Often, a search engine optimization campaign has the focus of driving traffic for the purpose of creating direct sales. Admittedly, I am constantly looking at organic traffic conversion reports in Google Analytics. In my previous article, I even wrote how to specifically research keywords that convert into sales. Nothing is wrong with this strategy, but why should organic traffic be limited in the sales funnel? It shouldn’t. So, let’s take a look at the entire sales funnel and discover how to target the three primary sections of the funnel: Awareness, Research, and Decision.
Before we begin, you will want to start a spreadsheet and name the columns in the top row: Keyword, Top, Middle, Bottom. This will help to keep you organized and allow you to end up with a great content map for your website.
Targetting the top of the sales funnel
At the top of our sales funnel, our customer doesn’t even know that you exist, or maybe they don’t even know that they want or need your product. The user will know that there is a problem or that there should be a solution to what they are searching for. These queries are usually very broad information-gathering searches. Some examples would include:
- What to do after a car accident?
- Starting my own business.
- Signs of alcoholism.
These top-funnel searches allow for you to offer your company up as a trusted source. This first impression can make or break the rest of your funnel. Now, it’s not often that these queries will directly convert. The user simply isn’t at that point yet. Targetting these types of queries often are best handled by coming from a place of contribution. Answer the question the best you can and with the most details.
Often, you will find that these are the same searches that are associated with paragraph and list-style Featured Snippets. Gaining these placements is a great way to become that trusted source for when your user is ready to convert.
Researching content to target top-of-funnel searches
So, you’re convinced that the top of the funnel is something that you want to incorporate into your search engine optimization campaign. Now, it’s time to pick out some keywords and get a plan together!
There are a couple of solid options to get a good start on top-of-funnel content keyword research. Plus, the first couple are free! Again, these keywords are going to answer general questions that can lead the user to discover that what you offer is the solution to their problem.
People Also Ask
If you sold antibacterial foot soap and wanted to target the top of the sales funnel, you would first want to think about what problems your product solves. So, if we do a search for “antibacterial foot scrub,” we will be given some product results as well as a SERP feature titled, “People Also Ask.” This gem of information tells you that people who search for your product also make these similar searches, in the form of a question, as well:
Most of these are fairly general questions where the search probably does not know that an antibacterial foot scrub could the answer to their needs. Bonus Tip: If you want to expand on these or pull alternatives to these questions, plug the questions into Answer The Public.
If you haven’t used Quora yet, go do it. Just… go and use the site. Quora is a great website for people to get the answers to their questions on an almost unlimited number of topics.
Let’s stick to the same topic. After inputting “antibacterial foot scrub” into Quora’s search, we get these top-level questions:
- How can you prevent shoes and feet from stinking?
- How can I remove peeling skin from my feet?
- What are the obvious and overlooked causes for very smelly feet, socks and shoes?
- Tips to Maintain Soft Feet Every Winter
You can see that there are some repetitive questions between People Also Ask (PAA) and Quora. It’s probably a good idea to concentrate on giving the best and most complete answer to these questions first. Hey, when you’re finished, you should consider revisiting the Quora question and answering the question and including a link to your article as the source!
Another takeaway I want to highlight is that these are legitimate topics that people are actively searching out answers for. The goal here is to offer full and complete answers and not to just spin some random content that doesn’t add value.
Moz Keyword Explorer
There are a number of keyword research tools out there, and I won’t use this article to go over every one of them. Personally, I find myself bouncing between Moz and aHrefs. I do seem to have better success with Moz when it comes to paid keyword research. It’s simple to use and usually gives decent results.
I suggest: After plugging our search term into Moz, select “are questions,” and finally group keywords with “medium lexical similarity.” The results are a few dozen questions that have varying relation to our topic. If you sort by volume and also sort by relevance, some of the better questions come up.
Take all of the queries from your research, and add them to your content map.
Check out these articles for details about how to best format your content and some copywriting suggestions for SEO:
- Optimizing web pages for Featured Snippets
- How Long Should My Content Be To Get Top Search Engine Placement?
