Posted by Hayley Wick, Account Manager Today, search engine marketing success hinges on creating custom experiences for individual searchers. Agencies and advertisers must think of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as Search Experience Marketing (SEM). We need to take the extra step—beyond everyday performance metrics—to learn how to speak with searchers (i.e. participants) at individual levels. Creating custom experiences starts with discovering how your brand’s participants want to engage with you. A lot of this has to do with gathering participant data—from your CRM; offline sources; research tools like comScore, Hitwise and Forrester; competitive tracking; and social listening—to discover participant needs, motivations and barriers. These insights help you in developing personas that inform paid search experiences like keywords, copy, bids and landing pages. But, to create truly custom experiences, agencies and advertisers must go beyond demographics and personas to each individual participant. This means engaging specific customers, gaining their trust and creating loyal shoppers for your brand. But exactly how do we achieve this? The key is discovering what resonates with each individual, not just a grouped target or demographic. To illustrate, consider a demographic that is highly valuable to many marketers—“New Moms.” New moms are individuals; they’re not their kids. They’re young, strong women with their own unique interests. Brands should treat them as such instead of targeting them as if they are their kids. We must become the problem solver for each new mom. Help guide them through their search with relevant, intriguing content that is relatable not only to the problem they’re trying to solve, but also to each of them as individuals. If agencies and advertisers can understand the emotion behind each search, we can create a completely unique search experience for each user. Furthermore, keep in mind that creating unique, relevant experiences for each searcher fuels a participant marketing spiral. Positive brand experiences inspire advocates to spread positive dialogue, particularly on social sites. For instance, Performics’ S-Net (Impact of Social Media) Study found that forty percent of apparel shoppers use social networking sites to express satisfaction about a purchase, brand or retailer. In the apparel vertical, social users are actually twice as likely to talk about positive experiences as to verbalize disappointing experiences. This advocacy can propel your brand in front of new-to-file customers on social networks. It can also spread to the search engine results page, which is increasingly incorporating social aspects including “Likes,” Google +1s, tweets and user reviews. Search Experience Marketing starts and ends with the individual participant. Once you understand this individual as distinct from a demographic group, you’ll be better able to activate custom experiences to create loyal brand advocates.