How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales Funnel

May 2, 2018 Carol Forden

Is your blog generating traffic but not generating revenue for your business?

We spent the past few weeks interviewing businesses to discover that this is a common challenge for all.

Its one thing to generate traffic, it’s another to drive web traffic that converts into revenue.

To do this successfully, you need to be mapping your content strategy to buyer’s search intent at every stage of the sales funnel.

Let’s take a deeper dive as to what we mean:

You want to sell cars with an $25,000 average selling price for your dealership and you’re currently getting leads from companies who can barely afford $300 a month? Or even worse, the prospects you’re getting don’t have income to qualify for a $97/month lease.


You run marketing for your auto dealership and you’re driving a lot of great traffic to your blog, but the traffic doesn’t convert to test drives or service appointments, or your other funnel goals?

In this article series, we are going to show you how to create content that strategically brings leads in at different levels of your sales funnel. This is what we will cover in detail in this article, (Part 1 of the series).

Content for specific parts of the sales funnel is one of the most popular, and powerful content marketing techniques.

Here’s what I’m going to cover:

  1. I’m going to take you through how we were able to grow our search traffic to over 12,000 visitors a month in 6 months (without doing standard keyword research). 
  2. Show you the strategy that we used to match content to different stages in the marketing/sales funnel from top level awareness, mid-funnel, and low funnel opportunities. (This strategy isn’t to spread your content everywhere to drive leads from high ranking and reputable blogs to your site with the goal 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 (We did not use standard lead generating tactics such as whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, etc.  We focused on taking a direct-response approach to generating leads from your blog).

Ready? Let’s get started.

How To Identify Where to Focus Our Content Efforts

When I joined a healthcare software company as their second marketing department hire, I was in a tight spot. I joined a health tech company that did software development for the top 5 national healthcare payor, and I knew nothing about software development.  I had an extensive healthcare background, just no software development skills.

When I started, the company was pre-product-market fit, and we were in the process of trying to figure out which audience within a payor we should target.

When we researched the landscape of different healthcare software development firms, we saw a few key traits:

  1. There was little trust in the industry (payors had been burned by various companies selling them vapor with promises).
  2. The project management was poor with communication between the payor and the firm (the payor didn’t have an accurate up to date status of how things were progressing with their project and integration dates kept changing).
  3. If someone was non-technical was put in charge of trying to get a product built, they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
  4. There was a significant lack of good quality content that could educate people with various challenges in getting products built (this is where we focused our efforts).

Our goal became to be to build the best content library and resources available for building products healthcare payors and the market segment we operated in.

The reason I’m listing these key aspects is that I set out to create content that hit on all of those four critical aspects, that would lead to our success as we educated out target market. At the same time, it would help me being non-technical, because, I had the same questions and pain points as our potential prospects had.

Next Up was How To Do Research to Figure Out What Content Was Need To Bring in the Right Customers for Every Stage of the Sales Funnel

My initial action step was to interview our sales force and write down all the questions that they were getting from prospects that were early on in the buying process. This helped me identify some of the pain points people faced early on in the buyer’s journey.

Then it was time to talk to some of our current clients. I heard quite a few horror stories that they faced when dealing with development firms. For example, ow a client had spent $125,000 on development with a company and ended up with an unfinished, unusable product. Taking notes during these conversations and looking for common challenges our clients had faced with other firms allowed us to discover the need for content at the various stages of the funnel.

We then listened to later stage client conversations and taking notes of questions and objections that people asked before purchasing. We followed this up with live telephone calls to prospects to allow us to ask the questions needed to understand the buyer in-depth.

Now that we had a list of common pain points that people had at different stages in the sales funnel, we set out to create content that directly matched someone’s search intent and solved someone’s pain point.

The Google Suggested Search Hack

Keyword research for content marketing generally involves typically sorting through keywords in your niche by search volume.

Then, dependent on your domain authority, coupled with the amount of time, and resources you have, generating content for the highest volume keywords you may be able to rank for.

