SEO (search engine optimization) is about making your business rank well in search engines for relevant queries.
There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence.
What are relevant queries? Forget (for a moment) long-tail keywords, keyword research, and ever-shifting algorithms. When people use search engines, they’re asking a question or looking for a solution. They have intent behind their search, and it’s that intent that we’re going to use to power your sales funnel.
Intent and the Funnel
You probably already know about the sales funnel so we’ll keep it brief – there’s the top, the middle, and the bottom. The top is awareness – people know they have a problem, but they don’t know the solution. The middle is consideration – they know there are solutions to their problems, but they need to compare to figure out which one is best. Finally, there is a decision: they’ve compared between solutions, and they’re narrowing down on one or two solutions they want to pursue.
Search intents are generally grouped into four categories: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial investigation. Navigational intents we can largely ignore: typing “Facebook” into Google instead of facebook.com in your address bar is an example of a navigational intent – you’re just trying to get to a specific website.
That leaves us with three intents: informational, commercial investigation, and transactional. Conveniently, those three intent types perfectly match our funnel: informational for the top, commercial investigation for the middle, and transactional for the third.
As you can see, search intent and the sales funnel are intimately tied, and SEO can help you rank, not only for particular keywords, but particular intents. That means that if you find you aren’t getting enough interest at the top of your funnel, SEO can increase awareness about you, while if you’re struggling at the middle of the funnel, SEO can give the push that your leads need.
Best of all, SEO can do it all at once. Let’s dive into each section of the funnel and develop this idea further:
Top of Funnel/Informational Intent
Informational intent happens when a user is trying to learn more about a particular subject. Recently, I decided I wanted to be a bit more physically active during the pandemic. I’m a writer, and a big ego kind of comes with the territory, so we’ll use me as an example.
You can spot informational intent queries with terms like:
- Ways to
There are a number of other informational queries, usually pretty tightly associated with generalized who/what/where/why/hows. In my case, the queries were things like “How to do bodyweight exercises”, “Best way to work out without a gym”, and the like.
Imagine you own a local sporting apparel store. You sell shoes, weights, tennis rackets, resistance bands, fishing rods, the whole works. This is where you can catch your top of funnel prospects with SEO.
The solution is ultra-straightforward: create content that answers users’ questions. Quite often, this content takes the form of blogs, but videos, infographics, slideshows, and other forms of content can do quite nicely, too. The solutions you provide will, of course, be tied into the products and services you offer.
SEO can also help you find which keywords have particular intents behind them, find out how many people are searching for those keywords each month (higher search quantities are particularly good for top of funnel), and optimizing for those keywords.
In my case, a guide on how to start running would be particularly appropriate. You don’t need equipment, it’s pandemic friendly, and running is great for your health! Hey, fancy that, it turns out that while you don’t need equipment, a good pair of running shoes helps. And Local Sports Store Dot Com just happens to have some great recommendations for shoes! Mine are looking kind of ratty – I think I’ll check their recommendations out.
Middle of Funnel/Commercial Intent
So, now I know I want running shoes! That’s convenient, but there are so many running shoes on the market – which ones do I buy? I do a lot of research online before I buy anything – a quality I share with 81% of consumers. How do you find information about products? You make search queries with commercial intent, of course!
Clients are often making commercial intent searches with terms like:
- Best x
- Reviews of x
- X ranked
- Brand Y vs Brand Z
In my case, an article titled A Comprehensive Review of the Best Running Shoes might be a great article to find. Commercial intent-based content usually dives a bit deeper than informational intent – you’re assuming the user already knows why they want a particular thing, so you can instead focus on what distinguishes one offering from another.
Again, SEO can help by creating optimized content for specific keywords. In this case, a lower number of searches is okay – the most important thing is grabbing customers who are looking for those keywords. “Best running shoes for winter” isn’t a particularly highly searched term, but it’s what I need, and if a website will provide me with what I’m looking for, I’ll probably take their suggestions.
Bottom of Funnel/Transactional Intent
Some would argue that this is the most important point in the sales funnel, and one of the core purposes of SEO. After all, the time you most want a customer to find your site is when they’re ready to buy right now.
Transactional intents, not-so-coincidentally, can be spotted through terms like:
- Buy x
- Order x
- X on sale
- Coupons for x
- Deals on x
All of the work we’ve done creating content for the other sections of the funnel are going to improve your ranking for these terms, because people will:
- Visit your website more frequently
- Stay on your website longer
Both of those are very important for search engines. What’s more, constantly updating your website with relevant content teaches search engines about your business, making you more likely to pop up for relevant transactional intent searches.
We can do more than that, though. Your content pages (where products and services are made available) can be optimized for relevant search queries. Again, keyword research into what kinds of transactional searches clients are making is absolutely key to this step.
There you have it. SEO is a comprehensive, holistic solution that empowers your sales funnel from top to bottom. Want to learn more? You’re in the right place – we’ve created a comprehensive local SEO guide. It’s completely free, and if you follow all of the steps, you’ll be well on your way to the top of the pops (and by pops, we mean search engine results pages).