SaaS content marketers today face a daunting triple challenge: that of producing compelling, problem-focused top-funnel sympathy and planting the seeds of a proposed solution, all while creating SEO viability to get your funnel entry point in SERPs.
“Without this kind of triple-focus, top-funnel content isn’t doing its job,” says Mike Liwski, Director of Strategic Performance at Zero Company.
“As the former head of marketing for multiple SaaS companies, I myself have felt the pains experienced by other CMOs and marketing decision-makers trying to leverage content to begin filling the TOFU. This is a set of challenges we know far too well. Boards and investors demand answers to these kinds of questions,” says Liwski. To accomplish this goal and allay the angst and dread that stakeholders face, we’ll look at the key best practices to achieve your SEO objectives while creating minimal impact on copy and presentation.
Using these methods, your business can make top-of-funnel SEO a swift and sure arrow in your marketing quiver. So in this article, we’ll examine 24 SEO recommendations to include in your overall strategy.
Table of Contents:
Traditional 3-Tier Funnel
Everyone is familiar with the simple 3-tier version, consisting of awareness, consideration, and the all-important conversion. Some include an additional two:
This is the CRM aspect after the sale. It’s what allows you to generate long-term client/customer value and redeem any marketing budget waste over time.
Put simply, these are brand cheerleaders, the ideal scenario for any brand. These can be interior to the company (inter-departmental recommendations) or exterior to the company.
The lower rungs of the funnel are not altogether excluded from a top-of-funnel strategy. In fact, they’re latent from the beginning of the research phase. Many 3rd, fourth and fifth-level funnel prospects may well re-enter your first level of awareness repeatedly. It therefore becomes key to understand how to direct them back to your brand from the search query in the next research phase, as we’ll show in this blog post.
The Advantages of Top-of-Funnel SEO
Some have questioned whether top-of-funnel content SEO is even a useful practice. Far from being a time drain, top-of-funnel content marketing puts your brand in front from the beginning of the journey. SEO is how they find your brand at the beginning of their discovery.
Over time, a waterfall approach to your content that spans format, categories and genres helps to crosslink the site content and causes keyword relevancy to flow to the right places across your website and overall web presence.
The following are the ways top-funnel SEO can power your SEO efforts and business goals faster.
- Longtail and obscure search traffic is easier to rank on earlier via long-form top-funnel content with a mix of images, video, PDFs or audio files to tag and content that links down-funnel by the keyword phrase.
- Autosuggest queries become a useful guide for top-funnel topics and exact titles, not so much for bottom-funnel — which are often represented by digital marketing topic research tools.
- Builds keyword relevance towards the middle and bottom of funnel search terms gradually as you cover the keyword universe for your specific niche.
- Brands prospects at the outset of the research process via search.
- Establish and maintain contact throughout the customer journey without intensive personal interaction.
- Content titles can be more varied and focus on location, niche, or capitalization level. This helps to create a deep SEO relevance throughout related blog content.
- Perfect for long-form content which is naturally SEO-centric.
SaaS-Ready Tactics to Exploit Top-of-Funnel SEO
Between 16 to 20% of all annual Google searches are entirely new, according to InternetLiveStats.com. Nowhere is this more true than for software as a service industry terminology. That means that top-of-funnel searches are the best place to catch those new searches and direct visitors to the right service pages, case studies, and other key landing pages.
- Naming your site navigation superstructure by category according to middle and bottom-funnel core keyword phrases eliminates much of the difficulty of grabbing visibility on bottom-funnel exact terms later, while boosting top-level phrases now. This is a page authority sculpting technique that works well when done in a balanced and logical way. Use the context and keyword phrase density to guide you here using your on-page SEO tool of choice (such as Yoast for WordPress).
For instance: instead of a lone link to “Enterprise SaaS solutions” and linking down to a series of lower-level pages progressively, use a fold-out sub-menu the list all of the major longtail variations that speak to the bottom-funnel keyword goals. Then make each fan out the links by keyword anchor text from each sub-category page.
- Crosslink all funnel content by the keyword phrase to assign the flow of keyword relevance for appropriate terms to the right pages. Your domain authority is the power source, but you lose none of that page authority for the current page if done carefully.
- Evergreen top-funnel content should respond to ever-changing searches. So if you’re looking for ways to, say, stay current with the latest DevOps best practices content for your prospect audience, try the following handy go-to tactic. Instead of building more pages that try to restate what’s only slightly dated, your evergreen pillar content can adapt with the times, using keyword trends and autosuggest’s ever-evolving list of fresh topics as the guide. You can still create that timely fresh blog post with a recent date slapped on, and it can link to your evergreen top-funnel page of choice.
- Consider dynamic SEO tricks like partially pre-optimized templates designed for the category to support the SEO effort in the short term by supplying some of the long-term SEO goals for bottom and middle-funnel, linking the bottom/middle terms appropriately.
