PPC Audiences: Audience Segmentation

Back in March, I wrote about defining your PPC audience. It’s the first step in setting up audience targeting for PPC, including search, remarketing, or paid social. Once you’ve defined your audience, it’s time to think about audience segmentation.

Audience segmentation sounds complicated – and it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. In the simplest instance, for a remarketing campaign, you’ll have two audiences: site visitors, and converted visitors. If you want to remarket to those who haven’t purchased yet, you can set up a remarketing audience of site visitors, and exclude converted visitors. This way, only those who didn’t purchase will see your remarketing ads.

But what if you want to get more sophisticated?

Brad Geddes wrote a great article on audience targeting for PPC Hero back in January. Here’s his list of targeting options:

This is a helpful list of thought starters for thinking about audiences. Think about the various types of offers you could show to someone who hasn’t bought in a year, for example. Maybe they’ve run out of whatever it is they bought, and it’s time to reorder. Or maybe you just want to lure them back with a special deal. For users in a free trial, you can show them an ad with a discounted price for the product they’re trialing. The applications are endless.

In B2B, sometimes the use cases for audience segmentation are not so cut and dried. You’re usually not selling anything online, so cart abandoners and purchasers are off the table. It’s not unusual to have a huge audience of people who visited your PPC landing pages, and a very small list of those who filled out a form. What do you do with that audience? If you don’t know anything about them other than the fact that they visited your landing page and didn’t sign up, it’s hard to do much segmenting.

Content marketing is a great way to nurture prospects through remarketing. Think of it as a way to talk to those who haven’t raised their hand yet. It’s also a useful way to start segmenting your audience further. The more times they visit your site, the more you’ll learn about them.

We like to use time-based remarketing with our clients. Time-based remarketing shows different content to users over time, which is especially valuable for long sales cycles. Let’s say your sales cycle is 90 days. You might show one piece of content during the first 13 days, another for days 14-59, and another for days 60-90. Here’s what that can look like:


In this example, the offers start out as informational: white papers with information about access control (which is controlling access to your place of business). Then there’s an offer showing how the product is easy to use. Then it gets more urgent with a mention of workplace violence. Finally, for those who still haven’t converted, there’s a price-point offer.

Depending on which offers users click through, you can start to segment your audience based on what they responded to.

The content and journey will look different for every client. The important thing is to look at your buyer journey to see how long each segment should be targeted. If you don’t know, you can play around with it – test! See how people respond.

Get creative with your audience segmentation. Just make sure to plan it out first. Think about which audiences make the most sense. Think about what content or offers you have available, and which make the most sense for each audience. You may uncover some gaps, meaning you’ll need to create content or offers to fit.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and test! Think of audience segmentation as another PPC test you’re running – just like ad copy testing. If something isn’t working, just shut it down. Test both remarketing and RLSA. With RLSA, you can run “bid only” tests, where you’re simply adjusting bids for the audience. In many cases, this alone can be profitable, or at least informative – again, helping you to create additional audiences. Play around with it.

What are your tips for audience segmentation? Any out-of-the-box segments you’ve tried that work well? Share in the comments!

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PPC Audiences: Who Is The Audience?

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of audiences in PPC. More than ever, audiences are becoming one of the main way we reach potential customers in PPC – as important as keywords. But who is the audience, exactly?

Audiences, Broadly Speaking

Broadly, your audience is whoever is buying your product. Large B2C retailers like Amazon probably don’t spend much time defining their audience – it’s anyone with a credit card, really.

But for most advertisers, it’s important to drill down a little deeper than that. For many consumer products, the audience is obvious. People buying diapers tend to be parents of babies. People buying guns tend to be male. There are always exceptions, but you can hit 80-90% of your audience by doing some simple targeting.

B2B Audiences Are Challenging

In B2B, audience targeting is a little more challenging. There are multiple stakeholders involved – product users, executive decision-makers, administrative assistants, purchasing departments, and more. How do you figure out who to target?

