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One of the reasons I wanted to self-publish my mystery novel was to experience firsthand what can be done with today’s online marketing and advertising tools (by the way, you can pre-order an autographed copy until February 15, 2009 — that kind of shameless plug is part of the program, I’ve come to accept).

Advertising online is one of the biggest enablers of online business, and it’s paying off for a lot of participants. Google makes billions each year from small text ads placed on pages based on keyword matches — search term = advertising keyword. Its AdWords system is renowned for targeting, pay-per-click efficiency, and scale.

Yahoo has a similar huge service.

I’ve recently set up ads on both. Both are slick — to a point. Yahoo actually has a nicer interface and better reporting. Google’s interface and system seems overcooked and a little unkempt, like a lot of Google projects. It’s as if their engineers missed a meeting. Or are still stuck in one.

Both have been frustrating to use, with Google taking the lead on this front. As usual, Google’s help is pitiful — wordy, rambling, and with little opportunity for a quick answer. It took me a week to resolve an initial problem that was ultimately written off by Google as their requirement to review my ads.

But Google has daypart targeting and huge traffic. Yahoo served ads more effectively and consistently, but doesn’t have daypart targeting. And Yahoo’s traffic seemed a bit less robust.

Still, the most intriguing option I’ve found so far is Facebook.

I wandered into it with low expectations, but the flow was so simple and straightforward I never looked back. It was as if the best parts of Google and Yahoo were captured, and the worst cast off.

Targeting is one of the most onerous parts of either Google’s or Yahoo’s ad systems. You have to spend a lot of time picking keywords, locations, and the like. Even then, it’s a crapshoot. You don’t really know if your guesses are going to reach the right people.

This is where Facebook’s system shines — instead of guessing at keywords and phrases, often dozens of them, you pick the interests of the users. So, for my book, I picked “college-educated, aged 25-60, fans of mystery novels and psychological thrillers.” I received a note indicating my choices would reach about 536 people on Facebook.

Talk about efficiency. And, as I wrote about yesterday, talk about a trend publishers need to keep an eye on! This kind of targeting is exactly what could unseat Google from its AdWords perch.

Combined with Facebook Connect, the Facebook advertising system could be easily propagated to the general Web, with millions of targeted users — not by keyword, but by expressed interests, descriptive demographics, and meaningful connections.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


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