Do you have a blog that gets traffic but isn’t generating a ton of revenue for your business?
After talking with numerous businesses over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that this is a common challenge.
Many people are focused on creating content that gets a ton of traffic, but from what I’ve seen recently, many aren’t focused on mapping their content strategy to buyer’s search intent at different stages in the sales funnel.
Let me explain further, do you resonate with either of these examples?
You want $10k monthly deal sizes for your agency and you’re currently getting leads from companies who can barely afford $1k a month? Or even worse, the prospects you’re getting don’t have revenue.
You run marketing for a SaaS company and you’re driving a lot of great traffic to your blog, but your traffic doesn’t convert to free trials, or your other funnel goals?
You can create content that strategically brings leads in at different places in your sales funnel. That’s what I’m going to show you in this post (Part 1 of the series).
Here’s what I’m going to cover:
- I’m going to walk you through how we were able to grow our search traffic to over 12k visitors a month in 6 months at ThinkApps (No, It wasn’t through standard keyword research).
- I’ll show you the strategy that I used to match content to different stages in the marketing/sales funnel – top level awareness, mid-funnel, and low funnel opportunities (No, the strategy isn’t to be everywhere and drive leads from reputable blogs to your site with the hope of converting a percentage of those to customers).
In Part 2 of the series:
I’ll show you how we converted leads directly off the blog (No, it wasn’t with whitepapers, eBooks, webinars or any of those standard techniques that you’re probably thinking of. I’m talking direct-response leads from your blog).
Ready? Let’s get started.
Identifying Where to Focus Our Content Efforts
When I joined ThinkApps as their first marketing hire, I was in a tough spot. I joined a tech company that did software development but I knew nothing about software development.
When I first started, we were pre-product-market fit, and we were in the process of trying to figure out which audience we were going to target.
When I surveyed the landscape of different software development firms, I realized a number of things:
- There was a lack of trust in the industry (a lot of people had been burned by different companies and freelancers).
- Typically there was poor communication between the client and the firm (typically the client didn’t know how things were progressing with their project).
- If someone was non-technical trying to get a product built, typically they didn’t know what they didn’t know (I was one of those people).
- There was a lack of really good content that helped people with various challenges in getting products built (this is what we capitalized on).
My goal was to build the best resource out there about building products for iOS, Android, and Web. Later Apple watch.
The reason I’m listing these realizations is because I set out to create content that hit on all of those four points. It actually helped me being non-technical, because, on a lot of subjects, I had the same questions and pain points as our potential prospects had.
How I Did Research to Figure Out What Content Would Bring in the Right Customers for Each Stage of the Sales Funnel
The first thing I did was listen in on prospect phone calls and write down all the questions that we were getting from prospects that were really early on in the buying process. This helped me identify some of the pain points people faced early on in the buyer’s journey.
Next, I talked to some of our current clients and heard some horror stories that they faced when dealing with other agencies and freelancers. Things such as: How a client had spent $50k on development with another company and ended up with an unfinished product. I took notes during these conversations and then looked for common challenges our clients had faced with other firms.
Then, I listened in on later stage conversations and wrote down notes of questions and objections that people had prior to purchasing. I also called prospects myself so that I could ask the questions I needed to understand the buyer in-depth.
Once I had a list of common pain points that people had at different stages in the sales funnel, I set out to create content that directly matched someone’s search intent and solved someone’s pain point.
The Google Suggested Search Hack
“Regular” keyword research for content marketing generally involves sorting through keywords in your niche by search volume. And depending on how much domain authority, time, and resources you have, going after the highest volume keywords you think you can rank for.
This works well for companies that have a lot of resources, a high domain authority, and time to build links. But unfortunately, I didn’t have any of those.
I needed a way to bring in people who were looking to build apps. Since it was nearly impossible for us to rank for head terms like “mobile app development,” I went the route of going after long-tail keywords, and more specifically going after long-tail keywords that matched different stages in the sales funnel.
Here’s how it works:
If someone is doing research on a product or service – they’re likely interested in learning something, or they’re stuck with a tough situation where they need help. So, they’re not going to Google some general head term like “iPhone apps”.
They would be searching for something more like:
How-tos — How do I build an app? (Top of Funnel – Doing initial research most likely before they have a vetted idea)
Comparisons — iOS vs. Android Development (Mid-Funnel – they likely have an idea and are deciding on a platform to build on. But they probably haven’t picked a development company yet)
Questions — What is the best app development studio in San Francisco? (Low Funnel – They likely know what they want to build and are looking for someone to build an app for them)
Head terms work if the person already knows what they’re going to purchase. However, if you’re going after head terms with content marketing, sometimes it’s hard to know the intent of the buyer.
Long-tail keywords capture pains that people face that they’re looking for answers to, and are more indicative of different stages in the sales funnel for larger, more complex, purchases.
If you’re doing content marketing for a business where there’s any buyers journey at all, you need to be going after long-tail search traffic that answers questions that people have at different stages in the sales funnel.
