Search Marketing & Persona Models

Feb 26, 2008 - 5:48 pm 2 by
Filed Under SMX West 2008

Session Summary

This session looks at how personas can be a powerful tool for improving paid search performance, covering how to create them and case studies on their use in PPC. Personas are a way to model the basic types of visitors you expect to come to your site and tailor the arrival experience to them.

Moderator / Speakers

Gord Hotchkiss, President and CEO of Enquiro, is moderating this session along with Anton Konikoff, Founder and CEO of Acronym Media, who is moderating the Q&A portion. Speaking is Brian Bond, Vice President Marketing and Products at Future Now, and Ian Lurie, President of Portent Interactive.

Gord introduces the topic, stating that personas allow you to dig deeper under the surface. He polls audience asking who is using personas now, who plans on using them in the future and who doesn't even know what they are.

Why use personas? Looking at psychology, one can study how people come to decisions or how people rationalize. However, recent studies reveal that our rationalization is very complex. Persona studies allow marketers to dive deeper into why people make the decisions they do. He talks about the decision making landscape of which a lot of it is not done rationally but sub- consciously.

One has to understand the objectives - define decision criteria, determine budget scope, as well as other elements. Even though we appear to be different, in reality we are more alike than we are different. Persona study is trying to understand how customers are going to react to web site and products. Understanding the similarities in people will help simplify the persona process.

One area Gord looks at a lot is how people interact with search engines. He talks about channel capacity - we have very limited short term memory. In regards to search engines, we can only consider 4 - 5 things at a time. This is why is is so important to have visibility above the fold. Comparing heuristic decision making to optimal, we start off with simply an awareness. That evolves into what is called satisficing (no that is not a mis-spell). We then move into the comparison matrix and finally head to head comparison.

Gord finally points out the difference in how men and women use their brains. Men use one side whereas women use both sides of their brain. Search engines are more of a man's domain whereas web pages are more geared towards how a woman functions.

Next up is Ian. He is going to explain to us how we actually create a persona and use it in search marketing. He first gives us Wikipedia definition of a persona. His short version - your brand's imaginary friends. You use these to qualify how you are going to conduct your search marketing campaign. You can not effective market unless you understand how your audience is feeling.

The process of creating a persona involves research, brainstorming, writing, creating campaign, segmenting  your audience and then measure, adjust and repeat. Research involves demographics - where do you live, do you have kids, what is your income, etc. He reminds us that you cannot build personas from keywords alone. In developing personas, you must talk to real people. Use surveys and the like but get a feel for what real people are feeling and thinking. In brainstorming and writing, avoid the following - the CEO data source (someone who is too engrained - can't take an outside look), stereotypes, the quest for perfection, and thesauritis. Creating the campaign is where you begin to define your keyword list. He then goes on to show us an example of a persona.

Finally Brian is up. Brian is going to show us the power of personas and how to plan in our marketing. Looking at data, we can sometimes forget we are dealing with real people. Part of the power of personas is having empathy for the user - caring how they feel and what they think. He asks us to compare this empathy for the user to writing a letter to a very dear personal friend. That letter is going to be different if written to a close friend as opposed to a stranger.

Empathy needs to then be combined with insight into human behavior. What are people's motivations and buying modes? Brian points out that some empathy for customers is better than none and more is better than some. Now having empathy is good but how you use them in your SEM campaigns gives them power. It is not about what you did sell but rather what you did not sell. A web page either contain the content people are looking for or at least contain links to the content they want. It really comes down to placing yourself in the other person's shoes.

Personas really revolve around diving into the psychological and behavioral process of people and then designing a marketing campaign or web experience with them in mind. Subtle things matter when they are the things your customers care about.

Now time for the Q&A. Although I did not try to capture everything that was asked and answered, I did pick up the following points:

  • Read "The User is Always Right" for a better understanding of this subject.

  • Best data to look at is to look beyond data and talk to real customers as well as your sales people.

  • Surveys tell you what people think they would do, not what they really do.

  • To under stand differences between men and women, read "Think Pink" and possibly a book on evolutionary psychology.

David Wallace - CEO and Founder SearchRank.


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