Tags can be pre-inserted as reusable suggested terms, common synonyms or guides for a max number of placeholder images, PDF assets like case studies, capabilities and performance stats — and headings while allowing the writer room to improvise with synonyms during customization. Naming formats can be used with an x/y format in these placeholder file frames.
- Blend your SaaS value proposition into every on-page and off-page SEO decision. Looking to appeal to the right stakeholder? Make that the explicit focus from the search result wording to headline, from keyword selection to on-page optimization. Seek out the curators of the audience talking about their pain points. Make their searches reap ideal fruit both on Google and on top content curation sites within your industry.
- To fully penetrate a narrow topic, adopt a wider contributor network. When it comes to top-funnel SEO and the topic-end of content marketing research, software company executives, developers, and DevOps team leaders can contribute to starting points at this level of the funnel. They have valuable personal insights into the mundane, everyday problems that arise for API clients and partners, as well as their end-customers.
- Voice optimization can leverage existing content for B2B-geared SEO, adding helpful UX signals to boost rankings. This is key going forward, since 62% of polled Americans say they have used voice assistants. (Edison Research, 2020) 65% of the 25-49 demographic use a voice assistant at least once a day. (PWC, 2018) This is important because 73% of those polled admitted they skim blog posts and only 27% read thoroughly. (HubSpot, 2017) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
- Networking on social media achieves multiple marketing goals in one stroke. Among all the ways to get social signals to boost your technical and strategic top-funnel content online, none are simpler or more natural than real networking with adjacent players on social media platforms. Consider who’s motivated to cheer on your particular content and why. Who can boost your message the fastest? What type of role do they perform? For what sort of company? Who’s their end-customer?
Need a sure-fire way to network strategically? Consider creating a carefully-optimized case study of a star customer to boost your brand, the solution used and positively applaud the customer’s sound decision and value added. This can be the ultimate share. Get your social media team and theirs notice so that they can rally around the post and give it steam.
Social signals should be seen as more than an SEO issue for best impact. The energy created in your interactions is contagious when people feel it’s real. The lesson here is not just to be honest, but to also be as real as your brand will allow and as a key stakeholder within the organization.
How to Reliably Get Social Signals + Brand Cheerleaders
For more on the difficult social media dimension of top-funnel SEO, we’ve included the following checklist to start the discussion with your team.
- Ask legitimate questions directed to your audience. If you want to engage on your own talking points, get to the heart of what your audience cares about and be direct.
- Care about the other people, roles and companies adjacent to you, and show it. Your own customers and clients deserve positive attention. Offer it. This builds morale and goodwill around your brand by boosting others, a point Chris Brogan .
- Post roughly 50% shop talk and 50% about friendly, non-controversial stuff. Keep in mind what energy you put out and how human you’re being.
- Address concerns directly. Responding publicly to public displays of negativity and directing the conversation to a private place shows others your brand cares, which means more loyal followers and ultimately more cheerleaders.
- Let people feel when you’re happy or upset about something (without pointing fingers). It may seem wrong to show your emotions, but how many friends do you have who are stiff manikins and never show displeasure? Brands “feel”, too.
- Post photos and videos. A picture is worth 1000 words. A video? About 2 million. Infographics are perfect for SaaS content marketing because they’re sharable and serve as material for research-phase B2B prospects.
Include transcripts with videos on topic-centered text-full pages. Optimize alt tags for images 50/50 focus on both the visually-impaired need for clarity and the need for search engine keyword relevance. Use click-thirsty, engaging thumbnails. Make as much of your media as possible clickable, to spark interest and more active site sessions. All of these tactics power your SEO via lowering bounce rates, while at the same time raising opt-ins, return visits and conversion potential.
- Express the value your brand embodies by encouraging team members to support your content, news events and causes if they want to, without pressure. Remember: being phony isn’t attractive on social media. Being real is.
- Rhythm, timing, and genuine humor are other essential qualities your timeline needs to earn follows. Using a social timeline as a PR channel is appropriate sometimes, but having a real human voice as the brand representative is the social media real asset. When that person cheers, others care about that and want to retweet, comment, or even recommend. When your logo tweets, you won’t likely get the same reaction. This is the brand advocacy dimension of the 5-layered funnel we talked about earlier.
- Consider how follower automation can help create mass follower counts based on a model. Make sure the tool seems to follow best practices of the platform it depends upon. Also make sure that the tool isn’t used to create spam or robotic responses. Address allied partner news faster by automating these as retweets when possible. These show your brand is connected to key players surrounding your brand niche, while reinforcing follower loyalty and your follower count signal.
We’ll focus on middle and bottom-funnel SEO for SaaS in future posts. Feel free to reach out on how to incorporate these principles and techniques in your own top-funnel content SEO.