard) it wasn’t available for readers to download until the 6th January.

I launched one Facebook Ad advertising this book on the 11th January and I started running the Amazon Ads on the 12th of January. I paused the Facebook Ads on the 18th January for reasons I'll explain in a separate post all about using $5 Facebook Ads.

You can see a screenshot below from my KPD Reports Dashboard, where I’ve highlighted when the Facebook Ads and Amazon Ads went live:

You can also see how the book has been ranking since it was launched in the screenshot below from my Author Central dashboard; ,

Amazon love new books and do give them more visibility during the initial 30 days after they launch, so this will help in keeping the book high up in the rankings (bear in mind that Amazon have 2 sales ranks - FREE Books and PAID Books); this book I’m advertising is obviously FREE, so the sales ranks are based on where my book sits in the FREE sales charts; the highest rank the book has reached so far is 2126 in the FREE Kindle Store.

Setting Up The Amazon Ads

When it came to setting up the ads themselves, I used Sponsored Product Ads and decided to test 3 different targeting options:

  • Automatic Targeting
  • Category Targeting
  • ASIN/Product Targeting

I created three separate campaigns, one for each targeting option, with each campaign having a daily budget of $5; this approach allows me to test multiple targeting options in a more efficient manner and collect data much quicker than if I were to test a single targeting option for 1-2 weeks at a time, for example. 

As I’m very familiar with Amazon Ads, I knew that I wasn’t going to spend $15 per day across the three $5 campaigns; I’d be lucky if Amazon spent $1 per day!

So here’s what the three campaigns looked like once they were all set up:

Let’s now take a deeper dive into the targeting of each of these 3 campaigns...

Setting Up The Automatic Targeting Campaign

The name of this campaign gives it away really - there is no targeting to do from the advertiser’s perspective; it’s all on Amazon, this one!

These campaigns can be up and running within literally 2-3 minutes; they are that quick. Automatic Targeting, whilst it sounds great on the surface, particularly for those of us with little time available to spend researching potential targets (so all of us then!), Automatic Targeting isn’t always the best option.

It tends to perform better for non-fiction books with very descriptive titles that match a reader's search term on Amazon, such as how to play the guitar; Amazon knows what the reader is searching for and it just so happens that your book is titled something along the lines of how to play the guitar (though would want to refine that title a little to make it more appealing to a specific audience, such as beginners, for example), so if you bid high enough, your book has a good opportunity to appear in the search results or on product pages of books related to learning to play the guitar.

For fiction books, Automatic Targeting can work well, however, it tends to perform better once you have built up some solid data in your Amazon Ads account that the automatic targeting algorithm can learn from, such as search terms and other books that were targeted and generated sales in the past for you.

When it comes to bidding for Automatic Targeting, I like to start low and gradually increase the bid over time, if needs be. With this campaign, I started with a default bid of $0.37.

The suggested bid Amazon was showing me of $1.29 was a little on the steep side! Although I’m prepared to spend money advertising a FREE book; $1.29 per click is a touch high to the say the least!

Here’s a full-length screenshot showing the setup of the Automatic Targeting Ad:

Setting Up The Category Targeting Campaign

Category Ads can be amazing, or they can be a total waste of money! For me, I’ve always found that they actually perform pretty well, whether advertising fiction or nonfiction. 

Due to Category Ads casting a very wide net and showing your ads on multiple books within your selected categories, the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) can be pretty low, compared to other targeting options, which is why I don’t pay attention to CTR on Category Ads; if category ads are making sales, I’m happy! That’s not the case with ASIN and keyword ads, however; with those ads, I do pay attention to CTR.

Category Ads also have the advantage of offering relatively low Costs-Per-Click (CPC) compared to other targeting options. This is because the targeting is so wide; you generally pay a higher CPC when you want to be very specific about your targeting. 

When setting up Category Ads, I like to keep things organised and make use of Ad Groups, inside of Amazon Ads. Ad Groups let you create what are best described as folders, within a particular campaign. 

