SEO Funnels - Earning Your Customers Through Relationship Building
February 9, 2022 |
As an SEO or digital marketer, I’m sure you’ve heard about sales funnels.
Ever wonder what a sales funnel is or how they affect your SEO?
Sales funnels are at the heart of your digital marketing and sales and this means as an SEO you should be focused on far more than just rankings and visibility.
SEO is a form of marketing.
And by building funnels into your SEO, you are creating a true SEO strategy. Without funnels, SEO is just a tactic to drive traffic, nothing more.
I mean, you wouldn’t spend your client’s money setting up paid ads without thinking about where that traffic is going to, so why should your client pay you month after month to generate organic traffic that has no chance of converting?
With that out the way, on with sales funnels…
What is an SEO Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a relationship-building framework designed to take potential customers through the stages of the buyer’s journey in order to convert them into customers and loyal brand ambassadors.
To create successful sales funnels you must understand your consumer's buying behavior. In general, you can break down this behavior into different stages. Having these stages clear will help you to create content that speaks to each different stage.
At its simplest a conversion funnel can be broken down into three steps:
As a marketer, your job is to take your potential clients through a sequence of different stages. By doing this you will be helping them through each stage of the buyer's journey. Now, since there are stages to the buyer’s journey, you might need your target audience to see more than one of your resources before you actually sell anything.
Let’s go through an example.
Relationship Building Through the Buyer’s Journey
Let’s see how you could build a relationship with your readers and turn many of them into buyers at the same time. In this section, I am focussing on the overall strategy. I will show you how to implement this in a later section.
To understand this let’s imagine you are selling skincare products.
Ask yourself the following question.
What are the various stages of the buyer’s journey? What sequence of events generally results in a sale?
Top of the Funnel - Problem Aware to Solution Aware
Your potential customer has a problem that they don’t yet know how to solve.
In our example, let’s say their skin has unattractive hyperpigmentation that they want to get rid of.
At this stage, perhaps their frustration might bring them to a Google search.
Maybe they know that skin lightening products exist but do they know that skin lightening products could be a solution to hyperpigmentation?
Maybe a little research will help them to figure this all out.
This is where you step in and educate your target audience with a nice, well-written keyword-optimized blog post or video about skin lightening. You can introduce your audience to what it is and how it deals with hyperpigmentation. By doing this you’ve educated your reader. They now know that skin lightening is a solution to their problem.
This is what we call Top of the Funnel Content. It's designed to take your audience from problem aware, to solution aware. When you do that you’re building trust and establishing yourself as an expert.
Your reader, now understanding what the solution to their problem is, has now become one step closer to becoming a buyer. What’s more, you helped them do that. They now have a relationship with your brand.
But, relationships need to be nurtured. Without taking the relationship further, it will pretty much die. So here is where you want to step in and engage with your audience again.
Middle of the Funnel - Solution Aware to Product Aware
This time your target audience knows the solution to their problem, so here you can engage them with more granular information about the solution. In other words, they might know they want a skin lightening cream but might be concerned about toxic chemicals that are common in skin lightening creams.
Here is where you step in with more content. (I’ll explain how you get them to see your second piece of content after your first piece later in this post.)
What you’ve done at this point is educated your potential audience a second time. This will help your audience narrow down their product options. They now know that they are looking for naturally infused products that don’t have harmful ingredients.
Seeing your brand again will help nurture the relationship and will establish you as the expert that they can trust. What’s more, they moved from someone who knows there is a solution, to someone who is evaluating what solution is the best solution for them. Again, they are another step closer to a sale.
This is called the middle of the funnel.
You are building trust with your potential customers but there is still more to do to convince them to buy.
Bottom of the Funnel - Earning a Buyer
You now have a relationship with your target audience. You might want to engage them differently this time. Perhaps you want to show them something about your brand. Since you already have a relationship with them, this is a good time to do this. Your goal now is to convince your audience that your solution is the one they want. You are bringing your relationship to the next level. At this point, it’s appropriate to send them to a landing page and ask for a sale.
