1. Best practices in creating user and buyer personalities
  2. Review of customer / buyer personas
  3. New approaches to creating marketing and customer personalities
  4. Can customer personalities change SEO, PPC and content marketing?

They have been referred to as user, buyer, marketing, and customer personalities.

Whatever you call them, new approaches to creating these fictional characters can transform SEO, PPC, and content marketing.

Executives and executives in the search and digital marketing industries cannot really be blamed for missing out on this emerging trend.

Unlike Rip Van Winkle, who fell asleep for 20 years, last year we lost sleep and came up with new ways to adapt to sudden changes in consumer behavior.

Why? Well, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. All of our strategies and plans to increase brand awareness, increase website traffic, generate qualified leads, or improve sales were knocked over like ninepins.

According to eMarketer, this applies in particular to the two industries hardest hit by the pandemic:


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  • To travel – While US digital advertising spend was just $ 3.24 billion in 2020, that was a staggering 41.0% year-over-year decrease.
  • Automobile – While digital advertising spending in the US was $ 10.94 billion last year, that was a double-digit decrease of 18.2% year over year.

For the first time in 12 months, many of us have stopped twisting beyond the latest twist in the coronavirus crisis and started looking for detailed and actionable guides, tips, trends, and insights to help us see the “new normal. "

In some ways, we're lucky enough that the new trend we may have missed is only about creating customer personalities. (Hey, when Van Winkle woke up in the Catskill Mountains after sleeping soundly for 20 years, he found that he had missed the American Revolution.)

So, before we jump straight into new approaches to creating marketing and customer personalities that could revolutionize SEO, PPC, and content marketing, let's share some best practices for creating user and buyer personalities.

Best practices in creating user and buyer personalities

The right place to start is by reading Buyer Personas: A Beginner's Guide for Marketers.


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This guide will walk you through how to find the data you need about your target audience and how to get started building your buyer personalities. It's a seven minute read.

Buyer Personas

Next, read how user personas can improve your SEO performance and explain why and how to create user personas that can help improve SEO performance. It's an eight minute read.

User personalities

Then check out 5 Ways Personas Can Improve Your Content Marketing.

This post describes a simple five-step framework for applying a buyer personality to your content marketing strategy. It's an 11 minute read.


Finally, check out How to Use Personas to Boost Your PPC Performance for tips on how to use personas for paid search.


Review of customer / buyer personas

These columns now reflected the best practices in building marketing personalities a year ago like no one else has changed our assumptions that we have a good pearl in business.


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To be fair, most business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations were quick to respond to the challenges of the pandemic.

However, digital marketers for all types of businesses found that the biggest challenge was adapting to changing customer behavior, which was changing rapidly and unpredictably amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In July 2020, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs added a few new questions to their 11th Annual Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Reports to see how content marketers fared several months after the pandemic .

They published their B2B report on September 30, 2020, their manufacturing report on November 18, 2020, their B2C report on January 27, 2021, and their corporate report on February 24, 20201.

Regardless of how they sliced ​​and diced their data, a similar picture emerged. For example, many content marketers had changed their targeting / messaging strategy, but fewer had revamped their customer / buyer personalities.

This was a missed opportunity.

And on February 24, 2021, Stephanie Stahl, general manager of CMI, wrote an article about her company report advising content marketers to ask themselves a tough question:


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"Are you building (your content marketing strategy) on personas who tell you what your target audience is interested in and what they need or want from you?"

That's a good question. This is the right question for SEO professionals and PPC advertisers too.

This caused me to dig deeper to find other research on the subject.

It was then that I came across a revolutionary new approach to creating customer personalities that I had been missing myself before COVID-19 changed my assumption that I had a good pearl at things.

New approaches to creating marketing and customer personalities

I usually read articles on Think With Google pretty regularly. So I've read the title, Make It Personal: Using Marketing Personas and Empathy In Your Marketing. It was written by Santiago Castillo, the founder of Schema Strategy, and published in February 2018.

Castillo said, "If you target 'everyone', you run the risk of not targeting anyone."

He added that even a niche audience can still contain a multitude of different types of people.


