As we’ve discussed many times before, the foundation of the Grow and Convert approach to content marketing is to focus on bottom-of-the-funnel, buying topics first, instead of what most companies do: starting (and often staying) at top of the funnel, brand-building content topics.
Paired with this approach to content strategy is the fact that we track leads (rather than just traffic) to measure ROI from content marketing.
Various examples from our client results in the posts above show that bottom-of-funnel keywords and content topics have a much higher conversion rate than top-of-funnel. That’s why we focus on bottom of funnel content first in both our agency work and in what we teach in our course and here on the blog.
But what happens after you’ve exhausted all BOTF keywords?
Or, what should businesses who only have a handful of truly BOTF keywords for their product do? There are only so many high-purchase intent keywords like “project management software” or “Trello alternatives”, and every company is bound to eventually run out of them.
Well, this happened with our client, Geekbot. The lessons from that experience, namely how lead generation changed when we moved “up funnel” are very interesting and we’re going to share them in this case study. Specifically:
- Keyword Availability: In the case of Geekbot, how many BOTF keywords were there compared to TOF keywords.
- Relative Conversion Rates: How well those BOTF pieces converted (relative to TOF). Unlike our previous posts showing conversion data from a handful of pieces, in this case we have analysis across 64 pieces, so a much more statistically robust dataset.
- Other TOF Benefits: Why top of funnel content also has additional conversion and brand benefits you can’t measure.
Type of Company
Geekbot is a self-service B2B SaaS, but the learnings in this article apply to any type of business (e.g., B2C, eCommerce, and so on).
Many development and engineering teams run standup meetings in-person or via video call. These meetings are typically long and disrupt employee’s work time.
Geekbot lets teams run asynchronous standup meetings inside of Slack. (This is faster and less disruptive than an in-person or video call format).
How Many BOTF Keywords Were There Compared to TOF Keywords?
We’ve been working with Geekbot since March of 2020. In the span of around two years, we’ve published a total of 64 articles, and out of this number:
- 22 articles were BOTF (34.4% or roughly 1/3).
- 42 articles were TOF (65.6% or roughly 2/3).
You’ll immediately notice that we’ve actually done more TOF posts than BOTF. That’s simply a function of how long we’ve worked with them (2 years) and how many BOTF keywords there were in this space. This is company specific. Some companies may have a lot more than 22 BOTF keywords they can target with blog posts, others may have way less.
Bottom of Funnel Examples
As a refresher, we define bottom of funnel as keywords where there’s product-buying intent. Examples of bottom of the funnel articles we’ve written for Geekbot include:
- Daily standup software (Use Case + Software)
- Standuply alternatives (Competitor + Alternative)
The act of searching for those keywords indicates the searcher is looking for a product right now. No “nurturing” or “product education” is necessary with them.
Top of Funnel Examples
In contrast, we define top-of-funnel keywords as ones where the act of searching for it does not necessarily mean the searcher is looking to buy a product. Note, however, that good top of funnel topics that still have some chance of generating conversions are nonetheless related to pain points of the target customer (as per our Pain Point SEO strategy). Examples of top of the funnel articles we’ve written for Geekbot include:
- Standup meetings waste of time. This keyword indicates frustration with the traditional method of running standup meetings in-person or via video call. We present Geekbot as a potential solution to their problem.
- Daily standup Excel template. This keyword indicates they’re looking for a non-software solution to their current problem. While we include a downloadable Excel template to address the searcher’s intent, we also discuss Excel’s downsides, and argue why Geekbot is a better option.
- Daily standup questions. The searcher is looking for beginner-level information like “What are typical questions that get asked during a daily standup?” While we answer this question, we also find natural ways to tie in the product, thus increasing the conversion rate.
How Well BOTF Pieces Converted for Geekbot (Relative to TOF)
Now for the critical data. How well did the two types of content convert?
In the span of around two years, our blog posts generated a total of 1,745 conversions (trials) and 232,493 organic traffic.
Here are the numbers broken down by BOTF and TOF content:
- Conversions: 1,348 (77.24% of the total conversion number)
- Traffic: 28,190
- Conversion rate: 4.78%
- Conversions: 397 (22.76% of the total conversion number)
- Traffic: 204,303
- Conversion rate: 0.19%
Finding #1: BOTF Posts had a Significantly Higher Conversion Rate (25x Higher) Than TOF Posts
As we mentioned above, we’ve written extensively about how BOTF articles convert at a higher rate than TOF articles, and that’s why we focus heavily on BOTF at the start of all of our client engagements.
Geekbot’s results further confirm this, and notably this is the largest client data set we’ve case studied to date (based on 64 articles, over 1,500 conversions, and over 200,000 organic traffic).
With this larger data set, we can quantify that it wasn’t just a 2X, 5X, or even a 10X difference in conversion rate, all of which are sizable numbers.
It was a 25x difference! To be clear, that’s a 2400% higher conversion rate (4.78% conversion rate for BOTF content compared to 0.19% for TOF).
