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Psychographic Marketing for PPC: A Beginner’s Guide

Brands have rich ad targeting options, but where do you start? Learn about psychographic marketing and how to use it on Google Ads, Facebook & more.

Brands have rich ad targeting options, but where do you start? Learn about psychographic marketing and how to use it on Google Ads, Facebook & more

As the internet has grown, so have the targeting abilities within the advertising platforms.

Simple, bid-based algorithms where the highest bidder took all fell behind.

Algorithms were forced to get smarter, so the platforms could better-handle the brands appearing on them.

One notable way PPC and paid social have evolved is with targeting personas, interests, and behaviors.

Appealing on the personal level to potential customers by aligning messaging and targeting culminates in what is called psychographic marketing.

What Is Psychographic Marketing?

Psychographic marketing goes beyond just pointing an ad at a person who searched for something.

It takes into account factors such as the user’s mindset, emotions, needs, wants, and desires.

In other words, you’re aligning your messages to a human.

While it might seem that’s just marketing 101, psychographic marketing looks more at the psychology of buyer types versus surface-level insights such as a person’s age or where they live.

Here’s an example: you’re selling eco-friendly cosmetics. Your target demographic is women 25-34, living in big cities.

Psychographic marketing goes deeper than this. It examines things like:

  • What’s important to these buyers?
  • What other brands do they love?
  • Why do they choose eco-friendly products? Is it a lifestyle choice, or just a nice-to-have?
  • Where do they hang out? How do they like to spend their free time?
  • What are their hobbies?

The answers to these questions help inform different ways to target, and the messaging shown to each target.

This method of going deeper into the human side and aligning marketing is the psychographic model.

How to Uncover Psychographic Make-Ups

Once upon a time, Facebook was the dominant player in options for psychographic targeting.

It was the most powerful engine for targeting based on persona types and connecting with users at that mindset level.

Over the years, privacy scandals wore away a bit at the targeting options advertisers used to enjoy.

While that was happening, Google started getting in on the game more heavily, and additional platforms like Snapchat and TikTok started leveraging their user bases, as well.

Psychographic Targets in Google Ads

Google provides oodles of ways to incorporate psychographic aspects to your campaigns.

While they have many different campaign types (Search, Shopping, YouTube, and so on), they all operate off the same database of user types to choose from.

Most users think of psychographic marketing in terms of their channels that target personas versus keywords, but the same audiences are actually very useful for search.

Audience options can be found in Google Ads in the Audiences section.

Use the Google Ads audiences section for psychographic marketing insights.

Audiences are added at either the Campaign level or the Ad Group level. You also have the option of specifying that they are for Observation, or for Targeting.

In Google Ads, You also have the option of specifying that they are for Observation, or for Targeting.

With the Observation setting, your ads will still show to all searchers, but you can see how the audiences you’ve specified perform.

Targeting means your ads will show only to those Audiences.

In Google Ads, Targeting means your ads will show only to those Audiences.

The data you get can help you make marketing-based decisions on your ad buy, versus solely relying on keywords.

For example, you could raise or lower bid adjustments for the Audience types you added (note: whether it has an effect will depend on your bidding setting).

You could also determine that those audiences are the only ones that actually drive conversions for you, and your ads should only show to them.

In those cases, you can change from having those Audiences as Observation to Targeting.

Similar Audience Demographics

While not a direct makeup of a targeted persona, a feature worth thinking through is Similar Audiences.

These days, all the major ad platforms offer something like this, though the names are slightly different.

You’re giving the platform a list of users, and having them find users like those.

This can feel a little harder to target personas for because it’s a little “black box.”

If many types of people buy your product, creating a similar audience will mean you probably need to be more general in your messaging.

However, if you have products that appeal to very specific user types, psychographic messaging can play a huge role.

If you sell something specifically for tent campers, then a lookalike audience is probably going to reach those people.

While you could also target camping interests, Similar Audience functions take into account more than just the one interest, using much more data about user behavior and habits to determine where your ads show.

This can be a great way to extend your reach beyond just the pre-defined buckets available.

Psychographic Options in Facebook

In many ways, brands see Facebook as the harbinger of persona marketing.

Prior to it, the closest was really display and programmatic targeting.

Despite the options on those, many advertisers were frustrated by how limiting a banner creative can be.