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For example, “female college students in urban areas” can include traditional students, nontraditional students, international students, first generation college students, transfer students, graduate students, online students, commuter students, executive education students, working students, and Being a student with disabilities. I

This includes students at colleges, universities, community colleges, graduate schools, conservatories, technology institutes, and executive education programs.

These include students specializing in computer science, communications, government / political science, economics, English language and literature, psychology, nursing, chemical engineering, and biology.

He recommends these four steps for creating marketing personas as they can help you reach people on a more personal level:

  1. Asking lots (and lots of) questions.
  2. Look for patterns, then fill in the gaps.
  3. Create travel map.
  4. Creation of a so-called empathy card.

Now I have intuitively carried out the first three steps, but the fourth surprised me.

According to Castillo, creating an empathy card means putting your personas in a hypothetical situation.


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For example, a restaurant might envision a person named "Alice" having a study group in their dormitory. She has to order a lot of food without breaking the bank or breaking the group's focus.

Who would have thought that this novel approach to creating fictitious profiles could help a restaurant develop the idea of ​​offering an “All Night Cram Special” – a large package of sandwiches and side dishes that busy and stressed study groups can order with one click?

But the article that really got me excited was: How Consumers Need to Shape Search Behaviors and Drive Intentions. Written by Justin De Graaf, Head of Ad Research and Insights at Google, it was published by Think with Google in May 2019.

That's right, it was released 10 months before the coronavirus crisis. Somehow I missed it. Still, I'm glad I finally read it.

De Graff says: "Acting with the consumer in mind is one of the keys to enabling growth."


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He adds

"The things they look for, the websites they visit, and the videos they watch not only express their intent, but reshape the traditional marketing funnel. Marketing technology enables marketers to sift through all the signals and insights that are left behind that will help them predict intentions. "

I agree. Too many marketers rely too heavily on demographics when creating customer personalities.


Because this is the only data that television stations were able to provide about their audiences in the 20th century.

However, demographics rarely tell SEO professionals, PPC advertisers, or content marketers what we need to know about search intent in the 21st century.

Keyword research, on the other hand, gives us a better way to unlock search intent – even though we don't have access to a fraction of Google's marketing technology.

Because of this, I was amazed that De Graff shared some strategic insights from research that Google was doing in partnership with Kantar.


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They wanted to get a better understanding of the underlying motivations behind search behavior.

Now you can (like me) assume that Google doesn't need any help for this.

It turns out that Google knows what users are looking for, but it's often unclear why.

So they took advantage of Kantar's NeedScope, a segmentation approach that allows you to uncover the functional, social, and emotional drivers of consumer behavior in a target market.

In other words, NeedScope provides a framework for understanding why people make the decisions they make, which in turn can open up significant opportunities for companies and brands to create personas that more effectively represent underlying needs.

Now De Graff admits that at first he wasn't sure if NeedScope's segmentation approach could be applied to search, let alone creating customer personalities.

Well it could. It was.

And the result was revolutionary.

According to NeedScope, there are six “canonical” consumer needs, and each consists of a different combination of emotional, social, and functional needs:


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  • Surprise me: The search is fun and entertaining. It's extensive with many unique iterations.
  • Inspire me: Search is a fast-paced adventure to find new things. It's short, with just a few words and minimal use of back buttons.
  • Impress me: Search is about influencing and winning. It is laser focused and uses certain phrases.
  • Educate me: Search is about competence and control. It's thorough (reviews, reviews, comparisons, etc.).
  • Assure me: Search is about simplicity, convenience, and confidence. It's straightforward and tends to contain questions.
  • Help me: Search is about connection and practicality. It's in a nutshell and more likely to mention family or place.


De Graff also notes

“Emotions are the basis of need states. The truth is that decision-making is not a rational process, it mainly depends on how people are feeling. The rational brain only ponders the reasons for our decisions after they have been made. "

Before Google began this research, De Graff believed that one or two requirements would dominate search behavior.

For example, he says Educate Me seemed like a no-brainer since searching is all about sharing information. However, he discovered that search behavior is determined by all six “canonical” needs.


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I knew right away that he was right.

I am often asked, "What is the best keyword research tool for SEO?" And I've often been annoyed that this question suggests two-dimensional thinking.


