Relevance: The Key to Advertising/Marketing



Many advertising and marketing concepts can be understood, and then applied, by considering this one word: relevance.

And what a difference relevance can make.

Yet, very often, the advertiser or marketer hasn’t given this concept due consideration.

In your wildest dreams, your audience is anyone who has a head.

But in reality, you throw your money away with such thinking.

Unless maybe you’re selling hairbrushes.

But even then, you’re wasting money showing your advertisement to people who are bald, strongly prefer combs, or don’t care about their appearance.

Let’s look at some specific examples of how the word relevance impacts advertising and marketing. (Many of the examples are specific to self-published books, but the same principle can be generalized to the sale of other kinds of products or services.)


Can you imagine walking into a covenant to sell a book about how to plan the perfect spring break vacation?

Well, it’s not much different when 80% of your audience glances at the cover of your sci-fi thriller and expects it to be a western.

(If you’re thinking about the movie Cowboys & Aliens right now, you’re totally missing the point!)

If it looks like a western, it probably is a western, so if you’re looking for sci-fi, why waste your time checking it out?

When there are other sci-fi books that actually look like science fiction.

The most important goal of book cover design is to create a cover that is relevant to your specific target audience.


There are two ways to approach the combination of writing and marketing that have good prospects for success.

If you can execute your approach well.

  • You can find an existing target audience* and write a book relevant for that audience. (Where you are interested in the topic and have the right experience to write it.)
  • Or you can write what interests you (and where you have the right experience), then find the audience relevant for what you’ve written and market to that audience.†

* You don’t have to write for the most popular audience. It can be a niche audience and still be quite successful.

† The latter carries more risk. The worst-case scenario is that the audience perfect for your book doesn’t even exist. It happens…


Billboard advertising doesn’t make sense for most books. Even though many people do read, only a fraction read any particular genre, and some of those readers are biased towards certain authors or subgenres, so that the majority of the people who see the billboard advertisement result in wasted impressions. On top of that, the sale of a single book usually results in a low royalty, so you can’t afford wasted impressions.

But if you sell automotive parts and advertise on a billboard overlooking a highway, nearly 100% of your audience drives a car, so even though many prefer to get their service done by a dealer or a mechanic, the advertisement is more effective because of the greatly improved relevance.

On top of that, most advertising largely involves branding, which requires repeated impressions over a long period of time. With advertising, the importance of relevance gets compounded through this repetition.

Where should you advertise your product (or service)? Think long and hard about where it would be highly relevant to show your product.

One reason to use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise products that you sell on Amazon has to do with relevance:

  • Customers are already there browsing for similar products.
  • You’re not trying to persuade them to stop what they’re doing, leave one site, and visit another site.

To get the most out of AMS, focus on relevance.

For example, when advertising a KDP Select self-published Kindle e-book through AMS:

  • All else being equal, Amazon is more likely to show AMS ads that generate and maintain a high click-through rate. That’s a strong indication of relevance.
  • Precise targeting makes your ad more relevant to the customers who view it.
  • A cover that conveys the precise subgenre/subcategory and content at the tiny size shown in the ads is a big plus.
  • The short marketing pitch shown with the ad can also help to convey relevance.
  • Thus, relevance can help you generate impressions without raising your bid sky high.
  • Ultimately, the blurb, the rest of your product page, and the Look Inside must also be relevant to convert clicks into sales.


I use a free WordPress blog. I will soon pass 300,000 views (if I haven’t already), as I average 500 to 800 visitors per day finding my blog through search engines.

Yet I don’t employ any SEO “tactics.”

My goal has always been simple: Provide helpful content to anyone interested in self-publishing.

If the content is relevant to your audience, you have a strong organic marketing edge with much potential for long-term success.

Relevant content will naturally include the right keywords and keyphrases, lead to recommendations and referrals, generate followers, and encourage discussion.

You can blog successfully with short articles. What matters is that the content is relevant and helpful.

Trying to “fool” search engines into thinking that an article is relevant when it’s not won’t lead to long-term success.


To help close the sale, the blurb needs to implicitly convince the customer (with help from the Look Inside) that the content is relevant to the buyer.

It must reinforce the subgenre/subcategory and content conveyed by the cover, title, category, and keywords.

The style of writing and storytelling must also be relevant to the customer.

It needs to be the kind of story and characters that the customer wants to read.

Without giving the story away. Because once the customer knows the story, it’s no longer relevant.

Fiction blurbs need to be short, while nonfiction blurbs should highlight important points with bullets, since the customer doesn’t want to waste time—not yet sure if reading the blurb is relevant or not.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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36 comments on “Relevance: The Key to Advertising/Marketing

  1. Thank you Chris for sharing your expertise. It’s been a year now since I joined WordPress on the “Amazon Man’s” advice:) I have grown more confident day by day as I have followed the recommendations on writing and self-publishing. Remembering one “can’t build Rome in a day”, and learning to stretch my wings a bit and enjoy the “write happy” posts:) Thank you again for all your help and sound advice!

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  5. Chris – very interesting article. The only problem I see with applying RELEVANCE to running ads for my books on Amazon is that it does not allow me to match my book by other RELEVANT categories. The categories you can select are so generic that its impossible to get into the niche categories you really want. If you book is a dark espionage novel in the UK, do you really want it lumped with other THRILLERS that can range from anything in the sci-fi thriller section to block-buster thrillers with lots of guns and fast cars? I don’t think so.
    Which means matching your book by “product” in Amazon is the nearest you can get to relevance. So if my book features a James Bond type character and story, it makes sense to advertise it next to Casino Royale by Fleming.
    Yet here too there remain big challenges. From your previous articles you mentioned the minimum click throughs you need to have your ads run on Amazon, and even then the conversion rate is so poor. I don’t know if you would agree but based on your previous articles and from others, it looks like COST PER SALE is:
    Google Adwords = $46.74 on average
    Amazon Advertising = $20 on average (for a book I earn 70% priced at $3.99)
    So it’s not likely that even when you try to run RELEVANT Ads on Amazon for your book, it will bring you ROI. Yes, you have shown in your other articles that Amazon advertising has other benefits (such as lots of eyeballs), but for those a bit more commercially minded looking for ROI, even RELEVANT advertising on Amazon is a hard sell. Would you agree?

    • I target specific products, rather than selecting specific categories, which helps with relevance. I’ve now placed 100 ads with AMS and most of the last 50 have provided short-term ROI (quite nicely, in some cases). It took me a few months to perfect my bidding and targeting strategies, but I’m pleased with AMS.

      • Chris – very interesting. Is your successful bidding strategy something you can teach others? I’m willing to pay for such advice. I just can’t get ROI from AMS despite several times trying.

      • The majority of my ads are performing well, but I do have a few that struggle, so it won’t necessarily work for every book.

        When an ad isn’t performing as well, two things to try are a much lower bid or much narrower targeting. I have a few ads generating good impressions for under a dime a click (not easy in very popular genres though). I wait at least three days, often more, before raising my bid. Partly because reporting can have big delays. But it’s dynamic, with other ads and bids changing, and patience can give you cheaper impressions. And once your ad gets a chance, if it gets a high click rate early, it can generate good impressions at a low bid.

        But A few books aren’t easy to target, or don’t have a good conversion rate once people get there, and then it’s much harder to reach ROI.

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