February 13, 2018 | Sarah Danks

Persona-lization of PPC Ads

I was lucky to have the chance this past winter to sit and chat with Angie Schottmuller — on a beach, no less! But that’s another story — and pick her brain about pay-per-click (PPC) conversion.

Angie is a growth marketing expert and keynote speaker that’s all about conversion-centered content strategy: tapping into people’s physiology, psychology and goals to drive leads and sales. When I asked her about power tips for PPC, she asked how we were “persona-lizing” our paid ads.

How do we make our customers feel?

How do they WANT to feel?

She explained that emotion is the part of the brain that secures attention and drives action.

“If you’re not tapping into emotion, you’re missing your potential for driving traffic and conversions.”

Learning how to harness some of the simplest emotions can do wonders for your marketing campaigns. In this article, I’ll discuss the groundwork Angie laid down in order to “hit people right in the feels” with PPC copy.

Keep on reading if you want to learn how to use emotions to get conversions in your marketing campaigns — all straight from the mouth of a bonafide conversion expert.

Get Conversions by Harnessing Emotions

Angie’s point — and it’s a valid one — is that PPC ads aren’t just about keywords and bids and ROI (oh my). In order to get the conversion, you’ve got to speak to your potential client in a way that resonates with them personally and makes them want to choose you over a myriad of other competitors.

In psychology there’s a cognitive bias referred to as the “endowment effect.” We tend to favor things that are “ours” or things that we “own” as having higher value. We won’t quickly let go of them, and might even associate negative factors with other options simply because they aren’t ours.

We can tap the endowment effect as an emotional trigger by incorporating contextual relevance into our marketing. Ask: How can you optimize the scenario for a user to feel, “that’s me!” when reading your content?

Start by brainstorming ways to incorporate subtle context details like day of week, time of day, returning visitor, etc. into content copy and images. Exhaust all aspects of WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW to fully unravel contextual relevance possibilities.

And, in addition to all that, you’ve got to be in sync with their feelings, too!

Larry Kim posed a great question about pay-per-click ads in a live SEJ segment:

“Is it a boring ad that doesn’t say much about your business? Or, is it an exciting, emotionally charged ad that’ll make them click like crazy?”

So, how do you go about making your PPC ads more specific to your audience, and their emotional state?

And, what aspects of these different angles will hit an emotional trigger?

What’s an “Emotional Trigger?”

Right about this point, you might be thinking, so what’s an emotional trigger, anyway? Talia Wolf has a great cheat sheet about psychological triggers and relevant marketing uses.

But, once you know what an emotional trigger actually is, how do you then incorporate it into your PPC ads?

As my writer friend so eloquently put it, “An emotional trigger is something that sets off an emotional response to something.” A trigger is not necessarily good or bad — but it creates an emotional reaction.

Angie says your target market reacts differently to ads at different times. Say what? Think about your audience and how their emotions change based on their day (I mean, to that point, everyone’s emotions change throughout the day).

When is your audience likely to be more relaxed? On edge? Not paying attention?

And, more importantly — how are you supposed to write ad copy that speaks to them on an emotional level during these different times?

There are lots of segments to think about with your keywords, ad copy, and of course landing pages when taking emotions into consideration.

The beauty of PPC ad groups is that you can make them more specific to your visitors based on emotional needs: i.e., weekend versus weekday traffic; topical relevance — are you trying to appeal directly to students or their parents who’re footing the tuition bill, etc.

Let’s look at 3 examples that Angie gave me.

#1) Context Scenario: The Overwhelmed Parent:

It’s after 10pm, she’s relaxing because the kids are finally in bed. She’s ready to pour a glass of wine, and take this hard-earned quiet time to shop online for a bit. (This is in strict opposition to me, by the way — at 10pm my phone is down and my book is up, or I’m already sleeping!)

The need here is more of a Calgon, take me away emotion, versus anything strict or demanding. She probably enjoys these moments to herself, when the house is calm and she can browse through online sales or her favorite shopping sites without being interrupted.

