How To Build A Content Marketing Funnel For Digital Products (2023)
Content marketing is a proven way of building authority, attracting traffic, generating leads, and driving sales for your digital products.
If that’s true, why aren’t your blog posts making an impact on your business? Because random blog posts never do.
If you want to experience the real power of content marketing, you need to build a content marketing funnel.
Not familiar with this term? No problem.
Because in this article, I’ll explain what a content marketing funnel is and the exact steps you need to follow to create one for your digital product business.
Sound good? Keep reading.
A content marketing funnel is a multi-stage marketing approach that aims to attract, nurture, and convert traffic into leads, customers, and brand advocates using high-quality content.
How is it different from regular blog posts?
Blog posts, articles, lead magnets, and other content types are different components of a content marketing funnel.
But the funnel is a process that connects various content types and serves them at different stages based on the target audience’s needs to achieve the desired business results.
This becomes clearer when you understand the different stages of a content marketing funnel.
A content marketing funnel typically consists of three broad stages based on an average consumer’s purchase process:
Top Of The Funnel (ToFU)
ToFU content creates brand awareness and generates traffic by targeting high-volume search keywords related to your niche’s fundamental problems and beginner-level questions.
Middle Of The Funnel (MoFU)
MoFU converts traffic into leads by providing specific solutions to your audience’s problems and moves them close to the sale.
Bottom Of The Funnel (BoFU)
BoFU content converts leads into customers by positioning your product as the best option.
This infographic describes the different content marketing funnel stages and the content types used in them.
As you can see, the three funnel stages align with the main phases of the buyer’s journey outlined in the AIDA framework.
- Awareness – The stage where the buyer becomes aware of a problem and why it needs to be solved.
- Interest – In this phase, the buyer becomes familiar with the different products/services that can solve their problem.
- Desire – In this phase, the buyers evaluate different options based on their features, pricing, etc.
- Action – Finally, the buyers choose the most suitable product/service to solve their problem.
Each funnel stage moves your prospects close to the sale by providing relevant information and responding to their objections with detailed and well-researched content. The content ideas and topics you cover in each funnel stage are derived directly from your audience’s needs. This also explains how the funnel approach is different from randomly publishing content.
So, in short, a content marketing funnel attracts traffic by targeting high-volume keywords in the ToFU stage, converts them into leads with MoFU content, and drives sales with BoFU content.
Customers rarely purchase high-ticket online courses on their first interaction with a brand.
And it makes sense.
If they want to learn something from you, they must trust you as an authority on that subject. And establishing such authority is nearly impossible in our first interaction.
This impression is backed by research.
According to Salesforce, an average customer engages with 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase decision.
You can only provide such content volume by building a coordinated content marketing funnel that answers the questions and objections of your audience at every stage of the buying journey.
But that’s not all.
Here are some of the other main benefits of building a content marketing funnel to sell online courses.
A content marketing funnel helps you establish search authority and consistently drive organic traffic from search engines.
It does so by comprehensively covering your industry’s core topics and targeting the keywords relevant to your audience’s interests.
A content marketing funnel helps you build brand authority and establish yourself as an expert by answering your audience’s biggest questions through in-depth content.
And once your audience starts considering you an expert, they’re more likely to buy your courses and digital products.
Backlinks are crucial for your site’s search rankings and authority. A content marketing funnel is pivotal in building backlinks by publishing link-worthy content that other sites can use as a reference.
Without high-quality content, you’d struggle to get links to your site’s homepage or course pages from other established sites because they have nothing to gain from it.
A content marketing funnel helps you grow your email list and build a community around your brand. Once you have an engaged audience, you have numerous options to diversify your business with new products, membership offers, partnerships, affiliate offers, etc.
High-quality content directly improves your paid marketing ROI. For example, instead of routing your ad traffic to a sales page, you can send visitors to landing pages with content that answers their questions and converts them into email subscribers.
Similarly, when you drive visitors from search engines, you can retarget them with Facebook Ads to convert them into subscribers and leads. Their conversion rate is usually much higher because they’re familiar with your brand and have already consumed your content.
Let’s now dive deeper into the different steps to build a content marketing funnel.
Keyword research is the most critical step in planning your content marketing funnel. If you get it right, finding the other pieces of the puzzle becomes much more straightforward.
You’ll need to find the right keywords for every funnel stage to build a funnel.
Why? Because your audience has different needs across the three funnel stages. As a result, the intent behind their searches is also different.
For example, can you tell the search intent behind the keyword “online course”? Not really.
You can’t tell whether the searcher is looking for tips to create an online course, wants to find the best online course software, or searching for online courses on a specific topic.
