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Persona Marketing with Biddable Media

Olivier Ewbank
Persona Marketing with Biddable Media

Over the last year biddable media has evolved to become more people focused. Paid search is no longer about bidding on keywords. The user is the single most important element in any PPC campaign.

This post will look at the rise of persona marketing and how you can use a range of biddable features to target users with the correct identity.

Let’s get started.

The Biddable Market for Persona Marketing

Over the last year the biddable market has changed in a variety of ways.

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have started to dominate Google’s whitespace. This ad format dynamically matches the best products from your feed to the user’s search, without using keywords.

AdWords changed their exact match targeting so advertisers are forced to include plurals, misspellings and other close variants.

Average Cost per Clicks (CPCs) have increased (unless you just focus on mobile or tablet devices).

Users are spending far more time on mobile devices and less time on desktop computers. According to Flurry’s data users on iOS or android devices are spending 86% of mobile usage on apps and 14% in browsers.

This inevitably means users are spending less time on search engines and more time in their favourite apps.

Does this mean you need to change your strategy?

Biddable Strategy

The change in the paid search landscape means you can no longer continue with a ‘scatter gun’ approach. Keyword targeting is no longer enough. You need to consider additional targeting and additional networks. Bids need to be modified by time, device, location, demographic, identity and user history.

To modify your bids in this way, you need to have a good idea of your target persona.


What are personas?

‘Personas are archetypal characters created to represent the different types within a targeted demographic.’

Creating Personas

When you launch a PPC campaign, think about the type of person you want to target. Each person behaves differently and your website will have a range of different user types. Put together a range of questions to identify your target market.

Sample questions can include:

  • What is my user’s age?
  • What is my user’s sex?
  • Where are they in the buyer cycle?
  • What device do they use?
  • What is their geographic location?
  • How do they commute to work?
  • When are they active online?
  • Are they a morning person or a night owl?
  • Are they a repeat buyer?
  • Have they visited my site before?

There is no end to the amount of detail you can go into when it comes to creating a persona. Here are 100 questions you can ask yourself when creating a typical stereotype.

Once you have a firm idea of who to target you can decide which biddable features are the most appropriate for your campaign.


The customers you have are the best way to grow your business. With AdWords Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) you can tailor search-only ads to users who have already visited your site.

Create one remarketing list for Home page visits and one for users who visit specific products. This will give you the option to bid aggressively on the search network for users who are far more likely to convert.

RLSAs also give you the option to use broad match keywords safely as you know you are targeting relevant users. You can also tailor ad text specifically to the remarketing list you are bidding on. For example, an online sports retailer could tailor their ad text specifically for the ‘marathon runners’ remarketing list.

You can even add RLSAs as a layer of targeting over existing campaigns and place bid adjustments for users who have previously visited sections of your site, such as the checkout page.

RLSA Checkout Page

Remarketing Similar Audiences

Once you have built a credible remarketing list on AdWords, you have the opportunity to target ‘similar audiences’ (people who share similar characteristics with your site visitors). Google identifies a similar user by their browsing history and shared interests. Simply add ‘similar audiences’ to your ad group and reach similar buyer personas with the same trends as your current customers.

In-Market Buyers

In market buyers is a display advertising targeting method which allows advertisers to take advantage of Google’s consumer pattern recognition. You are able to target users who Google believe are in the market for a particular product area, and are closer to converting. For example Google might notice someone is searching for and visiting lots of car retailer websites in a short period of time. This behaviour suggests they are conducting comparison searches and are more likely to convert in this market.

Gender and Age

Use Google Analytics data to research the target age and gender of your target audience. For example here we can see that the top converting users of this website are aged 25-34:

Gender and Age Demographics in Google Analytics

Bing Ads

Bing now provides you with advanced bidding options to increase or decrease your bids by age and gender (see below). For example, a makeup retailer could modify their bids for girls who are aged 18-24:

Demographic Data from Bing Ad Analytics

Google Display Network

On the Google Display Network you can also target users by age and gender. Google have not confirmed the sex or age of all their users yet so you can exclude the users they have not identified as “Unknown”. Be aware that this age and gender data isn’t always accurate, as it’s based on profile information as well as browsing behaviour, which might be on a computer shared by multiple users. If in doubt, add the gender and age targeting as bid adjustments first and then review their performance before excluding particular genders or age groups.

Airports, Universities and Commercial Areas

Does your user attend university? Does their job involve travel? Do they spend their time relaxing in commercial hotspots? AdWords gives you the option to target ‘places of interest’ in location groups. The three main options are Airports, Universities and commercial areas. For example, a hotel or taxi firm may want to modify their bids and ad text for airport users.

Airports in Google Maps

Time & Day

Is your user an early riser or a night owl? Do they work weekends? How do they commute to work? Google, Facebook and Twitter all offer features to tailor your bids by time and day. Research when your users are in research mode or buying mode. Once you know you can make the most of this bidding feature. You could use the existing data in your PPC accounts to confirm your persona research, for example you can see a breakdown of the days and times users click or convert by visiting the Dimensions tab in AdWords.