If you’re selling anything her demographic is interested in, you’ll want your ads running past the “normal” business hours…

…because THIS is when she has the time — and the emotional state — to do this type of shopping. Better make sure you’re not turning your ads off before she gets to her computer late at night.

#2) Context Scenario: The Pain-agonized Dental Patient:

It’s after 7pm, he’s cracked a tooth eating dinner, he’s in pain. Plus, he’s panicking because the need to find a dental office is NOW! He can’t wait ’til tomorrow at 8am to get this tooth fixed. He has a different type of critical pain point — literally — or emotional trigger that’s driving the urgency.

While he probably already has a dentist, he might not know if they have after-hours emergency services. The day-time ads running for “normal” dentistry services won’t answer his need or emotional state, so the ads running at this time of night need to reflect what this demographic needs.

I.e., during the day the dental clinic might want to run ads that highlight specials, customer service, health plans accepted, etc. But the nighttime ads for that same practice — if they’re open — should be geared towards a different emotional state — a frantic need to get in and fix a broken tooth before morning, perhaps.

Try this on for size: When I searched for “dental emergency services,” which of the following seems more apt to fit my emotional state?

Landing Page A:


Landing Page B:

To me, it’s pretty obvious that while Landing Page A has a more aesthetically pleasing design and is easier on the eye, it doesn’t come anywhere NEAR to addressing the need for emergency services…

…or the correct emotional state I’m in while experiencing pain.

Landing Page B, on the other hand, not only shows someone in pain, but also states, “We’re open; call us now” with a simple form OR a phone number.


Emotional needs met.

#3) Context Scenario: The Panicked Dog Owner:

It’s 2am, and her dog is in need of a vet. Right now. She’s frantically searching “emergency vet services” and has an urgent need. She sees an ad for a nearby vet that contains a phone number, also stating “We’re open 24/7.” The emotional trigger here is “fix my problem ASAP.”

The ads here are geared more towards timing — again, we don’t want a landing page with general content about the day-time services.

As you can see, all three examples are somewhat different, but the “pain points” of #2 and #3 are similar. That said, all three point out that knowing your audience — and their *probable* emotional state at different times can be paramount to your success.

So, emotional triggers can differ after-hours, at night, etc. It’s imperative to run different messaging at these times than your normal “day” ad copy. E.g., we’re open right NOW.

According to Psychology Today emotional triggers could be the difference between whether or not you win the customer:

“Advertising research reveals that emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content.”

It’s time to learn how to differentiate your PPC experience in order to get the emotional response you need!

Different Emotions = Different Elements

When you begin to realize your audience can have different emotional triggers at different times of day, you realize that grouping PPC ads separately to run in different time slots is the way to go.

How do you frame ad copy differently? Here are some pointers.

Within the ads, you can change your main headline to include after-hours emergency services information, time left on a special deal, or get help now wording. The key clincher here is that you’re hitting visitors at their exact point of need.

(one of Angie’s Redwing Shoes PPC landing pages)

On the landing page, you can again change your main or sub-heading to reflect the different messaging. Add a small line that you can change to cater to the different needs to different times of day —  these subtle (or not-so-subtle, depending on what the services are) changes show you recognize the needs of your audience at separate times.

To merely change your ad copy and just have one landing page that’s running all the time doesn’t account for different emotional triggers throughout the day or weekend — you need to keep the entire experience cohesive.

You can even create ads specific to the “hour slot” — the more specific you get, the more of a hook it is for the brain; you answer the needs they have at that time of day versus standardizing your messaging across the day/night/weekend/etc.

Visuals are also very important for message match. Angie says the “scent trail” is important to visitors. So, between keywords used, ad copy, landing page content and imagery, be sure to keep the scent trail consistent.

The conversion-oriented folks over at Unbounce say:

“Strong conversion scent ensures that visitors to your landing page get exactly what they expect to find.”

Consider this: how likely are your visitors to convert if the keyword they typed in, to the ad copy they see, to the landing page they land on, to the imagery used on it aren’t a match for what they’re feeling?

