Where does SEO fit in the sales funnel?
If you're working in marketing or sales you're probably familiar with the sales funnel concept. It basically illustrates the buying process businesses lead prospects through. The goal is to convert them into paying customers.
In this post, we're going to determine where SEO fits in the sales funnel. But before we dive in, let's take a look at the different types of search intent and apply them to the stages of the sales funnel. TLDR: You can use SEO to reach customers at various points of their buying journey. So basically you can apply it throughout the entire sales funnel. To do it effectively, create content that answers the search intent of each funnel stage.
Types of Search Intent
Have you ever noticed that you get a different SERP look depending on your search query? Sometimes you can see the organic results at the top of the page, other times Google widgets are displayed and for certain searches, there are a lot of ads that fill up a great portion of the page. Google recognizes the purpose behind the search and adjusts the SERP accordingly. This purpose is called search intent. There are four main search intents: informational, transactional, commercial and navigational. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them.
Informational search intent
Informational search is a query with the intent to answer a question or find more information about a specific matter. A lot of informational searches are formulated as questions, but this isn’t always the case. Here are a few examples of informational searches:
- “is jogging better than running”
- "how to write good copy for social media"
- "what is chat gpt"
- “premier league table”
Navigational search intent
When looking for a specific website, the search intent is navigational. In this case, instead of writing the whole URL, the user types only parts of it. This is sometimes more convenient than typing the entire URL or the searcher just doesn’t know the exact one. In short, they navigate themselves to a particular website or a business. Sometimes they search for a physical location as well. The navigational searches look like this:
- “yahoo login”
- “google analytics”
- “restaurants near me”
Commercial search intent
Researching different solutions, comparisons and reading reviews represent the commercial intent. The searcher is uncertain about which solution can best fulfill their needs. These types of search intents can take the following forms:
- “canon vs nikon”
- “best tools for keyword research”
- “vacuum cleaner under 500eur”
- "is clickup or monday better"
Transactional search intent
When the searcher is looking to purchase, the search intent is categorized as transactional. In addition to an actual purchase of a product, transactional intent can also refer to downloads, signups, reservations or any other marketing goal. The searchers are usually ready to buy and know exactly what they're looking for. Or they might be just one step before conversion, for example searching for the right place to buy from (comparing offers and competitors). Examples of transactional searches are listed below:
- “buy nikon d5600 online”
- “acer laptops”
- “na-kd discount code”
- "quickbooks free trial"
SEO and the Sales Funnel
From the first time a potential customer hears about your business until the moment they make the purchase, he passes through different stages of the sales funnel. The funnel is used as an analogy because the number of customers reaching the final step decreases throughout the stages, meaning a lot of prospects don't get converted into customers.
Below are explained the three stages of the sales funnel. If you want to reach searchers at different points in their journey toward the purchase, you have to write and optimize different kinds of content. So the answer to the question of where SEO fits in the sales funnel is - everywhere!
Top of the funnel
Potential customers based at the top of the funnel are trying to identify their problems. They are searching for more information or trying to define their problem and ultimately solve it. The queries they're using are often formulated as questions, e.g. “how to…” or "what is...". They're not using technical language and their search intent is informational. To attract those searchers, you have to answer their broad and general questions and optimize on keywords you’ve identified as most likely to be used.
Middle of the funnel
This group of potential customers are considering to make a purchase but are still unsure of what and from whom they're going to buy. They're now comparing different types of products, searching for different suppliers and trying to find the optimal solution. At this stage, the customers are moving towards a transaction, but they still require more information in order to decide. Their intent is commercial. To optimize your website for this stage, create informative and educative content about the solution you're providing. But without directly promoting your own brand. Based on this, the customer can make their own decision.
Bottom of the funnel
The bottom of the funnel consists of prospects who are ready to buy but might also need a final push. Their intent is transactional or navigational when they need to find the physical location of the business. As prospects move down the funnel the competition in the SERP increases. Consequently, as the bottom is closest to the purchase, most businesses invest in advertisements especially for this stage in order to increase their chances of conversion. The prospects take into account the price, the quality and the value they're going to receive, so the key is in showing them why they should choose you.