Time and Day data in Google Analytics


The device will often determine if your user is at home or on the move. One in three mobile searches has local intent so bear this in mind when launching local campaigns. I would only recommend bidding on mobile if you have a good responsive design and your site is deemed ‘Mobile-friendly’.

Example of Mobile-Friendly Site

To bid by device on certain keywords (in AdWords) I would suggest splitting key terms into their own individual ad groups to help tailor mobile bids to specific keywords. If your user is an inner city commuter then mobile bids can be very effective. It’s worth trying mobile call extensions and app extensions to see if this works well with your audience.


Location, location, location! Does your user live in an affluent area like Chelsea? Does your Google Analytics prove you get more conversions in the West Country? Google, Facebook and Twitter let you adjust bids by location and on AdWords you can make -90% to +900% bid adjustments by postcodes, cities and custom areas.

For example, a suit tailor based in Savile Row might want to increase bids by 10% for users located in Chelsea if their persona research identified this area as somewhere that their target market lives:

Location Demographic Data in Google Analytics


Is your user more active in sun or rain? More importantly, when are they more likely to be active online. Demand for certain products will depend on the weather. For example, users are more likely to search for swimwear on a sunny day and Xbox games on a rainy day. You can automatically bid by weather using AdWords scripts. Simply set the weather location and weather condition. These scripts use a weather API for their data, so it’s still important to keep a good eye on your bids as the weather report isn’t always as reliable as we’d like!

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Gmail Sponsored ads appear like an email in your inbox and open like an email message. The ads are priced on a Cost per Click (CPC) basis and can be served based on the 300 most recent active emails, user interests and demographics. This targeting feature is running in limited beta so contact your Google rep to request a trial.

Interest Categories

The Google Display Network has evolved in recent years and there is a huge opportunity for cheaper CPCs and cheaper CPAs. One way to target appropriate users is to make use of the interest categories available. You can add interest categories like sport, travel, cars or entertainment to ad groups and reach people interested in your products. If you have a smaller budget and don’t want to be this specific, you could try layering this targeting onto your existing display campaigns to tailor your targeting even further.

Interest Categories on the Google Display Network

Job Title Targeting

On networks like Facebook and LinkedIn you can target personas by their education or job title. LinkedIn works particularly well for B2B advertising and helps you spot key decision makers with higher levels of income. You can target by seniority or customised audience segments which include Influencers, Business Decision Makers, Sales Professionals and Career Changers. For example, an accountancy firm who are looking to employ a new accountant might want to target professionals with particular job titles who have been in their role for two or more years and may be looking for a change.

Facebook Custom Audience Targeting

Facebook have recently launched Custom Audience Targeting where you can target your ads to people defined by:

  • Facebook User IDs
  • Email Addresses
  • Phone Numbers
  • App User IDs

This means you now have the capability to buy third party data and use it to target people on social networks. For example, within your CRM you probably have the email addresses of users who have already converted with your website, or are close to purchase. You could import those email addresses into Facebook and offer them particular promotions or relevant ads. You could show ads to users who have already converted thanking them for their business and offering them a discount on their next order.

Facebook Audience

Twitter Custom Audience Targeting

Similarly Twitter has its own custom audience targeting where you can upload similar types of data. The difference with Twitter is that there are tools like Followerwonk where you can quickly research your target audience and extract lists very quickly. There is also a huge opportunity to research and serve ads to competitor followers.

Twitter Audience Data

Content Remarketing

Content remarketing is a great way to get your content shared by key influencers. If you want your content to reach a specific user this is now possible. Build niche remarketing lists on Google AdWords and push your content out to unique personas. For example, if a user viewed your blog post on the latest snowboard product you could re-target them with a demo in video form.

With custom audiences you can push your content to a group of handpicked influencers that share an interest in your topic and have a large following. i.e. @richardbranson

The Future

I don’t think it will be too long before Google role out their own version of Custom Audience Targeting. Marketing to specific people based on user IDs, emails and telephone numbers seems to be a growing trend. If this proves successful it’s likely that most biddable platforms will want to partner up with third party data collectors. This will make identity advertising a breeze for savvy internet marketers.


So there you have it. Keywords will always have their place in paid search campaigns, but it’s the user that makes the final decision to click and purchase. Using buyer personas can increase your Click through Rate (CTR) and boost conversions. Research your audience, customise your targeting and reap the rewards of a profitable PPC campaign.

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Oliver Ewbank has been working in biddable media for over 8 years, Oliver has worked for a range of brands including eBay and SportBusiness.com. Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai, Oliver enjoys all aspects of online marketing, including Search Engine Optimisation, Pay Per Click and Social Media management.
Featured image from BigStock
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