Emotions by Time of Day

As in the examples listed above, we know that the same people can have different emotional triggers depending on where they are in their day.

It’s a matter of tapping into your audience’s attention perspective (most things are about perspective, after all). What if your ideal audience is a night-shift worker who gets home from work in the wee small hours of the morning and is most active online at 3am, trying to wind down before going to bed for the day?

Or, what about a mom thinking about where her son should go to school in the town they’re moving to —  what’s her current state of emotion? She’s most likely exhausted with options of hunting for schools.  And what emotion does she WANT to feel? She wants to feel relieved she’s found the perfect one.

So, how do your ads make these people feel?

Consider the fact that your audience is feeling a certain way at a certain time of day, at their time of need. If you’ve built your audience personas correctly, you’ll be able to work them through their emotions. If they’re not ready to “be there” yet, don’t push them.

Again, keep the scent trail.

Emotions by Time Zone

If you’re a national — or even international — brand, you need to take into effect that your east coast audience is awake and active online at a different time than those on the west coast. And, while the Midwest is gearing up for lunch, your UK audience is ending their work day. Be mindful of time gaps across your audiences.

Here’s where it’s important to be tracking your visitors’ activity by time: are they online in the morning, or afternoon? In which time zone? Say one group is active around lunch time, where are they from? How about just-before-work activity — where are they from?

Say someone finds you, they like what they see, they call you — but your office is closed. That’s a fail! If you truly know your audience, you can even get specific in your ads, “We’re open for 2 more hours/ open until 6pm today.”

That’s getting quite specific, but Angie says by giving them a “countdown,” it creates (or heightens) the urgency. They might think, “Gee, I’d better call now, the sands of time are dripping and time is running out.”

In the case of varying time zones, it’s imperative to have your phone number at the top right of your landing page; make sure the time zone matches where that audience is coming from (local time zone).

Creating different audience segments by time zones can be quite lucrative in hitting emotional triggers.

Triggering Emotions with Social Proof

All marketers know that social proof is a HUGE factor in gaining audience trust — Angie says consumers trust social proof 12x more than the manufacturers’ descriptions.

That’s huge. Well, guess what? Social proof also triggers emotions. It boosts your credibility and power…

…the power to convert, that is.

Social proof is just fancy marketing lingo for “testimonials or reviews.” But, whatever you decide to call it, it’s really important in marketing. Conversion XL states the importance of investing in good testimonials.

When using social proof in your marketing, you can even get so specific that you use geographically relevant examples, depending on where your audience is coming from. Say you’re targeting a particular location — do you have social proof FOR THAT LOCATION? Your audience will notice!

Make sure the whole scent trail — all key points of the PPC campaign — align. Maybe your sub-head comes from a great testimonial. Your audience will think, “Hm, someone near me gave a review of this product/service…”

(screenshot from Angie’s 5 Content-First Marketing Steps Slideshare)

It doesn’t have to be a super-long review; use a short snippet of a testimonial quote on the landing page up near the headline, with geo location — now THAT’S adding relevance!

Getting Emotional on Mobile

There are certain ways to do things when catering to a mobile audience, and not just for emotional reasons. Here are some key points as outlined by Angie:

  • Keep mobile headlines short (< 7 words)
  • Don’t wrap text more than 1.5 lines to ensure scannability. Full lines are more likely to be skipped. The text tail is an attractive snippet for the eye.
  • Clearly display your logo in the top-left to confirm identity and build credibility.
  • Prominently feature the call-to-action (CTA) above-the fold — whether it’s a “Call Now for a Quote” button or a “Get the [Your Topic] Checklist” jump-to button that scrolls users down to the form. Mobile users are VERY action-oriented. The “jump-to” buttons are excellent for featuring the action and saving prime above-the-fold real estate for key points and a visual.
  • Place images or video partially across “the fold” to entice scrolling; users will be drawn to view the full image.
  • Ad extensions: after-hours emergencies; great place for call-only ads; option for 4 lines of extra copy
  • Optimize for context — alter heading/sub-head to reference location, time of day, returning visit, etc.
  • Feature three key points: the human brain doesn’t have good capacity beyond three ideas. What do you want your users to remember? Ensure one of the points is how you differ from competitors. Not in general: on THAT weekday, at THAT time, for THAT specific problem.

