Warning: This post is full of number-crunching analysis. It is not for those who quail at the mention of math and accounting. If you want to skip all the analysis and head straight for my conclusions, scroll down to the Conclusions and Advice sections.
On Wednesday, January 12th, 2011, my banner ad for my ebook Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance went up on http://www.kindleboards.com/. In this post, I’ll give you numbers, analysis, and recommendations about this advertising.
Kindleboards charges a fee of $40 for this advertising opportunity. In return, your 728x90 pixel leaderboard banner ad will cycle with one other ad at the top of every Kindleboards page. This means that, for one day, 50% of the pages that people see will have your ad on it. You can have the banner ad link to whatever URL you desire – your blog, your website, your Amazon book page, etc. I had my ad link to my Amazon book page.
Here is the ad banner that I used (click to enlarge each image):
Here is the one-day traffic data for my banner ad, reported to me by Harvey from Kindleboards:
Unknown number of samples downloaded
This traffic computes to the following online advertising performance:
Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) = $0.54
Cost per click (CPC) = $0.89
Clickthrough rate (CTR) = .0006
Conversion rate = 2.2%
Comparisons with other advertising
I have also paid for advertising on Project Wonderful, Bing, and Google (I compared them in this post). Here are some traffic performance comparisons. (Project Wonderful, Bing, and Google data is based on multiple ads across multiple days. kindleboards data is based on one ad on one day.)
Cost per thousand impressions (CPM)
Kindleboards has the highest CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and is therefore the most expensive. CPM can be used to evaluate the overall traffic that a website gets. From this data, it seems clear that Kindleboards is charging more than the going rate for their ad banners based on the user traffic that they provide. For example, a quick search of Project Wonderful advertisers with 70,000 – 75,000 impressions/pageviews per day (over the last 5 days) reveals costs ranging from $0.20 to $9.00 per day.
If Kindleboards can deliver a more targeted audience, however, a higher CPM is warranted. In this case, we can assume that near 100% of the audience owns a Kindle. That is certainly worth a somewhat higher CPM. We probably cannot assume that with most of the sites available on Project Wonderful, Bing, or Google. A quick search for the tag name “Kindle” on Project Wonderful comes up with only 3 websites (my blog being one).
CPM is not the only factor in determining the “worth” of an ad banner. If the clickthrough rate of a site is very high, it can make up for an expensive CPM.
Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
One way for a website to make up for a high CPM is with a high clickthrough rate (CTR). A high CTR is an indication that the user base for the website includes a large percentage of people interested in your product.
For my ad, Kindleboards had a VERY low CTR of .0006, compared to .03 for Google and .1 for Project Wonderful and Bing.
CTR can fluctuate considerably based on the ad banner, ad content, and website user base. The .0006 CTR for Kindleboards tells me that my ad banner was not compelling to the Kindleboards membership. This can be my fault, for designing a poor banner, or it can be a result of the Kindleboards user base not having many scifi fans. I could experiment with different ad banners to try to improve this CTR. However, each Kindleboards ad experiment costs $40. I cannot afford that.
Cost per Click (CPC)
The cost-per-click of an ad is another way to grade the performance of website advertising. Generally, a low CPC means that the user base for the site has a large percentage of people interested in your product.
Unfortunately, Kindleboards’ CPC is more than double Google, triple Bing, and 11 times Project Wonderful. What this tells me is that Kindleboards does not have very many scifi fans, or that my ad was just very poorly designed.
The conversion rate is the ratio of people who clicked on the ad who ended up buying the product. I only have this data for Kindleboards (conversion rate = 2.2%). There is no way for me to get conversion data from Amazon for my Bing, Google, or Project Wonderful ads. Therefore, I cannot make any solid comparisons in this area.
Here is a chart of my daily sales.
As you can see, even though I sell only a few books a day, I did not get much of a bump on the day my Kindleboards ad ran. Yes, I did get a spike there, perhaps even a 33% increase in sales. But, it was because of 1 book. If I sold 50 books a day, such a spike would make a Kindleboards ad worthwhile.
Was my ad on Kindleboards a success?