To create an Ad Group, you need to select the Standard Ad option, in the Ad Format when building your ad. You will then have the option to name your Ad Group.

I also recommend that you only target 1 category per Ad Group; don't stack/aggregate multiple categories into a single Ad Group, as you won't know which category is performing the best (or the worst); you also won't be able to push the campaign budget to a particular category that is performing well. 

As I’m using the Ad Groups feature inside of Amazon Ads, the budget, which is set at the Campaign level, will be spread across all 4 Ad Groups. This is the one drawback of using Ad Groups, in that you can’t increase budget on a particular Ad Group, if said Ad Group is performing head and shoulders above the others.

However, I’m happy to forgo control of Ad Group budget control and have an organised, clutter-free Amazon Ads Dashboard!

If one Ad Group does seem to be performing exceptionally well, what I have done in the past is create a whole new campaign solely targeting that winning category, with 100% of the budget going towards that one category; I would then turn off the Ad Group in the original campaign so that I’m not competing with myself for ad space!

After spending around 20-30 minutes researching possible categories to target for this campaign, in the end, I decided to target 4 different categories, which were:

  • Authorship
  • Electronic Publishing
  • Online Advertising
  • Publishing & Books

So here’s what the campaign looked like with all 4 Ad Groups created:

To create new Ad Groups, when you’re in the campaign settings of your Category Ad, just click on the yellow Create Ad Group button, highlighted below:

Setting Up The ASIN/Product Ads

ASIN/Product Targeting Ads are my all-time favourite Amazon Ad format because of how laser-focused you can be with them; as the name suggests, you specify the exact ASIN/Product that you want your ads to show on.

With keyword targeting and auto targeting, your ads can appear on both eBook and Paperback book product pages, which is far from perfect, if you’re advertising an eBook to people who predominantly read paperback books.
ASIN Targeting moves neatly around this little obstacle; you can create ASIN ads that advertise your eBook(s) to eBook readers and your paperback book(s) to paperback readers.

You also have full peace of mind knowing that, if you do your research correctly, the books you target are going to highly relevant to your own book, which will significantly help how your ads perform, along with your bid and budget.

Whilst this all sounds amazing, there is one drawback (if you can call it that) to ASIN/Product Ads, and that is the cost.

ASIN Ads tend to be the most expensive Amazon Ad format due to how specific you can be with your targeting; costs differ per genre, but typically, you’re looking at over $0.50 per click, at least; more competitive genres and you’ll be lucky to get any change from $0.80 - $0.90 per click.

With the ASIN's I'm targeting however, the suggested bids Amazon is recommending are relatively low for this type of laser-focused targeting, as you can see from the screenshot below. These low suggested bids are the cherry on the cake for this 5$ per day Amazon Ads experiment; particularly when I'm advertising a FREE book; I can’t justify bids of $0.80 plus!

I’ve never bid this low on ASIN Ads, so it will be interesting to what sort of results we achieve with these bids, even though they are either within or above Amazon's suggested bid.

To find the targets for these ASIN Ads, I spent around 30-40 minutes browsing the Top 100 of categories I selected for the Category Ads, then diving deeper into the Also-Boughts of these Top 100.

My main criteria for these targets was their relevance to my book; the other key piece of information, however, was the ASBR (Amazon Best Seller Ranking) of each book; the reason being that a book ranked 400,000 in the Amazon Store, for example, would have so little traffic coming to it on a daily basis, it would just take too long to generate enough traffic to its product page and gather statistically significant data.

Usually, I like to target ASIN’s that have an ABSR of between 5,000 and 10,000 in the Kindle PAID store (there is a different ranking for FREE books on Amazon), because these books will be receiving good amounts of traffic, but not too much that they become too expensive to target.

If I were to target books in the top 500 in the Amazon Store, for example, yes, these books will receive huge quantities of traffic, but the bids required for these would be incredibly high.