When building a responsive (i.e., mobile-friendly) landing page, you can’t just “make it responsive” and assume the messaging and relevance will work for mobile users, that they’ll even see the most important elements, or that they’ll even be able to properly access it.

Landing Pages + Emotional Triggers

You’re not done once you get the click from the PPC ad. In fact, once you have a visitor on the landing page is arguably the most crucial aspect of keeping the emotions going.

As with any landing page the visitors ask, “When I look at this page, what do you want me to remember? What’s your value proposition/differentiator?”


You have to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition. I.e., most of your competitors have similar benefits — so what makes YOU different??? Do users see a differentiator on YOUR page, vs someone else’s?

The way to switch up your landing page’s copy according to emotional triggers might not be a change in your heading, but maybe your first key point needs to be altered — it’ll still be one of the first things they see, and that’s important because with less real estate and a skimming mentality, you need to grab your visitors’ attention.

In the emergency vet example from above, you’d want to list “emergency services available” or some other type of urgency content fairly prominently on the landing page.

(landing page for Blue Pearl vet services)

In the dental situation, you’d not only want to list that they’re open after-hours, but you might want to mention that anesthesia is available. Most people — me included — are terrified of dentists. So, small things that spell out “more comfort/less discomfort” can be game-changers.

In keeping with the marketing scent trail, match your headline with what the visitor feels. E.g., dynamic keyword insertion to match your headline enhances what the message is about.

When you speak to visitors’ pain points — literally — you’re hitting their emotional trigger.


“A picture is worth a thousand words” and all that yadda yadda — but WHICH words? Your message + headline + image need to all work together to tell the same story, to match the same emotion.

The keyword, ad, and landing page all have to have message match — but IMAGE is also part of the information and speaks to the emotional state…

…your audience wants to SEE the visual that fits with the image in their mind. When someone types in a query, reads an ad they like, then clicks through to a landing page, is the hero shot in keeping with their feelings?

Example: someone’s in pain because of a bad tooth. They need help but typed in “emergency dental services with anesthesia” or something similar — someone’s in pain, they get to the dental landing page and they see a person smiling with perfect teeth — does that fit with their emotional state? They’re in pain, maybe show someone ELSE in pain about to get better for context.

Or, maybe that type of visitor doesn’t want to see a picture of someone in pain like they are; they want to see a nice, safe, comfortable environment where they can get RID of the pain, or the faces of the dentists/hygienists who’ll be working on them. This is where you’ll have to track and monitor in your Analytics to see what your visitors prefer.

Also: if you have different wording on your landing pages for different emotions, Angie highly recommends modifying the hero shot. The visitor’s on a scent trail, they’re thinking about a certain thing, so when they get to the landing page we need to keep that “scent” going.

Another example: it’s the end of the day and we have a mother — exhausted but finally able to relax. If you’re trying to sell her something for the home, and she lands on a page with a hero shot of a woman just like her, but sitting in a perfectly clean and tidy house…

…will that resonate?  Probably not! Her own house is in chaos — toys everywhere, not picked up, etc. That’s real life — that’s HER life. Show her you get it.

Relevant + Authentic

You can even stage your own hero shot photos — stock photos often don’t match people’s emotions, as they can seem overly contrived and fake. It’s all about relevance; you don’t notice a stock photo if it doesn’t appear authentic or hit your paint point/emotional state.

If you do shoot your own hero shots, they don’t have to be perfect. It’s more important to have a photograph that might not be as high of quality or perfect as a stock photo, but speaks to people than to have a perfectly high-quality photo that doesn’t match your audience’s emotional state.

