Editorial note: This guest post is a finalist in our Hero Conf scholarship event. Jeremy Estes currently works on the paid search team at Standing Dog Interactive in Dallas, Texas.

When I first started building PPC campaigns, 7 or 8 years ago, I remember getting all the “pro tips” like putting the keyword in the title, using numbers or special characters, title casing, stagger the keywords in the body, etc… There are millions of those fine tuning optimization tips out there, but I’m going to try and cover what I think most PPC users completely miss: proper user targeting optimization.

Why would I make a sweeping statement like “most PPC users miss optimizing for user targeting”?

Do a quick search for 50” Flat Screen TV. Then do another search for 50” Flat Screen Samsung TV Free Delivery. I’ll bet you there’s at least one company (probably more than one) who’s using the exact same ad, the exact same landing page, and (my guess) running it all on the same ad group. The ad group is probably called “Flat Screen TV” and uses the television screen size and/or brand name as a variable in the title “to boost CTR”.

So, what’s wrong with that?

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s stop for a moment and think about why we’re running the ad in the first place. What do we want? That’s easy… we want a lot of high converting traffic with huge profit margins, right? That means keeping out the tire kickers, driving down the click costs, and beefing up the click through rates. Most campaigns I see tweak the ad and maybe it gets better numbers – but it’s flimsy, and hardly scalable.

What I DON’T often see, are campaigns built around the buyer’s mindset, targeted towards their personality, with a landing page built for all three (keyword, personality, buyer mindset).

Generically, there are 3 types of buyer mindsets:

Research Mode: searching with broad keywords or question based keywords and looking for solution themed web pages. How does your product/service solve their problem better than anyone else.

Comparison/Review Mode: they know what they want/need, but don’t know which is best yet. Looking for keywords and attaching words like ratings and reviews to find which one best fits THEIR needs. How is yours the best for them?

Buying Mode: They’re going to buy, it’s just a matter of where. Using buying words like buy, order, delivery, cheap, discount, etc. What are the CLEAR benefits of buying from YOU?

Think of the last time you bought something online, and if you’re able to recall the entire process, you’ll likely find you went through each of these stages before making your purchase.

How do you know what mindset the users are in? I usually base it off the keyword. So a search for 50” Flat Screen TVs is extremely likely to be someone is research mode, and a search for 50” Flat Screen Samsung TV with Free Delivery is likely someone ready to make a purchase, and they’re looking for a deal.

There are tons of tools for confirming keywords you may be unsure of, like Bing/Yahoo Ads Intelligence that will help you drill down into the Commercial Intent of the keyword.

Google’s Search Funnel is also really good for making these determinations on your own campaigns, and has helped me find words that I had incorrectly categorized.

Targeting Buyers Personalities

I’m not going to try and cover this completely because there are a LOT smarter guys than me covering it in length, namely Bryan Eisenberg (author of the awesome book “Call to Action”) and other sales professionals. I will list off the 4 “classic” types of buyers for the purpose of building an optimization system, though:

Spontaneous: Think Zappos customers. Responds to perks, discounts, freebies, limited time offers, and scarcity marketing. Aggregate Review Scores (sum of how many reviews), instant gratification and that personal touch… Like a video of someone trying on the specific shoe.

Methodical: Skeptical of your typical Internet marketing gimmicks like “sign up for a free… anything”, contests, 110% guarantees. Wants comparisons down to the smallest detail. Think NewEgg customers who will blow the hinges off the comparison feature.

Human Touch: This is the Facebook commenter who wants to see REAL testimonials, participate in communicating with other customers, won’t hesitate to hit the chat button or call the number on the site. Probably has a Yelp account, or at least actually reads the reviews.

Competitive: Wants to be the first to own and Tweet that they got it. Not an idiot, and will put you on blast if you try anything funny, but if you make the “hot, new item” easy to access and give enough information to be tweeted once it’s been ordered, you got a sale. Think Amazon best-sellers.

Now, to be sure, nobody fits into just one category. Some people are even completely opposite from one product/service to the other. In fact, you should really have a clear understanding of what you target personalities are based on what you’re selling.

For instance, Zappos knows they’re typically selling to Spontaneous and Human Touch types of personalities. By now, (if they optimize for user targeting) they may have enough demographic data to separate personalities by product types to help them convert the other personalities as well.

Building and Optimizing Targeted Ads

I create ad groups based on the keywords from each buyer’s mindset and write 4 ads for each group representing each personality.

A couple of examples:

Buying Mode for a Spontaneous Shopper

Sale Ends This Week!
Save 50% or More on Stuff
24 Hour Shipping on All Orders!

Compare/Review for a Human Touch Shopper

10 out of 10 Moms Prefer Our Stuff
Mothers just like you are talking.
See why and join the conversation.

Those are obviously not great ads, I just wanted to make the point on how I’m targeting each type of user AND their personality.

During split testing I will choose to have the 4 personality targeted ads run EVENLY, which means I’ll uncheck the “Display Ads with higher CTR more often” box. Once I have an idea who the better target is, I’ll drop the weaker ads, and build variations around my target customer.

The Final Piece of the Puzzle – Landing Page Optimization

Again, there are VOLUMES written on this subject, so I’m only going to cover the basic aspects based on my user targeting. I like building a landing page for each type of user personality in each type of buying mode if possible. As the campaign grows, and optimization continues – the pages evolve in order to increase profits.

The reason I spend the time/effort up front segmenting up to 12 separate landing pages (sometimes you can really get away with combining) is because I’ll know during split test which user I’m targeting is truly the most profitable. Rather than guessing by making sweeping changes or even 1 small change that made a huge difference, but I don’t know exactly what the change was. It also allows for scaling without breaking other things that are working perfectly.

Now that you know how I build PPC campaigns, let’s go take one last look at our first example with the flat screen tvs.

For 50” Flat Screen TVs I would consider that to be a “Research Mode” keyword and would guess that I’m looking at a methodical or competitive personality. My ads and landing pages would be optimized to target those types of users.

The keyword 50” Flat Screen Samsung TV Free Delivery would be in a different ad group for BUYERS and would have ads and landing pages for the corresponding personality types. The conversation of optimizing campaigns is one that will likely never end.

To find out who the optimization stars in your industry are, go do some searches in each of the buying modes as a different personality and see who’s REALLY targeting the user. If you find one that is targeting, take notes. If you don’t find any… it’s time to make some money!