20 Jul 2017

How to Create Top-of-Funnel Content That Works

ToFu isn’t just a vegetarian’s go-to protein source anymore; it’s now a method for marketers to get new prospects through their digital door. Top-of-funnel content is content that doesn’t try to sell the audience on a product or service, but instead educates, helps, and answers common questions or pain points.

ToFu content is most often used as part of a content marketing strategy to target prospects in the ‘awareness’ stage of their digital buyer’s journey. This is the stage where someone is just realizing that they have a problem that they need to solve and are trying to find answers. These people are likely turning to a search engine to find these answers, and a top-of-funnel content marketing strategy casts the widest net in order to capture them during their query.

The goal of ToFu content marketing should be to draw your target audience to your content, increasing your brand awareness and creating a relationship based on meeting their needs. A secondary goal is to turn that visitor into a qualified lead so that you can keep the relationship alive once they leave your site.

Pro tip: If you’re going to post a video on a page on your site, make sure to transcribe the video below. This not only allows individuals to read the text but also allows search engines to read and index the content. Google cannot see, but it can read!

What Kind of Content is Top-of-Funnel?

The top-of-funnel content on your blog or website should mostly be non-branded content which should be unbiased, not self-serving, and may even mention your competitors (the horror!). By most, I mean something along the lines of 70%. That’s right, most of your content should simply answer the questions that people have, not talk about how great your brand is. You can use the remaining 30% to talk about me, me, me in the form of product or service pages, etc.

86%I know this seems high, but according to GroupM, 86% of searchers conduct non-branded queries. That means that your audience is looking for answers to the everyday questions they have or a problem they want to solve. They aren’t looking for your brand yet because they likely don’t know your brand yet.

Remember, non-branded content doesn’t mean your brand isn’t involved at all – but it’s not about you, it’s about solving your audience’s need. Think about it: your logo is likely plastered on the top of your site, you have calls-to-action within the content to get users to engage with your brand further and hopefully convert in some way. But you have to get them there in the first place! The best way to do that is to simply develop content topics to capture their interest and get them on your website.

With top-of-funnel content, you must cast a wide net – Deadliest Catch-style – to target a larger population than you normally would with branded content.

Once someone is further along in their buyer’s journey, they will start conducting those branded searches in order to compare and help them make a decision between two solutions or products. But, at the start of their Journey, they are simply identifying a problem and looking for an answer. We want them to find their answers on our site. How do we do it?

How to Come Up with Top-of-Funnel Content Topics

“Ok, great,” you think, “I get it. I can only talk about myself with my grandma, not on my blog, so I’m going to answer the questions that people have. But, how do I know what questions they have and how do I turn that into a piece of content?”

“Hey, great question! Thanks for asking.”

Ask your staff one question: What questions do you get asked all the time? Click To Tweet

Here are 5 simple methods to come up with the best content ideas that people are actually looking for:

1. Send a Survey to Your Staff

Ask your staff one question: “What questions do you get asked all the time?”

At our 50 person agency, we send an email to the staff with this one question twice a year or so. From there we get about 250 content ideas of everyday questions that come up on a daily basis in our content marketing world, asked by clients or internal teams. Once we are able to pare down duplicates, questions we’ve already answered in our content, etc. we have about 100-150 amazing content ideas rooted in real issues and problems. Those then go right into our editorial content calendar to be researched, written and implemented.

You’d think that this exercise would only work for those individuals in client-facing positions, but that’s not the case. Everyone at your company will have heard a question from an internal or external client or customer, regardless of what type of industry you’re in. There’s a content idea right there!

This is a question that I, as a project manager, get all the time:

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-gated

When I search for an answer to a question that I have, I’m led to a great piece of content that isn’t branded and answers my question!

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-gated-why-how-when

Another question I get asked all the time:

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-how-long-content-marketing
how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-content-marketing-work

Again, another piece of transcribed video content that answers a question people are actually asking.

  • Google Suggest and People Also Ask – You know those five terms that you see populate beneath your search query as well as the People Also Ask box that appears around the 4 position in the Search Engine Results Page? Those are actual related phrases that many people around you have recently searched for. Simply typing in a question about your industry can lead you to even more questions that people are actively searching for (generally with some volume).
  • Keywordtool.io – This free tool provides actual questions people are searching for that contain your keyword or phrase. This pulls directly from Google’s API but pulls many more results than Google Suggest can accommodate. This is a free tool but you can pay and unlock metrics like Search Volume and Competition.
  • AnswerThePublic.com – This is a great free tool that inserts your keyword into questions while also providing a visual of questions people are searching for (hello presentations!). In this example you can see questions related to the keyword phrase ‘service level agreement:
how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-circle-graph
Source: Answer the Public

Pro tip: Be wary of Search Volume and Competition estimators as they tend to not tell the whole story. See our article here for more insight: http://vert.ms/search-volume-estimates

3. Address Common Problems

This is what people really want: a solution to a problem they have. So why not help them with that in your content?

Here’s one example of a B2C company addressing a possible pain point on someone’s path to purchase. They address it upfront in the two-part title: “No South-Facing Roof?” and then provide a solution: “Alternative Solar Panel Mountain Options.”

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-solar-chat

This can work in the B2B space as well. I know it might be difficult to write about a ‘problem’ about your product or service, but don’t you want people finding solutions on your site and not your competitors? I would sure hope so!

The goal of #ToFu content is to cast a wide net and attract people who want answers. Click To Tweet

4. Address Pricing and Cost

You might be thinking something like this: “But I’m a content marketing agency and our costs depend on a lot of factors, so how can I throw out a blanket cost?”

That’s the beauty of this suggestion, you’re just addressing the cost, not necessarily giving the soup away for free.

Check out this example that ranks number one for the search term below.

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-how-much-cost

In this number one ranking piece of content, we don’t exactly detail how much an entire content marketing program would cost but we do break down our hourly rates per service department, which gives people an idea of what they can expect.

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-vertical-measures-content-marketing-cost

Also, this piece of content is a high “conversion-assist” page. It is our 7th best blog at generating leads – i.e. people read this content and then convert via a form on our website. Cost information is searched regularly, so don’t neglect this topic in your top-of-funnel content marketing strategy.

5. Resource Pages

We all know it: people are lazy. They want to consume as much information in the shortest amount of time. Why not do the hard work for them and become their go-to source of information? A resource page consolidates information across the web and delivers it to users in one simple page. Some of my favorite B2B and B2C examples are below:

how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-bluetooth-speaker
An example of B2C marketing
how-to-create-top-of-funnel-content-that-works-ecommerce-content
An example of B2B marketing

Pro Tip: Resource pages are super easy to update and refresh, especially if you have an annual release of one. Simply update the title and URL of the page, include updated information and re-direct the traffic.

Resource pages are super easy to update and refresh especially if you have an annual release of one. Simply update the title and URL of the page, include updated information, and re-direct the traffic. BOOM – done!

Wrapping It Up

The great thing about top-of-funnel content is that it can be considered evergreen. That means that the content can have a long lifespan in the digital space. While it may require tiny annual updates, the beef of the content isn’t ever-changing so it can live for a long time. The goal of top-of-funnel content is to cast a wide net and attract the attention of people who want answers. Once you are able to provide them with those answers, you can work to gain their business but the hardest part is simply getting them to walk through the door (or click on a link to your site).

Get to writing!

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