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How to Map Topics and Funnel Stages to Your SEO Strategy

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How to Map Topics and Funnel Stages to Your SEO Strategy

SEO is a phenomenal resource for marketers but often times they’re quick to single it out as a traffic source and neglect entirely it’s resource as a revenue building tool. Yes, SEO should be utilized as a lead source for generating traffic (i.e. the awareness stage of a funnel) but then it should also be used for gaining and converting prospects (i.e. the interest and decision stages) by mapping your keyword content to the users experience and intent.

When companies start their SEO programs, this is the typical thought process they follow:

  1. What keywords are best for my business?
  2. How can I rank on the first page of a search engine for those keywords with my content?
  3. How do we optimize the process and find more keywords to further increase our rank and domain authority?

From there, most of the SEO work is done around identifying content to write in order to rank well for the appropriate keywords. And then of course getting backlinks and social shares for all the content that they’re running with an end goal of hopefully obtaining more leads.

And that’s all great. But an element that is often overlooked when trying to understand the impact that SEO can have on a business is the actual intent of that person when they search with a particular keyword. This is why it is critical to map content and keywords to user intent and funnel stage.

Here’s an example from our experience at Interrupt Media.

We have a fast-growing software company whose SEO we’ve been managing for three years. Our initial strategy was to blog a couple times a week, do webinars, create assets, and build a resource section. The goal was, when people are searching for our keywords, we’re going to have our article rank at the top of the search engine.

Makes sense right? But, as we identified all these keywords, we realized that there was a lot that we could potentially talk about and that’s the big challenge for marketers: Once you realize how much there is to talk about, it gets overwhelming quickly.

So how do you prioritize what you want to talk about? And how do you make your approach cost effective? That’s what I will show you with this article. We will walk you through how to map your target keywords to topics, segments and funnel stages so that you can evaluate how much traffic and how many leads you can generate in each of those areas. We will also show you multiple ways to configure your data so that you can easily identify the strategy that will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

Let’s dive in!

1. First, decide what topics you want to cover at a high level.

We can not stress enough how important it is to understand what your topics will be first. That’s foundational. In case you need a reference point, we have clients who have anywhere from 15 to 30 topics that they talk about.

Topics can be very business case specific: here’s the problem, here’s my solution. Topics can also be centered around people’s work: what does your customer do on a given day and how can you make their work more efficient? Then there’s topics around specific tools or processes that can benefit your customers.

As an example, some of Interrupt Media’s topics are things like marketing automation, demand generation, content marketing, and so on. We also have sub-topics on automation tools such as Marketo, Hubspot, Salesforce, etc. Other sub-topics under marketing automation are lead scoring and grading, automation audits, general automation, nurture sequences, etc.

You should be able to link your topics directly to your offering. If you’re a services company getting revenue from marketing automation work, then it would be logical to write about marketing automation. If you’re a product company and you talk about a topic specific to one of your products, you’re going to get revenue for that product.

2. Next, start building out your spreadsheet.

The next step is going to be getting the keywords for each of your topics and categorizing them. It gets very interesting as you start to get data on average monthly search volume and potential click-throughs and conversion rates, because it will inform your strategy.

To track user intent, you would go into Google Search Console. If you see that you can get up to 500,000 impressions for top of funnel keywords and you’re only getting 300,000 impressions, then you know you need more backlinks, more content, and/or you need to better optimize your pages (or build new ones).

You will be able to model and forecast how much traffic you could generate, how many leads you could get from that traffic, and then potentially how many meetings or opportunities you could generate based off of that data.

3. Segment further by organizing keywords based on funnel stage and website placement.

Not all keywords are created equal. Some keywords are searched for when someone is still learning about a specific topic (top of funnel), while others are more specific to evaluating specific vendors or solutions (middle/bottom of funnel).

So the next step is to tag all of the keywords and sort them by where they are in the funnel. Then, you can prioritize them both by where they are in the funnel as well as by average monthly search volume thus maximizing traffic.

You can also flip it and sort by how much traffic you can get based on topic. And chop it up further by sorting based on funnel placement and then even look more granularly by evaluating topics and funnel stages by location (for those who are targeting certain markets or cities).