Verticals Dictate Audiences

In some ways, the audience depends on the vertical. If you’re selling software, the first person to target is the end user. Even if that person doesn’t make the final purchase decision, they’re going to be the one asking for the software. For example, I’d been looking for a solution to help with ad testing for years. When AdAlysis came out, I immediately started begging my boss to buy it. I was relentless – and it paid off. But I didn’t write the check – my boss did. If I were advertising for AdAlysis, I’d go after the PPC practitioners, not the vice presidents of search who likely aren’t actively managing campaigns.

For other verticals, targeting C-level executives makes sense. Let’s say you’re a medical equipment provider who’s developed a new piece of equipment that saves time and makes a more accurate diagnosis.  You could target the end users, but it may make sense to target the hospital CFO or the finance director, who’s looking for ways to make the hospital more efficient. End users may not be aware of the product, and may be happy with the way they’re currently doing things, but if you can convince the CFO, you’re likely to make a sale.

Business Size Does, Too

Business size plays a role, too. The larger the company you’re targeting, the harder it is to get through to C-level folks – they’re inundated with marketing messages already. You may be better off reaching their executive assistant, or going lower down the ladder to mid-level managers.

Understand that when you’re trying to reach large companies, you’ll have to get creative with your audience, and with your messaging as well, to break through the clutter.

And if you’re targeting small businesses, understand that employees wear many hats. The CFO is probably the entire accounting department. The web developer is probably the graphic designer, and maybe the software/tech person too. The owner may be the CMO, CFO, and CEO all at once. These are busy people, so if you can come to them with solutions to make their lives easier, you’ll get through the door more easily.

Personas Help

If you’re working with larger advertisers, they’ll often have a detailed understanding of their prospects, and may have personas. A persona is a representation of your audience segment. (BTW – this link has a great how-to on creating personas).

Here’s an example of a persona that gyro created:


Personas help define not only who your target audience is, but how to reach them. Ideas for paid social targeting practically jump off the page – age, education, gender, and other characteristics are listed right there. Pain points that could be used for search keywords or ad copy are also there: patient care quality, accountable care, etc. Personas give you a great start in identifying your audience.

Determining who is in the audience is the first step to successful audience targeting. What are some ways you define your audience? Share in the comments!

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The Importance of Audiences In PPC

Happy New Year to all my readers! Every year I do a reader poll to see what you want me to write about. This year, the topic with the most votes was audiences in PPC.

It seems like everyone is talking about audiences. In the annual “what’s next for search in 2017” posts, every single one included multiple mentions of audiences and their importance to PPC.

Take this quote from Brad Geddes in the adStage blog:

And this, from Marc Poirier on Search Engine Journal:

These and other predictions posts are worth a read – there’s great content beyond that of audiences. But the point is, audiences are here to stay, and they’re big.

Julie Friedman Bacchini wrote a great post earlier this week about the demise of keywords. While I don’t think keywords are going away any time soon, we are in for a different reality when it comes to search.

For one thing, social PPC is here to stay, and audience targeting is the focal point. It’s true that you can use keywords to target social ads, but keyword targeting alone is insufficient for social PPC success. You must layer audiences onto the mix.

Remarketing is here to stay too, and it’s a great example of using audiences in PPC. In fact, remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a match made in heaven of search intent and audience targeting combined.

Why are audiences so important in PPC? After all, in the early days, we didn’t think about audiences at all.

Audiences bring us back to the basics of marketing. Eons ago, in business school, I learned about the 4 P’s of marketing: people, place, price, and promotion. In search, the “people” piece was historically the least thought-about aspect. Do we really care who’s searching, as long as they click and convert?

Turns out, we do need to care. Search has evolved over the years: it’s become much more competitive and expensive, for one thing. Advertisers who were happy to pay for lots of non-converting traffic at $0.05 per click are probably not real happy about that traffic at $5 per click. Search had to evolve in order for advertisers to maintain profit. And that’s where audiences come in.

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be writing more about audiences in PPC and the various ways they can be used to take your campaigns to the next level. I’ll talk about audiences in search, in paid social, and in remarketing. I’m hoping to get a few guest bloggers on board to offer their views on audiences in PPC. And of course, as always, I want to hear from you! Have audiences become super important for you in your PPC efforts, or are you just dipping your toes in? Share in the comments!

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