As you can see by educating your audience you’ve not only helped steer your audience in the right direction, but you’ve also positioned yourself as a trusted expert. Who better to recommend a product? This way a sale is earned.
Now that we understand how we can build up to a sale, let’s see how we can apply this to how you do SEO.
Awareness Level SEO
Yes, as an SEO you should be thinking about how you can get sales. To do this, you should be actively looking to create content that is middle to bottom of the funnel. The lower down the funnel your audience is, the better chance you have to make a sale.
However, the lower down the funnel the higher the competition. The reason is simple. Everyone is looking to make sales. That means to reach the bottom of the funnel with SEO you might have to start at the top.
So, what should you do?
The best way to rank for top-of-the-funnel keywords is to target long-tail keywords
. These are keywords that are, in general, made up of three or more words. The longer the keyword, the more specific the user intent tends to be.
What's more, these keywords typically have a lower search volume which means they are far less competitive.
In order to do that you need to be doing effective keyword research.
When doing your keyword research for a new piece of content, it’s important to avoid queries that have no chance of converting. In other words, how do you identify queries that are going to be difficult to turn into sales? Also, what should you target instead?
Let’s apply the question to our skin-lightening example.
When you type ‘skin lightening’ into your keyword research tool you’ll notice that it has a high search volume and a high Keyword Difficulty score
As you can see in the screenshot above, I’ve typed the search query ‘skin lightening’ into the Rank Ranger keyword research tool
The keyword gets 9900 searches a month with a keyword difficulty score of 94. This is often (but not always) a sign that a broad range of users search for this term. This also means a broad range of search intents.
More importantly, the term itself is incredibly broad. What I mean by broad is, there is nothing in the search term that explains what specific information the user is looking for by searching for the term ‘skin lightening’.
Are they looking for a solution to a problem? Are they just looking for a definition? Who knows.
Therefore if you were to get a blog post to the top of search engines for this term, you’d be getting traffic from a number of search intents.
Wouldn’t it be a better approach to target terms that people are typing into Google that are already designed to help them make a purchase? How much convincing would you have to do to get them to make a purchase?
Most likely not that much.
In other words, look to serve people who are further down the conversion funnel if possible. Can you find terms that solution-aware people (that know the type of product they are looking for) are searching for?
Better yet, look for people who are already product aware, but are weighing up their options. If you could create blog posts around these terms, you’ll have much less work to do to convert your audience into buyers.
Terms like these often have a much lower search volume than broad terms. The reason is, if you consider all the skin lightening searches in the niche as a whole, only a small number of those users are looking to buy something. Therefore expect comparatively lower search volumes.
This means lower search volume keywords are often far more profitable (but they do look less impressive in your client meetings. To get around this problem you should focus on sales in your SEO reports
In order to do this, take a look again at your keyword research tool. Start to look for terms that you can imagine someone who is researching the best product would type into Google.
Let’s look again at the Keyword Research tool for the term ‘skin lightening’. We will be using the Related Keywords report.
In the screenshot below, you’ll notice that the first term is ‘safe skin lightening creams’ and just after it ‘skin lightening cream’. Which term do you think is a better term to target?
If you answered ‘safe skin lightening creams’ I would be inclined to agree with you.
The reason is, the more information the searcher adds to the term, the more specific it is. Let’s face it, the more specific the term, the easier it is to create winning content that the user will love.
Well, the person who is typing a broad term like ‘skin lightening cream’ into Google, isn’t hinting to you what type of cream they are looking for. Is it cheap or expensive? Do they want something natural? Do they want something they can apply to their body or only their face? Who knows.
But for the term ‘safe skin lightening cream’, they are likely looking for something natural. Understanding this, we can assume they are also more likely willing to pay more for a safer product. Their focus isn’t entirely on price. They are prioritizing safety over price.
Now, there is a lot more to keyword research than what I’m letting on, but, I just want to focus on the buyer’s journey in this post. The point I am making is, try to find terms that you can rank for that are not only lower down on the sales funnel but are also as specific as possible.
But, let’s go back to the skin-lightening example I mentioned above.
As I have mentioned, getting your blog readers to see more than one post can help them towards making a buying decision.