But the intent for “best online course software” is pretty clear as the searcher is looking to evaluate different software before making a purchase decision.
Both these keywords fall in entirely different content marketing funnel stages because of the difference in their intent.
This infographic explains these differences.
This chart explains the different types of keywords, their intent, and the content that satisfies them.
Let’s discuss how to use them in different funnel stages.
Top of the funnel content targets informational and navigational keywords that searchers use to understand different problems, find answers to common questions, and better understand your topic.
These are long-tail keywords with mid-level search volume. However, their search demand is still higher than MoFU and BoFU keywords, and they drive the bulk of the traffic to your site.
ToFU is also the only funnel stage where you’ll need to deep dive into different keyword research strategies to identify the right keywords.
Why? Because, unlike the MoFU and BoFU stages, ToFU keywords aren’t directly related to your product.
Instead, they’re linked to the problems your product solves and the broader interests of your audience.
So, for example, if your course is about “Copywriting”, some of your main ToFU keywords could be:
- What is copywriting
- What is the difference between content writing and copywriting
- Best copywriting practices
- Copywriting techniques
- Email copywriting tips
Can you notice the trend in these keywords? All of them are either questions or fundamental topics related to your course topic.
The traffic from these keywords isn’t ready to buy your course yet because they aren’t familiar with you. At this stage, you’re only looking to make an impression on your audience to convert them into leads and customers later in the marketing funnel.
MoFU keywords are commercial where the searchers are problem-aware and now looking for different solutions.
The primary goal of these keywords is to attract traffic that is ready to convert into subscribers and leads.
Think of these visitors as people with a basic understanding of your topic looking for resources to increase their knowledge.
So, taking the same copywriting example, some of your MoFU keywords could be:
- How to become a professional copywriter
- How to start a copywriting business
- Copywriting course
- Copywriting mentorship
- How to write sales emails
- How to apply AIDA to a landing page
As you can see, the searchers are using these keywords to actively look for copywriting resources to improve their skills.
This is where you’ll convert this traffic into leads and move them one step close to buying your premium product by offering a free course or a lead magnet.
In this stage, you’ll target keywords with clear purchase intent. Your audience understands your topic, is looking for specific courses, and wants to invest in the best course/digital product.
Here are some examples of BoFU keywords
- Best copywriting courses
- Best copywriting course for beginners
- Email copywriting course
- Landing page copywriting course
- Become a certified copywriter
- Website copywriting course
- Email copywriting certification
The people searching for these keywords have already decided they want to invest in a course. Your content will only position your course as the best option and persuade them to buy from you.
Now that you understand the different keyword types you need to target in your content marketing funnel, here are some of the best ways to find them.
The fastest way to find ToFU informational keywords is Google’s People Also Ask section.
Just search for your topic, and scroll down to the People Also Ask section to find the most frequently asked questions.
More relevant questions pop up when you click a question in this list, providing you with an unlimited supply of informational keyword ideas.
Type your topic in Google Search without pressing the Enter key to get keyword suggestions.
Want more suggestions? Start adding different prepositions to your keyword.
Now add words like “best”, “top”, “leading” etc., before your keyword to get more suggestions.
You can keep playing with Google’s never-ending database to uncover numerous keywords for your content marketing funnel stages.
Search for your topic on Google Search and scroll down to the related searches section.
These related searches come with their own set of keywords in People Also Ask and Related Searches.
So, dive as deep as you want.
After this initial analysis, open Ahrefs (or any other keyword research tool) and search for your biggest competitors successfully selling courses on your topics.
For this example, let’s search for CopyBloggers since they’re a leading eLearning brand in the copywriting space.
Click on Organic Keywords to get the detailed keyword report.
As you can see, CopyBlogger ranks for nearly 60K keywords in the top 100 search results. You can use this report to find hundreds of relevant keywords for your content marketing funnel. For example, I’ve highlighted some of the terms that immediately caught my eye.
Search for other competitors to find new and unique keywords that are driving traffic to their sites. Making them a part of your content strategy is an easy way to grow your audience.
I covered this section in such detail because it sets the foundation of your content marketing funnel.
Once you have a long list of keywords, organize them into the different funnel stages and move to the next step.
Top-of-the-funnel (ToFU) content is the engine that drives your content marketing strategy.
It attracts the bulk of your site’s traffic, helps you rank for high-traffic keywords, attracts backlinks, and establishes your authority as an expert.
Instead of trying to sell your courses, ToFU content focuses on providing as much value as possible, which eventually leads your prospects to the purchase funnel.