Finding #2: BOTF Posts Generated More Conversions Overall Despite Receiving Significantly Less Traffic
“I get that BOTF posts convert higher, but their keyword volumes are so low. Won’t the higher traffic of TOF posts make up for the difference in conversion rate?”
As we have previously written, the answer is “no”, and Geekbot’s data remained consistent with what we anticipated.
BOTF content received significantly less organic traffic (28,190 visitors compared to 204,303 for TOF content).
That is 7X more traffic to TOF posts. But as we said above, BOTF posts converted 25x more. So the higher conversion rate of BOTF posts far outweighs the higher traffic of TOF posts.
That’s why, in the end, BOTF content generated significantly more total conversions (1,348) compared to 397 for TOF content.
Here’s another way to look at it: BOTF content generated more than 3X the amount of conversions despite 7X less organic traffic.
Finding #3: TOF Content Still Generated a Significant Amount of Conversions (Just Less Than BOTF)
Ever since we published this article on starting with BOTF content, some readers have had the misconception that we never produce TOF content and it doesn’t lead to any conversions.
But the reality is that while BOTF content produced far more conversions (1348) compared to 397 for TOF content, the number of TOF conversions is nothing to sneeze at!
So it’s not that you should never go after TOF content. It’s simply a “prioritization-based” argument, and if your goal is to generate product signups as fast as possible, then, as we’ve said many times before, you should start with BOTF content.
Here’s another way to look at it in Geekbot’s example: missing on 397 TOF conversions is a big deal, just less of a big deal than missing out on 1348 BOTF conversions.
Top of Funnel Content Also Has Additional Conversion and Brand Benefits You Can’t Measure
But to be fair, we should mention that all marketing analytics tools, including Google Analytics, which we rely on most and is the source of the data in this post, likely undercount conversions from top of funnel content more than from BOTF. Here’s why.
There are 3 key limitations to measuring how many conversions are brought in from your content. We’ll briefly cover them below, but you can find more details in this article.
- Limitation #1: Cross Device. Let’s say a user’s first interaction with your brand is via a blog post they found on Google (e.g., “12 Best Accounting Software”). If they read that article on their phone, but then directly typed in your brand’s URL on their computer and started a trial, then the conversion would not be attributed to your blog post. (Instead, it would be attributed to your homepage.)
- Limitation #2: Time Gaps Greater than 90 Days. Google Analytics has a 90 day “Lookback Window”, meaning if someone lands on your blog post and converts more than 90 days later, then the conversion will not be attributed to that blog post. Instead, it will be attributed to an incorrect origin source (e.g., your homepage). We see this all the time in our own business. We talk to a lead, ask how you heard about us and they say “Oh I’ve been following you guys for years.” There’s no way (that we know of) to figure out what their first landing page on our site was.
- Limitation #3: Word of Mouth & Colleagues. If, for example, you read a blog post and recommend that a friend or colleague buy that product, then of course Google Analytics can’t track that. Or even within the same company if a CMO reads a blog post and asks one of their employees to reach out or start a trial, you won’t be able to attribute that to the blog post the CMO first read.
In essence, lead attribution isn’t 100% accurate, and there’s clearly a lot of value in both TOF and BOTF traffic beyond short-term conversions.
But these limitations are even more magnified for TOF keywords (e.g. “project management strategies”) because they (1) generate more traffic and (2) those visitors are more likely to convert at a later date than someone searching for a BOTF term like “best project management software”.
So don’t discount TOF content completely. The increase in traffic is likely bringing in more conversions, long term, than you can measure.
In fact, this is the argument most content marketers make for doing TOF content (ultimate guides, introduction to, 10 tips for, etc.) The difference is, most companies are only doing TOF content so the statement of “you can’t measure all conversions” becomes an excuse for why the company can’t see any or hardly any leads from the entire blog.
Again, this is why we start with BOTF first, because although traffic and brand building and non-trackable leads obviously have value, they don’t have as much value as leads you know you generated.
So for Geekbot, we know we generated 1300+ leads with our BOTF posts. Then, and only then, after we ran out of BOTF, did we move up-funnel.
Get Help on Your Content Marketing
- Questions/Comments? If you have any questions or comments about what we’ve discussed in this post, please let us know in the comments section below.
- Our Agency: You can learn more about working with us here.
- Our Content Marketing Course: Individuals looking to learn how to grow their SaaS business with content can join our private course, taught via case studies, here. We include lots of detail and examples not found on this blog. Our course is also built into a community, so people ask questions, start discussions, and share their work in the lesson pages themselves, and we and other members give feedback. We also get on live Zoom calls about once a month and dissect members’ actual content strategies and brainstorm ideas on how we’d form content strategies for their businesses.
Want to Do Work Like This? Apply to Grow and Convert!
Finally, if you’re a content marketer or writer who wants to do work like this (results driven, acquisition-focused content marketing), we’d love to have you apply to join our team.