At the root of why we perform SEO is to improve visibility through increased web traffic. Yet, in the hunt to get more web visitors, we sometimes forget the behaviors and attitudes that drive those searches. These behaviors and attitudes are reflective of the visitor’s intentions and position in the sales funnel, whether they are at the awareness, consideration or decision making stages.
In terms of SEO, this is important because it demonstrates that not all traffic (nor every keyword) is created equally. Some visitors are searching with the intention to buy, others are looking for more information before they reach that final purchasing decision. Or, some are ready to convert and others need more encouragement.
Your SEO efforts shouldn’t be focused solely on building traffic. Instead, they should be developed to identify and separate conversion-likely keywords versus awareness searches. This means connecting visitors to the most relevant pages to suit their needs by taking a look at how and what people search at all stages of the funnel.
If you’ve got that pit-in-the-middle-of-your-stomach feeling because you’ve just been trying to drive traffic, don’t worry; you are far from alone.
In fact, a staggering 7 out of 10 B2B companies have no defined stages of their sales funnel and these are the businesses that thrive on successfully generating and nurturing leads the most.
So, let’s look at what the funnel should look like.
Understanding The Funnel
The sales funnel reflects the buyer’s journey: discovering a problem, becoming aware of a solution, considering that solution and then purchasing.
In the Digital Age, this journey takes place across multiple different channels and at different times. The better you can understand the intentions behind each brand-customer interaction, the more appropriately you can serve the client and facilitate their process through the funnel and towards conversion.
While some sales funnels involve several steps, we’re only really worried about Awareness, Consideration and Decision Making.
Awareness: This is the top of the funnel. Awareness-level visitors are researching, asking questions and looking for more information, insight and help into a problem.
Consideration: Now that the initial questions have been answered, the research and information required becomes more focused. They have a general idea of what the solution to their problem is, now they need to know what the best avenue towards reaching that solution is. For many potential customers, the consideration phase means they are ready to buy, but they are deciding what the best brand/product is before they make that final purchase.
Decision Making: This is the bottom of the funnel. This is also referred to as the purchase stage. This is where conversion happens and any effort (discounts, promo codes, referrals, etc.) to encourage a purchase is helpful. Getting customers to this point is the end goal.
How to Map Content And SEO Strategies To Match Your Funnel
One of the big issues with creating content or performing SEO for the sole sake of generating traffic is that it often creates lopsided efforts that don’t successfully help customers navigate their buying journey.
I see a lot of companies that have a ton of strategies and content in place for keyword targeting at the awareness stage.
Yet, further down the funnel there’s far less content, which makes it hard for the customer to ultimately convert. Conversely, some strategies are too heavy on bottom-of-the-funnel content and buying-focused keywords. This could be a big reason why so little content is truly successful and why only 42% of marketers feel they are effective at creating and marketing content, with only 6% citing they are very successful.
To prevent this and ensure that you’re on the effective side of the statistics, you need to carefully consider how your digital marketing efforts attract and help customers at every stage of your funnel.
You don’t want a potential customer in the awareness stage to be disillusioned after finding themselves on a purchase-centric landing page, instead of an informative blog post that answers their question or helps them consider a possible purchase.
You want to have content in place for each buyer persona at every stage of the funnel that is optimized with keywords relevant to searches made by these individuals. You also have to consider the tactics and channels that are best at each stage.
This requires a lot of planning and a deep understanding of how your customers search and navigate the buying experience. This is one of the biggest problems facing about a third of B2B marketers.
Common Awareness Behaviors And Tactics
Customers in the awareness stage are typically looking for answers and information, rather than products. This is a very popular trend, with 81% of shoppers performing extensive online research before making any type of purchase.
Strategies at the top of the funnel should be centered around helping customers answer these questions. The wealth of your content and strategies regarding awareness customers should be centered around education and brand/product awareness.
Types of content that are good at the awareness stage are things like:
- Instructional and ‘how-to’ videos
- Ebooks and other long-form, comprehensive blog posts
- Q&A pages with generic, industry-relevant questions
- Free webinars
In terms of keywords, there’s a lot of awareness-focused words that customers will tend to use. Because many people in the awareness stage start with a problem or question, focusing on question-based keywords is important.
You also want think about the unique problems, opportunities or issues associated with your products/services and how people may search for answers to these obstacles.
The following words and phrases are commonly associated with top of the funnel behaviors:
- How to
- Way of/to…
- What are the benefits of…
- How do you…
- What is…
Common Consideration Behaviors And Tactics
Now that your prospective customer has entered your sales funnel and is aware of your products and the solutions that you offer, it is time to begin providing content that showcases why your products/services are the best at solving that problem.
The consideration phase is all about making the customer’s purchasing decision easier. This is where you make your value proposition and demonstrate your advantages over competitors.
To achieve these goals, your content should be focused on things like:
- Product descriptions, reviews, comparisons and demo videos
- Case studies
- Research-heavy blog content
- Statistics and data
- Inbound links from industry-relevant pages
Customers at this stage have already conducted some research and answered their initial questions. Now, they are interested in keywords that are specific to your products, brand and business.
Some examples of impactful keyword/phrases for this stage include:
- [product/service] near me
- Reviews of [your business name]
- [your product/brand] vs [competitor product/brand]
- Best [product] for the money
- Hours of [your business name]
- Best places to buy [product]
Common Decision Making / Purchase Behaviors And Tactics
Finally, the customer is ready to act. This action-oriented step is where the customer converts, whether that means making a purchase, signing up for your service, becoming a client or another type of action.
In terms of content and strategies, it’s important to reaffirm their decision to convert. Targeting action-ready customers with things like coupons, discounts, promotions, ads and other deals will help stimulate their interest and hurry along their decision to act.
The bottom of the funnel is what all your past efforts have been leading up to and you don’t want to drop the ball now. This means making sure that all of your pages related to buying or converting are properly optimized with transactional, action and buyer keywords, such as:
- Apply for [industry term]
- Buy [product name/model]
- Order [product name/model]
- [product] for sale
- Discount (deals) on [product]
- Schedule appointment (consultation, meeting, etc.)
- Coupons for [product]
Retention After The Funnel
When a person successfully follows each step of your funnel and converts, they’ve truly become a customer. But, your job is not finished. Your attention now shifts towards encouraging that customer to shop again and develop long-term loyalty. After all, the customer experience doesn’t end after they’ve left the store.
As you push for client retention, think about content and offers that would be valuable to them now that they’re a customer. This might include:
- More detailed how-to videos/instructions (especially if it is software or a complex product)
- Available customer support/help
- Other products/services that complement their previous purchase
- Email outreach and buyer follow up
- Customer satisfaction surveys
- Special “customer-only” offers
- Invitation to loyalty/rewards program
The more value you can provide to the customer’s post-funnel experience, the more likely they will be to return and conduct future business with your brand/company.
Final Considerations And Conclusions
It’s important to note that this is a very simplified and idealistic sales funnel journey. Your sales funnel may look much different, depending on your business model, industry and other factors.
It’s also worth mentioning that not every customer is going to enter at the top of the funnel. Some customers are already at the decision-making stage the first time they interact with your business.