To collect the ASIN Targets, I used my Amazon Ads Tracking Tool (which you can access here for free, along with my book, ‘The 7 Day Authors Guide To Book Advertising) and noted down the book title, the author, the ASIN and most importantly, the ABSR (Amazon Best Seller Rank) of each book.

I then sorted the books by their ABSR, with the best ranking book at the top of the sheet. I also highlighted in yellow, the books I’m targeting that were FREE in the Kindle Store; here’s a screenshot of the spreadsheet:

As I mentioned above, I usually only target books in the top 5,000 of the Amazon Store when using ASIN Targeting. However, the most relevant books for the book I’m advertising here, had ABSR’s in the Kindle PAID store of 20,000 and over.

The FREE books I’m targeting had ABSR’s in the Kindle FREE store of between 1,200 and 12,000, approximately, so I am expecting more downloads to come from the targets which are FREE books as opposed to targets that are PAID books.

Due to there being no relevant ASIN’s in the top 5,000 on Amazon, I decided to do something I don’t usually do - target ASIN’s with ABSR’s of 20,000 and over; the lowest rank book I’m targeting has an ABSR of around 186,000. For this reason, I’m not expecting to generate many downloads from these ASIN’s, but we shall see.

In the end, I targeted 23 individual ASIN’s with this campaign; if I need to add more over the next few days to generate more impressions, clicks and downloads, then I will certainly do that, but for now, I’ll see how things roll as they are.

Optimising The Amazon Ads

After a full 7 days had passed since launching the ads, I came back to my Amazon Ads Dashboard to see what optimisations I could make. I had been checking in on the ads every day since they launched, but hadn’t made any changes to them.

I don’t like tweaking Amazon Ads too regularly (typically once per week) because they work on their own timescale and data can take upto 12 hours to fully populate in the Amazon Ads Dashboard. 

So here are the steps I took to optimise the ads...

Optimisation of The Category Ads

Day 7 (Jan 19th) - increased bid of Category Ads as these had sold 5 books between them. Here are the changes I made to the bids. 

Authorship: Changed bed from $0.25 to $0.37 (suggested bid range $0.12 - $0.32)
Electronic Publishing: Changed bed from $0.27 to $0.33 (suggested bid range $0.02 - $0.21)
Online Advertising: Changed bed from $0.25 to $0.34 (suggested bid range $0.16 - $0.32)
Publishing & Books: Changed bed from $0.25 to $0.37 (suggested bid range $0.10 - $0.42)

The Publishing and Books Category, as of Day 7, is the only category not to have made any sales; I believe this is because it’s a more competitive category, looking at the suggested bid range, the highest of the 4 categories) and my bid was only $0.25, so the ad had only received 118 impressions.

You can see in the screenshot below, even after 7 days, with a $5 per day budget, I’ve given Amazon Ads permission to spend up to $35 in this time frame, and yet, it’s only spent $1.27 so far! This is one of the main reasons why it’s so difficult to scale Amazon Ads - they won’t take your money! 

Hopefully, with increased bids across each of the ad sets, the ads should start generating more impressions and therefore clicks and downloads.

Optimisation of the ASIN/Product Ads

Since day 1 of running these Amazon Ads, I have been bidding above the suggested bid on the majority of the ASIN’s at $0.37, and yet, the impressions are still very low; this is to be expected, because ASIN targeting generally creates less volume of traffic than other targeting methods. 

Although, some of the bid ranges are above what I am bidding, so this could be a reason why this ad hasn’t generated many impressions across the 32 ASIN’s I’m targeting. 

So, I have slightly increased the bids on all the ASIN’s from $0.37 - $0.41 to see if this can start generating a few more impressions, clicks and downloads. 

To date (after 7 days running), the ASIN Ads have only spent a grand total of $0.37, generated 1 click and 1 sale. ASIN Ads do receive much less volume of traffic than the other targeting options, but I think the main issue here is that the ASIN’s I’m targeting have an ABSR (Amazon Bestseller Rank) that is too low to generate a significant volume of traffic.