Targetting the middle of the sales funnel
In the middle of the sales funnel your potential customer has moved to an important phase. They know that they need a solution to their problem. They are now researching the best possible solution for them. This is where you, the business owner, can really deliver value and build authority.
When researching for the mid-funnel, keep in mind that your users aren’t researching to be sold. They haven’t reached that point yet. Your copy should reflect this. With this in mind, you don’t want to focus your page or keywords directly on your product.
So, going back to our foot scrub, and knowing that we are looking for research keywords, I’m going to switch things up a little bit. I will start with the bottom funnel brand searches and what I’ll the “I’m buying now” searches to see what mid-level terms are out there. If you’re a divorce attorney, I’d start with:
- divorce attorney
- divorce attorney in (city)
- divorce attorney near me
If you’re selling a product, like our now quasi-famous antibacterial foot soap, you will want to start with:
- Dr. Post’s antibacterial foot soap
- Antibacterial foot soap
You get the idea. Search for the short-tailed word that people who are wanting to buy will type in to find the service/product now.
Once you’ve finished with your search, you want to scroll to the bottom of the page and look at the “Related Searches”. These are searches that Google deems to be similar or related to the search you just conducted. This is Google’s way of saying, “Hey user, I see that you’ve reached the bottom of the page. I’m therefore assuming that you didn’t find what you want. Don’t give up. Try these searches out instead”. These will usually fall into the middle or bottom of your sales funnel.
Separate the Related Searches keywords accordingly on your spreadsheet. So, the divorce lawyer who started with “divorce attorney in los angeles” would be given these Related Searches:
These are all relevant mid-funnel search phrases. You should go one step further and do a search for each one of these phrases and copy and new mid-funnel phrases shown under the Related Searches. Now, most of these results will repeat. Do yourself a favor and bold those search phrases that consistently repeat the majority of the time. The phrases should be considered extremely relevant to your industry, services, or product and should, therefore, be included on your website.
Targetting the bottom of the sales funnel
This is it! We’re at the home stretch. The bottom of the funnel is where your soon-to-be client is ready to pull that trigger. All you have to do is target these words and the floodgates will open up. Well, almost. It’s true that the bottom funnel keywords are those searches where the client is ready to buy. They are also the keywords that usually the most competitive.
The bottom funnel contains those keywords that you probably are most familiar with. They are the search queries that should first pop into your head when you think about what you’d search for to find businesses like yours.
- Car accident lawyer
- Buy an antibacterial foot scrub
- Hire a divorce attorney
Pretty much, bottom-funnel search phrases say, “Hey! I’m ready to buy/hire. Google, give me the results of who I should be looking at.”
Now, if you’ve been successful in engaging your users in the top and middle funnels then your best bottom funnel search term will be your brand name. Think about it for a minute. If you become the trusted source of information for your users, then when they’re ready to hire a professional or make that purchasing decision, buying from you should be a no-brainer. Realistically, not every user will start at the top of your sales funnel and work their way down though.
Bonus Tip: If you truly want to measure the overall success of a digital marketing campaign (or any marketing campaign), you will want to measure the increase of brand awareness. Note the number of brand searches that take place prior to and then after the campaign.
Enough about that for now. I’m sure I’ll cover that topic in greater detail at a later point. For now, let’s get back to those bottom funnel search terms.
Often times, people know exactly what they are looking for and know what they want. Those users will most likely perform a bottom-funnel search first and then sift through the results, looking at trust factors (testimonials, reviews, associations), and narrowing down the results to one or two providers. These straight-to-the-point searchers are usually in an immediate need for the product or service that they’re searching for. Think lawyers, bail bondsmen, locksmiths, and plumbers.
Researching bottom-funnel keywords
By now you should have a few bottom-funnel key phrases from executing the previous exercise that I went over to find some top and middle-funnel search terms. Between the words that you already know people type in and the keywords discovered from parsing out your top and middle funnel words, there are only a couple of extra ways to discover new bottom-funnel queries.