Angie says you can determine hero shot efficacy by using the hero shot scorecard. There are seven key persuasion factors to keep in mind while evaluating your imagery:

  1. Keyword relevance
  2. Clarity
  3. Design support
  4. Authenticity
  5. Value
  6. Desired emotion
  7. Customer as “hero”

As always, images are worth (more than) 1,000 words, so be sure you’re choosing the right “words”!

“Tag Lines”

Many brands like to have tag lines as part of all their marketing efforts. They often refer to them as their logo tag line. It’s a “have it made your way” approach, and many brands want it featured on their landing page front-and-center. Angie recommends going with just the logo — keep it simple — and make it a horizontal logo because that’s best for mobile layout.

We’ve mentioned it before, but within 5 seconds (at the VERY most) of landing on your page, the user needs to know WHAT DO YOU DO?

Most often, “tag lines” don’t tell visitors what you actually do.

Now, if you want to add a tag that is relevant, do so! E.g., “Serving San Francisco since 1972” or “Gutter services in the Twin Cities since 2000” would be extremely helpful — that’s a relevant piece of information for a “tagline.”

Which brings us to location.

Location, Location, Location

Especially nowadays, people like to see that you’re local. They want nearby services, because generally speaking local means cheaper — lots of businesses charge more the farther away you are.

It’s easiest to be local for a metro area — for us here in Roseville, Minnesota we can say we’re in the “Twin Cities metro area.” It encompasses a larger area, burt it’s still relevance match vs a much broader denotation of “Minnesota.”

AdWords targeting isn’t remotely good enough to get into specific areas; for example, what if one side of town doesn’t like the other side of town? (East and West Duluth comes to mind!) Is your audience sensitive about different areas within your metro?

Also, you need to match the scent trail: if your ad says the city name in it, then when the visitor gets to your landing page, you should show it again (i.e., identity booster/tagline). Keep it in there, so they feel like they landed where they were supposed to.

Want to really match the scent trail? Use a photo with said city in it. Some skylines are extremely noticeable; regardless if the person is local they’ll recognize specific landmarks or buildings.

What if you’re targeting the whole state? Take California, for instance. What major freeway goes through? People recognize the signs on a freeway…

…even if they might not drive it often.

Or, how about Florida — even people who don’t live there know the A1A (beachfront AVENUE!). You know the sign, you know it’s Florida, even if it’s not EXACTLY where the audience is, using a recognizable image of the state will boost relevance because it’s more specific to their location than say, a generic palm tree image.


As any good marketer knows, you HAVE to track and monitor everything properly so you know what’s going on with your efforts. Every action online is trackable, after all — and you can get so specific you even know from what time of day/time zone/etc. people are converting.

Tagging + Naming Your Ad Elements

In order to do that, you need to make sure your tagging is correct before you start the campaign.

Whether you plan to use auto tagging or manual tagging, plan it all out before you launch: check your ads in advance to make sure the tags are right.

Also, name your ad groups accordingly — the term matches keyword, matches the UTM parameters. Think through the structure of your UTM parameters beforehand; don’t plan it while you’re in AdWords (also, be sure you’re consistent within AdWords and Bing Ads, or any other marketing platform you’ll be using).

There are only so many things you can fit into your UTMs — plan it out beforehand. You need to stick to a consistent naming convention of CPC / PPC, etc.

Angie says it’s important to make your naming convention intuitive enough to know that if you change something, it’s an easy fix.

After your tagging’s all set up, then you’re ready to collect data. Specifically, knowing where the traffic is coming from, what the conversion rate is, at what time of day activity is happening, etc.


You can really delve deep into monitoring traffic by setting up segments.

Of course, there’s no point in doing segments if it doesn’t seem like it helps; if you do spend the time to make changes (for testing), then be sure to document it. No point making an effort that won’t make a difference — or not knowing if it did.

Why did something work or not work in a campaign? Say you changed the copy, but not the hero shot — you didn’t get the full piece to keep the scent trail. You were almost there, but not quite.

