“Sucky Product” but excellent search engine optimization = Average results

If you have a “Sucky Product” but excellent search engine optimization, don’t expect good results!

Earlier in June this year, I was asked to help my Silicon Valley friend on her Amazon book sales. Her kindle and paperback book was launched earlier in January and she had no sales from March onwards except interest to download the book when it was promoted for free on KDP Amazon. Her market share was really low. Her book’s ranking was abysmal and the book was not even “searchable” on Amazon ‘s search engine. I asked her what sort of marketing efforts she had put behind it — she said she did some free online advertising, social media marketing, content marketing. When I asked her what sort of digital strategy she outlined before rolling our her marketing activities; well she said didn’t have any real strategy.

She was just targeting people who were in her follower base, her fellow author’s base, and folks who want to know more about entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley. I trusted that she is from Silicon Valley and has worked with the major tech firms in Silicon Valley knew exactly what she was doing and had an approach and a well thought through way of reaching her audience. I also assumed that her product i.e. her book was phenomenal and amazingly written and it was sure to be something so impactful (what you would expect from a Silicon Valley veteran). I honestly thought it was just a technological glitch and that it was an Amazon tech issue affecting her book, author’s page, and KDP system.

So she asked me to look into this and work my magic for her and promised me that if I can turn in around, she will recommend me to all her Silicon valley counterparts i.e. authors.

Honestly, alarms should have rung when a Silicon Valley tech veteran can’t even get the sales of her books right. But still, she was my friend and I didn’t see that coming.

So I started my work looking at the upper funnel approach to her marketing strategy. I could see the tell tale signs that awareness and consideration were her areas of improvements that were needed. So I quickly made changes to her book’s product description by optimizing it with keywords that were totally missing. I made changes to the blog links on the page and add backlinks to the author’s page. I made further changes to keywords targeting on her KDP page and then I even suggested running a $2 a day awareness push on Amazon sponsored ads with 1000 keywords that I bulk uploaded for her from my market research and data mining of keywords in the business book space.

I also optimized her categories and where her books were seen to immediately give her book and increase in rankings.

Literally, in less than 2 weeks, I brought her book to the top # 100 ranking and certainly first-page visibility in the amazon search engines under business books. Even with such low touch changes in the upper funnel of my digital strategy, her book started to sell about 4 a day from what used to be 0 a day.

I then recommended her more tactical lower-funnel activities to drive higher ROI and conversions using marketing trends, online advertising, and social media marketing — specifically looking at Linkedin advertising, Amazon Kindle, and Google Ads. I also recommended she better segments her target audience and really find the target audience that has an interest in the topics of the book so that she can target them specifically as opposed to going broad in her targeting. This can be done by a simple survey and segmentation using cluster analysis, actual data science. Perhaps the segment we were looking at was small businesses or maybe it was startups that would be driven to read her book , whatever it was we need data to confirm this.

She said no thank you to my lower funnel suggestions. And in addition to that, she said that her book sales that were coming in were not good enough and 4 books a day is certainly not good results. I was surprised and I was wondering maybe we had misaligned expectations and that she was expecting to sell 50–100 books a day after 2 weeks of my work. So I asked myself if her expectation was logical and whether her product was really a product that was good.

If you do a rough calculation of the segment she is targeting and the amount of entrepreneurship business books that are out in the market, you will realize that the supply outweighs the demand and that in order to steal the market share of her competitors, more must be done. Search engine optimization on Amazon and Amazon sponsored ads are not enough. You have to do a lower-funnel outreach and you need to do marketing beyond the Amazon marketing platform.

But the biggest point of it all was the fact that her book was not a good product, to begin with. There were some reviews that pointed out the book to be a disappointment and a collection of thoughts and ideas of past successes of silicon valley entrepreneurs and certainly not adding any value to them. The question is did they even test or evaluate the product before putting it into the market? Probably not. She is from Silicon Valley remember.

These are important points to consider when deciding to market your product because a good book is something everyone likes to share but a bad book is something that no one wants to tell another about. If you have a “Sucky Product” but excellent search engine optimization, don’t expect good results!

So what should have been done and what can we learn from this? Search engine optimization, tags, meta tags, HTML optimization, and keywords are not the end all be all of the success of a product. In fact, what is crucially important, is the product and the product’s viability, likeability, and the product’s value that it is creating for the segment and its audience.

In other words, my friend started with a wrong approach that most product development marketers do, which is to get caught in the category growth, develop the product first and then find the segment and target and then try their best to market it. Ego aside, product development whether a physical product or a technological product always do the first thing — run a data analysis of the offering and whether its value is compelling for a segment. From there understand exactly how much of this segment and market share can you achieve and be realistic about your KPIs. This is what I tell all my clients. And they say oh no, not another survey. That’s because for the longest time people have no idea how to run a product evaluation survey and how to use the data.

We run the survey to get data that drives kmeans analysis, conjoint analysis, factor analysis, and regression analysis to get the product evaluation at a very scientific level where you can determine whether the product is a fit for the market and the amount of marketing you want to put behind it. Do you run these analyses on your survey? Most surveys are also programmed wrongly and don’t give you much data to use. Even if your product has not been developed before, there is a way to determine its potential and how best to market and target your segment to ensure optimal conversions. It’s not rocket science it’s just people’s egos that come in the way.

Unfortunately, most marketing agencies and marketing companies provide digital marketing services without this knowledge and you should be cautious not to jump in and just be another run of the mill product in the landscape of millions of other products.

Stay tuned to my next blog where I will share how having a great product (a book that was a product developed based on data science analysis) can help achieve great sales results coupled with, of course, excellent digital marketing services.

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