Amazon is a company that never gets complacent or rests on its laurels. They constantly test new features throughout their website. This is especially true for books and their advertising platform. In the past 6 months, Amazon quietly made several changes that went unnoticed by most authors. Here’s how the changes affect you and your book sales:
1. “Customer Reviews” changed to “Ratings”
Have you checked your book detail page on Amazon lately? If not, you probably don’t know that “Customer Reviews” have been changed to “Ratings.” This change began in September, 2019 and reflects a big shift in the way Amazon solicits and displays reader feedback.
In the past, readers left “customer reviews,” which meant posting written comments to share their opinions. Today, readers have the option to defer writing a review and just click on a 1 – 5-star rating. (This change is still in the experimentation phase and has not been rolled out to the entire U.S. market.)
Amazon’s reasoning for changing “reviews” to “ratings” is their desire to increase more customer feedback by not requiring readers to write out their comments. They would rather have more customers click a simple 1 – 5-star rating than not give any feedback at all.
How does this change affect you? When you see the total number of reviews for your book on Amazon, the number will include BOTH written reviews and starred ratings. So, if you see “100 ratings” for your book, it may only mean that 80 people wrote a review while the rest left a one-click rating. You will always see your total reviews at the bottom of your book detail page.
I’m concerned that the one-click rating option encourages people to leave negative feedback without having to explain their opinion. This could result in a lower overall feedback score for a book. On the other hand, the one-click option makes it easier and faster for more people to leave feedback and drive up the total number of “ratings” that customers see for your book. For example, it might be quicker to get 100 or 1,000 total ratings for your book than it used to be.
The bottom line is that you want as many customer reviews and ratings for your book as possible. A book with only a few ratings signals potential readers that there is little public interest in that title.
By the way, if you struggle to get more reviews for your book, my video course, Mastering Amazon for Authors, teaches four ways to secure more reviews for free.
2. Amazon ads expanded to France, Italy, and Spain
Want to sell more books to European readers? Amazon just made that goal a lot easier to achieve. Last year, their advertising platform expanded into Germany and the U.K. In the past 60 days, though, Amazon added France, Italy, and Spain to their system.
This means authors who self-publish with Amazon KDP can advertise their books to five different countries and languages throughout Europe. Amazon plans to add more countries in the near future. Buying ads on Amazon’s European websites works almost the same way as buying ads in the U.S. The only difference is calculating your bidding price and budget based on euros instead of dollars.
Speaking of languages, you will tend to sell more books if you translate your manuscript into the other languages. But, translation can be an expensive and time-consuming process. However, if you know there is a market for your books in Europe, then Amazon has made it easier to take control over your international sales.
Obviously, many Europeans speak English, so it’s possible to sell English-language books directly to readers in Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. For example, I’ve recently sold 5 books into Germany without translating the manuscript into German.
Based on the low cost of Amazon ads, it’s worth experimenting within each country to see how readers respond. As the U.S. market becomes more saturated, international sales can become the best source for growth.
3. Amazon now shares keyword data with ads
If you want to run effective Amazon ads, half the battle is knowing which keywords and targets generate the best results. In the past, Amazon used to hide this precious information from authors. Fortunately, they changed their minds a few months ago and decided to provide specific data.
For example, I usually get the best results by creating a Sponsored Product ad using Amazon’s “automatic targeting” feature. “Automatic targeting” means I get to rely on Amazon’s state-of-the-art algorithms to place my book in front of the right readers. Even better, Amazon will now reveal which keywords or targets their algorithms use to capture the book sale. I no longer have to guess what is working. Amazon tells me.
This new feature was released at the end of 2019. The data can be accessed by clicking on any ad within your advertising dashboard. Once the details for your ad appear on the screen, you’ll see a column on the left with the option that says, “Search terms – New.” When you click on this menu option, a screen appears that details all of the individual keywords, products, and categories that were used to target readers. You can quickly scan the list to determine which keywords work and which ones failed to deliver results.
Harvesting this data is the key to building new ads that produce better results, because you’re able to add keywords and targets proven to work in the past. You can also use Amazon’s data to help select good targeting for Google and Facebook ads.
Amazon is known for being a private company that is unwilling to share inside information. In this case, however, the keyword data they now provide to authors is marketing gold.
NOTE: Access to my popular video course, Mastering Amazon for Authors, will re-open on February 6, 2020 at the price of $399. There is an entire module that teaches how to buy Amazon ads along with a session dedicated to getting more customer reviews.
Over 300 authors have been through the course and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I’d love to have you join us.
Due to my busy consulting schedule, I can only accept the first 25 authors who purchase the course. Once we reach that number, the doors will close. If you know that you’re ready to join, contact me today to get on my waiting list and reserve your slot.