If the object of the change is to be more helpful to the user — what did you do to get there? We need to analyze this more; try to get more out of your audience. How? Ask them!

You can ask them a question about how to cater to them more, e.g. what’s the most critical factor for selecting a dentist right now?

Using Polls/Surveys

And how you can ask questions of your visitors is with a poll on your landing page. Use a delay — and not a pop-up! — to find out what visitors are thinking. Say some visitors end up on your landing page and then they scroll down, up, down, back up — they’re trying to make a decision; they’d be good prospects for a poll.

You could ask questions like, “Is there additional information that would help with your selection?” or “Is our pricing clear?”etc.

Keep in mind, you use this tool on a landing page on which you’re not sure why people aren’t converting and you need help knowing more about your audience and how to better serve them.

It’s never smart to make assumptions in marketing, it’s better to just ASK when you have a landing page that you’re not sure what’s going on (i.e., why visitors aren’t converting).

A simple question poll can be the answer to your problems. Angie recommends Hotjar. She says placing a survey at the bottom of the screen — NO pop-ups! — can be very beneficial. It’s easy to set up when you want that question to appear.

Back to our dental example above: what’s the most important factor in making the decision: insurance accepted? location? pricing? anesthesia available?

How do you choose segments? Well, let your poll help you decide. If people answering your poll respond that insurance is the biggest factor; you know how to be more specific in your copy.

You can even use the poll results to get super-specific with your ads —  create an entirely new ad group centered around insurance-focused messaging, for example.

Are you using session recordings? Visitors are scrolling up/scrolling down on your page, but you don’t know what they’re doing. Using an open-answered question (“Hi, how can we help?”) after you notice this behavior can make a big impact. If you don’t answer their question, they won’t convert and are likely to leave.

A poll/survey tool can help you with many aspects of optimizing your landing pages:

  • polls/session reportings, scroll maps, etc
  • inexpensive — you already have the script on the page, no need for add’l script to add the poll
  • no changes to landing page to add a poll (with hot jar)
  • figure out what the heck their question/issue is

Don’t forget to keep track of any changes you make — use Google Analytics annotations. Make note of when you start or stop a poll, for instance.

Same with ad groups — if you’re trying to analyze spikes/dips in traffic, use crossover collaboration.

Before you can analyze changes, you have to make notes in Google. Don’t write a novella; summarize (character limits) or at least add shorthand and then put all the info into a spreadsheet so you know — i.e., these keywords were added on this day, landing page was changed, script was changed to make load times faster/slower etc.

Sometimes you can’t tell there’s a spike in traffic until you segment data out — especially depending on the timeframe you’re looking at. When you hone in on your data, you can see, “this DAY had a huge uptick…what happened? What’d we change/do right before that?”

Instead of wondering what you did or try to go back and remember it later — bleck! — you’ll have all the information in your Notes.

This might seem like (really) busy work, but if you truly want to know what’s working (or not), use annotations and keep track of all your changes!

In Conclusion: Emotions Rule Conversions

Using emotional triggers to make your ads relevant to the audience you want to attract to your landing pages will increase the odds of them becoming your customers. Again, emotion resides in the portion of the human brain that secures attention and drives people to take action.

Angie taught me a lot about persona-lization: how to make PPC ads more relevant, credible and specific to improve conversion rate by hitting the audience where it counts — in the emotions!

Here are the quick take-aways from Angie’s suggestions:

  • Different emotions require different ad elements
  • Emotions vary by time of day, time zone, etc.
  • Use social proof to trigger emotional response
  • Think of mobile when you’re constructing landing pages
  • Keep your “scent trail” consistent throughout the experience — including content, imagery, and relevance
  • Add tagging elements to track every click, create segments, measure survey efficacy, and monitor changes

Realize that your audience can be made up of different types of emotions; knowing the different elements comprising the ideal scent trail can be paramount to your PPC campaign’s success.

Tap into people’s emotions to drive qualified traffic and — more importantly — conversions.

How do you play off your audience’s emotions?



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