Here’s an excellent example of a ToFU article from Ramit Sethi’s blog.
Ramit’s flagship course teaches people how to launch online courses successfully (a passive income source). So, this article explains the concept of passive income without actually selling or promoting Ramit’s course in any way.
Why? Because the target is to rank for keywords related to passive income so that anyone interested in this topic finds Ramit’s site where he can establish himself as an expert on this topic.
No selling yet.
Here’s another great example from Adam Enfroy’s blog.
This is a 24K word guide on the best affiliate marketing programs that bloggers and content creators can use to earn passive income.
It is an excellent traffic and lead generator for Adam’s premium blogging course that teaches different affiliate marketing strategies to earn with blogging.
Both the example articles aren’t trying to sell anything.
Instead, their goal is to rank for multiple long-tail keywords, drive tons of traffic, and establish themselves as an authority on the subject.
These factors play a decisive role in your buyer’s purchase decision.
Middle of the funnel content has two main goals.
– Convert the traffic from the ToFU stage into subscribers and leads.
– Attract search visitors who are problem-aware and looking for advanced knowledge of your topic.
The content in this stage moves one step forward and addresses more advanced topics that further strengthen your brand image and position your premium course as the perfect option for your audience.
MoFU content doesn’t always need to be an article. You can also use video training, eBooks, and other lead magnet types. However, articles are still a crucial part of this stage because you need to get traffic from search engines using MoFU keywords.
Here’s an excellent example of a MoFU article from VideoFruit.
Instead of just talking about course launching, this article takes the readers deeper and shares step-by-step details of a successful course launch.
As a result, it’s perfect for generating subscribers and leads for VideoFruit’s premium courses.
Here’s another great example from SiegeMedia’s blog.
Instead of discussing beginner-level traffic generation techniques, this guide shares practical strategies SiegeMedia used to increase its client’s organic search traffic.
As a result, this instantly positions SiegeMedia as the go-to source for all kinds of traffic advice.
The next part of MoFU content is converting the readers into subscribers and leads.
Course creators often do that using a free trimmed down version of their course or a training program that only talks about the basics of the topic.
For example, AuthorityHacker has a premium SEO course that teaches how to build profitable high-authority sites that make thousands of dollars with different passive income methods.
They also publish lots of advanced blog content to target different MoFU keywords. But to convert their traffic into subscribers, they offer a free training program.
Any other lead magnet would also do the job.
But for high-ticket online courses, free video training is often the best resource for lead generation.
Bottom of the funnel content has two main goals.
– Answer any objections about your product that might prevent prospects from buying.
– Persuade your audience to take action and buy your course.
Like the previous funnel stages, BoFU content also consists of multiple content types. For example, you can email your subscribers to sell courses. Plus, you can use landing pages and videos to aggressively push for the sale.
But articles and blog posts are still a vital part of this funnel stage because they answer your prospects’ objections and help you close the sale. In addition, case studies and success stories of past customers are among the most effective content types for this stage.
Here’s an excellent example of a BoFU article that does the job.
At first, this seems like a MoFU article.
But as you start reading, it shows you the step-by-step process of using Oberlo and Shopify to set up a fully automated online store in less than 30 minutes.
It coves various Oberlo features, connects them with real-world benefits, and shows how it’s much superior to its competitors.
So, in effect, it’s a blog post plus a landing page that does an excellent selling job.
But at the same time, it is also optimized for high traffic keywords like “how to launch your Shopify store”. As a result, it gets hundreds of visitors from search engines ready to become customers.
Here’s another excellent example from Bushra Azhar’s blog.
In this article cum landing page, Bushra shares how she made $100K in nine months selling products priced less than $50. Then she breaks down her launch numbers to build more anticipation.
And then, she invites the reader inside her premium membership community to access the exact strategies she used to achieve those numbers.
Do you see how the different content marketing funnel stages attract, nurture, and convert traffic into leads and customers?
This is an entirely different approach from randomly publishing blog posts and articles without any end goal.
But now that you understand how the funnel works, it’s time to put it into action.
Start with BoFU content because it’s the easiest to create.
Why? Because there are fewer keywords to target and limited angles to cover.
Then move to MoFU content creation and publish a few pieces that connect with your BoFU content.
And then finally, focus on ToFU content. This is where most of your content creation budgets will go because ToFU content is lengthy, comprehensive, and targets multiple keywords.
Once you have a few pieces in each funnel stage, keep adding new content as needed.
Ultimately, you’ll mostly publish ToFU and MoFU content with occasional BoFU content pieces.
By Jawad Khan for Learning Revolution
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