If you’re familiar with our editorially curated deals on BookBub and Chirp, you probably know that featured deal pricing is relatively straightforward: Advertisers pay a flat price based on the category and discount price of the promotion.
BookBub Ads are different: Pricing is determined by a real-time auction and is constantly changing as other advertisers bid for clicks or impressions from the same audience. This model helps advertisers run efficient, targeted, ROI–positive campaigns, but it can be confusing if you’re newer to advertising or accustomed to other ad platforms.
In this article, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about how the BookBub Ads auction model works, illustrated with examples. With an understanding of what’s going on under the hood of BookBub Ads and how ads are priced, you’ll be better prepared to optimize your ad spend and accomplish your book marketing goals!
How do BookBub Ads work?
BookBub Ads is an auction-based advertising platform that lets you promote any book at any time in BookBub and Chirp’s daily emails and on the BookBub website. When you set up an ad campaign, you decide which readers you want to reach (your target audience) and the maximum rate you want to pay (your bid). Your ads then compete with other advertisers’ ads to get shown to your target audience (the auction). This live auction runs every time a reader opens an email or website page and determines the winning ad based on the bid and other factors we’ll cover in depth below.
How does BookBub determine where and when my ads get shown to readers?
BookBub Ads appear in dedicated spaces in our daily emails, usually at the bottom below the featured titles. When individual ads compete for those ad spots in the live auction, the ad with the highest bid to reach the target reader at the moment that reader opens an email wins the impression in that email. One impression is what we call one instance of your ad being served.
While we serve ads to the BookBub website as well, the vast majority of ad impressions will serve in emails. This means that, unlike other ad platforms that serve ads when users visit a website, BookBub serves ads more variably — both in terms of when we send emails throughout the day and in terms of which emails we send. For example, if your ad targets fans of an author who releases a new book, more impressions from those fans are up for grabs when we send the New Release Alert for that book.
Note: We’ve adapted our auction to account for Apple Mail privacy protections to prevent ads from serving to emails we suspect are automatically opened by Apple Mail rather than a real reader.
So, how does the auction determine whether your ad will win impressions?
There are six campaign elements of BookBub Ads, and of these, only the last four elements play a role in determining when your ad gets shown and to which readers:
- Ad creative: what your ad looks like
- Click-through links: where readers end up after clicking on your ad
- Audience: who you want your ad to reach
- Schedule: when and for how long your ad will be live
- Budget: the total maximum amount you want to spend on an ad campaign
- Bid: the maximum rate you want to pay to reach readers in your audience
Ad creative and click-through links define the experience for readers who see your impressions, but don’t have an impact on whether or not your campaign actually gets shown to readers in the first place. Let’s take a closer look at how the other four elements impact the auction.
The schedule and budget determine how long your ad will run and compete for impressions. BookBub Ads automatically turns off your campaign when you hit your budget, whether that’s a continuous campaign with a daily budget (your ad will stop serving when you’ve hit your budget for the day and resume serving the next day) or a campaign with fixed dates (your ad will stop serving if you hit your total budget before the end date). The higher your budget, the longer your ad can run and the more potential chances you have to compete for and win impressions. However, schedule and budget don’t influence an ad’s status in the auction.
It’s your bid that holds the most weight in the auction and determines whether your ad is shown to readers. There are two ways to bid on BookBub Ads: cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC). Your audience targeting determines the pool of readers you’ll be competing for — and the advertisers you’ll be competing against. At the moment a reader opens an email or a page on BookBub.com, our auction identifies every ad targeting that particular reader and displays the ad with the highest bid. If two campaigns have the exact same bid, the winner is chosen randomly.
Note: Currently, only BookBub Ads using CPC bidding are eligible to appear on BookBub.com. Ads using either CPC or CPM bidding are eligible to appear in our emails.
Let’s walk through an example. Say we have three campaigns all targeting the same audience of readers. You can choose to target your ad to reach specific readers based on any combination of regions, retailer preferences, categories, and author interests.