Here’s the best way that I’ve found to write articles that rank for the long tail terms that attract your exact buyers (The Google Suggested Search Hack)
Go to Google with the list of questions that you’ve come up with (that your buyers have) and start typing in questions and seeing what comes up.
You should have questions that address the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel.
For example: How to build an app like ____
The top four results are Uber, Tinder, Snapchat, and Yelp.
If no one has written an article about this exact topic – then it will generally be easier for you to rank for that term (and you know that a ton of people are already searching for answers to that question).
For example, Quora is the highest search listing and 68,000+ people have viewed the answer!
If you were to use this suggested search term, and write an entire post about “How to Build an App Like Uber”, then chances are if you get some good links to the post, or (if you already have high domain authority), you’ll rank higher than most of these results because your content better matches the intent that the user was looking for.
Mapping Content to the Top of The Funnel, Middle, and Bottom of the Sales Funnel
In this specific example, your hypothetical, high-ranking article, “How to Build an App Like Uber” would map to the top of the funnel for a sales lead.
Reason being, this person is probably still in early research stages of building an app. They have an idea in their head of what they want to build but are doing research on similar apps, and/or don’t know the first place to start. These type of posts are great to bring people in at the top of the funnel and build awareness of your brand. It’d be ideal to put calls to action to join your email list so you can solidify your position as a domain expert in their mind. Also, this is a great way to build trust with your reader at their first touch point with a brand in this space.
How we Used This Strategy and Went from 0-12k/monthly SEO Visitors at ThinkApps
If you look at the ThinkApps blog, you’ll see that a lot of our blog content follows this exact strategy. Here are some examples that show how we mapped content to different stages in the buyer’s journey.
Examples of Top of Funnel Content
This post goes into everything someone would need to know before approaching a developer and also an overview of what the process looks like: User Stories, Wireframing, UX design, UI Design, Development, and Testing.
This post covered questions that people could ask to evaluate a development team. A lot of people don’t know what they don’t know and while some might think this post was later in the buyer journey, a lot of people don’t even know that design and development are separate! So we needed to educate the market with some higher-level posts.
Examples of Mid-Funnel Content
For our middle of the funnel content we focused on mainly comparison posts that people would likely have once they’ve already decided they wanted to build an app.
Cross-Platform Mobile Development
A lot of companies would ask about solutions like PhoneGap, Sencha, and other cross-platform tools instead of building native apps. When they searched for cross-platform tools, we wanted to steer the conversation. We covered the pros and cons of the different tools and then also discussed drawbacks of using that kind of technology.
Responsive Web Apps vs. Native Apps
Again, this was a question a lot of companies had as they were narrowing down options on how to build their app. A lot of companies were still questioning whether it was more effective to build a native app or to build a responsive web app. We created a post that went through the pros and cons of each and helped potential prospects make that decision.
Note: I left ThinkApps in April of last year and they still rank really well. Some of the other posts such as iOS vs. Android have since dropped off. If you notice your ranking start falling in webmaster tools, update your post by making it more robust and start getting more links.
Examples of Low-Funnel Content
We could’ve created a lot more low-funnel content- such as content that reviewed our business vs. another business. Or, we could’ve compiled a list of reviews from our clients about our business and titled the post “ThinkApps reviews”- being that these are pretty common terms that people would search for when they’re ready to purchase.
I think that many businesses are scared to create that type of content themselves, but if you do, you can control the conversation about your brand (and potentially about your competition as well).
The Definitive Guide To Adding Payments to Your Web or Mobile App
At the point when this piece was created, I had already left ThinkApps. But Becky Cruze, who I worked closely with at ThinkApps while we built this blog, took over and did an amazing job keeping up our content strategy.
Anyone who is looking to build an app that accepts payments might be looking for a piece like this. This person would already be pretty far down the decision tree when it comes to building an app. So, this piece of content captures someone who is building a very specific type of app that has likely already made a decision to build it.
Notice that we didn’t make this a gated piece of content, or a whitepaper, or an eBook. It’s just a blog post.
As I referenced above, I think too many people try to gate content that ISN’T INTERESTING or ISN’T THAT VALUABLE. I’ll show you how we used low funnel blog posts, and then added value to capture information and have conversations with potential prospects in the next post.
Similar to the piece above, this article goes after people who are looking to build a very specific type of app (typically dating apps or apps that require a P2P. If someone was searching for this type of content, they likely have high-intent to find a developer that can build this for them.
Note: Even if you were to search for “building chat application” the post still shows on page one.
- Do your research on what questions people have at different stages in the sales/marketing funnel.
- Use the Google Suggested Search Hack to find low-hanging fruit opportunities to write content about.
- Write content that goes after long-tail search traffic that solves buyer’s pain points at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and know which pieces attract which buyers.
For every post, you’ll also want to do a good job with content distribution. The more reach your post gets, the more natural links you’ll get. You can also do link-building on top of that for the best results with this process.
Then, watch your posts bring in highly targeted organic traffic that matches buyers intent at different stages of your funnel. No more frustration that “all this traffic isn’t converting.”
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