How to Create Top of Funnel Content
- 1 What is Top of Funnel Content?
- 2 The Customer Journey
- 3 10 Ideas for Top of Funnel Content
- 4 3 Ways to Generate Ideas for Top of Funnel Content
- 5 Top of Funnel Content Metrics
- 6 Final Thoughts About Top of Funnel Content
People don’t get the idea to buy something out of the blue.
Think about it: Have you ever decided to make a purchase without taking some type of step before it?
Aside from impulsive purchases at the cash register, which happen less and less as people turn to online shopping, you always put a certain amount of thought into the items you buy.
Even those impulse purchases have a lead-up — to buy something you’re interested in, you have to have determined that there’s an interest. Purchasing coffee, socks or an iPhone case on the way to the checkout counter means you’ve determined that you like and/or need those items.
Today, consumers have more power than ever before. There’s a ton of information online that allows buyers to research as much as they need before handing over their credit card information, and there are competing companies from all around the globe selling the same types of things you’re selling.
Creating the right type of content for every stage of the buyer journey helps customers along that path so they choose your brand when it’s time to make a purchase.
What is Top of Funnel Content?
Top of funnel content satisfies customers in the awareness stage who are just starting to learn about a topic of interest. It educates buyers, provides value and drives them to your website. At the top of the funnel, the buyer’s priority is to find an answer, meet a need or solve a problem. They’re interested in:
Here’s what you want to do with top of funnel content:
- Address the main problem the customer is facing
- Answer questions that branch out from the main issue
- Be honest and show your authenticity
- Briefly mention your products or services to spark interest
- Link to related sources to provide the reader with extra value
Keep in mind that you don’t want to be sales-y when mentioning your products at this stage. All you’re doing is planting the idea that your brand may have what the user needs. However, if you also happen to turn the visitor into a lead, that’s an excellent outcome.
Top of Funnel Content is the Most Extensive
Since this is the broadest stage of the customer journey, it’s also where the broadest type of content is created.
During the awareness stage, the buyer is aware that they have a problem that they want fixed. At this point, they’re only looking for information to better understand their problem and the ways to alleviate it.
They’re not ready to move forward with a solution quite yet, but potential solutions will be part of the research they find.
An example of an awareness-stage Google search is “hiking tips for beginners.” A list-style result may have a bullet point that mentions getting a high-quality pair of hiking boots.
Even though the customer isn’t ready to look into hiking boot options, it’s one of the many solutions they discover during this stage, and they may or may not move forward with it.
The Customer Journey
The mental (and sometimes physical) steps you take to get from not buying something to spending your money on an item or service is called the buyer’s journey or the customer journey.
And whether your brand promotes physical products, digital products or services, the people who will eventually spend money on what you offer travel along that journey.
There’s even a customer journey if you’re not actually selling anything yourself. For example, if you need to get people to click on affiliate links you add to your content, you still need to usher them down a path. That may look something like this:
- Posting on social media to generate brand awareness and attract followers.
- Offering a high-value item to get people on your mailing list.
- Sending newsletters that review products you’ve added affiliate links to.
- Encouraging recipients to click on those affiliate links and buy products from the seller.
There are three main stages in the customer journey: awareness, consideration and decision. Since we’re talking about top of funnel content, we’ll focus on the awareness stage.
The Awareness Stage
When the customer journey begins, the buyer is unaware. The person will fit your buyer persona, meaning they’re part of your target audience, but they don’t know that your brand or product exists or that they want or need what you’re selling.
Some type of trigger event will jumpstart the customer journey, moving the unaware customer to the awareness stage.
During the awareness stage, the buyer is aware that they have a pain point or problem that needs to be addressed.
The Consideration and Decision Stages
Here’s a brief overview of the remaining two stages of the customer journey:
During the consideration stage, the buyer is on the hunt for a solution. They’re interested in deeper, heavier research than before, such as in-depth reviews or comparison guides.