The problem is…
How can I guarantee that they will see the next pieces of content and how do I know they will see them in the right order?
That’s easier done than said…
Strategies to Move Your Audience Down the Funnel
Okay, thousands of people have seen my blog post or video, and I want to get them to see the next post to drive them down the conversion funnel. Here are two easy-to-implement strategies.
The key here is to move out of SEO and start to think about other channels. (Don’t forget, SEO fits into the broader topic of search engine marketing
. Don’t limit yourself to only SEO.)
I’m going to share two strategies, but there are way more. One of these strategies requires you to pay for ads and the other requires some effort but both of these strategies can really pay off in the end.
Always test and don’t be afraid to try new things.
Let’s jump in…
This is by far my favorite digital marketing medium. On your top of the funnel content, you can include an email opt-in. This can be in the form of a button or link on the post, or can even be served via a popup.
Usually, marketers offer their audience something of value, called a lead magnet, in exchange for their email address. This is usually in the form of a downloadable PDF with valuable information related to the topic. What you can then do, is send them a series of emails all designed to build a deeper relationship with your audience.
Personally, I don’t love lead magnets. They almost always end up sitting unread on your reader’s hard drive. Pretty pointless if you ask me. If your audience doesn’t read your material, you are wasting a prime opportunity to engage with them. Also, there is often little or no reason to read your emails. They’ve already got the lead magnet, why do they need to open a bunch of emails? Especially because promotional emails almost always follow a lead magnet.
Instead, I prefer to make the emails themselves the lead magnet.
In other words, don’t offer a PDF. Rather offer an email course that takes your audience to the next level of the buyer’s journey.
The reason I love this strategy is if you structure your course well and with the right curiosity hooks, they will keep opening your emails. And don’t forget, with every piece of content, you are deepening the relationship with your audience.
But beware, if you don’t dazzle them, they will quickly drop you.
Once you've convinced your audience that you have a solution to their pain points, you can include a link to a landing page designed to ask for a sale.
Facebook and Instagram Ads
Facebook PPC ads are great for delivering both content and ads. All you have to do to set them up is to make sure you have a Facebook pixel on your site. You can then go into the Business Tools and under Create Audience create a Custom Audience. Once there, choose Create a Website Audience. You can then create an audience based on people who visited a specific page.
At this point, choose your page. You can now send ad content to people who have seen your page.
You’ve attracted your top-of-the-funnel audience. You’ve engaged with them a second time, driving them to a landing page designed to get a sale.
So, where do you go from here?
Landing page analytics.
Increasing Conversions Through Landing Page Analytics
To do this analysis you need to have Google Analytics set up.
In Google Analytics, go to the Landing Page report.
You can find it here: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
This report will give you an idea of how your audience relates to your landing pages as well as how many goal completions your landing page has earned.
Now before you get into the metrics, it’s important to know what traffic you are analyzing. To see where the traffic came from you have to set up a Secondary Dimension.
Click the Source Medium dropdown and type ‘source’ into the search field. Google Analytics will make suggestions. Choose Source / Medium.
When you do that, you can see what medium (organic, direct, paid, etc.) the traffic came from.
Once you have that set up, you can look for your landing page in the search field. Look to see if the page is bringing you conversions. Analytics gives you Behaviour metrics that will help you understand how your audience is responding to your landing page.
Pay attention to the Average Session Duration. This will give you a general picture of how long your audience is spending on your page. Now it’s important to understand that not every page is designed for a long Session Duration. In other words, you should try to understand how long an average session should be. Compare your results to your benchmark.
The Two Hats of SEO
Yes, as we have covered in this post, it simply isn’t enough for an SEO to only focus on SERPs and rankings. Many of us have a tendency to be preoccupied with Google updates, link building, EAT, keyword optimization, and all that good stuff. It can be quite addictive. Nothing wrong with that...
However, before beginning to plan content you as an SEO must first wear your marketer’s hat. What are your overall goals? How is each piece of new content bringing you closer to those goals? Don’t think about this after your post goes live. Plan your strategy meticulously.