I certainly wanted my ad on Kindleboards to be successful.
Kindleboards came in a distant 4th in all online advertising traffic performance data that I could compare. Also, I spent $40 to earn $2.
I don’t think I can call the ad a success in any way.
Maybe some of those 45 people who clicked on the ad also downloaded samples. Maybe they will buy my book in the future. There is no way for me to know that. I can only grade the performance based on the hard data I have.
Why did my Kindleboards ad fail?
I do not blame Kindleboards for the failure of my ads. I blame myself for the following reasons:
1. It was my banner ad that failed to connect with the Kindleboards users. I’m not a professional marketing expert. I’m just a self-publishing author doing all my own advertising. The banner ad was not compelling enough to get people to click on it.
2. Could be my genre is not popular with the Kindleboards users. My ad indicates science fiction and action. A tiny fraction of users found that compelling enough to click on the ad. Does Kindleboards have a large scifi fan base? It doesn’t seem like it.
3. Perhaps my $2.99 price was too expensive. But, if Kindleboards users are not interested in $2.99, then they’re not the audience I want to advertise to.
4. Maybe my book title isn’t interesting enough for the members? Or maybe it’s too violent?
So, to put it in a nutshell, I do not believe that Kindleboards is the correct website to advertise my science fiction novel. However, due to the lack of membership demographics, there was no way to know that until I actually advertised.
My ad failed on Kindleboards.
My ads perform significantly better on Project Wonderful and even Bing and Google. The reason my ads perform better on Project Wonderful is because I can target them to receptive users, cheaply experiment with different banners, and buy multiple repetitive ads at a significantly lower cost.
On the other hand, other authors have indicated on the Kindleboards message boards that they have done significantly better than me. Some have had up to 30 sales or more on the day of their Kindleboards ad, and saw significant jumps in rankings. Obviously, there are many factors that determine success. It would be great to get some hard data on these success stories, such as genre and price. Then, prospective advertisers could better assess the chances for their own ads.
My advice to other authors
While Kindleboards advertising did not work for me, it might work for you. Maybe you have a better banner ad, or your genre connects with the membership.
I encourage you to buy at least one ad on Kindleboards so you can evaluate your own success. Part of a self-publishing author’s job is marketing, and it is your responsibility to seek out and find the best places to advertise. Kindleboards might be the place for your book or genre, even though it wasn’t for mine.
If you have advertised on Kindleboards, please add your results to the comments section.
Suggestions to kindleboards
To the fine folks who operate Kindleboards I would just like to say that I did not write this post in an attempt to diminish your service. You folks were nothing but helpful with my advertising on your site. However, I must honestly report on my results and, unfortunately, my results were not good. But, I think the reason for that was that my book and Kindleboards are mismatched, or my ad banner was really bad.
Here are some things that I think could help entice me to advertise on your site again:
1. Lower your price. At $40 a day, and a $0.54 CPM, you are far more expensive than other ad services out there. You’re also pricing me out of experimenting with different ads on your site, or trying repetition to see if that can improve CTR. At $40 I’ll only ever advertise on your site once. Of course, it seems that you have the demand to support that price, so it probably isn’t in your best interest to lower it.
2. Switch to using Project Wonderful to serve your ads. Project Wonderful provides great features to advertisers, including robust daily reporting and tracking. It is also an auction system. The marketplace determines how much your ad banners are worth, but you can set minimum bids. You probably won’t get $40 a day for your banner ad, based on other sites I’ve seen with similar daily pageviews/impressions. But, Project Wonderful supports 7 different banner sizes and you could put two or three on your forums. You might be able to get more than $40/day with 3 different ads. Who knows? Maybe you could experiment. (Project Wonderful does get a cut of your earnings.)
3. Provide some more demographic data about your users. You have almost 30,000 members and it would be great to know more about them. Do some polling on your forums asking people to tell us what e-genres they buy, how much they spend per month on ebooks, country of residence, and so on. Provide these results in prominent locations.
Whether or not you investigate or experiment with any of these suggestions, I wish all of you folks at Kindleboards the best of luck and continued success.