If your company has the resources, a high domain authority, and time to build links, this is a proven methodology.   Unfortunately, that was not the situation I faced.

My task was to bring in decision makers from the payor community who were looking to build a specific interface and related software for a typical industry pain point. It was going to be nearly impossible for us to rank for head terms like “patient portal interface,” I was going to have to go after long-tail keywords, and explicitly going after long-tail keywords that matched the different stages in the sales funnel.

How it works:

When a consumer is researching a product or service – they’re usually interested in learning something, or they’re stuck with a problem where they need help. They’re not going to do a Google search for some general head term like “swollen ankle.”

They are searching more like:

How-tos — How To Buy A Car? (Top of Funnel – Doing initial research most likely before they have a vetted idea)

Comparisons — Buy or Lease A Car (Mid-Funnel – they likely have an idea and are deciding if buying outright or leasing is the better option for themselves. And they probably haven’t picked a course of action yet.)

Questions — What is better financially to buy or lease a car? (Low Funnel – They likely know what they want  and are looking for someone to guide them)

Head terms only work when the consumer knows what they’re going to purchase.

By just going after head terms with content marketing, often it’s difficult to know what the buyer intent is.

Long-tail keywords capture pain points that people face that they’re looking for answers to their problem and are more suggestive of different stages in the sales funnel for large, complex, purchases.

Content marketing in a business segment where there’s a buyers journey, you need to be going after long-tail search traffic that answers questions that people have at the different stages in the sales funnel.

Using long tail keywords and buyers intent is a very effective strategy for expensive products and services that have long sales cycles.
This strategy is effective for inexpensive for products and e-commerce businesses. For example, if you are doing content marketing for an eCommerce store that sells soccer equipment and gear a blog post might be “How can I improve my speed” or “What is the best agility training for high school players.” In the post, you would include a product listing in to try to convert that traffic.

How to write articles that rank for the long tail terms that attract your exact buyers (The Google Suggested Search Hack)

Develop a list of questions that your target audience would be searching for.

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.

Have a list of questions that address the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel.

For example: Lease or buy a ____

How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales FunnelThe top four results are from US News, LifeHacker, Consumer Reports and Nerd Wallet – all news and financial companies.  Not one car dealerships. One was written in 2011, its 7 years old!

How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales FunnelIf there was no written an article about this exact topic – it’s generally easier to rank in Google search for that term (and you know that a lot of people is already searching for answers to that question).

Moving over to Quora, Quora is the highest search listing, and 479,650+ people viewed the answer, which demonstrates the demand for the content!

How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales Funnel

If you were to use this suggested search term and write a blog post about “Should You Lease or Buy A Car,” odds are if you get some good backlinks to the article you will rank in search results.   With a website that has a high domain authority, you’ll rank higher than most of these results because your content better matches the intent that the user was searching for.

Mapping Content – Top of The Funnel, Middle, and Bottom of the Sales Funnel

In this specific example, your hypothetical, high-ranking article, Should You Lease or Buy A Car”, would be at the top of the funnel for a sales lead.

Why? The searcher is probably in the early research stages of learning what is necessary to lease or buy and the positives and negatives of each. They have an idea in their head of what they think should be done but are researching the best possible option and the details of each, and they don’t know the first place to start.

These type of posts are excellent to bring people in at the top of the funnel and build awareness of your brand.

I would suggest that you incorporate calls to action to join your email list so you can solidify your position as a domain or subject matter expert in their mind. This is an excellent 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 0-12,000/monthly SEO Visitors at a Healthcare Software development company.

How to drive unique visitors using content marketing

If you were to look at the healthcare software company blog, you’d see that a lot of the blog content follows this exact strategy.

Below are some examples that show how we mapped content to different stages in the buyer’s journey.

Top of Funnel Content

“Why Consumers Should Be Involved and Engaged In Healthcare Decision Making”

This post went into everything a payor IT staff would need to know before approaching a developer with an overview of what the process looks like.  We went into detail with User Stories, Wireframing, UX design, UI Design, Development, and Testing.

