Creating Personas for PPC

“Persona” is not a PPC word, but it’s certainly been seeing a lot more attention as we shift more and more away from keywords to audiences, intent, behaviors and (not provided). Some marketers keep their personas in their heads, some write them on Post-Its and some have fully written profiles with pictures and graphs. I did a Live Ad Copy Workshop at PPC HeroCon where I gave out Post-Its in the furtive hope that attendees would take them home and write personas and stick them on their monitors. My favorite was for a site that sold compression stockings. We ended up coming up with ads for Betty, who would buy compression stocking because she wanted more ankles and less cankles. It took less than 2 minutes to come up with a persona, some benefits, features and an ad.


You really should do a short, written profile for every client you write ads for.


Because all the fanciness, automation, calls to action or free shipping offers won’t attain that last level of achieving total conversion rate prowess without it. People still click on the ads. People still buy. And people are all kinds of whacked out.

And depending on what you sell, those just might be your kinds of people.

Get Started

First and foremost, this should be a relatively simple exercise. If it’s taking 5 hours, a branding team, designer and a guy in India, you’re doing it wrong. The goal of this post is to try and make this approachable. So the first step is not telling anyone. Seriously. This is one of those things that if you’re an agency, the client will get overly into, demand to see and edit. If you’re in-house, a branding team might try and invade your cubicle and insist upon reviewing the stock photo you used for “branding guidelines.”

Just stop there. You’re writing 95 characters. Not Hamlet. Some guy already beat you to that anyway.

But- this means that there are resources for you to draw from. These types of resources and information should be available to you (since you supposedly work there) easily enough to get started.

Grab Whatever Is Already There

If your company already has a persona built out, cool, steal it. You’re probably not going to need all 4 pages about Golfing Greg, but it’s easier to pare down than start over.

The client or company should have some kind of mission or vision statement somewhere. When they talk about themselves, how do they do it? With humor? Seriousness? Razor sharp wit? Hang onto that, you’re going to need it later for tone. Wherever the company or client is talking about selling features, take note.

What is the lifecycle of the customer? How long do they take to buy? Can they buy online? Have to talk to a sales guy? Is it a major investment on their part or within the buying range of a thing to try?

The Keywords

Yeah, these are going to be important. They’re just the things you bid on after all, at least for now. And they just might indicate to you a few things like- where the customer is in the buying cycle (where do you get the most volume? Conversions?)

What are your top keywords? Grab those and set them aside, because when you go to write this thing, you’re going to use them in it. What better way to get you in the ad copy/landing page Quality Score happy zone?


You should pick one. It helps. Just pick one that is:

  • Not a famous person
  • Not anyone you know
  • Free or stock is OK
  • Embodies the physical traits you’re looking for

(A weight loss company might want someone a little stockier, while a Christian supply store might want someone a bit more pious looking, for example.)

Good example:


Bad example:


Name Your Persona

It doesn’t have to match or rhyme, but it is easier to remember. It should fit within the vein of the desired brand. Personally, I like to scroll through customer reviews, find positive ones, and utilize names from there. I love if I have a target age range to use so that I can go review the most popular baby names for those years. Remember when Rachel on Friends named her baby “Emma” in 2002? That name hadn’t been in the top 10 ever. Now that name has been in the top 10 for the last 11 years.

You know who has a great site for aggregating the top names for males and females over the last 100 years? The Social Security Administration. Michael has been in the top more often (44 times) and Mary with 42 times than any other male or female name. Check it out by decade or even by state. Kentucky kicked off 1990 with 891 ‘Joshuas’.

Specific Tools

The number one question I get when someone is developing a persona is “what tools should I use?” with the hope that I’ll point them to some magical website where you can enter in some demographics and basic info and it’ll spit out a beautiful, short persona. While I wish that were true (someone want to tackle this?) it requires a bit more legwork than that. Typically I end up using about 3-4 tools to build a persona, here are a few that you might find helpful.


You already knew this one. Lookalike audiences, age ranges, genders galore. Specifically, I like to start a “new campaign” without the intention of actually launching it. They just expanded the bejeezus out of their targeting capabilities to include income, relationship status (getting super granular), automotive, travel habits and charities.


It’s a moz app. Analyze your own followers or those of competitors. It’s wicked fun. For example, I compared followers of the 3 major sports teams in Seattle.


The US Census

It’s free, it’s online and there’s a plethora of information if you’re willing to look for it. This is a must if your persona needs to be geographically targeted at all. Find age ranges/groups, ethnicity, population density, affluence.
For example, I did a presentation to a local hospital about which zip codes to concentrate their budget on in a greater metro area.

At first, the median home price here and salary level would make zip code 98105 look attractive in that sense, more than the 98125 seen here.



But, upon closer inspection, we see that the population density of an area of roughly the same size is much more. And that the numbers of home sales occurring are slightly less- why might that be?

Turns out that 98105 is the primary zip code for the University of Washington, which has a very dense population and explains the affluence level. Any home that close to a major university s going to have tremendous property value, but not a lot of available homes to buy or rent and there will be more people crammed into that area.

Customer Reviews/Forums

It’s where the people are. What are they complaining about? What do they love? What pain points did your product or service solve that you can roll into your persona?

This is a gold mine of potential persona names, styles of writing, sophistication, education and tech savvy levels. You’ll have to do some sifting to find those nuggets of gold but they’re in there.

Google Analytics

Find your customer geography, loyalty, recency and return numbers and roll that in as well. Is your product or service something that will bring them back or require them to buy again (like a refill) or will it be more of a large one time purchase?

Search Suggest/Ubersuggest

Ah, Google search suggest. Supremely helpful in finding out what people search for in connection with your keywords as well as how they write. Do they spell it “you” or “u”? Is it “soda” or “pop?” Makes a difference when you’re trying to learn the language of your customer.

Ubersuggest is Google search suggest on crack. Save yourself some time and blast through with this tool.


Glassdoor, Onward Search, Salary Guides

Use a job listing site or niche specific guide or site that can help you find occupations in your desired salary ranges to choose a job for your potential persona.

Putting it All Together

OK, we have a lot of pieces right now that got gathered up. Where do they all go?

Start with the basic bullet list of name, photo, what they do for a living, salary range, male/female.

Then put together WHY their product would be useful/why they would buy- what benefits or features would appeal to them? What problems would your product or service solve? What are pain points that they face?

Then get a little creative. Like a creative writing class.


And you’re DONE. Remember, this is supposed to be a simple exercise, just for you. You don’t even have to write this much. Post it personas are cool too.

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