Well, the smart but inexperienced SEO professionals who ask this question seem to believe that using the right tool will allow them to strategically target keywords with accurate keyword volume and difficulty.

And those are two important dimensions.

Smart but inexperienced SEO professionals haven't yet learned that there is a third dimension: search intent.

And they have not yet learned that understanding the purpose and purpose of the people doing the search is far more important to their success.

So I kept digging and found another article titled "Same Search Terms, Different Emotions: Anticipating Customer Needs Throughout the Trip". It was written by Nina Taniguchi, Ad Research and Insight Manager at Google, and published by Think with Google in October 2019.

Yeah, I missed this one too when it debuted. But I feel enlightened now.


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Taniguchi says:

“Marketers invest a great deal of money, time, and resources deciphering and anticipating consumer intent. One key to understanding this intent is to meet the underlying needs that drive it in the first place. "

She adds that the emotional motivation that drives a particular search is determined by both the category the person is looking for and where they are in the customer journey.

So Google did another study, this time with Verto Analytics.

They looked at two women in their fifties who were shopping in very different categories, one in the travel sector and one in the car. It's worth noting that both women used the phrase "near me" in their searches.


The travel-seeker "Beth" had a 126-day journey that consisted of more than 2,000 contact points.


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However, Google and Verto Analytics only focused on a second trip that included a trip to Niagara Falls as it involved interesting search behavior after it got to its destination.

Six months before her trip, Beth had started using the search to find places of interest in her destination.

When she got to Niagara Falls, she looked for "Activities Near Me Today." This is tracked with the Thrill-Me demand status from NeedScope.

Says Taniguchi, "Beth is clearly looking for inspiration on what to do in the area as her search received more than 90 hits on a travelogue website for things to do and see in London, Ontario."

automatic trip

The car searcher "Mary" was looking for a new SUV for 64 days.


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She did a lot of research. For example, she researched seven SUV brands in a single day.

After apparently settling on a particular brand, she submitted a request to contact a local dealer for prices.

Mary also used "near me" in her search, specifically for "car dealerships near me that are open on Sundays".

Taniguchi points out

"The need state behind this search near me is most likely" calm me down. "Mary wanted to be sure that a dealership was open when she needed it."

Can customer personalities change SEO, PPC and content marketing?

Now the travel industry is hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

SEO pros, PPC advertisers, and content marketers who work for hotels, airlines, and online travel agencies can be awarded if they mistakenly thought Beth's last name was "Van Winkle" and that persona disappeared into the Catskills a year ago .

Beth hasn't slept in the past 12 months and she hasn't lost interest in traveling again once it's safe.


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According to her recent research, Beth has watched travel videos and plans to take her next trip – to Dubai, Canada, France, Wales, the UK, Spain, Mexico or Hawaii.

In fact, as Ads Research and Insights Manager at Google, Daniel Trovato wrote an article entitled Global Insights Briefing: Signs of Unrest:

"This month the signs of interest in travel increased and searches for" resorts near me "," hotel booking app "and" passport size "increased."

On the flip side, some people are looking for things like “romantic getaway” near their home or information on how to “YouTube Watch Party” for socially distant events.

Interest in travel

After being house cuffed for a year, he says:


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“People are still looking for inspiration for“ things to do during ___ ”and supplies to start new pursuits (like“ candle making kit ”and“ Dutch cast iron stove ”). Finally, there are some early signs that prepare people to go public again, with "makeup app", "long tops for girls" and "wedding suit for ___" on the rise. "

What should SEO pros, PPC advertisers, and content marketers do with these new approaches to creating customer personalities?

Well, there are no templates that an intern can use to turn those strategic insights into fictional characters for your company or your clients.

That's not bad news. This means that your experience, extensive training, and proven knowledge of digital marketing best practices in various digital marketing disciplines are incredibly valuable.

I don't know about you, but because of this, I think these new approaches to creating customer personalities are a revolution that can transform SEO, PPC, and content marketing.

Even Rip Van Winkle would feel uplifted to wake up in this post-pandemic world and discover that his experience, training, and knowledge were the keys to winning more hearts, minds, and dollars.


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More resources:

Photo credit

All screenshots by the author, March 2021


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