The Process of Creating an A Patient Portal Explained

This post went into detail on everything they would need to know before approaching a software developer with an overview of what the process involves from User Experience, UX design, Wireframing, Development, and Testing.

Questions To Ask When Hiring a Healthcare, Software Developer

This post covered questions that people could ask to evaluate a healthcare software development team. A lot of people don’t realize what they don’t know.  While some people may think this post was later in the buyer journey, many people don’t understand that design and development are separate functions. We realized that we needed to educate the market with some higher-level posts that covered items they may be too embarrassed to ask.

Mid-Funnel Content

How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales FunnelFor middle of the funnel content, we would focus on mainly comparison posts that people would likely have once they’ve already decided they wanted to build say a Honda or Toyota.

Toyota vs. Honda

A lot of consumers would ask about Honda vs. Toyota SUVs, long before they take a test drive.

When they searched for online reviews, we wanted to steer the conversation.

For this examples, we would cover the pros and cons of the different models and then also discussed drawbacks of the various aspects of the models from airbag placement, frames and similar by taking the top 4 or 5 reviews and putting them into a chart for easy comparison with content to explain each aspect.

How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales Funnel

Warranty vs. No Warranty

Going back to our earlier interviews, we anticipate that this would be a question a lot of consumers have as they were narrowing down options on which car to purchase or lease. Are they questioning whether it was worth it to buy an extended warranty or not?

We would create a post, with a downloadable infographic in chart form that went through the pros and cons of that would help potential prospects make that decision.

How To Grow Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales FunnelContinue to do this with other questions an concerns you hear from your target audience, over time you may see that your search rankings are starting fall in webmaster tools on older posts, update your post with current information and details by making it more robust and start getting more links.

Low-Funnel Content

Creating low-funnel content – such as content that reviews your business vs. competitor, is relatively easy.  However, I’d ask if its the best use of your content budget for your target audience?

Or, you could compile a list of reviews from your clients or review sites like Yelp about our business and titled the post “XXXX Dealership reviews”- for a reason, that these are pretty standard terms that people would search for when they’re ready to purchase and are picking a dealership.

I’m of the opinion that many businesses are scared to create this type of content themselves.  Doing so,  you can control the conversation about your brand (and about your competition as well).

Other suggestions are to add service requirements by mileage for each vehicle and build a downloadable infographic that can be printed out and saved.  The infographic can be a lead generation to capture newsletter enrollments.

A word of caution when gating content, too many people try to gate content that IS BORING or ISN’T VALUABLE.

With good, valuable content you can use low funnel blog posts, and then added value (infographics, ebooks, white papers, etc.) to capture information and have conversations with potential prospects, starting them into the sales funnel for your product and service.

Content Distribution

For every post, you want/need to do a good job with content distribution. The higher the reach your post gets, the more natural links you’ll build. Depending on your resources, you can incorporate a link building campaign to enhance the results.  Another opportunity is to use native advertising to help distribute the content to your target audience and prospects in your CRM.

At this point, its a matter of watching your posts bring in highly targeted organic traffic that matches buyers intent at different stages of your funnel. The steps listed above should eliminate the frustration of “all this traffic isn’t converting.”

Wrapping It Up

  1. Spend the time on research to discover the questions your target audience has at different stages in the sales/marketing funnel.
  2. Utilize the Google Suggested Search Hack to discover low-hanging fruit opportunities create content about.
  3. Content that is based on long-tail search traffic that solves buyer’s pain points or problems at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and know which pieces attract which buyers, in what stage of the funnel.

In our follow up post, we’ll walk through how we converted this traffic to sales-ready leads at different stages of the funnel.

For content marketing, this is one of our most popular, and powerful techniques. We write very detailed case studies about content marketing for real businesses, like this, a few times a month.

Want us to write an in-depth case study or story about you or your company? We’ll also drive traffic to it. Apply here.

Like this article? We produce stories like these for our clients, learn more here.