9 Tips That Will Help Your PPC Ads Resonate with Audiences Over 50

This post is shared with you from Stephen Kenwright, Strategy Director at Branded3, a company named Best SEO Agency at the European Search Awards in 2016. See Stephen live at Hero Conf London, 23-25 October.


It seems odd that millennials get all of the marketing column inches when the over 50s have all of the cash.


One such headline from 2016 read: “Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation”. Taken out of context (e.g. by those people who only read the headline) it can be misleading because, at the point of writing, there were 75.4 million millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) and 74.9 million Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) – a difference of just 0.67%.


It’s easy to justify because the Baby Boomer population is decreasing and the US millennial population is likely to increase to 81.1 million (immigration – it’s too late for more millennials to be born) but it’s also easy to forget that there are around 28 million US residents aged over 70 (known as the Silent Generation – which, if that’s true, explains why it’s easy to forget them) and these age groups are the richest in the country.


Wallet Hacks broke down the median net worth of each age group in June 2017:

Age of Householder Median Net Worth
Under 35: $6,676
35 – 44 $35,000
45 – 54: $84,542
55 – 64: $143,964
65 – 69: $194,226
70 – 74: $181,078
65+: $170,516
75+: $155,714

Over 50s are typically mortgage free, no longer burdened by student debt and in receipt of much more generous pensions than are available today, giving them more disposable income.


The chances are that if you’re using Google’s income level targeting features you’re likely to be skewing towards older demographics. If your expensive product is aimed at younger audiences you may be limiting volume more than you think you are. To paraphrase Rory Sutherland, you don’t need to understand the gap in the market so much as the market in the gap.


The good news is that it’s entirely possible to reach and convert the lucrative, older audience with the right messaging.


How Do I Advertise to the 50+ Demographic?

87% of US residents aged 50-64 are online. 33% of the Bing Network’s audience is aged 55+. Search advertising is just as effective at targeting this age group as any other and both Google AdWords and Bing Ads provide demographic targeting features that allow advertisers to reach them specifically.


Adding demographic based bids is straightforward enough as a Demographics tab has recently been added in the AdWords interface.


The same keyword might well be entered by an 18 year old and a 65 year old but each will be looking for entirely different products so it’s important to understand what your audience actually values about your brand. Messaging is key which means your Ad Copy is disproportionately valuable when targeting Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.


What the over 50s look for when making a purchase. Source: Pragma


Every brand performs differently so I’d suggest starting demographic targeting with a 0% bid modifier until you’ve collected enough data, but here are 9 hypotheses I often use to get you started:

  1. The only thing that gets more mentions in the marketing press than millennials – storytelling – is important for “silver spenders”. Emphasize your heritage and your values in ad copy to resonate with this audience.
  2. Over 50s generally require less reassurance and are much happier to trust their own judgement. They take on board fewer external influences and don’t browse forums and blogs as often – but tend to put more trust in well-known brands. So it’s often helpful to over-emphasize the brand story and take up less space with social proof.
  3. They’re much more rational, preferring to ask “what does this brand do for me?” rather than “how does this brand make me look?” – listing benefits and points of difference in ads is generally frowned upon but tends to work well in this demographic. Callout extensions can be extremely useful in making this happen when space is limited.
  4. Supporting content is more important as the over 50s are much more likely to read everything – even the T&Cs. Linking out to supporting content on your landing pages is essential but also be as relevant as possible with your ad extensions. Various studies have shown that older users read ads more carefully – that includes the related links.
  5. It’s also generally a good idea to make sure your shipping information is as clear as possible…and if your audience skews to the older end consider creating a step-by-step guide on how to purchase a product online.
  6. The over 50s are more likely to want to speak to a human being when making a purchase so call extensions tend to go down very well.
  7. Trust signals are key. 58% of UK users are turned off by sites that aren’t on HTTPS and for my clients in both the UK and US this is especially true. “Traditional” trust signals like Verisign are still important too.
  8. Older generations are much more likely to use coupons. Google’s Dave Byrne announced at last year’s Location World conference in New York that it would be bringing back its coupons scheme – Store Sales Direct is now in beta in the US and adoption among the over 50s should be higher than average for new tech.
  9. Use Bing Ads Intelligence to understand the age demographics of specific keywords. Some terms are much more likely to be used by an older audience so you may want to up your bids and steer clear of keywords that skew younger.


In Summary

Average life expectancy in the US is nearly 78 years so there’s as much danger in generalizing the “over 50s” as millennials – but this demographic has all the cash so it’s important to experiment and understand what works. Fortunately both Google and Bing provide plenty of options within their ad interfaces to get free data and target older generations a little bit differently.


See Stephen at Hero Conf London >>