PPC: How to Tap Into the Power of the Persona

ppc-persona-1Personas have been used in marketing and advertising for years and are the foundation of any user-centered marketing plan.

Basically, personas are a fictional prototype of a person that’s used to represent potential users of a product or service. Personas are extremely powerful tools for marketers to use when creating marketing campaigns and ad messaging.

That being said, personas are widely underused in the PPC and search marketing community as a whole. PPC advertisers have a lot to gain by completing the persona exercise and leveraging that information when managing and creating new search marketing campaigns.

How to Get Started

Complete the persona exercise and create a standing persona document. At my agency we create persona docs in a spreadsheet. You can use any medium you like. Pen and paper would work fine.

The process that my agency follows is very basic and allows for easy consumption by our team and our clients. It involves four sections:

  • Name the persona. Stick with something descriptive here (e.g. Web Developer, Marketer, Stay at Home Mom, Rocket Scientist, etc.). You can give each persona an actual name, but that isn’t required.
  • Describe who that person is. The trick here is to write the description in the first person. Really think about who they are and what they represent.
  • Describe what that person wants or needs. Try to make these wants, desires or needs something that transcends your product or service (product agnostic).
  • Describe how your product/service helps that person. Take each persona’s wants and desires and describe how your product/service fills that desire.


If you’re a business owner managing your own PPC campaigns, this should be an easy exercise for you.

In-house PPCers, you might need to set a meeting with your marketing team or other individuals in your company to think through these personas.

Agency folks, you will need to lean on your clients. They know their customer base best, so put that knowledge to good use.

Truth is, no matter where you’re doing PPC – many companies have done persona exercises at some time or another. The problem is not everyone has connected the dots between traditional marketing and PPC!

Apply Personas to Ad Messaging

One of the most important jobs we as PPC advertisers have is creating effective ad messaging. We are tasked with writing ads that are engaging enough to get the click-through, but also complete enough to push the customer through to conversion. Completing a persona exercise will help you to write ads that are engaging and lead to conversion.

Sometimes one of your personas will line up neatly with a segment of your keywords. In this scenario, the ads have practically written themselves in your persona document. More frequently however, there will be overlap in how your keywords relate back to each persona. In this instance you will be tasked with testing ad variations based on each persona or creating ads that are a blend of each persona’s values.

Beyond ads for search, personas will also aid in the creation of ads for display and social. When you have an understanding of what your target customers need, you can make better decisions when creating image ads or choosing images to accompany Facebook or LinkedIn ad units.

Apply Personas to Display Advertising

Personas really start to make sense when you apply them to Display Advertising. Understanding your target customers’ needs and desires will help paint a picture of how those individuals spend their time on the internet. Knowing the types of websites your customers visit will go a long way in helping you create successful Display campaigns.

Personas can help you choose the right websites with direct ad buys. Personas will help you choose the right categories or topics with Display in AdWords. And with keyword-based contextual advertising, personas will help you to segment your ad groups and choose the right keywords to target your potential customers.

Apply Personas to Social Media Advertising

When running ads on Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn, understanding who your customers are is essential to creating successful campaigns. Social media advertising is based on who each user is and what their interests are.

By completing the persona exercise, you have already begun the process of segmenting your target audience for social ads. How can anyone could even begin to create a social media advertising campaign without a persona document?

Facebook and Twitter (promoted accounts and to a lesser extent promoted tweets for search) rely heavily on an understanding of “interests.” What are users of those social networks talking about, interacting with and plainly stated – interested in? Your persona document will help you build out interest lists.

LinkedIn is a bit more direct as you’re dealing with job titles and categories. But once again, your persona doc will already have this laid out for you – all you have to do is build the campaigns.

Putting in the effort to brainstorm and conduct planning for your PPC accounts will pay off in spades once you build out your campaigns. The persona exercise and the resulting persona document are just one piece of that puzzle. That said, considering the amount of mileage you can get out of a well-made persona document, it’s one of the most important.

Image Credit: andybardill/Flickr

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