An added step is to further categorize your keywords by landing page on your website. This may not be something you are immediately able to do, but if you start thinking in the long-term, it will help you map your content strategy moving forward.

This method also really helps inform you on where your existing content sits in your marketing funnel and where your gaps are.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be.

We have a client that has more 7,000 keywords that they’ve identified as potentially being useful for them. And we’ve come alongside them to go through the exercise of understanding what the monthly search volume is for each and assigning them to a master label (or topic) that each keyword is most closely related to, of which there are about 28 for this particular client. That is our recommendation.

Once you identify your topics and you map the keywords to your topics, you will have a clear sense of how much you have to cover. You will also have a really good understanding of where this stuff sits in the funnel. But it can get a little overwhelming. If you’re going to write a blog post that targets five keywords, and you have 3000 keywords, you’d need 600 pieces of content. WHAT?!

Don’t despair. There’s another way.

One strategy we’ve found to be effective, efficient, and cost effective is to focus on the bottom of funnel keywords first. Why? Because the funnel narrows at the bottom so naturally, there will be less keywords there then the other areas. Also, when you’re prioritizing based on budget, it makes more sense to go after the bottom of funnel content because those people are ready to make a deal and don’t need to be nurtured. Finally, there’s going to be a long-tail of keywords that you can target for each stage of the funnel. So why not go after the long tail keywords that you know are going to reach potential customers who are ready to buy or talk to you today!

So let’s say there’s only 30 keywords that are bottom of funnel. You can easily build several pieces of content around those keywords. To maximize your strategy, instead of 30 average pieces of content, build 5-10 really strong pieces of content that you can repurpose for other sources.

But it’s important that you remember that this is a short-term solution. As you build out your long-term strategy, you will want to make sure you aren’t entirely focused on decision stage content, but that you are spreading out your content and pages across all funnel stages.

Also, treat your SEO strategy the same as you would your PPC (Pay Per Click) strategy

Unlike SEO, PPC only focuses on keywords that lead to conversion. In this way, you can dramatically narrow down your options and focus on the keywords and their respective content that is meant to convert leads into customers. This can be applied at any funnel stage but of course will have the most impact in the decision stage.

Pro Tip: Search Google for your PPC keywords and take a look at the top results from advertisers. This will give you a good look at how smart marketers are targeting their funnel stages and it can provide some inspiration for how you can map your own strategy.

Here’s another short-term option.

We’ve talked a lot about product, topic, and funnel, but location is a big one as well because people frequently conduct location specific searches for certain things. As mentioned earlier, if you’re a business that serves multiple places, you’ll want a bucket of volume for generating opportunity each of the areas your locating.

For example, if you have keywords that have the word Houston or West Palm Beach in it, then you can forecast how many potential leads you can get for people that are just looking for somebody local. So that’s another way to help cut things up.

Summary

Our goal with this post is to demystify the SEO process a bit. We often hear our clients say things like “I don’t know where to start,” or “I don’t know what to do. I’m doing what everybody else says to do, but I don’t know where the lowest hanging fruit is because there’s so much to consume.”

What it really boils down to is an exercise in identifying your keywords for your products or services and then labeling them by topic and funnel stage to help you figure out where you can get the biggest bang for your buck. From there, you can map it to some type of forecast or model.

That will also keep you on track in terms of ROI because you’ll be able to see if you’re actually generating the kind of pipeline that you were expecting to get from the work. If not, then how do you need to tweak your strategy or what content should you create to better target these things?

We also know that certain content types are more successful in certain funnel stages. So if you are using keywords that are bottom of funnel, that’s going to inform what kind of content types you’ll want to use for the messaging that you want to deliver.

Bottom line: there are many ways to cut up the data so you can avoid the overwhelm that many face when they see all the potential content they’d have to create to cover their keywords.

I hope you’ll find this information useful when you begin building out your SEO and content strategy. To help you get started, we’d like to offer you this bonus checklist to help you get started.

If you’d like to discuss how you can leverage Interrupt Media to build out your content strategy, schedule a strategy session today.

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