Although the books I’m targeting by ASIN are relevant, they just don’t have enough eyeballs on them each day to generate the number of impressions required for a significant number of clicks and ultimately, downloads.

In 7 days, the ASIN Ads have only generated 1 click, but that 1 click did turn into a download, so on the bright side, that’s a 100% conversion rate! I just need more clicks!

So the next stage here is to carry out more research into other books that would make sense for me to target by ASIN. More importantly, however, is to target books that, as well as being relevant, have a good ASBR (Amazon Bestseller Rank); ideally above 10,000.

Optimisation of The Automatic Targeting Ad

As you can see on the screenshot below, the Automatic Targeting Ad has only generated a handful of impressions and hasn’t even garnered a single click! I had a sneaky suspicion that this would happen because I was bidding so far below Amazon’s suggested bid of $0.92; I only bid $0.37. 

It would be useful to see what potential targets the Automatic Targeted Ad can find for me, so I’d like it to start generating some more impressions, as well as clicks and downloads of course too.

To try and achieve this, I will increase the bid. The screenshot below shows how you can adjust the bids on Automatic Targeting Campaigns, based on the ‘Automatic Targeting Groups’:

  • Close Match
  • Loose Match
  • Compliments
  • Substitutes

Clearly, the Close Match is going to be the best bet, because the algorithm is going to go out and find the most relevant targets it can for the book I’m advertising. 

Loose Match finds books that are moderately relevant to the book I’m advertising, but Compliments and Loose Match are generally so irrelevant that they’re not worth worrying about; this has been my experience, at least; you may have different results.

So I’m going to increase the bid on the Close Match 'Automatic Targeting Group', but turn off the Loose Match, Compliments and Substitutes targeting groups, as I would rather the algorithm find more relevant targets to advertise my book on.

To turn off the other targeting groups, all you need to do is click the blue switch next to the relevant group.

My Automatic Targeting ad now looks like this: 

As you can see from the above screenshot, I increased the bids on the Close Match and Loose Match from $0.37 to $0.42. This is the typical sort of amount I increase bids by to see if I can get the algorithm to take notice.

If there is still no traction with this Automatic Targeting Ad after 7 days, I will try increasing the vbid once more, to $0.47. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try increasing the bids one more time, upto $0.50. After that, I will turn the campaign off; I’m not prepared to bid more than $0.50 for a click on a free book! 

Wrapping Things Up…

Amazon Ads are a beast that needs taming! In fact, no ads platform is an entirely set it and forget solution. You need to keep an eye on things; even when playing with such small budgets as I have done for this experiment.

You also need to work within your budget and in the beginning, only spend what you are prepared to lose; that applies to all ads platforms.

To answer the question that this guide posed then:

$5 Per Day Amazon Ads - Do They Really Work?

I think you will agree that yes, they do work! However, to really be successful with Amazon Ads, as this experiment has shown, the bids are more important than the budget, although they do work hand-in-hand, because if you bid $1 per click, you could only generate a maximum of 5 clicks per day (assuming that you actually paid $1 for each click).

And if a typical conversion rate is 1 in 10, then you will generate 10 clicks ($10) to make 1 sale, so it could take 2 days to capture 1 sale. This conversion rate doesn’t take read-through/sell-through into account, so if you have a deep series, for example, you might be happy spending $10 for 1 sale, if 60% of readers read every book in your 10 book series. (Read Through/Sell Through is a topic for another day!)

If you do only have $5 per day to test Amazon Ads with, I would recommend starting with Category Ads as these spread a wide net and you can use them as a research tool to find book titles and author names, for example, to use in a keyword targeting campaign further down the line (We will cover Keyword Targeting campaigns in a future post).

You will have also noticed that Amazon hasn’t spent anywhere near the budget I gave it permission to spend - even with 3 campaigns! So this is something to bear in mind when deciding how much you want to spend on your Amazon Ads Campaigns.

I really hope you enjoyed reading this (long!) guide and you’re now clearer on what $5 per day with Amazon Ads can realistically achieve.

Until next time