When a reader who meets the criteria of this target audience opens her BookBub Featured Deal email, the auction runs and determines that Ad #3 is the highest bidder. Ad #3 wins the impression, and that’s the ad this reader sees at the bottom of her email that day. In this scenario, Ad #3 will continue to be the winning ad for other readers in this audience for as long as it has budget to spend.
But when Ad #3 runs out of budget, it’s no longer going to be eligible to compete in the auction. When that happens and the next reader in this audience opens an email, Ad #1 is now the highest bidder and the ad that wins the impression:
Note: Each individual reader can only see a particular ad campaign once every few days. Because we sometimes send multiple emails to individual readers each day, we want to make sure they’re not seeing the same ads again in rapid succession. So in this scenario, if reader #2 has already seen Ad #1 in the last few days, the next highest bidding ad (Ad #2) will win the impression for that reader.
This is a very simplified illustration of how the auction determines which ad to show particular readers. Of course, the auction’s calculations become much more complicated when you have millions of readers and thousands of ads all targeting audiences based on custom combinations of author, category, retailer, and region preferences. Learn more about how additional layers of targeting can determine your ad’s chances of winning impressions.
How much do BookBub Ads cost?
The rate you pay for each impression or click is determined by your own bid and the other ads competing in the auction at any given time.
If your ad has the winning bid, you will pay the rate of the second-highest bid for that reader. Specifically, you’ll pay a rate one cent higher — just enough to beat the next highest bid. Remember that your bid is the maximum rate that you would be willing to pay to reach readers in your target audience, but in practice, you’re almost always going to pay a lower rate than what you actually bid.
Looking again at the first scenario above, the second-highest bid was $10. So the winning advertiser will actually pay a CPM rate of $10.01 (remember that the CPM rate is the cost per 1,000 impressions, so $10.01 for 1,000 impressions = $0.01001 for a single impression).
Another rule to be aware of here is that you can’t bid against yourself. If you set up multiple ads targeting overlapping audiences, those ads will compete with each other to win impressions among that audience. But your own bids won’t increase the rate that you pay.
So, let’s say Advertiser A has two ads running, both targeting the same reader, and has both the highest and second-highest bids. Ad #1 is the winning bid, but Advertiser A will pay the rate of the next highest bid that is not their own (Advertiser B).
Because the amount you pay depends on the bids other advertisers submit for the same audience at the same time, the cost for an individual impression or click will always be variable, though you will never pay more than the maximum CPM or CPC you bid when you set up your campaign. Additionally, we will never charge you more than your maximum overall budget. This means the total amount you spend on BookBub Ads is entirely up to you!
How will I know my ad is serving?
Depending on your ad targeting, the other live ads in our auction at any given time, and your own subscription preferences as a BookBub or Chirp user, you may not see your live ads in your own emails or on BookBub.com. The number of impressions in your ads dashboard will tell you how many readers have had a chance to see your ad. The ad will appear to readers exactly as the image that you uploaded, which you can see by viewing your ad’s details.
You can learn more about how to navigate your Dashboard and understand campaign stats here.
How can I make my ad more competitive in the auction?
We’ve talked about what impacts the auction and your costs. Now, let’s look at how you can increase your chances of winning impressions. You can try:
- Increasing your bid. Remember, your bid determines how competitive your ad is going to be in the auction, so the simplest way to make an ad more likely to win impressions is to increase the amount you’re bidding.
- Switch from CPC to CPM bidding. If you’re having trouble winning impressions with a CPC campaign, you can try switching to CPM bidding, which usually makes it easier to win impressions.
- Change your targeting. If you’re already using a fairly high bid for your campaign, it may be that your audience is too competitive and there are other advertisers with even higher bids trying to reach them. Learn how to choose effective author targets.
- Target different regions or retailers. If you’re only targeting Amazon US readers, try including other regions (or other retailers if your books are widely available). There are often fewer advertisers competing for those audiences.
- Try category targeting. Targeting to the genre categories relevant to your ad can help increase the size of your potential audience. However, know that engagement is often lower with category-targeted campaigns, so your click-through rate is likely to drop in this case.
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