Programmatic became a nice-to-have, with a lot of budgets funneling towards direct response mediums.

Then came Facebook. Finally! A direct response environment that could targets personas and psychographics!

Aside from remarketing, Facebook’s options lean very psychographic-focused.

This ranges from not only the targeting types (which includes thousands of interests and habits) but also ad units, and how you can leverage them best.

Interest-Based Targets

As they’re famous for, Facebook has tens of thousands of interest groups you can target.

Many targets are closely related; they are not separate and distinct from one another.

So if, for example, you target runners, a separate target for Runners World probably contains a good amount of people that belong to both.

On Facebook, set targets so you don't wind up with a ton of ad sets that are actually mostly targeting the same people.

This is important to keep in mind when you make ad set targets so you don’t wind up with a ton of ad sets that are actually mostly targeting the same people.

You are generally better off thinking of a psychographic bucket as a large theme made up of many related interests, instead of separate and distinct entities.

Lookalike Audiences

Much like Similar Audiences in Google, Facebook can look at a specified group of users to find customers who behave like them.

These can be based on the Custom Audiences you create on Facebook:

Much like Similar Audiences in Google, Facebook can look at a specified group of users to find customers who behave like them.

Snapchat’s Psychographic Targeting

Despite its largely younger user makeup, Snapchat has a lot of targeting options.

They are divided into two main camps: third-party fueled audiences, and Snapchat’s own user buckets.

(For those who have done Facebook Ads for awhile now, you’ll remember the days where they had third-party data sets you could use. Snapchat still has some of those!)

Audience Analysis

Many Facebook Ads users still lament the loss of Audience Insights.

This was a handy tool that would tell you a lot of information about whatever audience you specified, but nowadays it will only do it for people who like your page.

However, Google Ads and Snapchat still have this information.

This can be a great way to find affinities you might not have realized about your audience.

This can be found in the Audience Manager within Google Ads, with a selector at the top for the audience you want to analyze:

Look in the Audience Manager within Google Ads for psychographic marketing insights to fuel your campaigns.

In Snapchat, this is found in the main menu at the top in its own section:

Finding audience insights in Snapchat.

Creative Considerations in Psychographic Targeting

While the ad formats on each platform can vary, one thing is a for-sure when you’re targeting this way: the right message.

Unlike the old days where you had to settle on one or two messages that would hopefully snare the right buyer, you obviously have many people you could be reaching simultaneously.

Thinking through each target and tailoring your creative accordingly is more important than ever.

Beyond just maximizing your sales, it also is important to what the platform looks at:

  • What is your CTR like in Google?
  • What is the video watch time on YouTube?
  • What kind of interaction are you getting on your ads on Facebook?

These factors all contribute to the cost of the media. The platforms want user engagement.

While your goal is ultimately sales, remember: you are on rented land.

The platform is the landlord, so the more you can maximize the things they care about and still meet your own goals, the better off you’ll be.

Timing is everything, so what you say and how you say it also depends on where that user is.

Are you remarketing to someone who was just on your site a few days ago, or are you talking to someone for the first time?

Think through what your target does and does not know:

  • Are they likely already aware of your brand?
  • Do they know of your product, but maybe don’t realize how many users have bought it?
  • Is there social proof they should know, like appearances on TV shows or reviews in national publications?
  • Does your product seem complicated and hard to use?

These all get you into the mindset of who you’re speaking to. With only a few seconds to deliver a message, you need to be laser-focused on what you’re addressing for each user.

Bring It All Together for Successful Psychographic Marketing Strategy

In many ways, psychographic marketing has come full circle. In the dawn of the internet, what we really had were keywords.

While these let us know what users were looking for, they often didn’t tell us a lot about who they were.

Many different people search the exact same way.

Psychographic targeting harkened back to older school media buys, where Nielsen ratings were what helped determine TV commercial placement.

Now, psychographic options are commonplace.

If anything, they are starting to become the dominant way to reach people, as we’re seeing even keyword-fueled Google is gently moving brands away from keyword-focus to focusing more on themes and buyers.

The advent of privacy laws will continue to make this an ever-changing environment, but one that will never go out of style for strong marketers.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, February 2021

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 ...

Psychographic Marketing for PPC: A Beginner’s Guide

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