During the decision stage, the buyer knows which providers offer solutions to their problem. They want to know what to do to become a customer.
The Marketing Funnel
The marketing funnel is a representation of how a customer moves through the different stages of the customer journey. The funnel layout — broader at the top and then narrowing toward the bottom — shows how a high number of prospects are attracted during the first stage (awareness) and then fewer and fewer people move through the remaining stages (consideration and decision).
This is normal — not everyone you connect with during the awareness stage is going to end up buying from you.
Marketing Funnels vs. Sales Funnels
Technically, the marketing funnel is different from the sales funnel, though both funnels have the same basic stages.
The marketing funnel puts your brand in front of people and moves them to the stage when they’re interested in buying. The sales funnel then picks up from there and, ideally, turns them into a loyal customer.
You could also think of it this way: The marketing funnel is about how buyers interact with your content, while the sales funnel is about how buyers interact with people from your sales team.
Today, the line between these two types of funnels can be blurred, especially for solopreneurs and small businesses. You could even argue that the marketing and sales funnels are now so enmeshed that there’s no reason to differentiate between the two.
10 Ideas for Top of Funnel Content
It’s important to have your top of funnel content show up for buyers in this stage. Providing them with the information they’re looking for establishes your authority in the niche and gains their trust.
At this point, the buyer is a low-value lead because there’s no guarantee that they’ll make a purchase from you (or make a purchase at all). However, it’s still important to meet them here. If they do decide to make a purchase, they’re more likely to buy from you if you’ve shown up from the start of the customer journey.
For example, if you were to search for “benefits of journaling,” you may come across this blog post from Lillian and Co. This brand sells journals, but they’re not forcing you to buy one with this article — they’re just giving you the information you’re looking for, and they happen to sell journals for when you’re ready to buy.
One last thing: While it’s OK to sprinkle in mentions of your brand or products, and you can add a CTA at the end, most top of funnel content should be un-branded.
Create blog posts that thoroughly answer awareness-stage queries. Usually, there’s no reason for a blog post to be under 300 words — if it is, it means you don’t have much to say about the topic.
Aim for a minimum of 300 words, and add frequently asked questions from the Google People Also Ask section of the search engine results page (SERP) if you need to expand it.
And if it’s needed, don’t be afraid to write long-form content. As long as the blog post is packed with value, a longer one has more SEO opportunities.
Also, use keywords that match the search intent of this stage, and promote your blog posts on your other platforms, like your social media channels.
For complicated how-tos with a lot of steps, a checklist can be the best way to deliver the information. To make it as useful as possible, offer a downloadable option so people can keep a digital file or print it out.
A downloadable ebook is an excellent resource when the topic is too long to cover in a blog post or whitepaper but short enough to be read in one or two sittings. It’s also a good option if you want to give customers a lot of actionable advice. By being able to download an ebook and keep it accessible, it’s easier to learn from and take action on than a long-form article that lives on your blog.
Educational webinars are usually longer than how-to videos. They disseminate information in a way that’s easier for auditory and visual learners to understand. These are usually created the way you would record a lesson for college students — you pick a topic and cover its different elements during the webinar. If you hold the class live, you could also have a Q&A at the end.
Pro Tip: It’s smart to transcribe videos and have the text on your website along with the video. That makes it easier for search engines to index video content.
Teaching the customer how to do something to solve their problem is an excellent way to build trust. This won’t deter them from eventually making a purchase, and they’ll feel more informed and empowered thanks to you.
Here’s something else that can happen with a how-to video: When you show the customer how complex something is and what it takes to handle it, they may realize that they’re not capable or interested in solving the problem on their own. They could watch your instructional video and go, “Great, now I understand this more! And I want someone to do it for me.”
Most podcast feeds are free, save for paid tiers where listeners may get extras, and they’re a great way to deliver a lot of information on a platform that some audience members prefer. Podcasts also feel like a no-risk endeavor since all customers have to do is listen unless they choose to engage. They won’t worry that they’re clicking on a dangerous link or accidentally checking a box for something they don’t want to agree to.