Create client personas
To help brainstorm your list of keywords, it’s time to do a little creative thinking. You will want to create personas of varies types of likely clients, listing out who they are, what their situation is, and what pain-points they are experiencing. Here is a quick template to use when creating personas:
“I am a ______ who ______ and I need a _______ because I’m/my ________.”
Here’s a couple of quick personas using this outline:
- I am a teenage basketball player who has athlete’s foot and I need a foot treatment because I’m embarrassed about my stinky feet when I’m at school.
- I am an electrician who’s married with children who injured my back by falling off of a ladder and I need a workers’ comp attorney because I need to get better so that I can provide for my family.
- I am a married woman who wants to get a divorce and I need a divorce attorney because my husband cheated and I don’t trust that SOB anymore.
- I am a bachelor who locked myself out of my house at night and I need a locksmith because I’m tired, cold, and frustrated.
So, we have a couple of personas created, now within these personas, you will find your bottom-funnel keyword in the “I need a ____.” With the examples given, your bottom funnel phrases are:
- Foot treatment
- Workers’ comp attorney
- Divorce attorney
You can create dozens of these personas if it helps you brainstorm new search phrases. Once you have a good list, you can expand bottom-funnel list even further by adding specifics and purchasing modifiers to them.
Use modifiers to expand keywords
This process is straightforward. You preface your shorter keywords with a modifier to create a medium-tailed bottom-funnel keyphrase. This is how it works:
- buy + foot treatment
- retain a + workers’ comp attorney
- hire a + divorce attorney
- find a + locksmith
You can do this same practice but append a modifier too.
- foot treatment + online
- workers’ comp attorney + near me
- divorce attorney + in Los Angeles
- locksmith + open late
You will start to be able to build quite a good list of search queries at this point. One thing to keep in mind is that these shouldn’t be your final keyword list. You’ll end up cutting this down after a bit of research. This step is to just help you find ways to expand your list.
Expand your list to long-tailed
You should have a good number of short and medium-tailed keywords in your list at this point. The goal now is to expand that list to cover long-tailed keywords. These keywords will target people who are searching for a specific item or service. Longer tailed keywords are great because of their specificity makes them easier to obtain and increases the likelihood of conversion. By themselves, the long-tailed search phrase will rarely get a ton of traffic and sales, but when combined with a multitude of other long-tailed phrases, it is not unusual to have the majority of conversions occur by these one-off searches in comparison to their shorter sibling.
Bonus Tip: There is no need to create a page for each keyword. Often, doing so can actually do more harm than good. You can cover and rank multiple search queries on the same page.
If we look back and our personas, we can use the information there to expand our medium length keyphrases into long-tailed. Let’s give it a go!
- buy + foot treatment + for stinky feet
- buy + foot treatment + for stinky feet + online
- retain a + back injury + workers’ comp attorney
- retain a + back injury + workers’ comp attorney + near me
- hire a + infidelity + divorce attorney
- hire a + infidelity + divorce attorney + in Los Angeles
- find a + residential + locksmith
- find a + residential + locksmith + open late
I think you get the idea. You’re just linking up the different parts of the personas that you’ve created to generate a longer and more detailed search phrase. You can, and should, do this with each of the personas that you create.
Once finished, you’ll have a master list, you can then filter and parse this down to remove duplicates or items that just doesn’t make sense for what you offer. If you want to take an extra step, you can use keyword tools such as Moz, aHref, or SEM Rush to get a general idea of the popularity of these keywords. Be sure to take the resulting numerical value of these keyword tools with a grain of salt. Most of the long-tailed terms will come back as zero traffic but they might, when combined with other long-tailed, deliver a high level of conversions due to the match of content to the specificity of the user’s search.
Bringing it all together
By taking the time to research keywords and phrases throughout the entire sales funnel, you will have created a useful list of content topics that are both relevant to your product or service as well as be able to offer information that fulfills your user’s intent. This tactic will take your content and rankings to the next level, pull in more clients, and give you plenty of ideas to fill your content calendar!