When thinking about the conversion funnel in relation to SEO, B2B marketers should aim to provide content that meets the needs of searchers no matter what phase of the buying process they are in.
The idea is, of course, to get leads and prospects to move past the awareness phase, and ultimately convert.
As B2B marketers, we are often challenged to explain the importance of targeting buyers across stages of the conversion funnel, rather than one stage exclusively. While creating content for bottom-of-funnel buyers is important (and likely more promising to convert), this does not mean that other phases should be overlooked.
Finding the right balance is a key component of content marketing success.
With that said, this post will focus on how B2B marketers can implement effective top-of-funnel SEO strategies to reach an untapped audience. I will be addressing the following:
- What is top-of-funnel content?
- Why is top-of-funnel important for SEO?
- How to uncover top-of-funnel keyword opportunities
What Is Top-of-Funnel Content?
To set the stage, let’s first define top-of-funnel content. One of the most important, and often overlooked, points of the conversion funnel is the awareness phase. This is when a potential buyer (or, in the online marketing world – a searcher) is gathering information and doesn’t necessarily know the solution they are looking for.
Although the searcher has recognized that they have a problem, they are still looking for advice about how to best address it. Top-of-funnel content is created for these users, in effort to educate them and help them determine the solution to their problem.
Example Search Queries
To better explain the keyword intent of users as they move down the funnel, here is an example of each type of search query:
Search Query: Awareness
The searcher knows that they have a problem or need and is looking for the solution. These are often informational searches in the form of questions or longer-tail queries.
Note: Google has become much better at understanding these types of searches and now serves the Google Answer Box to address them.
Search Query: Interest
The searcher has begun to figure out what types of solutions could help them. They are now interested in researching more about their options.
Search Query: Desire
The searcher has determined the solution that they need and is looking for the right brand or company to help them.
Search Query: Action
The searcher has found the company they are considering and is now in the final stages of researching before converting.
Why Is Top-of-Funnel Content Important for SEO?
In order to get buy-in from your team and clients to dedicate time and resources to rank for informational keywords, you must be able to explain the SEO value.
For good reason, it is much harder for B2B marketers to explain the importance of targeting a key phrase like “how to share files” instead of “file sharing tools.” However, targeting only action-level or transactional keywords will limit visibility and cause the brand to miss out on valuable SEO opportunities.
Top-of-funnel searches have realized they have a problem, presenting brands with the opportunity to capture a new audience. By providing content that aims to educate and positions the brand as a thought leader, companies can catch a whole new audience that may go on to convert.
How to Uncover Top-of-Funnel Keyword Opportunities
To successfully implement a top-of-funnel strategy, B2B marketers should produce content that answers these question-based queries with the overarching goal of ranking in top search engine results and driving relevant users to the website.
Typically when conducting keyword research, search marketers will turn to Google Keyword Planner. However, when optimizing content for a top-of-funnel strategy, SEOs must consider longer-tail queries that do not necessarily have the high search volume that Keyword Planner bases suggestions on.
While there are a variety of tools and techniques that can help you discover these new keyword opportunities, I will provide a few of my favorites.
This one might seem obvious but, Google is smarter than ever and we should be taking advantage of it. This is the first place I start with all of my top-of-funnel keyword research. I start by typing basic questions that incorporate core keyword targets and Google will finish them for me based on popular queries.
The search engine will also provide related searches at the bottom. These are all great starting points for top-of-funnel research and should help spark other ideas.
This tool finds long tail variations from a root keyword while analyzing popular queries across Google, Youtube, Amazon Bing and other search engines. This tool allows SEOs to:
- Gather relevant searches directly from Google
- Take into consideration other popular sources like Wikipedia
- Save time trying to brainstorm different keyword variations
- Export keyword results into an Excel file or Google’s Keyword Planner for additional insights
Bonus Tip: After exporting the suggested keyword list using this tool, I typically sort all keyword by question type (what? how? why? where? who? when?) an Excel document to help sort through the clutter. See the de-branded example above.
By searching on acore keyword, B2B marketers can determine popular long-tail variations of each. This tool is similar to keyword.io in many ways; however, it provides a visual element to the long-tail keyword research process.
The Word Cloud feature can help offer clients a visual overview of the major themes that SEOs plan to focus on, which is oftentimes much easier to digest than an extensive Excel file.
There are also some less conventional methods of finding the questions that an audience is asking. As I mentioned in this post, I strongly recommend searching keyword on popular forums like Quora, exploring key phrases in Twitter Advanced Search and seeing what people are asking in industry related LinkedIn Groups.
This type of research triggers valuable ideas and will help position a company’s brand as an excellent resource for potential customers in the awareness phase.
Broadening your content strategy to target top-of-funnel keywords will improve the effectiveness of your overall SEO campaign and help reach an entirely new audience. There are a number of ways to go about finding popular queries targeted towards searchers still in the awareness phase, and these are just a few that I’ve found to be successful.
How do you go about uncovering long-tail keyword opportunities? Feel free to share any thoughts or ideas in the comments below.