Social Media Posts
Your social media accounts can be used to (1) market your other content and (2) post content just for that platform. This is a great opportunity for short-form content, including video content.
It’s important to figure out which social channels your audience uses. For example, if your audience is mainly men over the age of 35, you don’t want to use Pinterest to reach them. Digging into social media demographics can help you figure out where to spend your time.
While it’s similar to a checklist, a tip sheet isn’t so much a list of steps to take as it is a collection of things to remember. For example, if a person is researching solo hiking, you could offer a tip sheet with safety reminders. Make it downloadable so the customer can save the PDF to their device or print it out.
Certain advice is difficult to apply without some handholding. For example, telling a person how to create a savings plan isn’t as actionable as giving them the calculator and spreadsheet tools to actually set up their budget.
This tool from Disney Vacation Club lets you drag the slider left and right to change how much a membership will cost and show you what you get for the price. For a potential DVC customer, this could be considered top of funnel content since cost is usually the main consideration, and it’s where some shoppers will start their research.
When the user’s pain point requires a utility, it’s smart to create a tool or even a toolkit they can use.
Whitepapers are downloadable guides or reports that revolve around a specific topic, and they’re most commonly produced by organizations. Whitepapers should have information that can’t be found elsewhere, which is what makes them so valuable. For example, a company may survey their customers and then report their findings in a whitepaper.
3 Ways to Generate Ideas for Top of Funnel Content
Aside from basic keyword research, here are three clever ways to come up with crowd-pleasing ideas for top of funnel content.
Address Customer Pain Points
Think about your target audience and the problems they experience that would lead them to buy from your brand. Then, address those pain points in your top of funnel content.
For example, let’s say you sell insulated cups that seal and are leak-proof. The pain point you’re addressing is that a lot of insulated travel cups leak. You could write a blog post with the title “The Best Leak-Proof Insulated Travel Cups to Keep Your Stuff Safe.”
Remember, you’re not only going to cover your own brand’s cups. You could round up high-performing cups on the market and include yours in the list.
You don’t have to direct people to a sales page in order to discuss pricing. But a lot of customers in this stage are going to do some preliminary price shopping to get an idea of what they’re getting into.
Addressing cost shows that your company is transparent, which customers trust. Saying that your products start at a certain price point or clarifying how you assess the cost for a service shows that you’ll be upfront about pricing.
Survey Your Team
If you have a staff that fields customer questions and concerns, ask them which questions they hear over and over. Send out an email so that it’s easy to organize the responses. Get rid of duplicates and combine similar questions, then use this insight to create content.
Note that some of the questions may not be right for top of funnel content, but it’s still smart to log them for other stages of the customer journey.
Top of Funnel Content Metrics
Here are the metrics that will tell you if your top of funnel content is doing its job:
- Mentions by influencers or media outlets
- Social media engagement, including comments, likes and shares
- Subscriptions, such as newsletter sign-ups and social media followers
- Traffic, including organic, referral and total traffic
- Website engagement metrics, including bounce rate and time spent on page
Organic search is the main way that customers will find top of funnel content. For your audience members who are already connected to you but still in the awareness stage, you can reach them with email and social media marketing as well.
Final Thoughts About Top of Funnel Content
Chances are that you’re already creating content that appeals to at least one of the customer journey stages. Your goal is to create content for each part of the marketing funnel, though. That’s the only way to guide people through the different stages to trust you enough to eventually convert.
Over time, you’ll figure out how much content you need at each stage. For example, you may have plenty of bottom of funnel content but need more top of funnel content to attract people. Or, you may have a lot of middle of funnel content but no bottom of funnel content to actually convert leads.
Striking the right balance gives your potential customers what they want along the way so they choose your brand when they’re ready to buy.
Answer the Public and similar tools are excellent for figuring out which questions your audience is asking. Check out our article with the best Answer the Public alternatives.