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How to Use Personas to Boost Your PPC Performance

While often underutilized, personas can actually boost your PPC campaigns. Follow these tips to leverage personas for paid search.

How to Use Personas to Boost Your PPC Performance

One of the tenets in digital marketing these days is persona-based marketing.

The days of a blanket campaign pushing users to buy your wares have long since passed, forcing brands to circle back to one central acknowledgment: you are marketing to humans.

It can feel like a daunting thing to create a plan for, especially for resource-strapped brands that are already feeling overwhelmed with the sheer number of platforms and creative versions they already have to make.

It’s another way the work gets splintered apart into a lot of effort where the payoffs can feel fuzzy to advertisers.

Why Are Personas So Underutilized in PPC?

Most of us paid media folks learned on paid search, so we got comfy with users telling us what they were looking for, and what problems we could solve for them.

While I’ll show you how to incorporate this into your personas shortly, it’s a small fraction of the online universe.

Personas are something you have to really start understanding and applying to build a build relationship way higher in the funnel so you aren’t over-relying on search to save the day.

The different personas were always there, but the platforms were really limited on how to reach them in a specific way.

There were things like display ads, but Facebook and its ilk weren’t around early on, so these are skills that were underutilized for a pretty long time relative to the age of digital marketing.

Re-Use Personas You’re Already Reaching

What I’m about to share is one of the most underutilized methods I come across. It results in not only underutilized knowledge about an audience, but also wasted media spend.

Let’s pretend you are spending a lot of money on LinkedIn ads (hey, not hard to do). It’s really the best place to drive the exact B2B persona you are looking for, in many cases.

However, it’s expensive top of funnel traffic, and so many advertisers think, “OK, I got clicks but no one grabbed my whitepaper, so that was a waste.”

All that knowledge about who actually clicked and came to their site gets left in the dust. Ack! You need to view that spend as buying knowledge about personas that you can reuse.

One of my favorite things to do is create an audience in Google Analytics to use in Ads, or a custom audience in Facebook Ads off the UTM tagging. This “buckets” those users so you can use them elsewhere. This is hugely helpful in applying messaging elsewhere.

Creating Audiences for Use in Google Ads

Let’s start by being able to observe these LinkedIn audiences in our Google Ads efforts, for example, to see whether they circle back to searching for the brand at a later date.

In the admin section of Analytics, there’s a section for Audience Definitions:


If you create a New Audience, the Audience Builder will open up. In the left-hand nav, there is an option for Traffic Sources. Picking this will let you specify the UTM tags you’re interested in:

Notice how each field corresponds to the type of UTM parameters you can append on the end of your URL strings. That’s the gold!

As you create and save these Audiences, as long as your Ads are linked to Analytics, they will show up as Audiences you can apply to campaigns!

Just hit the Audiences area, choose where you want to apply them, and the ones you’ve created will appear under the Website Audiences section on the right:

You can add them as an Observation layer initially to get a sense for what they do – are they searching for the brand? Clicking through?

If so, you may want to set up their audience as its own ad group so you can tailor ad copy, or push them toward a specific asset since you know what persona/demographic they come from in the business world!

Re-using Your Audience in Facebook Ads

Much like we did in Analytics, we can set up a Custom Audience on Facebook for those same LinkedIn users!

Head to your Audience section and choose Website Traffic as your source:

Here is where you can specify what tags a URL contained, and for what length of time it should cover:

Now you have a Custom Audience that you can apply to an ad set for remarketing or to create a lookalike from!

Continue Testing Your Personas & What They Want

With large enough search volumes in Google Ads, you can learn a lot about those audience segments you drove in LinkedIn.

What are they searching for?

You may find they search differently than your average user, which means you can run ads more specifically to them.

For example, if you target administrators that are decision makers at hospitals and see they search a lot for a feature you have, you can tailor your ad copy for the things that might be more of a selling point to them such as “saves administrative time for your staff.”

This is different than messaging for the user who might be the daily tool user, which could be a more specific highlight around ease of use.

It also lets you create two separate landing pages that tout the benefits specific to the persona searching, and we all know how those higher conversion rates help offset media costs!

With Facebook, you can really mine those users ongoing to try and get them into your marketing funnel. The multiple ad formats give you many chances to showcase your offering, whether it’s via video, or something like an interactive Instant Experience.

Facebook Ads can also be great for lead gen since you have these more robust formats to explain why someone should sign up for what you’re offering.

If they came to your site initially from LinkedIn and didn’t sign up for what you had (white paper, case study, whatever it was), you get another shot by trying to hook them via a different offer with your Facebook Ads!

You also can continue to reinforce your brand cheaply by running retargeting ads on Facebook to that audience, even if they DID sign up for your initial offering.

Experiment with other campaign types such as Reach campaigns to maximize your share of voice, and see what kind of overall lift happens from initial leads that are exposed to your messaging for a while.

You might be pleasantly surprised at how the reinforced branding pays off!

Continue Layering Personas Among Platforms

This is just a single example of how you can lay out persona journeys using media you’re probably already bidding on!

You don’t have to start from scratch in each platform every time – you will cut to the chase faster on performing audiences, and stop wasting so much focusing on one-hit wonders with your media buy.

Don’t neglect how powerful it can be to retarget your search users and create lookalikes off them!

They’re bottom-of-the funnel users, so telling platforms like Facebook “find me more of these” can be easy money for you. Just follow the steps above, but swap out the references to align with your Google Ads strategy.

Remember, users rarely move forward after one encounter with a brand, so reinforcing what you can offer with every interaction in a way that will matter most to them is crucial for the best bang on your media bucks!

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, April 2019

Category Social Media PPC
Susan Wenograd Consultant

Susan is the Paid Media Reporter for Search Engine Journal. A marketing veteran of almost 20 years, she has managed ...

How to Use Personas to Boost Your PPC Performance

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